The Apprentice, Episode Four

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Any Game of Thrones fans will recall the horror of the Red Wedding.  This week’s Apprentice episode was worse. Much worse.

Tasked with making a video for YouTube, the candidates huddled together in the glorious Wilton’s Music Hall.  Teeny Siralanlordsugar appeared on stage, like a genie who really could fit inside a lamp.  He delivered a speech without even bothering to pretend he knew what he was talking about. “Online…. unique users…. market…. hits.”  The candidates, determined to look like they knew all about this mysterious task, nodded furiously throughout, like 16 Churchill dogs on the dashboard of a Reliant Robin going over a set of speed bumps.

Told to set up their own YouTube channel and then make and upload a video to it, it was immediately apparent that this would be one of The Apprentice’s truly oustanding episodes. Team Tenacity was headed up by the ghastly Ella Jade (the kind of name a six year old girl gives her hamster) who apparently was something to do with television, and corralled her unenthusiastic troops by saying “yah” a lot and telling Sarah she could be time-keeper.  Sarah looked less than thrilled at landing such a low level role, but busied herself with checking her watch and gesturing at it vaguely.

They chose to make a video about fitness, featuring a character who would be known as “Fat Daddy”.  Felipe badly wanted to be Fat Daddy; is this his name on Tinder? Let’s not think about that.  This comprised making fun of him and calling him fat at every opportunity.  It was dreadful.  One lone voice, immediately shouted down, suggested it was offensive.

Summit, meanwhile, made a video about cooking entitled “Dare To Dine”.  There was zero concept, no strategy, no ideas and no plan. “It’ll be really funny” said Solly.  It was about as funny as a boil bursting in your left nostril, but they all found it hilarious and apparently that was the most important thing.

And so both teams went to pitch to Buzzfeed, or as his Twitter followers know him, @flashboy. They were kind to Dare To Dine, saying only that is wasn’t up their street, but that 10 year olds would probably love it. This kindness was undermined by one of the Buzzfeeders writing “Kill James” on his notepad.  Best not to spend any time recalling the Fat Daddy pitch. Nobody liked it, everybody thought it uncomfortable at best, and cruel bullying at worst. Daniel reassured everyone that “they liked it all apart from the offensive part.”  Ella Jade, finally waking up to the doom-laden atmosphere, started rehearsing her speech for the boardroom and planning who she would drag in with her.

In the car Steven, who has almost certainly watched Mean Girls  8,457 times, treated his fellow passengers to what he was convinced was a totally fetch pitch.  They all stared out of the windows and tried not to be sick in their mouths.

Unsurprisingly, Fat Daddy was rubbish and Dare to Dine was slightly less rubbish.  Sugarsirlordalan had obviously been reading this blog and so delivered a proper treat this week – a trip to Iceland (not the Kerry Katona sort).   Ella “Yah” Jade brought back Steven and Sarah into the boardroom. Steven declared he had given “100%”. Sarah protested she had looked at her watch a lot because she had been given nothing else to do.  Ella, accused by Sugarlordalansir of never doing a day’s work in her life, said she worked for her dad one summer and had been president of something or other at university. All three were fired.  Ella refused to leave, repeatedly begging “Please Lord Sugar” right up until the moment when she was fitted with a straight-jacket, strapped to a gurney and wheeled out of the boardroom and into the (crowded) taxi of doom.

(I’m pleased Solly won. I’ve got him in the office sweepstake.)

 

 

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Strictly Come Dancing Week 5

Photo Guy Levy/BBC

Photo Guy Levy/BBC

Strictly was all high drama this week, with men blubbing, struggling to steady their trembling bottom lips and generally behaving as though they had just donated their corneas to one another.  Only viewers with strong stomachs were able to stay the course.

No tears from Scott Mills however, as he did little except tread on his partner’s feet on his way through to the next round.  Even Judy, a woman with so little dancing ability she could be a broom, or a television aerial, went through.  It helps that Judy seems to be a very nice woman. It’s also amusing to watch her giggle coyly and play with her hair whenever Anton, a human Woody from Toy Story, looks at her.  A Strictly romance may be brewing.

Meanwhile, the usual stage school poppets slid past the judges with varying degrees of steely-eyed competency, including Caroline Flack who had clearly pissed off the wardrobe department as she and Pasha were dressed in hideous blue and yellow numbers.  Their paso doble began with a demonstration of how to change a duvet cover.

The middle-of-the-road crowd, all on a “journey”, either impressed or depressed the judges.  Her off Casualty was dressed as a bourbon biscuit.  Jake performed a quickstep so fast Craig’s botox was blown sideways in the slipstream.  Nice guy Steve did a serviceable waltz.

The big deal however was when it came to the voting.  Mark Wright stood waiting for the verdict as to whether or not he would be on television for a bit longer with the fearful air a man who would shortly find out if his scrotum was to be sliced in half and pulled over his head.

After a dance-off between Simon Webbe, who has shaved off his ventouse cap of doom, and Thom Evans, a Ken doll of astounding blandness, Thom went out. He gave a speech akin to a man about vacate the trenches and go over the top, as he paid tribute to his new friend Simon.  “Simon, I think you’re amazing mate. Whatever happens tonight, I’ve made a true friend.” Simon looked suitably underwhelmed. Thom’s partner Iveta made a speech that was almost certainly a practice run for her wedding vows.  “Eet vozza joys do vatch ze change inzoo.”

Next week, Halloween.  Judy’s off to a flying start if she’s dressed as a re-animated corpse.

 

The Apprentice: Episode Three

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Once again the most impressive thing about the candidates is their ability to go from lying in bed to suited and booted and getting into their cars in less than 20 minutes. James even had time to blow-dry his armpits.  Next week, Karren should chuck in a smoke grenade, just to liven things up.

Their task this week was to make, and sell, scented candles.  Siralanlordsugar informed Team Tenacity (named, I think, after an absorbency product) and Team Nowt Nor Summit (I may not have heard this aright) that this market was all about the margins.  One knew, immediately, that this phrase would come back to haunt them.

Project manager Katie Bulmer-Cooke (who is from Sunderland and therefore NOT a Geordie, people of Twitter) keenly informed her team that cheap ingredients mean better margins; the rest of the team looked concerned that the might just have to stick a wick in a box of Surf and flog that, but sense prevailed.

Team Tenacity’s candles were urine yellow (I told you there was a link with absorbency).  Team Summit produced by far the superior product, being  posh, sleek and everything one would expect of an expensive scented candle. Naturally project manager Roisin (an accountant, for God’s sake) chose to forget everything Lordsugarsiralan said about margins and used expensive ingredients she then sold cheaply, whereas Katie did the opposite. It wasn’t hard to see where all this was going.  Best line of the night went to Katie, who closed a sale to a pub owner with the immortal line: “Edad be pairfect fa toyletts.”

And so Katie’s team won; they were rewarded with the opportunity to apply £1.99 face packs to each other and sit in a small paddling pool, or as Lordalansirsugar called it, a “day at a luxury spa”.  Man, this year’s treats BLOW.

Back in the boardroom, Lindsay admitted that she hadn’t achieved very much and her team mates rounded on her like a pride of lions suddenly spotting a bison with a bit of a limp.  She looked relieved to be fired.  Nurun, who wore the perpetual expression of a woman who has accidentally flushed the family hamster down the loo and doesn’t know how to tell the children, also fell victim to Sugarsirlordalan’s moving finger.

Next week is the best week of every series: the one where they have to create their own advertising campaign.  Can’t wait.

Strictly Come Dancing, Week Four

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I bow to no-one in my adoration of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, but this year’s line-up, packed tight with stage school babies, cheapens the programme and ignores its core audience. It’s not that these individuals are already accomplished ballroom/latin dancers – they’re not – it’s that they have all had dance training and man, does it show.  Two years ago, Denise Van Outen got a lot of stick for this very thing (I *may* have mentioned something about it on Twitter, ahem) but this year there’s a whole line-up contestants who, just as she did,  know what they’re doing on a dance floor. The net result is they’re boring.

Frankie from The Saturdays, for example, is an extraordinarily beautiful girl who danced her cha cha cha as though she’d first learned the steps in her cot.  Caroline Flack, a woman famed for shagging a teen in a boy band (I refuse to believe there is not more to her than this) has already taken part in a ballroom competition and thus performed a quickstep so perfectly there seemed little point in doing anything other than handing her the trophy and sacking off the rest of the series.  Pixie Lott performed a rhumba like a pro, the net result being the judges criticised her as if she were, so she burst into tears. Her face as she was awarded four “8”s was a study in barely concealed fury that she had not scored higher.

From Pixie to Scott Mills. According to Newton’s Third Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction  but not even he could have imagined Scott, a man who dances as though he were introduced to his limbs for the first time less than 30 minutes earlier.

There are the usual no-hopers, Tim Wonnacott being booted out this week, the no-idea-won’t-win-anyways (some woman off Casualty) the now obligatory large woman who nonetheless has got the moves but won’t win because she can’t do the Jive and there’s no chance of any lifts in her American Smooth, and the good-looking sportsman, whose mantle this year is taken up by Thom Evans, the dancing equivalent of white bread.  There is also Judy Murray, a woman who makes a coffin look animated and who can only be on the show in order to get a job presenting a tv show. Woodworking, perhaps.

Hopes rest on Mark Wright, who isn’t bad at dancing, is enormously likeable, up for anything and quite clearly on a “journey”, Jake Wood, a man whose hips have more swivel than the castors on a Waitrose shopping trolley, and Steve Backshall, a cheery bloke who strips off at every opportunity the better to reveal a torso that resembles a Tate Modern installation comprising 200 chicken fillets in a 10 denier stocking.

Tess Daley is on hand to make jokes almost as terrible as Brucie’s.  Thank goodness for Claudia Winkleman, whose wit, beauty and sheer enjoyment of the programme and all its contestants reminds us all why we tune in every week.

 

The Apprentice: episode two

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Is it next week already? No, it’s just another episode of The Apprentice, two episodes in one week necessary because of the 20 candidates. There was the usual recap, in which Sarah reminded us that she’s thoroughly unpleasant and regards herself as a better Elle Macpherson. We’ll see, Sarah. We’ll see.

The task was all about flogging wearable technology (stuff that contains other stuff that does stuff, in case you’re wondering). Lordsugarsiralan made it crystal clear that he expected Robert to step up and be project manager. Robert made it equally plain that any task not involving 3ply cashmere and Roman Abramovich’s yacht was beneath him. Instead, belligerent Scot Scott (yes) took on the mantle of PM (no, no that PM) and set about making a complete sporran of the whole enterprise.

Meanwhile, the girls (now Team Tenacity, slogan “We may be crap, but we hang on in there”) set about bullying Nurun, a fashion retailer, into being project manager because they had no intention of doing so themselves. Nuran caved. The girls then proceeded to share the kind of insight Stella McCartney can only dream of; “All women are wearing jackets!” and decided they’d go with a jacket that lit up, charged your mobile phone and made flaky pastry.

The boys plumped for a sweatshirt that both lit up and contained a video camera. They missed a trick by not pitching this to the dogging market, but some people just can’t see an opportunity right in front of them. Or in some nearby woods.

The upshot was that the girls won, because their terrible idea was marginally less terrible than the boys’ terrible idea. Daniel foolishly referred to himself as a “selling machine” and then failed to sell anything. Robert protested he was made for selling luxury goods. Scott bleated “Ah’ve pit ma baws on the line fer this”.

As it turned out, Scott put his baws in the Taxi of Doom, having been fired, as had Robert, who went back to Sussex to consider the horrific possibility of earning a decent salary and driving a run-of-the-mill car.

Interestingly, when they got back to the house, Solomon received a huge cheer and everyone pretended to be pleased to see Daniel. It was also clear that Solly knows his online technology and might just be the kind of inventor-ish twonk Sugarsirlordalan likes, because they just might make him a lot of money. Also I’ve got him in the office sweepstake so I might be biased.

Next week’s task is making and selling scented candles. This cannot end well.

The Apprentice: episode one

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It’s a welcome back to Siralanlordsugar, Nick “Cat’s Bum Mouth” Hewer and Karren, Baroness Brady of Teeth Veneers in the City of Blindingly White. And 16 hopefuls all vying to become Sirlordsugaralan’s business partner, but in the meantime queuing up to give the BBC the kind of soundbites Channel 5 can only dream of.  Some were surreal: “I’m a cross between Ghandi and the Wolf of Wall Street.”  Others chose to re-invent the cliche: “There’s no “i” in team. But there are five in individual brilliance.” (There’s no i in twat either, mate.)

The team-naming ceremony plunged the usual depths, with the boys deciding on Team Summit – some blah blah about reaching their peak, apparently – and the girls, inexplicably, chose to call themselves Team Decadence.  I’m fairly confident that nobody on the team knew what it meant. Let’s hope the next task doesn’t involve fielding a team for University Challenge.

The task was to sell the usual old toot, but this time there was something of a theme; they had to shift those products that featured in opening episodes from the past decade: coffee, cleaning products, flowers, balloons etc. Pug-faced Siralanlordsugar called it “10 years of selling in one day”.

There were so many contestants it was hard for any of them to make much of an impression.  Felipe referred to himself in the third person, which was helpful from the standpoint of identifying him easily, but worryingly made me think of serial killers, and Sarah helpfully reminded us every second sentence that she was project manager.  She was also keen to advise the other girls on the wearing of make-up, short skirts and high heels.  Perhaps she is related to Shania Twain.

The next 30 minutes comprised the usual shouting, mainly from Sarah: “Someone has to serve, someone has to take the money, someone has to hold the iPad and that’s me because I’M PROJECT MANAGER SO SHUT UP”, bitching: “I don’t mean to get the boot in on Sarah” [sic], running along streets in unison and sitting in a taxi holding your mobile phone horizontally and triumphantly crowing “result/nailed it/you made that song your own” (I may be conflating The Apprentice with X Factor).  One contestant is called Chiles.  There is a lot of selling of potatoes, some arguments about lemons, and not much selling of t shirts.

And so they all crowded into the boardroom, Siralanlordsugar joining them with the peculiar walk favoured by small men wearing built-up shoes. Nick looked at them as one might look at the “Whoops” priced items in Asda. Karren scribbled something on her notepad (possibly “sue dentist”).

Team Decadence won, thanks to a fifty quid advantage over Team Summit, and Chiles got fired, possibly because Siralanlordsugar isn’t keen on West Bromwich Albion.  Meanwhile, the girls won a trip on the London Eye, one of them yelping triumphantly: “This is what success feels like!” Yes, a £29.50 ticket and a glass of warm cava is that almost unattainable goal in the world of business. Imagine how she’ll feel in week seven, when she is presented with the glittering bauble that is an early bird dinner at Nandos.

What times, as Cicero said, what customs.  There’s not a business in the world run along these lines, but this isn’t about business, it’s about good telly.  And what good telly this is.