There were tears, there were tantrums, there was an unearthly primal scream of sheer horror. I turned my television on, still uninformed as to who’d been fired this week (having not yet watched the show), and the You’re Fired programme was showing Kimberly’s best bits. With a little bit of psychological detective work (carried out against my will by my blasted brain, I ought to add) I found I’d given away the ending of the show to myself. Thus, carnage ruled my living room as I tore every piece of furniture from its casters in a fit of unbridled fury.
Happily, as it turns out, it really doesn’t make that big a difference if you know which suit got the boot. We all know the fun is in the chase, so having early knowledge when it comes to the artifice of the firing at the end (how can you fire someone who’s not yet been hired anyway?) doesn’t spoil things too much.
Incidentally, apologies if you read the first paragraph of this review without seeing the show first and I spoiled it for you.
Right. Moving on: Last night’s opening ceremony saw Debra answer the phone to the unlikely 30 minute warning. Somehow, in the midst of all this, someone had time to boil a couple of eggs.
Now – if those are soft-boilers, they’ll require just short of four minutes, with additional time for toast-buttering and tea-making to consider in the process (these are essential, non-negotiable elements). Alternatively, if they’re hard-boilers, they’ll need at least nine minutes in the pan. In addition, even a man needs at least twenty minutes to get ready, plus about five minutes for bowel evacuation and front-watering – so whoever plunged those eggy-weggs was either flippantly dicing with their own death or is extremely self-assured and brilliantly adept when multi-tasking. Whoever boiled those eggs should be The Apprentice.
A soft boiled egg takes a good while to eat, after all. A hard-boiler can be slipped in the pocket and saved for later. Perhaps this was the methodology selected by the canny egg-preparer who, in my opinion, should go on to win this thing.
Off to the IMAX, where Alan Sugar’s face filled the big screen. A dream realised for Sir Alan, a nightmare made actuality for the rest of us. The task this week turned out to be the same as last year’s tissue advertising challenge, this time with cereal instead of nose-wipes. They were asked to brand the breakfast – essentially rice crispies with dried fruit, unappetisingly – and then pitch it back to the ad agency with a TV ad and a well-designed box. And a good cartoon character. Forward-thinking viewers will have noticed at this point that we were all set for some costume wearing at some point in the show. Exciting!
Empire were shadowed by Margaret and led by Kate who insightfully warned Ben, her underling this week, that there were to be no ‘sex sells’ brainstorms. The rest of her crew, James, Yasmina and Debra, agreed, using silence as their weapon.
On Ignite’s team, Nick followed Kimberly as she tried to lead one of the most uncomfortable looking clans in the history of the show. To me, it looked like Phillip felt he’d been landed with the B Team and couldn’t see how it had happened. All the star players were over on Empire whilst he was stuck with the geek squad, and it caused him to erupt into character – a power-hungry, pants-obsessed loon.
The man was a monster in the team’s brainstorm. When Lorraine tried to blurt out her hopeless ideas, she was confronted with Phillip screaming in what can only be described as an aggressively passive aggressive style. His first idea for the character – the Cereal Killer – would never get past the censors. He then took an idea he’d had, pants-based, as it was, and asked if he could ‘flipside’ those pants. The others, ground down by his relentlessly awful conversational style – bark, growl, huff – went with the underwear idea, including his mind-boggling ‘dance in your pants’ song. The idea being that when you wake up, you’re so bleary eyed that you put your pants over your trousers. Wake Up Call cereal will apparently cure this common household occurence that never happens.
Phil walked all over the colour scheme for the ‘Pantsman’, then sulked when he was defied and the edit cut to a lovely shot of him sulking whilst colouring in. Typically, Phil wrestled back the lead on the jingle-writing side of the project. Working with an assigned songwriter who looked confused and incredulous throughout, Phil’s Dance In Your Pants song was largely indecipherable. ‘He thinks he’s Bono’, muttered the man on the keys.
Empire’s brainstorm was a far better example of how these things should go, with a natural progression of ideas which ends with a pretty marketable idea. Kate’s management style appeared to be anything goes, so long as Ben wasn’t allowed to do anything. She kept the rasping short-arse tied up with the stupid stuff – putting on pirate parrot costumes and moaning in the background – while all around her flourished on the Captain Squawk and the Treasure Flakes concept.
Over on Team Disaster, Kim made the fatal error of asking the designers to create the back and sides of her cereal box without any input from her people. Little surprise then that the narked off graphics whizz returned a box which, apart from the back panel, was a block of solid green. He probably did this to spite her as leaving a Designer without a brief is like leaving a child-minder with a deceased infant.
Their film shoot for the ad was directed by Kim and looked appalling, but it turned out later that their Editors pulled off a miracle and made it look amusing rather than freakish, given how terrified the children were while the cameras rolled. On the other team, with Ben confined to the hollow interior of a plastic parrot, things went off well despite their star performer’s nut allergy.
During the parrot-pitch, Debra turned in a strong performance and Kate handled one particularly cantankerous Marketing type well. Pants-pitch went a little differently with Mona in charge. Kim may not have been present when, during episode one, Mona steamrollered the manager of a hummer-hire firm. If she had, she wouldn’t have let her answer questions, let alone present their product. Her pitch was like watching a collision of juggernauts which somehow left no memory trace.
When they were all done, it was off to the boardroom for a right kicking from the bearded one.Ignite bizarrely but unanimously backed Kim apart from the dissenting voice of Lorraine who got told off for her ‘snap, crackling and popping’ stance, even though she was justified, as things turned out.
Empire championed their leader Kate, with even Ben backing the blonde. This blew Alan’s mind and he took time out to have a pop at the ‘hoarse Ian Paisley’ soundalike – making it clear the unshaven idiot’s card is marked and that Ben’s teeth will be bitten out in the boardroom at some point soon.
Ignite were given the inevitable news that they’d failed. ‘Not funny! Stupid!’ screamed Alan, in his trademark succinct style. Empire, meanwhile, were sent off to do some laughing yoga with a guru in a tracksuit. It didn’t look much fun.
The loss lit Phillip’s touchpaper and, having hoarded all the toys for himself, he proceeded to chuck them from his pram with gay abandon. ‘We tried too hard’, he claimed before embarking on the tacit ‘Let’s Get Lorraine!’ mission that seemed to have been arranged. Kim’s histrionics and jazz hands did her no favours and, when Phillip finally flip-flopped from his anti-Lorraine agenda and cornered her, Kim was given the extended finger. Alan seemed to enjoy the process of firing an American, using therapy and psychoanalysis references to mock her ability to explain herself without resorting to cliche.
In his closing gambit, Alan said that Kimberly’s personality is like the final scene of the Wizard of Oz – where ‘behind the curtain nothing was there’. This is a badly rendered comparison, as behind the curtain was the eponymous wizard, who was little more than a frail old man.
I think The Apprentice final is more like The Wizard of Oz as once the glitzy procedure is over, the curtain is drawn back and all you can see is a bearded, wizened little tit pulling the strings.
The contestants take part in Dickinson’s Real Deal in an exclusive shared-rights deal with ITV. Don’t miss it!