Put names to faces over here.
Down to business then, and unless you’ve been hiding under a desk for the past fortnight, you’ll know that The Apprentice 2009 began last night.
The first episode’s always absolutely rammed with information, stuffed with soundbites and edited to within an inch of its life in order to make candidates more memorable. Add to this the presence of fifteen blustering braggarts running around like confused toddlers and you’re left with a dizzying hour. As a result, some candidates slip under the radar totally – this week Paula, Kimberly and James barely got a shot – and it’s easy to figure out who’ll be in the firing line when things inevitably go cock-up.
That’s fifteen braggarts rather than the sixteen that should have turned up – we were told early on that one chap had ‘bottled it’ – which gave Sir Alan Sugar an opportunity to berate them before they’d even done anything and bang on about the pressure involved in the world of business – which is patently bollocks because business is all about meetings. Streams and streams of meetings, like turds bobbing on an acrid canal. Meetings about how other meetings went and meetings to arrange more meetings. Business is as banal and uneventful as breakfast in a Basingstoke B&B and as unpressurised as a lingering, dispersing fart.
He also declared himself to be a violin and the potential Apprentices ‘bongo drums’. A clumsy metaphor which might’ve worked if they were about to form a busking collective and earn money on street-corners like corporate minstrels, but in the event they were ordered to set up a cleaning firm – boys versus girls.
But what to call the teams?
‘Genesis’, one man suggested, not realising that it sounds like the name of a gay gymnasium. ‘Empire!’, decided the boys. ‘It’s distinctly British’ they said, forgetting years of oppression and imperialism in one foul swoop.
The girls went for ‘Ignite’ – but if you were able to work out the process by which they came to that conclusion from the barking rabble their voices became, you’ve better ears than mine.
Howard led the boys, because he was up for it – even stating his credentials after he’d got the job – whilst Mona led the girls simply because all the others were too daunted by the task, gaining some credit in the viewers mind from the off. Some more soundbites, ‘ I’m a rough, tough, cream-puff!’ particularly sticking in the mind for its emptiness and stupidity, and then we were off in those cramped cars they whizz around London in.
As team leader of the boys, Howard was up against the broken-headed, immediately obnoxious Phillip Taylor, who made a terrible first impression. Where Howard was reasonable, if a bit wet, Phillip – with the face and accent of an irate Jimmy Nail – was an annoying berk. He sniped behind Howard’s back and led off some of the boys to clean cars using methodology that’d require them to actually work hard – an almost fatal error. They could have collapsed on the job if Howard hadn’t turned up later after a stint as the shoe-shine kid, getting berated by old folks in a shopping centre, and organised their onions.
Now – rule one of car-washing is clearly ‘close doors and windows when hosing’. I didn’t get pocket money if I didn’t clean the car, so the directives are lodged in my grey matter like most people have a system of morality. Where others have ethics, I have a system of squeegee holding techniques. So the boys’ haphazard attempts at scrubbing vehicles – five men on one car – were mind-boggling for me.
But nothing boggled quite so much as the girls’ decision to spend 200 quid on cleaning materials. This was their entire budget – and they could have got by with seven buckets, as many sponges and two or three shammy leathers.
When they finally picked up their products they were a mess of skirts, legs and cleavage – so it came as no surprise that a blushing Nick, with steamed up spectacles, used a ‘spanking’ metaphor to describe how they’d get on come judgement day.
It’s easy to mock these ‘empty business suits’ retrospectively the way Sugar does, relentlessly, and if I’d have taken part I’d have probably gone and hidden from the scary men. But it’s always nice to see that the mistakes of past series are completely forgotten in the midst of a new task’s chaos. Team leaders are ignored and strategies are flushed down the bog as boys and girls wobble around with a headrush, ballsing up every thing they think they should have done.
The best moment in the girls’ non-campaign had to be when the mighty Mona, a woman who speaks as though she’s constantly reporting a fire, told the owner of a garage that he was wrong about his own budget. The viewer was forced to watch with an uneasy mix of repulsion at her arrogance alongside a weird affection for her childlike approach to negotiation. She was so clearly out of her depth it was a wonder Nick – as Apprentice lifeguard – didn’t pluck her out, give her a towel and condemmn her to the changing room.
And on the boys side of the fence, special mention must go to Ben Clarke and Majid Nagra. Ben, simply because he looks like a hybrid of Tommy Carcetti and Teddy Ruxpin; Majid because he fancies himself as a bit of a wag – sexist jokes followed by non-sexist disclaimers.
Incidentally, Rocky must be ignored for now – he’s clearly only there for a laff, like, la.
Come the end of the task, it seemed obvious that the girls, particularly after Debra’s mental breakdown, would fail. And thus it came to pass.
Empire were sent off for a cocktail night – cue a stolen scene from Bachelor Party – while the girls went off to bicker some more, then return home, where Kate Walsh managed to flirt with seven men simultaneously. Hot cha!
In the boardroom, the delightful Yasmina was never going to be in any trouble and it was clear Mona would drag Anita and Debra in with her for the showdown. Anita visibly crumbled as though the volume around her was causing her head to implode, while Mona’s shrill voice combined with the slime-dripping sarcasm and snickering of Debra, making the scene almost indecipherable. Turns out that Mona and Debra despised each other, Anita got caught up in the crossfire and the poor, hapless girl was inevitably fired.
Clearly Debra should’ve gone – what with her being a terrifying android from Essex – but if you want a fair round this early on you’re watching the wrong show. Anita was considered chaff and so has been sorted from wheat.
As a result, we have weeks of Debra-footage to contend with in the meantime. Aren’t we lucky?
Those crazy contestants will take on corporate catering for ‘City slickers’.
(Presumably this was filmed before everyone went home from the City with their redundancy letters, and back when people could afford to buy lunch rather than bring in thir own peanut butter sandwiches)
All of last year’s reviews are here.