This week, the tycoons of tomorrow (and the satellite installation men and bank managers) had to troop over to my manor – the glorious town of Hackney – where they all stood about looking smarter than they actually are. The main lobby looks a lot swisher than it did when I was there to pick up some important forms, I ought to add.
Old Alan made a very clunky speech regarding births, marriages and deaths. ‘I was registered as being born here, in 1852’. ‘My marriage was registered here and, most probably, my death’ll be registered here after I’ve ‘ad you lot in the boardroom one too many times!’ Ho ho! The Apprentices smiled the smiles of a classroom of scared children.
The task was as follows: come up with a theme for a greetings card, make five examples on that very theme and then pitch it to buyers. Tesco, Celebrations and Clintons being the big fish expected to take the contestants’ dangling maggots.
Old Man Alan put Michael ‘It’s Gore-tex’ Sophocles in charge of one team, guaranteeing hilarity. This was compounded by his making Kevin ‘Nails’ Shaw the leader of the other. If laughs didn’t follow, the show’s raison d’etre would fall apart. Obviously it didn’t and we were subject to ineptitude and incompetence on a grand scale.
Sophocles was a sulky, confused kitten throughout and basically delegated everything to Raef, who rose to the challenge, despite a couple of hiccups. We were reminded of Sophocle’s vox pop – that he would manipulate anyone to get to where he’s going. In this case, manipulation appeared to be asking people ‘can you do this?’ so that he didn’t have to. His first idea, which he really tried to push, was a plastic surgery themed greetings card. Along the lines of ‘Congratulations on your penis extension!’, one assumes. It didn’t go down too well, despite the fact that Raef championed it, stating that the women he’s met what’s ‘ad ’em done are always only to happy to pop them out on request, so would love a card. I think that says rather more about the feminine company Raef keeps than the fairer sex.
Instead, Raef piped up later on with a brainwave. Let’s do a National Singles Day! Or a National Singles’ Day… With an apostrophe, somewhere. Or not. Does it have an apostrophe? They took four hours to work it out. They called the Editor of a national newspaper. They ummed and aaahed. They didn’t come up with a definitive answer, despite Raef declaring earlier that words are his tool…’ He’s got skills in that field ‘to… er… ah….you know… full capacity.’
The actual answer, fact fans, is that you can either have the apostrophe or not. It’s up to you. It can be the national day of many singles, which requires no apostrophe, or it can be the national day belonging to singles, which does require one. Bearing in mind, from a marketing perspective, the public is a bit thick, best to go without punctuation. It only confuses people. If in doubt…etc…
Before all this was going on, a proof-reading frenzy no less, the photographs were being shot by the stony-silent Jennifer, mute and still smarting from last week’s humiliation. Doing all the work on her behalf were the loggerheaded Lucinda and Helene – two women who can’t be in the same room without arguing. And we all know what that means, right lads? Sapphic sexual tensions! Next week they’ll be lezzing up with the best of them, mark my words… ‘Nobody’s telling me what to do’ said the alien life-form, Helene. Lucinda diplomatically responded by calling her ‘sweetheart’ in that patronising posho voice she does so well.
Kevin fell into a similar trap as Michael – allowing a stronger contestant to take the reins whilst floundering. ‘820%’ Kevin said he was going to give, which I thought was pathetic. Why not 830%, Kev? Up the ante! It turned out that Sophocles was lucky his rein-man was Raef. Jenny, the red-headed goon was the architect of Kevin’s downfall. The scary part is that neither of them realised they were working on a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, SHIT idea.
Greetings cards to remind people to be ecologically sound. A ‘Save The Planet’ day. I think that’s what it was going to be called. They wavered between that and ‘Save the Earth’, without actually settling on one. Later, Kevin even said – after a pitch went spectacularly badly – ‘with that kind of attitude they aren’t gonna be saving any planets’. So I’m not even sure it was Earth he was babbling on about.
With two hours to go before the pitch and with scrawled handwriting on the walls, Kevin started flapping his feathers and bottling the pitch. Jenny and Claire refused to do it, with there only being two hours prep time left, leaving Kevin to pitch himself and dig his own grave. All credit to him, the boy is sure handy with a shovel.
There were echoes of the time, a couple of series ago, when Nargis pitched a kitten calender. Remember that? Well this was ten times worse, given that Kevin has an amusing accent, a small boy’s face and gets very aggressive when queried. At one point he instructed the buyers that not buying the goods would be equivalent to America ‘not caring about pollution’. Quite a claim.
Raef pitched quite well but came across a couple of brick walls as Sophocles had put his singles day date at February 13th – the day before National VD. What a plank. Fortunately, by the third pitch, that was changed and they fared better. At one point, the most unlikely scenario possible happened when Lee McQUEEN saved Raef in a boardroom as he stumbled over the plums in his mouth.
And so, to the boardroom.
Wally Bazoom, a regular on WWM, mentioned to me the other day that I should imagine the sound of a toilet flushing as Old Alan emerges from behind the frosted glass to judge the contestants. Now I can’t shift it from my head, and it detracts from the gravitas, to an extent.
Sophocles was grilled and he responded with petulant looks around the room, like a kid who COULDN’T BELIEVE he was being told off. ‘Don’t get impatient with me, young man’ said Alan. Then the bearded one turned on Kev. ‘I just wanted to learn how to pitch’ said Kevin, squeaking rodent-like.
When the scores were read out, Kevin lost by some margin. Sophocles, in one of the funniest boardroom moments I’ve ever seen, shouted COME ON!
Not once, but twice, whacking his fist into his palm. In a crafty edit, Margaret responded with amazed revulsion. Sophocles was reprimanded then sent off to listen to Myleene Klass banging away on an old Joanna. Raef smiled at him, lovingly.
Like the fool he is, Kevin resisted making Jenny part of the instant death trio and took Sara and Claire. Claire, it should be pointed out, worked harder than when she was Team Leader. Sara, it ought to be pointed out, was only there because Jenny bullied her and Kevin made a huge tactical error in thinking he could swing Old Alan round to believing she was at fault. He didn’t, for one moment, stating that he was old enough to know when someone’s being ‘ganged up on’. A rare victory for wisdom in The Apprentice and an even bigger victory for those of us who think Sara is a smashing looking lass.
The end sequence was, I think, a first for the format. We were treated to extended highlights of the two saved contestants returning to the house where LEE MCQUEEN discarded any public goodwill he’d gathered by shouting at Sara like he was on the fucking footie terraces, in the 80s, pumped full of Skol. As Alex joined in with a whiney beep, Raef, to his credit, stuck up for Sara, who looked on the verge of tears. Thankfully, before it all went Big Brother on us, it ended – leaving us hungry for more poison. A brilliant episode.