Archive for November 27th, 2008

The Last Millionaire

November 27, 2008

The Apprentice isn’t back till March.

If your thirst for asinine entrepreneurs wasn’t quenched by the borderline unwatchable Natural Born Sellers on ITV, then you could do worse than flick over to BBC3 on a Wednesday night for The Last Millionaire. It’s like The Apprentice in reverse and without the flawed concept of Sugar as some figurehead of business ethics and success.

What you get is a bunch of youngsters who’ve  crucially already made their first million and are on the show simply to strut and show off their imagined business acumen. If they win the weekly task they can go home – but if they lose they stay on and run the risk of ultimately being the outright loser in the final week. And it seems that losing is the thing they most fear – whereas in The Apprentice, all but one will lose, so only being the first to go really carries any shame.

All these bright young things are dropped in a foreign clime, week upon week, and paired up. They’re given about 60 quid each, tossed in a hostel and told to make as much money as they can within seven days. A borderline impossible task, you might think. 

There’s clearly a little help from the production team in terms of providing contacts and offering inspiration, but for the most part it seems they’re left on their own and many minutes of quality chuckles are reaped from their absent-minded bull-headedness, pig-ignorant self-belief and vain lack of self-awareness. As seven days is too short a time to set up a legitimate business beyond selling bottles of water to tourists (which is what one pairing did one week, while others were selling high end night out to models), most of the participants resort to scamming bar owners, museums, tourist agencies and holiday-makers. And sometimes their arrogance is breathtaking.

Last week’s winners, for example, sold a Spencer Tunick style installation at a German bar. The owner was impressed by the non-tacky pitch and would provide cash for the publicity as well as use of the bar. A photographer who was asked to generate that publicity was also asked for some money – he could use the prints as he liked afterwards. So, with money made, all the lads had to do was find some dudes who were happy to be nudes.

Having promised a jam-packed barful of naked folk, all of them rendered anonymous by their sheer numbers, they managed to get about seven very uncomfortable people to take part through sheer, sneaky manipulation. The bar looked half empty so the photos that were eventually produced must’ve resembled the opening shots from a C-grade group porn pamphlet. But – amazingly – they got the money from the photographer.

On the other hand, the bar-owner turned from an easy going cool-cat into a rage-filled German stereotype, ordering them to get out of his bar without payment in a thick, furious accent in one of the most satisfying sequences I’ve seen on TV this year.

They won the task. And they won it through sheer audacity, front, bullying, smarm, charm and bullshit. Where The Apprentice makes out that there is still a huge amount of honour in the business world and uses the stooges as bad-example scapegoats, The Last Millionaire proves that the real way to make money in this ‘orrible old world is to con people into handing it over. Just ask anyone who bought the Amstrad Emailer.

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