Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Apprentice 2009 – Episode 5

April 23, 2009

The Apprentice 2009 Review Episode 5 Pantsman

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.

In Brentford.


The contestants take part in Dickinson’s Real Deal in an exclusive shared-rights deal with ITV. Don’t miss it!

Episode 1

Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Last series

Drinking With The Girls

April 22, 2009

Drinking With The Girls Cherry Healy BBC Three

Cherry Healy fronts a moderately entertaining documentary, if you can call it that, in which she seeks to discover ‘the real truth about women and booze’. She succeeded in finding out that women drink booze and little else, but still, this was a half-decent hours worth of entertainment from BBC Three. Better than My Life As An Animal or Snog, Marry, Avoid anyway. Mainly because it was this new Cherry Healy character fronting it and not that vain hair-do woman Dawn Porter the channel usually relies upon for insight-free docu-pieces.

Opening with a montage of Daily Mail headlines about bingeing and a few helpful shots of girls falling over onto tarmac, we also witnessed Cherry puking violently into a latrine, a roman-shower shot we’d ultimately see repeated a few times throughout the show’s runtime – sometimes from different angles so we could consume the deeper meaning inherent in the act.

Cherry outlined her quest: to go out boozing with female drinkers from different demographics.

Hitting the road and arriving at Blackpool, Cherry meets Leanne and her pals, all slightly put-upon young women, Leanne a single mother with quite obvious signs of depression – that aspect of her dipsomania only covered in one three sentence interview. There was no time for it, as the Editor needed to kicked in with his procession of images framing what were once called ladettes throwing booze down their gullets, rubbing their groins against retarded males with manga haircuts and ultimately falling over car bonnets with their tutus round their ankles. The experience makes Cherry cry for a couple of seconds, then move on to her next night out.

14 year old Rio and her pal explain that they like to get pissed in the park after drinking heavily at home. Cherry joins them in Rio’s bedroom where they down what they’ve nicked from Mum’s cabinet through a straw. Impressively, they manage to quaff Lambrini, neat vodka, neat Bacardi and a glug of Baileys before asking Mum if they can make it home for half ten rather than the Draconian ten pm curfew that’s currently in place. Cherry explains that this is different to how she was at their age. The Lambrini would be Pinot Grigio and she’d buy it with money from her ample allowance, back in her day. I’m making presumptions there, as I have every right to do.

Where’s that? Only Sheffield Hallam University! Your host Swine’s place of higher education and the scene of his worst period of alcohol abuse is where Cherry ends up next and horrible, cloudy memories surface in this viewer. To make it worse, Cherry was taken to Shag – an evening at the Sheffield Leadmill that seems to actively attempt to murder attendees with pints at 80p, double vodka and red bull at a quid and two-for-one alchopops. I was too busy trying to repress images of myself rolling around in my own vomit to actually absorb any of this part of the show.

30 Somethings

A civil partnership was the next destination of choice as Cherry went to a lesbian marriage between two tattooed ladies. A good time was had by all, because 30 somethings tend to know their limits a little better than those a decade younger.

Mums and Mid-lifers
Even more responsibly, the Mums in the next sequence managed to run functioning households before going out dancing and returning home slightly tipsy. The Editor must have been furious by now at the lack of upskirt shots he could throw in, accompanied by that song that goes ‘here come the girls!’
Single widow Ann was also well-behaved, despite drinking a hell of a lot of liquor and starting every day at 11.30 in the morning, but that’s because she’s old enough to pace herself.

And finally, Cherry took a tipple with the Red Hat Ladies of Torquay. These old birds went on coach trips to taste wine and were less able to binge because of their need to spend a penny every five minutes. Jean, the ringleader, was an admirably batty old bird and more than likely the apple of many a Torquay-based older gent’s eye. And who can blame the silver foxes when there’s mature totty like Jean wandering around the UK’s South coast?

The documentary eventually wore itself out as it went along, parallel to how the advancing years of the participants caused their hunger for the grog to dissipate in time. From the outright chaos of kiddie-drinking to the measured, cheeky imbibing of the older generation, the process off slowing down was bound to happen before the show ground itself to a halt.

So, to keep the tempo up right to the bitter end, that shot of Cherry hawking her colon out of her mouth thanks to too many double vodka and cokes was distributed equally throughout the show to prick the interest when the ageing lushs got tiresome.

And just when you thought it was all over, right at the end and before the closing credits…

vomit Cherry Healy BBC Three Drinking With The Girls

50s CD Set Adverts

April 22, 2009

sounds of the 50s

“Hi! I’m Bobby Hi-Lites from Bobby Hi-Lites and the Hi-Lites. I miss the 1950s, back when the kids were down at the drive-in with The Fonz and The Big Bopper in their bobby socks, drinking milk-shakes and listening to Buddy Holly on their pink Cadillac car radios in their home towns, drag-racing their buddies on the strip. In the ’50s.

Do YOU miss the ’50s too? If you do, you need One Billion Hits Of The ’50s. It’s a seven thousand CD set that whisks you back to the now copyright-free days of the good old 1950s. Except for 1959, because most of that year’s music wasn’t out of copyright when this compilation was produced. Jive on!

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He Came To Ask My Father For My Hand by The Mister Sisters
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This limited edition CD set isn’t available in the shops. Simply ring 0900 900 90901290 and we’ll send you all seven thousand CDs absolutely free to try at home for a fourteen day period. If you’re not entirely satisfied after your trial period’s up, simply send them back to us unopened and we’ll be …

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My Life As An Animal: Pigs

April 20, 2009

My Life As An Animal BBC Three

My Life As An Animal is a show in which two seemingly intelligent people, untainted by mental illness, agree with BBC Three Producers that they will live with pigs for a week. They do this either because they’re so desperate to be on television that they’ll happily smear themselves in wet, gluggy manure to get there or (less likely) they’ve been badly advised on what the content of the show will be.

The format can be broken down like this:

  • Two Members of the Public meet Terry Nutkins
  • He tells them what pigs do.
  • They watch pigs snuffling about all day and doing very little.
  • MotPs are thrown into the pig pen where they live for a week.
  • They make friends or enemies with pigs, snuffle a lot and eat pig-feed.
  • They watch pigs get killed in the now-compulsory abattoir shot.
  • The end.

So – a sublime journey. How deeply will the human psyche be probed? What valuable information will we gleaned as we make adults scamper about on all fours, sleeping in straw and making grunting noises?

The contestants, Richard and Lyndsey, began by being ordered into clothes from a wheelbarrow that had been smeared with pig urine and poo. ‘It smells!’ they cry, stating the profoundly obvious. And they continue to state the obvious throughout the show.

– ‘This is literally a pigsty’
– ‘They smell’
– ‘They keep banging into me’
– ‘Urgh, it smells round here’
– ‘Oooh, it really stinks’

Richard – the first contestant – appeared to enjoy the process. He learned that ear-sucking on a waxy lughole is the very tenderest of intimate expressions among piggies, and he set to work nibbling ears like a pro. Soon enough he was kipping among them like he was one of their own, having grown worryingly close within a matter of hours.

Lyndsey, a Radio Five Live DJ, had a harder time living as a pig for a week. There were tears and tantrums during the early part of her stay when she realisd she’d be sleeping among them. She wanted her own sty, she complained – not realising that would obliterate the whole point of this stupid outing. Later, when a piggy nipped her on the lower leg she roared like a baby and demanded she get to go home. But then, persuaded by the crew, she got back into it and spent the rest of the day running around haystacks. The soppy cow.

Aside from that, ‘having totally immersed themselves in their pig-lives’, they watched pigs do sex and then snuff it in a slaughterhouse. They swapped places so that Lyndsey could see she’d actually got the better end of the deal as she sampled the non-organic pen. But still it was impossible to work out what we’re meant to have learned. Something about farming techniques? Something about human nature?

Whatever it was, it completely escaped me. The suspicion is this is another outing in which the title and concept are all, and that the actual content of the show doesn’t actually matter.

Did it not occur to anyone that the idea is completely and morbidly pointless? ‘It’s a new low!’ they seem to be shouting over in BBC Three-land. ‘Let’s celebrate it! Here – smear yourself in some shit!’

Watching the show, when the contestants complained – particularly Lyndsey who took to punching her stymates on the snout – you wanted to grab them by their lapels and dash their heads against the nearest trough, screaming at them that, as they’ve decided to live like pigs, they should stop complaining (in human) about how much they hate it. And what’s more, if they were going to do this bullshit experiment properly, they should be stark bollock naked. And the only human contact should come from the farmer. And if it was unwelcome contact they wouldn’t be able to complain beyond a terrifying, shrill squeal.

But then you realise that hidden camera footage of an obese farmer boning a mute, naked media type in a cold field wouldn’t make great television – but then, neither does this shit.

The Apprentice 2009 – Episode 4

April 16, 2009

the apprentice 2009 noorul choudhury phillip taylor

I can’t help but worry about the environmental impact of the opening scene, week upon week. A handful of housemates all getting ready, hair tonging, power showering and hair-drying – it must make quite an impact on the national grid. And that’s in addition to gas-guzzling transportation requiring two or three cars for a completely needless trip to Kew Gardens on the outskirts of London Town. Don’t they care that they’re destroying God’s green Earth, damn it? Couldn’t they just have set up a few shrubs on the industrial estate they ended up at?

Those rotten Apprentice bastards.

But after some male make up application (wake up! This is 2009!), Kew Gardens was the destination of choice and Sugar announced that the teams would be dabbling in the world of cosmetics. Noorul was directly given the Team Leader position as he’d been ‘hiding’, charged with responsibility over Lovely Lorraine, Kimberly Cream Puff, Phreak Out Phillip, Horrorshow Howard, Jumping James and Mona ‘Sex Face’ Lewis. On the opposing side, Paula led the remainder and, from the outset, seemed like a model professional.

With the brief of inventing a beauty product which they would then have to sell directly to punters, Paula’s approach to management was at a worryingly high standard, as though we had an actual leader in the room. Her choice of a seaweed product went down alright and resulted in a rock pool jolly for some of the crew. While James was fiddling with some crabs, they realised they only needed a handful of the stuff and so their complimentary boiler suits and waders were somewhat over the top.

It was in the mix where their troubles started. Paula had delegated costing to evil princess Yasmina and that poisonous little plop, little Ben Clarke, who appears to willingly make himself appear more horrifically deplorable as the weeks pass. Ben admirably refused to do any of the work assigned to him and announced that he was slinking into the shadows for the rest of the episode – a firing offence in any other episode. This left two pairs of eyes on costings, both of which royally botched the job in hand. Would this have happened with the assistance of a third party? Ask Ben, if you can find him in the murky gloom, trying to appear industrious.

And oh! How Yasmina and Paula botched the ingredient mash-up. Where cedarwood oil costs less than £30 per kilo, they blindly opted for £1,400 per kilo sandalwood oil – which is akin to wandering into Frank’s Second Hand Cars on the lookout for a second hand VW Golf and driving off in a Lamborghini. Furthermore, it’s akin to driving off in that Lamborghini, rounding a corner and pretending to one another that the VW is a really nice drive for the low cost and only visibly showing any regret when Nick asks you to wind down the window of your own denial and gestures at the oncoming doom in the distance.

‘Anyway – I’ll leave it with you’ he said when he broke the news, having pointed out their ruin in no uncertain terms, swiftly leaving them holding the baby as he had every right to do. A delicious moment.

Over on Noorul’s team, the main man was stumbling. His face turned inside out, his lower lip becoming his brow which he then scowled at anything that spoke to him. If anyone dared to try to come up with even the barest outline of a plan, he employed a weakening grimace to throw them into despair. An interesting tactic.

His grumpy puppy face caused the rest of his team to jump up and start doing stuff, in tune with one another, so who are we I to criticise his technique? I had a French teacher who allowed us to talk over one another while he drew pictures of frogs on trains on the blackboard and everyone in that class passed… so sometimes even the strangest methods succeed. Even the ones that involve silent treatment and gurning with malice at those among your number.

While the other team rock-pooled at the seaside, Noorul’s kids went bee-hiving for the audience at home. With Lorraine stumbling about like a drunken bumblebee, they gathered a harvest for their product – what turned out to be a soap bowl containing pure honey, inexpertly wrapped in cellophane so that it inadequately held the sticky nectar within. It looked bloody awful.

The key interaction in Noorul’s team was between young Phillip and Kimberly, both of whom are opposed to one another in every conceivable way –  British versus American, soft versus harsh, calm versus energy… Instead of bickering in front of a terrified graphic designer, they should have gone through to a meeting room and had a quick, punishing sexy time to rid themselves of the sexual tension that was clearly running through their rampant veins. They’d come together because opposites attract. That ain’t bitching, just a natural fact.

Speaking of Phil, our man from the north is simultaneously finding his feet and collapsing. One minute he’ll make an inspired decision which contributes to a win, the next he’ll be rasping disagreement in an unprofessionally abrasive manner down a handset, ripping a few eardrums a new A-hole in the process. Last night, at one moment I could’ve sworn he was going to swing at the Cream Puff. He’s essentially a bright but unloved schoolboy in pinstripe – and quite funny to watch.

The selling process involved a ladyman who clearly wanted to be on TV, the GERMAN FOOD wagon from a previous series and the usual singling out of a hopeless seller. This time it was Noorul, who opted to go for the opposite of Lorraine’s insane word-gabble confusion and spoke in the most roundabout way to potential customers about the design and packaging of the soap, resulting in blank faces all round.

Ultimately and as suspected, it was the sandal / cedar confusion that made the result turn out the way it did. Making a loss of just under £70 quid, Paula chose toxic little Ben and the unusually silent Yasmina to join her for a knackering, as well she might’ve. At the top of the show, she’d assigned them the job of costing ingredients so it was seemingly a question of who would go – the fool who made the actual error or the unshaven moron who refused to do as he was told?

For television purposes, Paula simply doesn’t provoke the same skin-crawling reaction as Ben’s pompous superciliousness and probably wouldn’t have had as many male admirers as the elfin Yasmina. Her firing appeared to have been very much a Production agreement, as Ben – as far as I’m concerned – would have been shown the door at any normal business, by any untelevised management team. His approach in the boardroom is to check out what bassline Sugar’s pumping out on his Fender Jaguar and fill in the spaces with a few snarling riffs of his own. The only problem being, Sugar wants to solo. Ben clearly winds the boss man up, so the only reason he’s still there is that hollow reasoning we’re forced to assume every time a runtish little berk slimes his way out of a firing.

He ‘makes good telly’.

Personally, I can think of potential scenarios that’d make better telly than belligerent Ben repeatedly screaming ‘WILL YOU LET ME FINISH?’ – most of them involving more scenes of a honey-dripping Mona in the shower, perhaps joined by Yasmina – but crucially, it’s important that they don’t let the flushing of a turd come too soon. It needs to be allowed to settle, cloud the waters and cause a stink first.

They want Ben to peak in locking and loading his own self-destruction, then have The Sugarman pull the trigger – but only when the time is right. By my reckoning, that’ll be in about three episodes time.

* * * * *

Episode 1

Episode 2
Episode 3
Last series

The Speaker

April 15, 2009

The Speaker BBC Jo Brand

We’re regularly told that the nation’s number one fear is the act of public speaking. People would rather die than make a speech before an audience – which seems a bit severe. It also beats spiders, confined spaces and heights in the phobia stakes, hands down. This is strange when you consider that speaking in public is something we’re biologically programmed to do. It’s like being frightened of walking down a lane, or becoming terrified when faced with the prospect of going for a poo.

Having said that, if you’d have seen the mess I made in the little boy’s room last night, you’d find yourself utterly terrified of visiting the bog.

Ultimately, there’s no denying it’s a nightmarish experience. All of my adult attempts at public speaking have, without exception, been disastrous. Clammy hands, stuttering delivery and mind-blanks combined and resulted in speeches that seemed, from inside my head at least, to be completely incoherent word-babbles serving no discernible purpose.

As a child it was easier, or seemed to be, thanks to a heady mixture of youthful enthusiasm and childish arrogance. The fact that we were called upon to make speeches semi-regularly at my rural, all-boys grammar school must have helped, and you can’t help but feel that the primary reason most people suffer anxiety when asked to orate is a lack of practice. When called upon to address the public, most people will run a mile. So credit to the teenagers, all state-school kids, who signed up to The Speaker on the BBC – an attempt to find the best public speaker under the age of 16.

So far we’ve experienced the auditions round, in which entrant after entrant clammed up, fluffed lines or hit a mental blank. Those that were deemed good enough by a giant, a kindly aunt and a Quentin Blake illustration made it through to last night’s round, in which Deborah Meaden – that glorious spinster from the Den – wore an extremely-expensive looking hat. In addition to her millinery display, she had the youngsters stand on a soapbox at Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, riffing on an object they’d pulled from a dustbin tombola she’d set up on the side of the makeshift stage. This resulted in an impassioned speech from Jordan, who aped his own piece from the preceding round and told the gathered crowd that embracing binoculars is the only way forward. Not only for a better tomorrow, but also for a better society (as a whole).

It was incredibly moving.

In case you’re thinking of catching up by watching tonight’s episode, having lost a couple more kids later on, we’re now left with the following youngsters:

Appears to only have one speech to refer to in which he’ll make an impassioned plea for sanity so that we can move forward – collectively – not only for a better tomorrow, but also for a better society (as a whole).

Constantly looking slightly out of her depth, Fahmida is unintentionally amusing. Basing her findings on her extensive world-experience, she hates the notion of love, laughs in the face of romance and stomps on the very concept of companionship.

Shouty Duncan’s foolproof method of engagement is to shout at the audience. His shouting technique is second-to-none and, were this a public shouting contest, it’d be game over for the other contestants. Duncan’s mother appears to indulge his shouty ways, so expect more shouting from shouty Duncan in the future.

Graffiti-loving Haroon comes across as an educated Ali G and displays the kind of confidence when speaking to a crowd that can only come from some unfair evolutionary advantage. Either that or his brain’s been programmed for success by some mysterious, shadowy BBC agent.

Irene strikes me as the sort of girl who’s either grown up around adults who treated her as equals, or the type who stays in her bedroom all weekend watching sitcoms. Her attitude comes straight out of Smack The Pony or Green Wing, and for that she should be applauded.

Like Haroon, Maria totally lacks the negative self-awareness that should make public speaking an alarming prospect, making it possible for her to sail through each round with nary a glimmer of fear. Whatever it is that she and Haroon have pumping through their bloodstream that makes this possible should be bottled and sold.

Old beyond his years, Thomas comes across as having the maturity and wisdom of a 40 year old man, stuck within the body of a 16 year old. When I was his age I was flailing around and shouting at policeman, pissed on cider, so it’s hard not to look at the lad without feeling a deep sense of shame.

Kay Kay
My pick to win it. When he takes the stage, Kay Kay is mesmerising. Like a black Boris Johnson, the self-professed mummy’s boy wins the crowd over with messy charm. He radiates the Churchillian ability to encapsulate Britishness, and I reckon he’ll win the thing. If he doesn’t, he should’ve.

This is a good watch.

If they offered a bigger prize than just the title – perhaps a meeting with The Queen or something similar to stick on their CV – and meddled with the format a little bit then The Speaker could quite easily become as well-regarded as that BBC behemoth, The Apprentice.

If only they’d lose the Snow Patrol from the soundtrack and stopped trying to play to the X Factor morons, they might mould a hit show from this concept.

Hell’s Kitchen 2009

April 14, 2009

marco pierre white hell's kitchen itv

There are teachers who, on your first day in their class, think it’ll benefit you massively if they act as though you’re already an advanced student. Thus, in your first ever French lesson Monsieur Higgins will regale you with an anecdote on how he refitted the bearings on his bicyclette and expect you to respond in kind. The PE Teacher will throw you into your first ever 11-a-side comptetive match as central defence and berate you when you prove hapless as you try to block the opposition’s christmas tree formation.

These teachers – who think putting you in a completely impossible position, watching you flail, rescuing you and mocking you for your lack of ability is an apt substitute for actual teaching – are bastards.

Marco Pierre White is one such teacher. Last night, he chucked his new staff of celebrities, has-beens and who-the-hells into an overlit kitchen and expected perfection, then gave his charges a subtle earful when they didn’t oblige.

Still, a bollocking from M. White isn’t half what it might be coming from one of his ex-students. Gordon Ramsay appears to have absorbed all that is negative from White – every poisonous mannerism and inflection – and nicked it wholesale for his own act. But where Ramsay is a hopeless joke of a man, an instant parody of himself with a routine that was starting to run thin five years ago, White himself is actually a balanced beast and often comes across as a wholly likable bloke. If only he’d stop wrapping those enormous Palestinian keffiyehs round his insane haircut.

Claudia Winkleman hosts, now ubiquitous to the point of omniscience. She takes over from the over-cynical Angus Deayton and injects a good dose of bland where old Ang’ only offered the viewer mockery for even watching in the first place.

Following last night’s episode, I’d be surprised if Winkleman’s make-up artist hasn’t been sacked as the treatment she appeared to have received at the end of an applicator brush made it seem she’d either been up all night weeping or was suffering from ocular hemorrhoids. It was difficult to look at her, full on, without feeling a twinge of unwarranted sympathy.

The show was uneventful, so let’s take a look at the contestants and their performance on the opening night of a show you won’t care about and probably won’t even catch in passing:

Adrian Edmondson
The most immediately recognisable, Ade is still the affable giddy goat with the posh voice and the nice line in fart gags. Burned his hand to a blister and didn’t moan much. I’ll only continue to watch if it can be guaranteed that he’ll win.

Jody Latham
Apparently an actor from Shameless, a show I’ve historically been told off for when admitting I’ve never watched it.

Ms. Dynamite
Christ – where’s she been? A definitive case of ‘whatever happened to?’, Ms. Dynamite appears having spent the last five years hidden in a shed.

Bruce Grobbelaar
That cheating goalkeeper with the moustache who wobbles about when he’s defending a penalty. Remained anonymous.

Grant Bovey and Anthea Turner
Appearing as a couple but not cooking together, Anthea Turner is Anthea Turner whilst her husband continues his campaign to prove himself Britain’s most tedious arsehole.

Linda Evans
American actress best known for Dynasty, Evans fell into default American-in-British-reality-show setting and remained statue-still whilst looking startled for the duration.

Danielle Bux
Lingerie model and wife of Gary Lineker. Very clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but very presentable. White immediately made her his right hand girl – so Lineker beware.

The latter two lost last night’s invisible challenge. Their punishment, as it turns out, will be that they’re out of the kitchen and waiting tables in the next episode.

Oh, the indignity.

The Apprentice 2009 – Episode 3

April 9, 2009

monas-oh-face Mona Lewis Apprentice 2009

It was Lorraine who took the thirty-minute-warning call from Amstrad Incorporated last night at the top of the show, and I don’t think a more unflattering shot’s been employed in Apprentice History ™. Lorraine wobbled away from the phone like a crumpled crone, while all around her prepared for the day. Kim partially flopped her sugar puffs out for the camera, Kate removed a lobe of her brain, James done a line in the bogs and Ben flexed the muscles of his four foot frame in front of the hallway mirror, naked, with a puny erection.

Before they’d even set off, Phillip moaned about having to go to the boardroom, despite not yet knowing who’d be going to the boardroom, while Ben employed another of his pleasant allegories – ‘whoever I’m up against, their arseholes’ll be twitching like rabbit’s noses’.

What a gloriously overconfident turd he’s turning out to be.

In the ‘world famous’ Lea Valley Athletics Centre (don’t ask me – I thought Lea Valley was a brand of double cream) the teams were mixed for the first time. Kim and Kate went over to join Empire, siding with Howard, James, Majid, Kate, Ben and Cream Puff Kim. Over on the Ignite side, Noorul and Phil crossed over, joining Debra, Lorraine, Paula and Mona.

Got that? Then we’ll begin.

Debra put her foot down so hard she trampled part of Lorraine’s face when implanting herself as Team Leader for Ignite, whilst James was met by blank expressions and the odd unenthusiastic ‘ok then’ when he put himself forward. So – Debra vs James. The brutal brunette versus the jittery jumper. Bring it on.

Empire kicked off with a brainstorm. Ben took the bull by the horns and started talking about some kind of spring mounted system for having sex on. In the background, James grasped for the reins but couldn’t take control as Ben prattled on about his boingy-bonk machine, wasting valuable time. Eventually they settled on a multi-gym knock off which went from being called the Bingo Wing Buster to the Home MultiSomethingorOther. When it was returned from the designers to Empire’s specifications it resembled a knackered, practice guitar amp, looked like it smelled of ashtray and underwhelmed all concerned.

Ignite’s brainstorm seemed to consist solely of Phillip swivelling around on his buns, gyrating his hips and bending his knees. A decision was made, based on the fluid movement of the Estate Agent’s ball and socket kinesis, to create a Bum Ball. The name got changed somewhere along the way.

A strange incident in the car later, when Debra took a call from Yasmina regarding who would model their Bum Ball Hip Swivel when the time came. Yasmina preferred Phillip to Noorul because she feels he’s better looking. But then she mixes her signals by adding that it would be better to have one white model and one from an ethnic minority – so Phillip and Mona would be a better shot.

Now, quite apart from the clumsy juxtaposition of her points and despite the fact she insultingly discussed someone’s physical appearance on speakerphone, I don’t think Yasmina meant any harm here. There’s a marketing term – multi-ethnicity – referring to the mix of colour in a promotional shot, and I think that’s all she was driving at. Debra reacted badly, however, and kicked off a short, sharp argument in which it became quite clear that she was trying to place herself as a non-racist, overstating it to the point where you had to question her motives. As a result, it’s hard to see her as anything other than a card-carrying member of the BNP. Reverse psychology, see?

When their Swiv-hip 2000 arrived in the post, Mona demonstrated it by straddling it missionary-style and pulling a sex face. The product looked pretty good in neutral green and white, and clearly to the mind of Mona that was too much to bear and she began to require its services sexually. Admittedly, in comparison with Ben’s monstrosity, theirs was some hot-sexy product design, so you can’t blame Mona for her perversions. When she took her place for the photoshoot she literally spent the entire shoot with her legs spread, as the male element in the room gazed around the room for somewhere right and proper to look. On the other team, Ben flexed his little muscles, the self-appointed best looking member of the group turned hopeless creative force and, by now, squat model. It’s hard to tell if Ben’s appearance is all a cleverly constructed joke on the viewer.

And so to the pitches – traditionally a barrel of laughs but a little short this time. Still, we had some memorable fluffs, like Phillip declaring his Swivelhip 2000 was the new iPod and Ben slapping his own arse-mid presentation – but my favourite was either Mona’s foot-shooting ‘It doesn’t work on my bottom – so it’s brilliant’ or Lorraine explaining that ‘Nana’ could use the multi-gym – which put the unwelcome image of Nana Swineshead doing squat thrusts to my tired mind. Debra’s assessment of whipping girl Lorraine’s pitch style was a shocker – ‘she comes across as either hearing impaired or slightly stupid’ she said, and you can’t help but wonder how many complaints that drew from people watching with subtitles.

Incidentally, I’m sure one of the retailers being pitched to was one of the Last Millionaires. And the fact I recognised him reveals that I watch far, far, FAR too much of this kind of television.

To the boardroom!

Sugar was on form last night for the first time this series, mainly because he’s better when reacting to bullshit, shooting down his prey than he is reading from a script. I particularly enjoyed his pointed explanation to Debra that anyone who gives 110% is a mug, because ‘they’ve been done for 10%’.

James’s Empire received 500 orders, remarkably. On the other team, Debra’s Ignite received 10,180 and won by a country mile. Yasmina was criticised by Sugar for throwing the figure of 20,000 for six months exclusivity into the pitch, but it seems entirely possible the 10,000 from John Lewis came as a reaction to her not buttoning up her over-quote. She should be championed if you ask me – good old unbiased Swineshead. Anyway, it’s by the by – they won and got to watch a blonde woman destroy some Leonard Cohen.

Off to the Bridge Cafe, an establishment that must be pig sick of failed Recruitment Consultants and Property Sales Sods mooching about their floor, bickering like children and letting their tea go cold. If I were the proprieter I’d put a sign on the door – ‘No more than two pinstripes at a time’.

James took Majid and Ben back into the boardroom. Personally, I was crossing my fingers on Ben being a surprise firing, what with him seizing the task, wrestling it from James and sending it down to hell in a knackered lift.

Whilst the viewer second-guessed whether it’d be multiple loser James who got the chop or snarky little berk, Ben, Sugar had other ideas and gave Majid the boot. Affable, friendly Majid – the lovely fellow with that beardy talking point.

Truly, nice guys come last.

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Episode 1

Episode 2
Last series