Posts Tagged ‘Alan Sugar’

The Apprentice 2009 – Episode 1

March 26, 2009

apprentice-2009-episode-1

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?

Next week:
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.

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NewsGush: Paxman vs Sugar

March 18, 2009

VS

In a fight to the death – who would your money be on?

I’d back Paxman – he’s got the height, the steely gaze and the mental dexterity to bring the bearded Sugar to his little knees.

What’s more, this isn’t just some fantasy I’ve baked up to distract you from your work – this is the real deal! Paxman and Sugar have seen the sorts of showdown rappers have in the pages of hip hop magazines and in their cleverly constructed rhymes, and they’ve decided, despite their advancing years, to have a slice of the diss pie.

According to Digital Spy, Paxman started this battle when talking to the Radio Times.

Paxman reportedly said that the show was full of “know-alls” with “nothing to say”.

Sugar saw the opportunity to hit back.

Sir Alan said: “That’s the pot talking to the kettle, isn’t it? I mean, he’s the most unpleasant person going.

“I’d like to get into a debate, without him having a day to think up questions to make people seem awkward. I’d like to see how clever he is then.”

He added: “Jeremy Paxman has never interviewed me. I’ve never met him. But I’d like to be thrown in a room with him to debate something someone throws at us rather than him having a crib sheet hiding under the table.

“In my opinion that is cheating, honestly.”

That’s fighting talk, Mister!

I mean, ‘Sir’.

Sorry Sir Alan.

The Apprentice 2009 – The Preview!

March 18, 2009

The Apprentice 2009 BBC

It’s here!

Almost.

(Edit – it actually is here now – Ep. 1 reviewed over here)

By now you’ll be well aware that the new series of The Apprentice begins on the 25th of March.

As has become the tradition, the BBC have issued some scant but tantalising details about the runners and riders. So let’s have a look at them, here and now – and make some wildly speculative judgements on their good character while we do so.

Anita Shah

Anita Shah

Anita is inspired by James Caan, it says here, so she’ll be the one stroking her beard in a warehouse, too nervous to invest in anything. She ‘can make impactful statements’ she adds. I’m not sure if ‘impactful’ is a proper word, so she’s made an impact right from the off with this year’s first taste of language-mangling, or ‘langling’ as I like to call it, impactfully.

Ben Clarke

Ben Clarke

Viewers of HBO’s The Wire will know Ben from his role as Democrat candidate (and, latterly, Mayor of Baltimore) Tommy Carcetti. Ben states that ‘making money is better than sex’ – the sort of claim that demonstrates the speaker is a one-minute-man.

Debra Barr

Debra Barr

Firstly – that’s not how you spell ‘Deborah’. Secondly, any woman with ‘a passion for business and a love of horses’ is instantly terrifying. Add all this to the cold eyes of a killer, and Debra’s already looking like a candidate to fear.

Howard Ebison

Howard Ebison

Howard’s an award-winning dancer, apparently – so expect a few jokes at his expense from Alan Sugar – the ultimate man’s man. A part qualified CIMA (Management) Accountant, Howard looks a little bit like Ben Mitchell off Eastenders in this promo shot, minus the hearing aid.

James McQuillan

James McQuillan

James is a former child chess champion and a football fan. His profile doesn’t feature any incriminating quotes, so it’s possible this fellow’s a Lee McQueen type. But we won’t know until we tune in.

Kate Walsh

Kate Walsh

Kate says she has ‘the ability to sustain business relationships at all levels’ – and I haven’t the foggiest what that’s about. She’s ‘highly motivated’ and has ‘really achieved within a corporate environment across sales, marketing and a number of different aspects of business’. Yes, Kate – but what does that actually MEAN?

Kimberly Davis

Kimberly Davis

Kimberly’s an American – but ‘not a typical New Yorker’, which is a stereotype she says she’s faced. I don’t know what a typical New Yorker is. A hot dog vendor? A cab driver? George Costanza? She’s an accomplished musician and dancer, so should there be a musical round, her and Howard can team up and really impress with an all-singing, all-dancing song and dance.

Lorraine Tighe

Lorraine Tighe

The obligatory single-mother, Sugar will no doubt be onside with Lorraine as she’s had more life experience and has ‘had a very hard time’. She sums up her attitude to business as the ability to drive a dead horse to the winning line – which is pretty much what’s expected of her here – so good luck pushing those moribund equines to disaster, Lorraine.

Majid Nagra

Majid Nagra

Majid is a Business Development Manager who got expelled from school. Sadly no details are forthcoming regarding his expulsion – do they kick kids out for ‘schmoozing and bullshitting’? He runs youth charities and has his own car hire business and the papers point to the fact that he might be a source of comedy.

Mona Lewis

Mona Lewis

‘Former beauty queen’, it says here. Mona’s also not educated beyond her A Levels, and that lack of formal education will probably chime with Sugar. She says she wants to do this for her son, so expect much hand-wringing about wanting to provide her boy with the kind of opportunities she never had, etc…

Noorul Choudhury

Noorul Choudhury

Confusingly, Noorul has a CIM qualification – he’s a chartered marketer – but he works as a science teacher. A strange career change that, considering the CIM is bloody difficult to get. He also deals in cliches, believing himself to be ‘feisty’, ‘ambitious’ and ‘driven’. Interviewing this lot must’ve got terrible repetitive.

Paula Jones

Paula Jones

There’s often a mental redhead – remember Jo and last year’s Jennifer? – and ‘scatter-brained’ Paula looks like she might be there to fill that slot. She was born and raised in Wallsall, so we can look forward to editing that mocks her outrageous Brummie accent.

Phillip Taylor

Phillip Taylor

Phillip has the generic sales-face. Notice the complete lack of character and the identikit haircut. Completely unremarkable. But it’s very early days – for all I know he’s a genius and a wit, but on the strength of this quote: “Business is the new rock ‘n’ roll and I’m Elvis Presley”, chances are he’s not.

Rocky Andrews

Rocky Andrews

‘Rocky’??

Seriously – ‘Rocky’??

Apparently ‘Rocky’ is on £100,000 per year already – so his only reason for appearing is good, ol’ fashioned showing off. He owns a chain of sandwich shops after leaving a promising career in football due to injury. God knows why he’s taking part.

Yasmina Siadatan

Yasmina Siadatan

Going by this photo, Yasmina looks to be quite suitable for television. Her profile blurb hasn’t annoyed me at all, and I’m not sure if that’s because of her presentable photo. It probably is.

Go Yasmina!

*   *   *

And that’s your lot. All of last year’s Apprentice reviews are here. if you’re feeling nostalgic.

See you on the morning of the 26th.

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.

The Apprentice 2008: Ep. 11

June 5, 2008

Apprentice sluts

‘Bloodbath in the boardroom’ said the voiceover man before The Apprentice music piped up for the penultimate time this series.

As we already knew, this week would be the interview round. But this time five whole Apprentices would be grilled – I’m sure last year it was less. Add to this the fact that each candidate would be interviewed by four bastards each, the sheer amount of interview time meant this was a quickly-edited, non-stop whiplash of a show. Somehow though, the editors saw fit to fill half of it with shots of people walking from their interview to the comfy seats outside, which wasn’t very exciting.

The four interviewers comprised three regulars. The first was fat, beardy Paul – an unreconstructed sexist twat. Second was Gordon – whose name I couldn’t remember as I took notes, so I referred to him as ‘Stig’. Stig talks like John Major, looks like a well groomed ghost and works for Alan Sugar. He’s better suited to working in a morgue. Third of the old hands was Claude. A balding, boggly eyed managerial type who spoke softly before building on his reserves of anger until he’s actively reprimanding whoever’s put in front of him. All three of them, odious people – and Alan’s best mates. The company that man keeps, eh?

Added to the line-up was Karen Brady – that strangely attractive woman who was MD of Birmingham City. She might still be for all I know. She was a little wishy washy in her approach and visiting her probably came as a massive relief to each of the contestants – in that the most difficult question she asked them was what their name was.

Getting ready for the off, Claire was excited about the interview process as she styled her hair into a bizarre, Fonzy style quiff. Perhaps she already knew she’d be meeting Paul, who, in post-interview reverie, she described in glowing terms. ‘There’s something about ‘im – he’s hot!’ she squealed, whilst moistening her seat. ‘The fact he’s on 20 million a year?’ Lee asked, in an uncharacteristically astute observation. ‘I wanna suck his lips off’, replied Claire, making a nation’s genitals wilt.

In her interview with Paul she flirted outrageously, proud of her Club 18-30 past and boasting of her ‘eight million incremental profit margin’, whatever that means. Paul told her she was cheap – either as a reference to her comparatively low bonuses or her Repping past. It was hard to tell.

Claire sailed through, in truth – the only other notable incident being when Stig was physically unable to clamp her mouth shut as words flowed randomly and idiotically out of that gaping hole as she sat there like a big, fat babbling lemon.

Helene didn’t do too badly either. It seemed we saw very little of her. In an interview with fat Paul, she swore like a trooper whilst bigging herself up. Every swearword was greeted with a calm smile from Paul, like a proud father. He’s big on swearing it seems.

When Brady interviewed her, Helene seemed to sense that her audience wasn’t primed for that kind of language and so built a subtle rapport. The effect was ruined a bit when, at the end, she referred to her fellow contestants as ‘Fifteen gobshites’… but honesty is probably the best policy. Had to laugh at the ‘objective’ section of her CV though – apparently her objective is to ‘dive into the ocean of opportunity’. Made me picture Alan Sugar in a wet suit, using those big flapping hands as flippers. Helene as a mermaid. A lovely aquatic scene.

From the kick-off, Lee misjudged the atmosphere with fat Paul – and fell straight into what shall now and forever more be known as ‘the reverse pterodactyl trap’. When asked to show this move, Lee obliged whilst chuckling gamely – ‘oh mate! Unbelievable! – AWK AWK AWK!’.

The response wasn’t great. ‘This is a serious interview’, said Paul. ‘Why did you just do that?’ Lee’s pants filled with wee.

Later, when being interviewed by Claude he was asked if he was schooled in England. Yes – he was, he replied. The CV was filled with spelling mistakes – so not only is Lee a bit uneducated (no fault of his own), he also can’t use a spell-checker (fault of his own). Spelling ‘tomorrow’ as ‘tommorrow’ is pretty elementary stuff. Made me wonder if he ever commented on our 2 Pints of Lager post all those months ago.

Lee’s major foot-shooting was in lying on his CV. He said he’d completed a two year University course when in fact he’d completed four months then dropped out. This was the massive clanger of the episode. Sympathy for the dirty Spurs-supporting stormtrooper suddenly racked up as everyone in the country felt a bit guilty about having lied on their own CVS in the past (we’ve all done it). He wriggled out of it, both in interview and the boardroom, despite the fact he’d never get hired if sussed out in the same situation out there in the real world. As a recruitment consultant, you’d have thought he’d have known that. If you’re not hired Lee, don’t worry. There’s always tommorrow.

So we turn to Lucinda, who got the harshest grilling of the lot, and completely undeserved if you ask me. She’s a contracter, not an employee in real life. There’s not much more that’s entrepreneurial than that, surely? Pitching her business then getting deals with people? Somehow this was seen as a weakness. She’d never make a good team member, they said. She dresses like a dick, they said. She’s into Chinese medicine and feng shui, snorted Paul, the blinking fat cock. And so, just because she didn’t have the right ‘cultural fit’, the poor girl got booted. She was too good for it, is the stark truth.

For comic relief, let’s look at Alex. Long derided by the bulk of the viewing public, I think Alex has been great entertainment. A relentless and remorseless snake in the grass, this was the point when we saw that his enigma was built on vapour. There’s really not much to the poor boy. Despite looking like a Shakespearean actor, there’s nothing underneath but bluster. All he found himself doing in interview was screaming his age. I’M 24! I’M 24. YEEEEARS. OLD. An interesting, if slightly irritating tactic that didn’t really get him very far.

Alex is the most passive-aggressive, defensive individual you’ll ever see on your TV. One moment, he’s offering a faintly dismissive critique of a team member, the next he’s taking massive offence at being told he’s ‘a bit quiet today’ and being asked if he had ‘a heavy night’. Aside from reiterating his age until it was stamped onto the collective consciousness, he also let us know that he’s agile and dynamic. Which is useful down the gym, no doubt.

So Lucinda was handed her raspberry beret (the kind you find at a second hand store) and promptly shown the door. The big twist (ooooh!) was that all four will be in the final, two joint Project Managers leading past Apprentices. Lee’s got Claire to work alongside (poor bastard) while Helene’s got Alex (poor bastards).

And in other news, Nicholas De Lacy Brown has been crushed by a wall.

The Apprentice 2008 – Ep. 10

May 28, 2008

Show ten opens and by now we’re so used to the Sugarman’s spiel that it forms a meaningless babble. ‘Job interview from hell… wibble flib… 40 years gruggle plap.. etc…’

All you can really focus on is the stuff that went unnoticed before in the opening sequence over preceding weeks. And this week, for me, it was the size of Alan Sugar’s hands. They are enormous – without equal. They look like big cartoon hands. He’d be a bloody good goalie with those ridiculous flapping grippers.

Six contestants remain in the house and as the phone rang it looked pretty empty – nobody for Claire to hurdle over as she wobbled towards the telephone, shattering furniture and punching holes in the wooden floor as she went to take the call from the interchangeable Franceses. As news breaks that they’re to convene at a breaker’s yard, Sophocles picks up on the fact this this is possibly the last chance he has to show us his hairy nipples, so after a full frontal he gets himself dressed whilst moaning that ‘it’s never gonna fucking stop’. Poor lad’s had enough it seems – he’s ‘finding it harder than everyone else’. The nation is unified as every man, woman and child cries ‘DIDDUMS’.

‘What’s a breaker’s yard?’ asks Lucinda. ‘Gvwaveyard for cars, innit’, replies Lee. That’s what he’s talking about. Breaker’s yards are what he’s talking about. ‘Grr-vvvv-waveyards for du cars’. Just so we’re all clear.

They gather at the scrapyard and the beardie Super Hands turns up to inform them that they’ll be renting cars out. But hey – these aren’t any old cars – these are the sort of cars that make Clarkson spuff his globule into Top Man briefs. On the horizon, several posh four-wheelers rev onto the scene – Scalextric on a grand scale. While the girls smile, a little bit confused by the machinery, Alex and Lee grin from ear to ear. Michael feels that ‘cars are alien’ to him, on the other end. Looking at the high end, two grand a day Zonda, it’s not hard to see why as it looks like a mechanised shark from the future.

Michael was up against Lee as Team Leader and he chose the Ferrari and the Spiker whilst LEE MC-CONCERNED-MC-MCQUEEN’S-WHARRAM-TORKIN-ABAAART chose the Aston Martin and, as a high risk strategy, the Zonda.

All the footage at this point focused on how unfocused that hairy little twit Michael was. He sent Helene and Claire out to sell in the City while he went off on his lonesome to sell in Knightsbridge. Knightsbridge, for the unititiated, is a place where the kinds of people who don’t need to rent posh cars live. The kind of people who can actually afford posh cars, and therefore actually own a few. And so, unsurprisingly, not a single sale. Claire racked up a few small scale sells – renting out a Ferrari for a couple of hours here and there at 65 quid per sixty minutes. Michael’s strategy dead in the water, he used his ‘knowledge of London’ to pick his next spot. Portobello market – the popular fruit and veg stop. On a weekday. The prize idiot.

As Michael flapped about like a grimacing baby chick plummeting from its nest, Lee complained about Lucinda and invented a few cliches, just to pass the time. ‘When a woodpeckers pecking you, it’s time to say “Get off!” to the woodpecker’ he said, creatively.

Lucinda – perhaps predictably – wasn’t really suited to this task and so was disowned by Lee and Alex. Despite begging not to be sent off alone, she was kicked to the kerb and, without the slightest clue about the product, started selling the Aston Martin as a Zonda, her head all confused after wasting hours perforating raffle tickets that were never used.

Lee didn’t sell a huge amount with his tactic of begging businessmen but soon his and Alex’s isometric death-stares forced the Zonda onto a pinstripe prick. Then later, even Lucinda cracked a sale as the afternoon turned into evening.

Over on the other team, only Claire managed to vend her wares. Helene watched, goggle-eyed and confused while over in a completely useless location Michael chased a middle-manager down the street shouting not only ‘You’re going to regret saying no!’ but also ‘GO ON!’ and finally ‘COME BACK’. In the throes of desperation he began to follow this poor sod, asking if he could come to his meeting with him whilst abandoning the supercar in the middle of nowhere. Smart thinking! Ultimately, he was disappointed by his customers, he said. Which is perhaps the worst angle a salesman can approach his work from.

Then it was onto the evening stretch and selling under the traditional Apprentice marquee. You need a marquee for an Apprentice task. It’s stitched into the fabric of the show.

Michael’s positive attitude continued on even with drunk City boys wandering around with open wallets. ‘Treat yourself for GOD’S SAKE!’ he cried, trying to add bottles of champagne into the mix as a freebie, and coming away with nought. Claire managed a few more sales and Helene achieved nothing.

Alex, on the other hand, notched up at least three Zonda sales by the end. At this point, his future (and my place in the sweepstake) were secured. The last gasp chase for the final sale (in 60 seconds – yeah right) was so fabricated you could only laugh. Like they didn’t give him a quarter of an hour to sort it out.

So Michael’s team sold £2,114 whilst Lee, Lucinda and Alex flogged almost twelve grand. Which is impressive. Sugar almost raised his cartoon-hand to his forehead and said ‘fucking hell….’ in astonishment at just how well they did. Before they were sent off to gob out a load of trifle-tasting wine into a bucket in Mayfair, Sugar had a dig at Lucinda. ‘Shut up’ he said ‘before I give you a bigger shovel to dig your own grave with’. Yeah! Nice one , Alan! Stupid girls.

So it was between Claire, Michael and Helene. The former was told she was safe and the latter was told – at quite some length – that she’s a corporate nobody. She almost cried and that evil feline face was on the edge of cracking into tears. But then, joy of joys, the reckoning arrived. Despite ‘flickers of diminishing brilliance’ – the word ‘flickers’ being Alan’s contribution and the ‘brilliance’ Michael’s own, this mini ‘disaster zone’ was booted out, and not before time, eh?

Thankyou for the opportunity, he whimpered, before wandering off, probably more relieved than anything. He’s good TV, but pray you never meet the bumbling little tit in real life.

Episode 1
Episode 2

Episode 3
Episode 4

Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7

Episode 8
Episode 9

The Apprentice 2008 – Ep. 9

May 22, 2008

Sometimes, when you lose someone early on, you get the impression that a handful of people are just too good for the world. Something about their raffish charm and twinkly brown eyes being beyond the capacity of the amount of goodness this world can actually handle.

On the other hand, some people are all mouth and no trousers, dress foppishly in order to distract from their empty personalities and have a decent vocabulary which isn’t backed up by any substance. Raef somehow had it both ways… being both a grade ‘A’ bullshitter and also an apparently lovely bloke. Rather sad to see him go – he was certainly this year’s Nice Contestant. We’ve not got much left to work with, after his exit.

We’ve got Lee – loaded with common sense but prone to unblinking twattishness and we’ve got his ex, Lucinda who is a lovely leader but a pain in the arse when asked to follow. We’ve got Alex who, despite his protestations about being a Sales Manager with an international remit, whatever that means, is all over the bloody shop. We’ve got Helene, who is dripping with awfulness. We’ve got Michael Sophocles who walked out of a sitcom and into the boardroom and then we have Claire, the one who won’t stop SHOUTING ABOUT HOW SHE WAS RIGHT.

Sophocles treated the ladies to the sight of his naked, miniature frame as he answered the phone in enormous boxer shorts. Frances was on the blower, predictably enough, and she told them they were off to the National Theatre. ‘I’ve got to step up’ said Sophocles in a split-second vox pop, his neck riddled with shaving cuts.

When they arrived at the National, Nick and Margaret waited patiently as the briefing  kicked in. Nick did that weird thing with his face. I think it’s meant to signify impatience but it actually looks like he’s trying to hold back a huge flood of diarrhoea.

Alan changed the teams about, as is his wont, and we ended up with Raef as team leader over Claire, Helene and Michael – the latter having been refused his plea to lead a team this week. The same old method used by desperate contestants to stay in the show. I DO BETTER NEXT TIME MUMMY. PROMISE! On the other team, Alex was to lead just Lee and Lucinda – who at this point were still very much in love.

They were asked to come up with a name for a box of tissues, as well as suitable packaging, a print advertisement and a 30 second television ad. Quite a lot of work for two days, so Alex’s team sat down to brainstorm. And they brainstormed really badly, with Alex totally non-commital, Lee in a bad-idea-frenzy and Lucinda coming out with some utter crap. When coming up with names, Lee barked ‘WHAT ABOUT SNOT’? ‘COSY-NOSE?’ ‘COSY-NOSE IN THE CAR, COSY-NOSE IN THE PLANE?’. At least he tried.

Lucinda seemed hell-bent on sabotage and suggested gathering the pink pound with snot-rags aimed at gay men. If they’d have done that, they’d have reduced their market by about 90%. So probably a good thing she was roundly ignored, despite her assertion that Alex was ‘worse than useless’. Her whining cost her the love of her life, as Lee Cold Eye McQueen finally seemed to dump her through the medium of swearwords.

Rather than do anything so insignificant as research and planning, Raef picked up his little pal Michael so they could be driven around the West End and talk of their thespian pasts. We learned that both had extensively trodden the boards – Raef as Sebastien in Twelfth Night and Sophocles with a singing part in West Side Story. Cue: Dodgy recitals of lines and show-songs. Never before have two birdbrains looked quite so preening. This culminated in Michael singing one of Fagin’s numbers from Oliver – and it was horrendous.

So, Alex’s box was designed and, good grief, in comparison to the others’ it was a thing of unbounded ugliness. An orange monstrosity with irrelevant stock photos and bad fonts. It was the Cillit Bang of tissues. The television advert was almost brilliantly awful. The mother figure was accepted after an awful audition in which Alex asked them to ‘freestyle for a bit’. Her reaction was to whimper like John Inman in a man-trap. The actual TV ad involved this whimpering and a father who was on the money as cheesy-ad-dad. At one point, he grabbed his ‘daughter’s’ nose and tweaked it so melodramatically it looked like he might wrench it off, stuff it in his gob and spit it out in a fountain of gore. The ad was so garishly orange and pink and ridiculously heavily branded, they might have handed victory to Raef before they reached the edit suite.

Might have, were it not for Raef’s Sophocles-buffered pretension. Their ad featured Sian Lloyd for bugger all reason (even SHE said they should’ve googled her before booking her) and for only about five seconds. In their mini-masterpiece, a couple of children shared a tissue (unhygenic) and then smiled as Ronan Bloody Keating warbled in the background. It was well-shot in every way but one. There was no branding, whatsoever. Not one logo, one mention of the brandname or even one shot of the box – a shame as the packaging was pretty impressively well-made by Claire and Helene.

Right from the start, it was obvious that branding was of the utmost importance, so how they could have forgotten to stick in a logo and deemed a close up of the box ‘vulgar’ reeks of a complete lack of awareness of how advertising stripped to its most basic elements actually works. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, but for a businessman or a ‘tycoon of tomorrow’, it’s actually disastrous.

And so it was that Raef made a fundamental error, and it was with ‘all due respect’ that Alan told him he was full of hot air. And though it’s not very nice, it’s true. He was a likable statue, an affable ghost, a respectable spectre. But he hardly had acute business acumen. The ladies will miss him, I’m sure.

Sugar had a ball in the boardroom, sarcastically dubbing Sophocles and Raef the next Spielberg and Fellini, telling Lee he was mind-numbingly boring, laying into Alex… Rather than have anyone read out the scores, he simply launched ‘YOU LOST. YOU LOST’ at an unsuspecting Raef, telling them off for doing 95% of the task and leaving out the main product point – a call to action. And quite right too. He then told Alex that his ‘crap advert had won’, having a pop at the box, the clip and the print media while Alex smiled at the criticism, safe in the knowledge he’d lived through the trauma yet again.

Despite Raef’s eviction, Sian Lloyd probably came out of this episode worse than anyone else. Not only did she suffer the indignity of appearing in one of the worst pieces of advertising ever made, she also had the mickey ripped out of her by Alan – with his sly Cheeky Girl references. Add that to having been dumped by that lip-twisting turd, Lembit Opick and you have to say that things aren’t going too well, eh love?

Lembit

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Episode 8

The Apprentice 2008 – Ep. 8

May 15, 2008

When that Alan Sugar character lets rip in his opening spiel, he tells the assembled morons ‘this is the job interview from HELL’. Clearly this is untrue. He’s indulging in hyperbole in order to talk up the gruelling series of tasks and the humiliation that approaches. Interestingly, he follows up with ‘your prize will be working with me’. Logically then, Alan Sugar is Satan.

Raef, answers the phone with his clockwork orange eyelashes and immaculate in his bedroom attire, only a few stray cockerel hairs on the back of his sweep betraying his shut-eye. St Barts church is the destination for the debrief, and they’re to pack an overnight bag.

In a between-scene vox-pop, Claire states that she’s building momentum, whilst Helene spits that, not only would she never mix with the housemates in real life, if she was working with them, she’d fire them. Therein she makes the assumption that she would be their boss rather than the other way round. It’s what makes Helene the most annoying of the flotsam that’s left. A superiority complex the size of Cornwall, all mixed up with a pathological lack of patience and a withering gaze that comes at you from three angles.

‘This church was used in Four Weddings and a Funeral’ says Beelzebub, as the remaining soldiers look about them, cooing and wondering why His Evil Highness hasn’t burnt up on contact with holy ground. The audience shrugs at the Four Weddings revelation. That film’s about 20 years old. Alex looks nervously at Claire, the memory of their boyfriend / girlfriend role play still firmly wedged in his brain and any thought of churches, weddings and marriage causing visible discomfort.

The teams were split again, with Helene as team leader taking Sara, Alex and Michael under her vulture-wing whilst Lucinda took the reins again, despite winning the ice cream task recently. She got LEE, Claire and Raef. A winning set up if ever there was one. It was clear from the off which team was headed for an almighty fall.

Michael’s vox pop followed and he noted his own effortless charm. If you’re aware you’re doing it, Sophocles, then it’s not fucking effortless, is it? Let’s dive in and look at Michael’s efforts this week. This week’s was the Sophocles show, so it’s only fair we focus on the hairy little twat.

When looking at prize-winning dresses by Ian Stewart, he brown-nosed the designer until he barely had a tongue left, then decried his work as ‘ghastly’. When describing it on the phone to Helene he had an ‘I can take it or leave it’ attitude to it, even though, when it was revealed that these high end dresses would win the task, Michael lied that he’d pushed for them. The squirming squirt. All he’d actually done was described them as ‘dresses like the ones in Beauty and the Beast’ and used the grammatical clanger ‘very unique’. Either it is, or it isn’t unique. Piss off with your very unique and effortless charm.

In the event, they let those dresses get away from them and Lucinda’s team secured the winning items. At a few thousand per dress, it always looked like Raef’s ‘high-risk’ strategy would work.

Helene’s team settled on some unbelievably tacky frocks, in every garish colour of the Essex wedding rainbow – as worn, according to the salesgirl, by your Katie Prices and your Jodie Marshes… a great sell, if half your brain has degenerated.

As every bad decision was made, including choosing to sell cakes that looked like shrubs, Alex silently sat and twiddled his pen with increasing frenzy. When he sold, he did very well, but it’s becoming clear that selling is all he can do. He’ll have to lead a team in the next couple of weeks, so if he gets beyond the lip-pursing whining, he may show some initiative beyond winking at girls in order to hoodwink them out of their pocket money.

Raef’s attitude to selling cake to girls was the only real stand-out laugh in the show. Discussing dresses for the larger, BBW side of the market, he declared that if they were going to sell big dresses, they’d be able to flog the cake too – as the larger-dress consumers are just that – big consumers.

Beyond that, this wasn’t the greatest Apprentice ever but there were a few cringe-moments that rescued it. All of these were supplied by Sophocles and Sara. Poor old Sara… the one-trick-pony beneath her lovely frock was exposed and the poor little mite got booted out. I’ll miss her. For a day or two. And then she’ll be gone from my brain.

Michael’s selling technique, branded ‘telesales’ by Alex, was actually quite terrifying and involved recrimination, accusation, holding his head in his hands with outright impatience and even, at one point, a cry of ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE’ when a lady quite rightly stalled on a purchase of his crap confections. He was absolutely terrible. With the expression of his doppelganger all over his face, this Costanzaesque idiot even resorted to calling the general public ‘dumb-dumbs’. Dumb-dumbs who just ‘don’t want to make decisions’. A laughable attitude, really, and just the sort of thing Jerry Seinfeld’s little mate might say to a laughter track.

Sara was similarly bad, but where Michael was passionately engaged to the point of almost openly weeping at his punters, Sara had her cold thousand-yard-stare focused on the great, empty, nothingness of existence behind the heads of her potential clients. She literally didn’t listen to what her punters said and that caused her ejection. But Michael should’ve gone. Because he’s 810% uglier than her.

Over on the winning team, Lee and Lucinda apparently fell in love as they cruised about looking at sale items. The princess and the pauper, as Raef might put it, the bit of rough has definitely wooed the beret girl and a posh nosh-off is on the cards. Especially considering that Lee is now an expert on selling thongs, as he proudly boasted to Satan himself in the boardroom. The fact he was selling £6.99 trinkets to Brummie slags compared to Claire’s thousand quid dresses was lost on the poor brute. But at least he sold something.

So Lucinda won and Claire did her PR machine a power of good with a recommendation from Maggie Mountford, who herself, it was insinuated, had a lovely honeymoon thong encased within her buttcrack, purchased from Lee McAnn McSummers McQueen.

For no reason whatsoever, Raef put on a teddy bear outfit at some point, apparently to drum up interest but mainly because this was a drab episode and it needed someone to be a berk for three minutes to lighten the tedium.

Before they faced Belial’s wrath in Brentwood, Michael stated that he’d be interested to find out how Helene was going to spin her way out of trouble. Which was interesting, as he’d already started the process of spinning her into trouble… 

In the boardroom Sara went with little ceremony, and Alex got the piss taken out of him. Like Syed before him, the favoured Michael will probably get to the final as Lucifer likes him and he makes good TV. But no way will he win.

Incidentally – why do the winners get so excited about the substandard treats they receive? It’s like Big Brother… OOH! We’ve got a task!

They should scrap that. It stops it being the interview from hell and turns it into the interview from a not particularly exciting corporate promotions company. But we did get to see Lee indulging in primal scream mantra therapy, like a bellowing Chelsea headhunter in a yoga retreat.

It’s the make-a-TV-ad episode next week. Be afraid.

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