Last week, for reasons I knew in advance, I was unable to watch The Apprentice in its usual Wednesday night slot. So, with that in mind, I set the Sky box, looked forward to catching up on the programme the following weekend, and dutifully avoided all talk of the show.
At least that was the plan.
Have you ever tried to not find out who got fired in an episode of The Apprentice? It’s impossible. No matter that I avoided the usual websites, all I had to do was switch the radio on, to be greeted by the promise of an interview with Linzi. You then make the logical assumption that they ain’t interviewing her because she won a task. By the time the News Of The World had splashed her mush all over their publication, there was more chance of my actually winning the show, it seems, rather than being able to avoid news of the latest boardroom victim.
Last night’s episode though was for the most part a cracker, bringing back memories of the one in series two where they tried to design and pitch calendars. This time, the mission was to create a new occasion, and pitch five cards to celebrate it to Clintons, Tesco and Celebrations. Sralan Sugar once again imposed his project managers, with Michael heading up Alpha, and Kevin from Little Britain leading Renaissance.
Naturally, before this began you had to indulge them a little chest beating. According to Michael, you see, there isn’t anyone he wouldn’t screw over to win. Kevin? Well, he had his second house when he was 23 (presumably he was evicted from the first?), a Porsche at 23, but now wanted a Ferrari. And a new job, by the looks of it, because he sure as shit wasn’t getting this one.
The two occasions they each came up with was a day for singles (see how I sidestepped the apostrophe discussion that the programme got a bit bogged down in there?) and, er, one for saving the environment. That noise you heard around quarter past nine last night? The collective slapping of heads of Apprentice viewers, who worked out in double quick time that sending a physical card was hardly going to be beneficial to those looking to cut down on waste. Sigh.
That said, the brilliant idea that never made it was a Happy Nose Job card. You’d just send that to people for kicks, surely, whether they’d had plastic surgery or not?
It didn’t take long, of course, for things to start going wrong, and for the majority of the viewing audience (at least the ones with their eyes open) to work out which team was going to lose (which seems to have been easier than ever this series) The card for singles – the antidote to Valentine’s Day – didn’t go down terrifically well, but when things were going wrong, Michael’s call to take a specific date off the pitch paid dividends.
Over at Renaissance though, the shit was royally hitting the fan, and for a while, you could throw darts at who was going to be fired.
Jenny, the robotic-sounding woman who has a far scarier fixed grin than any horror movie director could throw at you, came up with the idea for environment cards, even though, as she admitted later, she’d cut down on buying cards herself for that reason. Claire, apart from accusing Kevin of “short man syndrome”, then failed to pitch in when it was clear that Little Britain’s finest was going to blow the presentation. And Kevin was, well, not showing many signs that he’d be picking up the keys to that Ferrari anytime soon. Sara, meanwhile, put in a few ideas and seemed to be royally ignored. As she’d find out, that’s clearly one of the deadly sins of The Apprentice.
It’s fair to say, before we move on, that the environment cards were looking fairly grim. A male model wearing a woman’s sport thong was demonstrating the benefits of wind power apparently, while the verses and messages inside the cards may as well have reached out a hand and slapped the recipient in the face for all the warmth they offered. If they’d have said “You’re killing the planet you bastard”, then at least it would have been a bit more subtle.
When it got to the pitch itself, it’s also fair to say that the process did little did soften the image of Tesco as all-conquering corporate behemoths, either. Its card buyer sat there in a pin-striped suit that even an estate agent might baulk at, with a bright pink tie and an expression on his face that would do him no favours if he ever went speed dating.
You had to love the bit too when Kevin told the buyers at Clinton Cards that not buying their card was akin to the US saying they’re not willing to fight pollution. Last time we checked, that was Bush, not Clinton (sorry….).
At this point, I noted to my good wife that Kevin’s team was more interested in taking the piss out of him than supporting him. “Yes, but he’s easy to take the piss out of”, she retorted. She was right, too.
Ultimately, in an ending that could only have been more obvious had a troupe of dancing girls paraded across the screen at the start singing “Alpha are going to win”, Alpha won. And so they got their reward.
This is my least favourite part of the show, as the idea has always been that the reward is an insight into the luxury lifestyle you’ll get if you become a high flyer in the business world. I’ve never really cared, to be honest. And so the winners went home, to be greeted by Myleene Klass sitting there, tinkering the ivories. She beat the burglar alarm with ease, we presume. If that were me though, and there was a big piano sitting in the middle of my luxury home waiting to be played, I’d have tracked down Chas & Dave in half the time it took for security to evict the clearly-talented Ms Klass from my premises.
The boardroom, then, saw Kevin bring back Sara and Claire. Never mind the fact that Jenny came up with the ludicrous concept, and had turned on Sara in a really uncomfortable way in the boardroom (and had come out, if memory serves, with the lovely, precise line “Yes, no, most definitely” around half way through the show). Nope, the scapegoat had been found, and it was all Sara’s fault that they lost. Kevin, ultimately, had to go though, and it’s hard to quarrel too much with that. But Claire’s clearly heading for the door soon as well, as not for the first time she encountered the ire of Sralan.
Yet the episode ended on a sour note when everyone got back to the house, and Jenny promptly led a ganging up on Sara. It was prime time bullying from what I could see, and really dampened an otherwise strong episode. Even accounting for the heavy editing of the episode, it just looked like a load of nasty kids ganging up on someone.
Next week, it looks like the buying goods task is back, albeit this time set in Morocco. Our prediction for the firing line? There’s too many of them at the moment, but Sara had better watch her back…