The Apprentice 2009 episode 1 review

The brand new series of The Apprentice kicked off, and for the show and Sir Alan Sugar, it was business and chaos as usual...

Sralan Sugar and his two trust aides...

Just tell me: is it me? When voiceover man kicks in and starts banging on about the thousands of applicants that had put their name forward to be on The Apprentice, is anyone else wondering just what kind of mutants the production team turned away? For inside five minutes of the new series of The Apprentice, it was becoming hard to find any hint of a human being in there. I’m sat there thinking: there are the ones that got through, and they let us see.

This is being disingenuous, of course, and the show is edited in a way that Mother Teresa would have struggled to come across in anything close to a positive light. But seriously, inside five minutes we had:

“Making money is better than sex”“I am outstanding. It’s a given”“You don’t need to make friends on the way up if you’re not going to come back down”“If I turn up, I win it. Simple as that”.

Sigh. Can these people hear what they sound like?

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I was in two minds about whether to cover this series of the show already. Appreciating it perhaps stretches the sides of this site a little more than most of the things we cover, it’s nonetheless been a show I’ve been passionate, enthused and a little bit nerdy about for some time, having even imported DVD boxsets of the Donald Trump US version for my sins (and, as an aside, is it me or is the latest version of his egofest on the skids?), and thoroughly enjoyed the early years of Sralan Sugar’s British edition.

Yet last year, I struggled. When it comes to an exercise in people trying to get on the cover of a vacant celebrity magazine, and having their performance analysed by Vanessa Feltz on a show afterwards, it’s what alarm bells were surely invented for. And they were ringing very loudly again with this episode.

But shoot me, I still love the essence of the show, and thus I’m signed up for another year.

The series opener is rarely anything special, of course, and that was the case here. The task involved buying cleaning materials from a selection provided, and going off to find ways to make cash with them. The boys’ team, led by Howard, gave themselves the name Empire, and set off to clean cars and shine shoes. The girls, led by Mona, called themselves Ignition, and they too went off to buff up a few motors.

The fatal error, to use Sralan-ese, was clear to anyone who’s watched more than a handful of episodes. In fact, the show was packaged in a way that a runner may as well have moved into shot with a big arrow at the key moment that swung the task. The girls’ team, basically, horribly overspent, and were doomed from that moment on. Sralan doesn’t like overspenders, y’know.

The mechanics of the task went through the usual peaks and troughs. A bit of negotiation here, some problems there, but there wasn’t really too much to discover about the characters lined up for the show this time round. That comes in the weeks ahead. We did get a few hints: Howard seems to be the one the boys are turning against, while Phillip appears to be the early favourite on their side. And for the girls? Ah, the gloves are coming off already.

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When the word came in that they’d inevitably lost, the arguments began. Mona the team leader didn’t appear to do a very good job, with her team leaving the warehouse they started in 90 minutes after they could have begun trading. Plus nobody knew what they were doing, which is rarely a successful approach.

Debra, meanwhile, was delegated a sub-team, called a pair of her subordinates “puppets”, and managed to let an order for ten cars slip through her fingers. Debra and Mona did enough to cross each other off their respective Christmas card lists in the inevitable ensuing boardroom battle, leaving Anita firmly in the firing line.

It’s always quite harsh on the first person to get fired, because generally in week one there are a number of candidates who you could see getting the push. But when Sralan looked incandescent at Anita for standing with a calculator and celebrating blowing nearly all the seed money, my wife turned to me and offered a sizeable bet with money we don’t have that Anita wouldn’t be winning the programme. And my wife doesn’t bet: Anita was screwed.

So far then, so routine. Sralan looks angry, Margaret looks stern and Nick looks over his glasses. And we still have to endure surely the most boring and pointless moment of each episode, when the winning team gets a treat. Who gives a flying shit whether they were taught to make cocktails or not? Not me, that’s for certain.

Next week things look more interesting, with a corporate catering task looking to offer a slightly different spin on a traditional Apprentice task. For now, I’ll wager that you’ll be reading an expose of at least one of the candidates in a Sunday paper.

We never had this problem back in series one…

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