It’s an obvious question: why is a site like this covering The Apprentice? If you’re asking it, I can’t give you an answer that you’ll appreciate, but I’ll go for it anyway.
It’s, basically, the one reality show (perhaps outside of The Mole in the States) that we’ve ever got massively interested in, not least the various international flavours of it. And while it’s, inevitably, decreasingly about business and more about people trying to get on the telly, we’ve found ourselves writing about it for the past few years, and feel compelled to carry on.
And from the off, the writers this year (and you’re not telling us there isn’t a writer involved somewhere) have pulled a terrific wheeze, by changing the name of the main character. It thus robs us of the terribly unfunny phonetic spelling of Sralan Sugar, but we’ll try and think up something equally unwitty for Lord Sugar. Hopefully, his title will change as the years roll on. Baron Sugar? King Sugar? The end game here offers many opportunities.
The opening episode, then. It’s never particularly great. Inevitably, it has to focus on one or two people who instantly stand out as not going to last a few weeks, and generally chucks out the one who stands the least chance of gracing the cover of Heat magazine. Or the toff. Or both.
You do get Lord Sugar banging out lines in his introduction, set to be replayed 12 further times throughout the series, that surely he should have called bullshit on. “You all look good on paper”, the old growler muttered. “But so does fish and chips”. Yikes.
Still, the people here, at least the ones allowed in front of the camera for episode one, were the usual bunch of egos. “My first word wasn’t mummy, it was money!” chipped in one idiot, surely unprepared for the life of YouTube ridicule that faces him from this point on. “Everything I touch turns to sold”, piped up another. Sheesh. They should write Lord Sugar’s lines for him next year.
So then. After the women’s team decided to name themselves after, er, a failed moon mission, Team Apollo, the men came up with Synergy, the kind of bullshit word invented for Powerpoint presentations and nothing else. And with the task being sausages to sell (it was clearly a vegetarian’s special), Apollo picked Joanna as their project manager, while Synergy plumped for Dan.
It didn’t take long for the problems to begin. While Synergy injected testosterone into their veins and Dan shouted a lot, Joanna was quickly having problems keeping her team under control. Primarily because of Melissa (who turned the project manager job down), and a late decision to buy shedloads more meat. After the usual hokum negotiating prices bit, it was off to make the sausages in a way that could put you off them for life.
Here’s where we got the first clues for how targeted the editing of the show could be. The men? They were put across at first as efficient, military-esque in their organisation and on the ball, with Dan bellowing orders out to the consternation of Karren Brady. The women? They started off as in disarray, then producers of efficient, yet overpriced sausages. Back to the men, their cheap and nasty sausages were soon rolling off the production line, even if they seemed to have no idea what was in them. But the editing pendulum was swinging against them.
In the midst of all of this, Twitter erupted in a mass of sausage gags. Most of which were offal. Don’t think we didn’t notice.
The selling went through the usual process. One team forgot to cook the produce, there was lots of selling on the street, with some going off to do bulk deals, with varying levels of success. We’ve seen all this before, and none of the contestants here seem to have heeded too many of the lessons from the many previous years of the show.
Take the stand-up argument between Joanna and Melissa. At this point, it seemed clear immediately that the law of ratings suggested Melissa would be safe. It also appeared that, after both teams had sold out, that Apollo had spent a lot more money on their produce. That’s usually Apprentice suicide, but not, as it turned out, in this case.
The task was disposed with quickly, but that’s inevitable in the early stages of the run where individual rivalries are still in their infancy. It did mean over 20 minutes of Lord Sugar in the boardroom (save for a couple of minutes of people shrieking at the posh pad where they’re all stopping), and he soon declared that Apollo had won by £15. Crosshairs couldn’t have appeared over Dan’s head quicker. Although Stuart doing the ‘I’m not packing my suitcase’ bullshit hardly worked in his favour.
To be honest, I found all the boardroom banter just a little bit tedious, with Lord Sugar doing his usual disapproving firing out of negativity, and the bunch of candidates playing pass the buck. I hadn’t even worked out everyone’s names of the three brought back into the boardroom, and cared even less who made it through. Empty suitcase man tried brown-nosing tactics, but it wasn’t distracting me from my drink.
Yet by the time I heard Dan protest that “I managed the team” for the third or fourth time, the work of the episode was done, although it still managed to spin things out for a little bit longer. The golden rule learned (once more)? Bad team leaders are cannon fodder in week one. If you’re thinking of applying for next year, bear that in mind.
Not a bad episode in all, but far from vintage Apprentice, then. Next week? It’s beach holidays. The mind boggles. See you then.