For the first time in my memory of The Apprentice over the past years, we’ve come to a final where I’m really not bothered who wins. Both Stella and Chris have come across quite well, and I’m happy not to take sides this year. Form usually dictates that The Apprentice goes younger (and generally male), which made Chris the slight favourite going in.
For the first time, meanwhile, in the past few weeks, my Apprentice viewing isn’t accompanied by whatever wine happens to be on offer at my local Spar. Sadly, friends, it’s Lemsip Max Strength that’s my tipple of choice this week, and to add insult to injury, the task is coming up with an alcoholic beverage. They’re taking the piss out of me, here.
Once the task was set, then, it was the decision which, for me, generally has too much of an impact on the final task: which of the previous candidates to recruit? Stuart Baggs was notorious by his absence here, leaving Stella to pick Joanna, Chris F, Melissa (yikes) and Paloma. Chris, then, picked Jamie, Liz, Alex and Shibby. And then it was off to make spirits, for over 25s, with a retail price of £20.
Stella, then, wanted to go simple, with Joanna and Melissa pushing for whisky. Stella doubted that women would drink it at first, but went with a bourbon idea first and foremost anyway. Chris, meanwhile, was toying with flavoured drinks, and cocktails. Rum cocktails became the main thrust of the chat, with gooseberry and pomegranate-flavoured spirits winning.
Nick quickly noted that Stella’s drink was going quite male-centric, meanwhile, while Chris’ team was pushing towards the idea of Crown as a name of the drink. Wisely, he discarded Crown Jewels, and instead stated that he was keen to avoid artificial colours. As it turned out, Stella’s team was actively considering just that.
Stella put the idea of blue bourbon to marketing professionals, who quickly called bullshit on the idea. They did throw in the idea of adding something like cinnamon to the mix. Yum. Sounds great, that.
Chris’ lot headed off to a posh off licence, and seemed to be coming up with a slightly better plan. His clear rum idea, with the name Cubed tying into the idea of three different flavours, was decent. But neither team was on fire here.
Stella was struggling with a name too, and Honey And Spice seemed to be the leading candidate at one stage. Elsewhere, Cubed had been dropped by Chris, with Trio – not the 80s chocolate biscuit – mooted at one point. Stella, meanwhile, went for Urbon, as she headed to the bottle designers, and pulled a decent name out at the last minute. She then sent some of her team to sort the flavour out, next, and once more, it was refreshing to see just how natural the process of putting drinks together is. Ahem. Pass the white coats…
Back to the task. Neither drink sounded delicious, but Chris sat in front of his bottle designer, and came up with the name of his product there and then, too. A pyramid bottle design was being put together by Chris with clear liquid, only for Liz to change things at the lab. Chris wasn’t happy. I couldn’t really blame him. And once again, the failings of team mates look set to make quite an impact.
At least we’d got the products in place. It was Urbon vs Prism, and it was off to get the ads approved. I was missing my wine at this stage, as while this was, by this stage, a decent final, it was a surprisingly muted and dry one.
Chris, increasingly, was looking in trouble. He had no advert, and his product wasn’t as directed. It wasn’t looking good. Until in came the bottles, where his was, by some distance, the better.
Onto shooting the commercials, and Chris was struggling again, lacking a real idea. Stella, meanwhile, seemed to have a lot more urgency and more of a vision for what she wanted, and was impressing Nick. I, for the record, was still missing Margaret. Just thought I should say that.
Onto the presentations, after a bit of water-treading involving writing pitches and people arguing.
Chris opened his presentation with dancing girls, before he took to the stage, and the mischievous editor promptly cut to a shot of a man looking like he was going to throw his guts up when he tried the drink. Then it was the advert, which was genuinely quite terrible and unfocused. “I hope you’ve had a chance to catch your breath”, said Chris. Gadzookz. I’ll take the Lemsip over the shit he appeared to be selling.
To be fair, he did a solid job with the presentation itself, and handled the questions well.
Stella’s presentation featured more dancers first, and from the off, she had a bit more punch about her. Her advert was quite basic, but it got the product across quite well, and had an idea to it. The bottle was good, too. Chris was probably a little better, but it was a tough one to call.
To the boardroom, then. Stella seemed to have edged the task slightly for me, but Chris fits the demographic of an Apprentice winner better. Would Baron von Sugar throw in one last surprise? And were the producers regretting the firing of Stuart Baggs last week?
Once the assorted previous candidates had put forward their thoughts, the Baron weighed in with his feedback. Chris’ television advert was terrible, but his bottle was excellent. Stella’s bottle was quite dull, but the branding and end product was much stronger.
The boardroom was a bit of an anti-climax, though. The thing is, both were clearly good. There was no nutter. Either one would be a fine choice. And thus the battle between Stella and Chris didn’t really spark (although Stella did try and fuel it at one point). It makes it a more interesting business choice, but, for the producers, much less interesting television.
As it turned out, after a bit of waffle, Baron von Sugar opted for Stella. It was a tension-free last five minutes, though, which it really shouldn’t have been. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a final episode that lacked any spark or impact.
The series as a whole? It’s been good, with a couple of bumps. But the show is crying out for an injection of fresh ideas, rather than the increasing reliance on same-old, same-old.
For now, I can’t help but feel that the single biggest improvement to the show over the past twelve months has been the hiring of Dara O Briain on You’re Fired. That’s surely the kind of masterstoke that Baron von Sugar should be looking for more of.