Week two, then. At the end of week one, my thinking was that the posh one, usually disposed of early in the process, had survived a week longer than expected. That said, given that I couldn’t remember anyone’s name from last week when I sat down to watch the new episode, I figured I might not be the best judge of all of this. As far as I could tell, at least half of dozen of this year’s crop were instant cannon fodder.
The second instalment featured, disappointingly, just a few laughable talking heads of wonderment and brilliance, albeit with a bunch of people who believe they could fart bank notes for a living. The episode made up for it, of course, with the usual cutaway shots of people looking unimpressed with each other. So that was okay then.
The scene was quickly set: off to Heathrow Airport Terminal 5, no doubt to play a game of where’s my baggage for a couple of hours, while wondering if the prices at Currys duty free are really that much cheaper than the high street.
But what luck! A video of Lord Sugar, telling the lucky candidates that they were there for no reason. Woo-hoo! Back when queues were running round the block at said terminal, that would have been an instant recipe to quell the crowd. The task, then, was to design and produce a beach accessory, and to pitch it to three retailers.
The clothing, then, may be different, but we’ve seen this task time and time again over the years. And it’s usually a good one. Thus, after it was announced that the men’s team was one down due to a family emergency on Rory’s part, Stella switched sides, and battle commenced. Stella led the men, and Laura took the job for the women. What could possibly go wrong?
Lots, of course.
Brainstorming, then. The men came up with a beach towel, with a pillow case that can hold a water cooler thing. It was called the Cuuli, or something like that. With umlauts and everything, that we’ve neglected to put in. The women? The first plan was a waterproof case for valuables, which a designer called bullshit on within seconds. Bluntly, it was as original as the task itself. Product plans were, from that point on, in short supply.
Thus, the women were stuck without an idea with minutes left to come up with their prototype brief, and lumbered themselves with a book reader plan. “I can’t go with this”, said project manager Laura, before promptly deciding to go with it. A plan, basically, knocked together on the back of a fag packet with ten minutes to spare. The Lord loves that kind of stuff.
Back to the blokes then, who warmed to the idea of a female project manager by asking her to, er, be a model. Stella said no, they ignored her, specifically requested tassles, and we all sat back awaiting trouble. Stella, not without justification, gave them a look as if they’ve all uniformly taken a dump on her front door step. And then, er, agreed to do it. That noise you heard? My hand slapping against my head.
At the prototype stage, it became immediately clear how the rest of the episode would pan out. The men had a product that at least it looked like they could sell. The women? They had some kind of book reader that came in eight parts. From that point on, however much the editing tried to persuade us that the men were in trouble, I never bought it for a second.
Onto the pitches, then. Chris’ drab-as-buggery pitch for the towel contraption did the men no favours. Melissa, meanwhile, had to watch the women set up a box of sand before they could demonstrate their product-that-doesn’t-exist-for-a-bloody-good-reason. “I love the name”, said one of the buyers. Which seemed as good as it got. They couldn’t even build the thing come the next pitch.
Perhaps the pivotal moment was one of the buyers wanted exclusivity of the crap book stand, which Laura shot down, in spite of the fact that the store they were representing was a national chain. After two crap pitches beforehand, I think I’d have just been grateful someone was even vaguely interested. Laura, fatally, smacked the suggestion down.
In the boardroom, The Lord had his usual grumpy face on, and the results were read out in solemn silence. And as it turned out, the turning down of exclusivity was the damning moment for the women, and they managed no orders whatsoever. The men managed to scrabble a few together, and just about won. Immediately, the next 20 minutes were, surely, about stringing out the firing of Laura. It couldn’t be anyone else, based on what we were shown, surely?
There was a quick delay, sadly, for the treat bit that nobody watching give two hoots about. Seriously: why hasn’t this bit been cut out yet?
The rest of the episode? Squabbling, basically. Joanna was rightly criticised for coming up with a dreadful product, but her defence was sound: it was the only idea on the table. Plus, one of the buyers wanted it.
The Lord, for a minute, teased us that we might get more than one applicant fired. And then he executed the ratings, rather than the business, shot instead. Laura? The worst result in this task of all time, and turned down exclusivity that would have won the task. The decision, surely, that cost the task. Joanna? Wound everyone up and came up with a crap product. But both of them are good publicity.
Joy? Granted, she hadn’t come across strongly, but The Lord fired his bolt of doom in her direction. The nation watched, bewildered. But that’s the early episodes of The Apprentice all over. You weed out the people who aren’t good PR. We all know the rules.
I did get quite tired of all the arguing in this episode, but it’s the kind of task I enjoy more than most. And there were moments of interest here. Still, perhaps it’s because we have seen all of this so many times over the years that it all felt just a little flatter than previous years. A decent episode, granted, but not vintage Apprentice.
The trailer for next week hints that we won’t be warming to any of this lot any more, mind, but that’s hardly a surprise. It’s good of them to keep what looks like the twist under wraps though, namely that next week’s fired candidate will be decided with a dart. Looking forward to seeing that, Lord/Baron/Sir Sugar…
Read our review of the series premiere here.