The Apprentice final: review

And so the final of The Apprentice has come and gone, and Sir Alan Sugar has picked his winner. But what did we make of it all? Glad you asked...

Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice

Let’s just be clear from the start: had any of Claire, Helene or Alex managed to win The Apprentice this year, then the next post on this site would have been a full list of Sralan Sugar’s companies so that we could organise some kind of national boycott. As it happened, it’s Lee who emerged victorious in the strangely-rushed finale, and while you suspect he was most people’s favourite to do so, there’s an element of who he wasn’t in the decision as much as who he was.

The episode started with Sralan dividing the teams up into two, with Helene and Alex on one team, and Claire and Lee on the other. This, if I’d got to the final, would strike me as a tad unfair: after all, all it would take would be for one half of the team not to work, and it’s farewell Sralan, hello the fag counter at Tesco. Nonetheless, Helene and Alex happily welcomed one another, unaware of the friction that was just around the corner.

Meanwhile, Claire and Alex were about to declare war on the meterosexual market, which was ironic, given that blurring genders was becoming an increasing theme of this series. Helene, as we’ve discussed previously, has balls, and this week, Claire too revealed that she’s got a pair of testicles tucked away. Lee, meanwhile, had lots of things getting on his tits, and I had my hand primed by the number five button on my remote control just in case all this needed to switch to a more appropriate channel.

Alex, in case you missed it last week, took a moment to remind us that he’s 24. Heaven knows what the poor chap will have to talk about next year.

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Anyway, onto the task in hand, which was to design, promote and pitch to a room of rich people a new men’s fragrance. This was a satisfying diversion from the usual ‘let’s organise a big event’ Apprentice finale, and bluntly, it needed a bigger episode to hold it all in. One hour was simply not enough to get much detail of the task, and handle the firing of three candidates. As a result, much of the substance was missing.

The producers made a decent fist of it though, yet the action they eventually showed us – across a three day task, remember- boiled down to several out-of-context key moments.

First up was the bickering between Helene and Alex. Before the episode started, one of the contributors to this site wrote us a mail saying that “if Helene wins I’m selling the telly”. And seriously, nobody expected her too. The show portrayed her quite negatively, lacking in ideas and hardly Sralan Sugar material. In the task, it soon became clear – and if you didn’t spot it, then the bloke from Little Britain was there to remind you – that it was Alex in control of things for them. Now we’ve hardly warmed to Alex either, but at least he seemed to have some ideas and direction here, even if their team’s unique bottle idea was gifted to them by a generous designer who you hope is on the retainer he deserved. No questions were asked about the cost of the product, of course, but that ultimately would have entailed a conversation between the pair where they either a) didn’t panic or b) didn’t accuse the other one of panicking. It wasn’t going to happen.

Strangely, we didn’t see too much of Claire and Lee’s team once they’d got their Roulette idea up and running (although to be fair, the commercial they shot did the business), with the main glimpses being of Lee overcoming his pitching problems to deliver a decent presentation. If that wasn’t a clue for the end of the episode, then who knows what is. Claire, amazingly, was barely in the episode at all, and likewise, that didn’t bode well.

We also saw Helene taking a risk by coming up with a chocolate-scented fragrance, that was smacked down at the end with the accusation that it was a knock-off of her favourite perfume. But no matter: save for the controversy over the gambling connotations of Lee and Claire’s product, it was fairly clear that Alex and Helene would be gone before the end credits. Hilariously, Helene tried to pin it all on Alex. The nation reacted with mirth, but was surely glad that the pair of them were gone.

Which left Claire and Lee. This was, to be fair, arguably the weakest final two that the show has ever thrown up, and perhaps part explains the need to pack four candidates into the final this year. Lee was the one that had most kept his nose clean throughout the series, save for the bullying incident with Sara that still leaves a bit of a sour taste, while Claire surely couldn’t have argued if she’d got the chop a few weeks’ back. Yet neither strikes you as particularly extraordinary, especially given the constant talk about how many applied, and what a taxing process it was. Truthfully, for a final episode, it was all a little bit of an anti-climax. Lee, to be fair, landed some good blows in the board room, but you suspect Sralan’s mind had been made up two weeks in. The man didn’t get to be a multi-millionaire by taking three months to work out who to hire on a short contract, after all.

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Alex, incidentally, is 24. Just in case you missed it.

Ultimately, at least the series has given us some idea of what it takes to work for Sralan Sugar. Bullshitting on your CV seems to be a good start, and it really, really helps if you’re not a woman. And if you are a woman, an item to camera about how you’ve got “balls” is damn near essential. Plus it makes sense not to put yourself forward too much, and to work hard in the middle of the pack, letting those around you lose before you really have to win. Ho hum.

It’s been a strange series. The contestants have clearly been savvier, and the balance of those attracted by the job and those attracted by the idea of celebrity seems to have shifted the wrong way. But it’s just about held its own, thrown up some interesting moments, yet surely is crying out for better candidate selection next year.

Until next year, that’s it for The Apprentice. And until the Sunday papers come out, and the offers from celebrity magazines kick in, that’s it for the candidates…