7. 1 £250 Business Start Up
Friends, I have to confirm something to you that you’ve long suspected. I’ve sold out.
As those who followed the reviews of the last series of The Apprentice on this site will know, they tended to descend into a bit of a drinking session, centred around whatever bottles of wine happened to be in the Spar three for £10 offer in any given week. Wine was drunk, paint was stripped, and reviews were written. It seemed to work.
But for this first episode of the new series of The Apprentice? I, er, watched it sitting directly behind Baron von Sugar himself. He even said hello at one point, albeit giving me a look as if I was there to clean his shoe if required. I don’t blame him on that front.
This all happened because I watched the episode at the official press launch of the show, on a big screen in the middle of London. And I have to tell you this: if you’re ever considering taking Baron von Sugar on a date to your local Odeon, don’t. The man chunters through the main feature as if he owned the place. It seems fair to warn you of that. I bet he’s even worse when he’s got a box of popcorn. Obviously, I didn’t tell him to be quiet, but I did turn to the person next to me and insist that he should point it out. Bravery is not one of my strong points.
One bit of business before we get going: it’s Den Of Geek tradition that at least one commenter a week decries the fact that this site is even reviewing this particular show. The explanation for why I pen these reviews hasn’t changed since last year, and you can find it here. But do remember that tradition still needs to be kept up. It is your right and duty.
The episode, then. I’m not sure I’ve been to the parts of Britain where the BBC finds Apprentice candidates and, ultimately, I’m not sure I want to. There’s always absurd claims and vox pops at the start of a new Apprentice series, but it seems as if some of this new crop have been locked in a room and fed blue pop for a week. Thus, “beneath these glasses is a core of steel”, someone trained by Al Gore and the Dalai Lama, another protesting about how having a social life was bad, or something like that. We’ve seen it all before, granted, but the genes do appear to have been exposed to more gamma radiation this year (see? A mild geek reference. Do I have to squeeze one of those in every week?)
By the way, someone bet me a tenner I wouldn’t be able to get the word ‘radish’ into an Apprentice review. That sentence is, clearly, more for my benefit than yours, but I like to think that Baron von Sugar will be pleased.
Interestingly, there’s a tinkering with the formula this year, and in theory, it should change the mechanic of the entire show. For Baron von Sugar is no longer looking for an apprentice. He’s looking for a business partner, one who he can invest £250,000 in. That said, on the basis of this episode, he’s still shouting at people like they were apprentices, so as of yet, the change hasn’t filtered through to the workings of the show.
I did meekly ask the Baron, in the Q&A session after the episode screening, if the search for a business partner meant that this would open the door for more mature candidates (given that the terrific Junior Apprentice gave a chance to youngsters), and he insisted that there’s no upper age limit. Still, none of this year’s candidates are over 40, and if you look at the age of Apprentice winners across the globe, it’s still a game for those in their 20s and 30s.
It helps, too, if you’re a bit of an oddball. This week’s opening episode had plenty of those, with the task being to take £250 of the Baron’s money, and turn it into gold. Which both teams did. Both turned in a decent profit, and both returning to the boardroom expecting the tedious treat of the week to be theirs.
On one side of the fence, there was Team Venture, the women’s team. They had people battling to be project manager, and Edna in charge of the money, and taking responsibility for overseeing strength of handshakes. Their plan was good: buy lots of fruit, make fruit salads, and do some gruesome pasta concoction to sell at Euston Station at 4 in the afternoon. Fortunately, the fruit plan worked. Delia did not ring the production office after the recipe for the pasta.
The men’s team? That was Team Logic, led by Edward. Edward was cunning, here. He probably worked out that Baron von Sugar was more likely to employ a lawyer or Big Issue seller than an accountant for a business partner, and thus he disavowed his previous profession. He did it convincingly, too, removing the ability to add up from his business brain, and bravely doing things off the cuff, with the plan in his head. Most seasoned Apprentice watchers would have called the taxi there and then.
Still, Team Logic did okay, too, after squeezing a few hundred oranges and selling them as juice. The soup didn’t look too bad, either. But it was all a backdrop so that Glenn could look impressive, Leon could break a juicer, Vincent could keep Twitter users happy, and Edward could head off to his doom.
Not before a visit to London’s most deserted café, though, to try pinning the blame on a few people. I bet that café owner cried with relief at the six month gap between series (due to the transmission of last year’s run being delayed, to avoid clashing with the General Election, at the Daily Mail’s insistence) this time around. He needs the custom.
It was, really, a fairly run of the mill opening episode, with suitably exaggerated candidates going through the usual motions of the first task. The editing, as always, was sublime, if a little unkind. Baron von Sugar, meanwhile, seems to have been borrowing Anne Robinson’s Weakest Link scriptwriter, although I did permit myself a chuckle at his description of Edward as “a very slow Internet line”. I made sure he heard me, too.
It’s business as usual for me tomorrow, as we get two episodes of The Apprentice in a week, and you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that Spar has a delivery on Wednesday mornings. Your job now is to mark a solid opening episode by heading to the comments section, and tutting loudly at the mere mention of the programme on this site.
Me? I’m looking forward to seeing how the show tackles a genuinely interesting task: creating a mobile app. With the aid of a glass of Echo Falls, of course…
The Apprentice returns on Wednesday on BBC One.