7.12 The Final
Back at the start of this series of The Apprentice, the trumpeted new feature was the change in just what Baron Alan von Sugar of Amstradshire was looking for. No longer, y’see, was he after an apprentice,. Instead, this time he was on the search for a business partner. Someone with whom he could trust £250,000, in a singular gesture that makes the dragons on Dragon’s Den suddenly look tight.
The problem in doing this, though, came to a head this week. Even though the target of the search has changed, the methodology over the past weeks hasn’t. It’s still been setting an impossible task, to be done in two days, and getting the folks in the editing room to make everyone look a bit of a tit. Genuine business lessons? Well, there haven’t been too many fresh ones. It’s been an entertaining series, certainly, and I’ve appreciated the fresh ideas in some of the tasks. There are have certainly been more new, interesting ideas this year than we’ve had for a while.
Yet there’s a big flaw at the heart of the process, and it came to a head in the final. For, instead of having to arrange some big event and impress bigwigs, this year the interview process moved to the final week. However, it was the interview process with a twist: each of the four remaining candidates had to come up with a business plan.
I don’t buy for a second that you get to be a millionaire business person many times over by taking the best part of three months to interview someone, but that’s a conceit that the show has always worked on us accepting. But,] if it’s a business idea you’re looking for? Well, why interview them like potential apprentices? What was the point in letting Helen win ten out of eleven tasks if, in the scheme of things, it meant next to nothing? How do we know that the person with the best idea didn’t get sacked for something trivial a few weeks ago? Doesn’t that make it all a bit of a nonsense?
I’ll pop those grumbles aside for a moment though, as there was a massive, massive reason to watch this week anyway, and it wasn’t anything to do with finding out who had won. No, Margaret was back, and heck, she was on top form. Her skewering of Jim’s collection of clichés was just brilliant, and she did it without having to come across as a robotic machine of miserableness (Claude, to his friends.) I swear she could choose the winner of this show within ten minutes of the opening episode.
If Margaret was going on the cliché warpath, though, then she should have gone after the bloke with his ‘elevator pitch’ obsession. Notwithstanding the fact that I work in an office with just five floors, thus my pitch would have to have to be truncated into a few words shouted at loud volume, this was the kind of moment to put a normal human being off applying for the show. If you’ve got a good idea, why do you have to pretend to be in a lift? At the very least go for something interesting, like a space rocket or something. Sigh.
The rest of the interviews followed the pattern we get every year. They’re cut together in a way that never really lets you get to the meat of how everyone actually did. This year, we got Jim convinced he was amazing, and that everyone else wasn’t. His business idea? Pretty bad, but to the pleasure of Nick, one of Baron Alan’s advisors did his best Jeremy Paxman impression, and hammered down to the foundations of bullshit it appeared to be based on.
Elsewhere? Susie, it appeared, seemed to have come up with a random number macro for her copy of Excel, pulling millions of pounds of profits out of a plan to sell pots of skincare products. Her plan for world domination though, appeared to be based on a stall at a market, and avoiding tax. Plus, the idea of Baron Alan’s skincare business is really quite alarming. I’ll be the first to wager he wouldn’t put his face on the bottle.
Of the four ideas put forward, Tom’s at least sounded like it might work, although none of them sounded like instant winners. With Tom’s plan, though, it was based on a product, which Baron Alan liked. He’d had success at selling into the high street before. Baron Alan liked that, too. And, in spite of bumbling through the tasks to date (despite being my favoured candidate), he suddenly looked like the favourite. Blimey.
Down to the final battle, then, and Baron Alan quickly got down to the business of tearings the candidates new backsides, which he went about with real efficiency. He looked unimpressed with every business plan, which reflected the feelings, I’d wager, of most of the watching public.
First out, and rightly so, was Jedi Jim, who headed off to the Cantina Bar to drown his sorrows. No pleasantries, either. No regret. Just a long overdue firing.
Second out? That was Susie, although he was a bit nicer to her.
That left Tom and Helen, the former of whom was the only one with an idea that might work. And that’s when Helen threw in a risk, and came up with bakeries with minutes to go. When the chips are down, go for Greggs. That’s a good motto.
The winner, then? Tom. Who, as the final went on, was the only logical choice, really. His victory does raise those aforementioned questions about the format of the show. But I’m glad he won. And I did enjoy the episode more than I usually do the interview installment.
And that, friends, is that. Rest assured that I’ve been nursing a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the Marks & Spencers dine in for a tenner promotion, and rest assured that it’s been comfortably sunk. If Helen had won, her business could have gone out to get it for me, too.
Thanks, as always, for tolerating what often descended as the lonely diary of a man slowing drinking himself to incoherence while watching reality television. I suspect this episode will mark the end of my Apprentice reviewing days, as a) there’s not too much left to say about the show, seven series later, and b) I can’t afford the wine. It’s not been a bad series to go out on, and my congratulations go to Tom.
Now? More drink. Hic.
Read our review of episode 11, Fast Food Chain, here.
All the series 7 reviews can be found here.