Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Apprentice 4.1 - people in glass houses

After giving the entire third series a miss due to my total disdain for the muppets we met in volume 2, and my own hilarious experiences of the selection process, I thought I would see whether standards had improved this time around. So you will be treated to my weekly critiques of The Apprentice Series Four - or Serious Flaw, as I am already calling it.

The redeeming features of this series are likely to be everyone but the candidates; the Big Koala has already come out with some belting one-liners, whilst Nick's repertoire of pained facial expressions is growing by the week. Best of all, I notice that down on the set of the follow-up You're Fired show, someone's clearly pushing Chilesy and his guests to bare their teeth a bit more.

So, Episode 1 opens with the boss reminding candidates that, despite the obvious spoonful of Sugar gags, "Mary Poppins I am not" (but surely Yoda of the business world he is). Straight on the offensive, he follows this up with a nice put-down regarding their living accommodation:
"In my day it was a glass factory, nowadays they convert them for posers like you lot to live in."
Get in there, you beast.

The first task involved selling - how original for an Alan Sugar task! Boxes of fish from Billingsgate appeared, and candidates had to work it which where what, set prices, pick a location for a market stall, and SELL SELL SELL. Not too complicated to plan and set up, you wouldn't think. But these are the kind of people who think Dover sole is some kind of Kent-based musical genre.

Before we even got to the market, we had the hilarious moment of Sloaney Penelope Pitstop combo Lucinda persuading the girls to call their team Alpha because "it's the first letter of the Greek alphabet, kind of looks like a fish, reminds me of womens liberation due to its Homeric use as a nickname for Helen of Troy's lady-garden, and also because I drive an Alfa Romeo." Okay, I may have made some of that up. But I don't think it would have made Nick Hewer screw his face up into any more of a scowl than the rictus he pulled for what she did say.

So the task unfolded with the girls getting immediately bitchy, using lots of annoying MBA-speak, but at least getting down to the market pronto and nabbing the best stall. Then they used their feminine charms (despite several of them looking like some of their produce) to push all their stock, either at the stall or by flogging it to restaurants and randoms. I'm sure that the Oirish bird who claims to be the "best in Europe" when it comes to sales would present this in a slightly glossier way, but here at Freedmanslife, we call a spade a spade. We may also resort to calling quite a number of candidates a spade as the series progresses.

Meanwhile, the spades on the boys' team quickly divided themselves into two groups along class lines ("I have a Portuguese for that" vs. "use ruddy shoovels"). They then disintegrated completely. It's amazing how a combination of up-themselves chinless wonders and floppy-haired posh twats cannot know the price of a lobster. I keep kosher and even I know it's a bit more than a fiver.

So they went and sold a load of stock before noticing this mistake, whilst blaming each other, mashing fish-brains with a cleaver, wrongly identifying half the product, and getting hilariously ripped off by a bunch of smug lawyers. Given that they wanted to sell for £130, you'd think a starting price of £150 or so and then negotiate would be a good idea.

Instead, they do something that's not a good idea anywhere, let alone with a bunch of (apparently quite literally) hungry shark-type lawyers. They attach themselves like maggots onto the hook, then fling themselves into the infested waters, and seem surprised when the bait is gobbled up along with the rod and fisherman: "...but we'll take £100."

According to the wonderfully named Michael Sophocles (oh lordy, he's Jewish apparently - the shame!), offering less than that would be a price that was "too diminutive". A bit like other parts of the team anatomy, I think.

Final negotiation: the lawyers pick up a fortune's worth of fish for £50. Pretty damn diminutive.

Back in the boardroom, the girls are saved by the boys' even worse incompetence, despite the fact that they spent most of the day selling the fish below cost price. That left Nicholas de Lacy Brown back in the boardroom with raffish Raef and the northern down't'pit charmer Alex.

Nick clearly has no idea who Sir Alan is, or where he's come from (the streets, to the very top, via his bootstraps, blood, sweat, tears, selling his own grandma at Hackney wholesale market etc etc, you know the story, it's told in snarling tones during the opening credits each week). I think the guy (Nick, not Sir Al) is prissy, campy, sly, conceited, snobby mummy's boy, with no real-world experience. I'm thinking not really the Big Koala's type.

So then it may not be the cleverest thing in the world to defend yourself against the "working class and proud" Alex with comments like these:
"It's just that some of us are more educated."
"I feel that the barrier that has been drawn is kind of, you know, like maybe, kind of, educated against, you know, more kind of gritty salesmen."
"I'm very into art and culture... I find it very difficult to have conversations about football, for example - I don't really like football."
Idiot. Especially because Alex was really to blame in this task, for botching up every aspect of it from start to finish. He allowed and encouraged the class division, screwed up on location, pricing, sales strategy, general management, and just getting the f***ing team to a market to set up within, like, half a day.

Still, I was quite glad to see Nick take a hike, especially with his even more excruciating performance on You're Fired, in which he continued his oily arrogance, showed off his ghastly paintings, and generally proved himself to be exactly as vile as I had first thought.

The Sugababe got it spot on when picking up on his conceit about having only "failed" once in life, and duly sent him on his way:
"Tu as été dévasté quand tu gagnais une "B" dans ton GCSE de français, et tu vas être bien plus dévasté maintenant parce que tu as gagné une grande graisse "F". Tu es licencié!"
Nick, that's Sugar's own French for "p*** off, you posh tw*t, and get some life experience."

Until next week...

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