Two editions of This Week in TV kicking off with a look at the annual spectacle that is The Apprentice
Mary Poppins I am not, said the slightly worked up Alan Sugar or Siralan as he is constantly referred to, although I’d agree with him personally I think he looks more like Mrs. Tiggywinkle. We are now in series four of The Apprentice and it still surprises me how gormless the contestants are. I’m guessing by this point they are told to be stupid in the most easiset of tasks. But I’m getting ahead of myself at the beginning we are given the whole Job Interview from Hell spiel accompanied by the ominous shots of the London cityscape and the usual spurts of classical music which will get many people rushing out to buy the album with the ’track from The Apprentice on’ and make themselves seem cultured. We get the usual soundbites from the contestants – ’I will not only beat but thrash my other contestants’ says Sara who is obviously hoping for some kind of bondage task. While Michael claims he will ’cut people out of his life to get what he wants’ and Nicholas the Barrister barks on about his first class honours degree. The Alan Sugar montage is then shown we are given the usual blah about self-made man, car stereos, worth a lot of money. What’s more interesting to me is the sequence they show firstly Alan Sugar dressing himself and straightening his tight framed similarly to the sequence at the beginning of the Ali G show when his clothes used to come on and then you see him relax for a bit on a boat before chatting and laughing with Gordon Brown as announcer-man tells us he has the prime minister’s ear. I hear that U.S. Apprentice boss Donald Trump has President Bush’s ear and Bush wants to know how much money he has to give him to get it back (that’s political satire for you people!)
Siralan in his usual spiel is trying to scare the contestants – this is a business boot camp and business starts now. Yes the contestants are not allowed to go to the converted factory that they are living in for the next umpteen weeks. Instead the boys and girls are split into teams of two and given two van loads of fish worth approximately £600. As the teams go through the usual rigmarole of picking a name characters start to come through we see the Indian girl Sara who can’t control her voice going on about selling while Lee quickly establishes his role as the cheeky cocker-ney among the group. Names such as Alchemy, Relations and Impotus are thrown around the boys table while Raef suggests gravitas and adding the fact that its pompous but there’s nothing wrong with pomposity – more on Raef later. While on the girls team the name strike is briefly mentioned before Lucinda who’s dressed constantly in a beret and lime green dress suggest Alpha going on about the shape and something about moons. The always fun task of picking team leaders was up next and Raef was immediately suggests by the boys but he quickly talked his way out of it saying that he managed himself. Eventually sales manager and Jason Orange lookalike Alex took on the role of team leader. Meanwhile everyone in the girls team were trying to talk their way out of it – Claire volunteered. In a soundbite Claire tells us about her family’s German Shepard Dog being boistrous and running through the house to get what he wants and she says because she’s like this people compare her to the dog. Well at least I think that’s what she gets when people tell her – Claire you’re a dog.
Both teams accompanied by Siralan’s advisors strict school mistress-like Margaret Mountford and sarcastic taskmaster Nick Hewer make their way to Islington Market. However it takes the boys a lot later to get there than the girls, but the girls seem to have a lot more hassle. There is quite a funny sequence in which the girls are trying to reverse their vans down the market confronted by a lot of angry shoppers and one particularly mouthy stall-holder who wishes to make an official complaint. Surely he would’ve been asked to sign a waver to appear on T.V. and asked by the production team to kick up a fuss. The girls then quickly start selling, before they’ve even priced up any of the fish or really know what’s going on this is mainly thanks to supposed African princess descendant Lindi. The boys meanwhile set up and Raef is given the task of identifying fish which he doesn’t do well as Margaret notes he mis-marks three boxes. Nicholas walks around to get an idea of prices and comes back with the ludicrous idea that lobsters are worth a fiver, even though later Alex kicks up a fuss about this he or none of the other team members notice this error. Towards the end of the day there is the mad rush to sell the fish, the girls get lucky fobbing all the fish off on a kindly restaurateur who cheekily agrees to buy what they have left for £125 meanwhile the quartet of Michael, Kevin, Raef and Nicholas the non-sales bunch are given the task of selling the rest of the fish. They go to a jewellers and finally a solicitors office where Michael desperately tries to haggle for £100 but only gets £50. As the boys rush to the van to get the rest of the fish – Nicholas seems a lot slower than the rest, this is a man who earlier claimed that a B in his GCSE is what he considers his only failure, but I bet he didn’t win anything at Sport’s Day. The first cracks of resentment is seen in the boys team as Alex has aligned himself with Simon, Lee and Ian who are all fast-talking northerners or cockerneys while Michael, Kevin and Nicholas seemed to have ended up with Raef into the posh group and the battle lines were drawn.
As we head back to the boardroom (which is actually a set – sorry to spoil the illusion oh and Frances the secretary – not a secretary) Nick and Margaret are already sitting and waiting – Nick looks embarrassed and Margaret disappointed which makes me wonder if they have it off every week on the boardroom table just before the teams come back in. Anyway the boys make a £37 profit while the girls make a £150 and are treated to a meal of guess what – fish cooked by Jean-Christophe Novelli who looked like he wondered what he was doing there. Alex told Siralan that he loved his boys and they were the best salesman which angered Michael and looked like he was going to cry and this happened later on. I couldn’t’ help thinking that Kevin when he spoke looked like one of the posh characters that Matt Lucas sometimes plays in Little Britain. Alex agreed to bring back Raef and Nicholas into the boardroom but they were ferried off to the house.There were some more arguments between Alex and Nicholas essentially – Nicholas told Alex he wasn’t educated and tried to dig himself out of the hole by mumbling something about art and football. Meanwhile Raef sat back looked smug and let them shout at each other. As Siralan gave his judgment I couldn’t help but wonder if he needed the night off to write a pun for each member of his team so when Nicholas was fired he said something like – You got a B in your French GCSE well you’re going to be disappointed as you’re getting a big F here you’re fired. Alex was apparently saved only because he put himself forward as team leader. Nicholas realised he was a scapegoat and that’s exactly what he was. Next week the teams are forming two different laundry companies but in the words of the announcer will the dirty laundry be washed or aired.
This year’s Apprentice had an okay start but its got a bit pantomimish and there’s a lot more focus on Sugar the boardroom segments used to only be the last 15 minutes of the show this time the task finished by 9:30. Sure he’s established himself as the star but his quips and grumpy manner have become a little tired. At the end of the day we’re laughing at the ’sales’ types that we despise as they try endlessly to do things right but keep getting them wrong – look at Lee being a prat while trying to cut some fish for example. The biggest character that has emerged so far is Raef – mainly because he’s a dick, he keeps going on about being a good speaker and there’s nothing wrong with being pompous and criticised Alex for being a poor team leader when he himself refused to be the leader. He comes up with some great one-liners and doesn’t get on with anyone apart from perhaps Michael and maybe Kevin. He will be left in until the competition gets serious as he’s easy to laugh at and a good draw.Of the rest only a few stood were really prominent – Team Leaders Alex and Claire obviously she comes across as Ruth Badger-lite while he’s a fast talking Northerner who should be safe for a while. Apart from Claire there was little focus on the girl although Sara Dhada was very vocal and that’s a shame as she has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard. I’m interested in seeing more of beret-clad Lucinda who was once offered the role of a Bond girl double – I’m guessing not Halle Berry more likely to be Judi Dench. Then there’s the barrow boys as I like to dub them – Lee, Ian and Simon who backed up Alex against Raef and his boys – Kevin seemed to do very little apart from looking like Matt Lucas and Michael seemed close to tears at least three times in the first episode. I have no firm favourite but I’m going to keep watching The Apprentice mainly because its The Apprentice and its awesome.
Next Time: The Best of the Rest featuring The Colour of Magic, Hancock and Joan and He Kills Coppers