This is a bit of an odd edition as I’m posting this in retrospect as I celebrate the greatness of Junior Apprentice with a full series recap beginning on the week where it all began while at the same time adding another programme that started in the same fortnight.
The concept of Junior Apprentice was basically the same as the regular show although this time the candidates were aged between 16 and 17 and there were only 10 instead of the usual 14 or 16. Siralan is now referred to as LordSugar, by the time the next series rolls around he’ll probably be king or something but for the moment his usual coarse attitude has been replaced and during this version he came across as a loveable grumpy uncle rather than a tyrannical businessman. In his own words he was the head teacher who you loved to hate and he’d obviously been told by the producers to tone it down a bit so he wouldn’t make the youngsters cry and at one point he sent one home due to illness.
As with the senior Apprentice series there are some real characters here who have a bit of an excuse for acting like children because at least they are children. The character of the series had to be Zoe, a 16 year old with a penchant for wearing berets to hide her undercut and talking drivel. In episode one the kids had to sell cheese on two market stalls and it seemed that Zoe was taking control even though she wasn’t the team leader. This was because Zoe is a market trader and sells vintage clothes every week on a Saturday so was obviously a city girl. Later on in the series there was a task to choose paintings to sell at a gallery opening which again suited Zoe as both her parents are art teachers and her brother is a freelance artist. As she told one of the artists during the episode, ‘I am on a mission to fulfil my creative potential’, which almost had me throwing up. Although she did get to the final Zoe lost out mainly due to her bad attitude something that Lord Sugar had already spotted in his own words he told her, ‘if you sort out your personality, then you’ll do well in life.’ Which is very inspiring words to give to a 16 year old girl.
Then there was Tim, a sheep-shearer by trade who in the cheese-selling task decided to start making up lunchtime packs pairing the cheese with crackers to sell to business-types during lunch. However after he had made the first few the wind started to pick up which allegedly prevented him from making any more and as he told Lord Sugar – wind is my least favourite weather condition. Tim developed a habit of doing as little as possible, he is a teenager after all, and coasting through and was christened by Nick Hewer ‘Lazy Tim’ but in the last couple of weeks he picked up his game and sailed through the art task and the presentation in the final before finishing second. But more than that Tim was a likeable guy who obviously didn’t have a lot of experience in business and it was good to see how the experience changed him.
Then there were the rest in order of elimination they were: Jordan an annoying little twerp with a silly accent who had set up an internet business when he was 14 but didn’t seem to have any real life business expertise and melted under the pressure during the cheese task and was eliminated in Week One. Brainy Hibah who wanted to combine her love of business with her love of medicine and become a plastic surgeon but didn’t get her ideas across well enough when designing a camping product and her group ended up with a cardboard box. Hannah, who was an inventor and had an idea for a product that she couldn’t tell anyone about which is useful when you’re an inventor. Rhys, who wore an ill-fitting suit and looked for the most part like he was in a touring company of Bugsy Malone. Market trader Adam who had the idea for the camping box and then got ill during the cupcake task so had to be sent home early. Emma, the one who seemed to be silent for most of the season apart from opening her mouth to criticise everything that Zoe did. And finally diminutive Scot, Kirsty who managed to get all the way through to the final by just standing around and nodding.
But the eventual winner was Arjun a very sensible young man who did look very young despite being one of the eldest contestants. Arjun wasn’t full of the usual Apprentice style excuses such as ‘everything that went right with this task is my idea’ instead he did his research and was able to contribute to almost every task. During the camping equipment task it was his pitch that secured his team a massive order from Argos and he also worked well during the final task. He was likeable and hard-working team member that everyone seemed to get on with and that’s why he hardly made it into the board room and the ultimate firing line. At six weeks the show was pretty short but it was still entertaining enough and did demonstrate that not all the youth in the country goes around having sex and shooting each other. I did worry about the fact that Lord Sugar did have Nick Hewer following five teenage girls around London as I did think that looked a bit dodgy and also I thought it was a bit irresponsible leaving ten teens alone in a massive house but they were forewarned by Sugar not to have any Facebook parties. The final task was my fave though as Zoe and Kirsty teamed up to take on Arjun and Tim both creating a new brand of bottled water and then pitching it to various retailers. While the girls came up with splish-splash the boys came up with the inventive – A Bottle of Water, which I can’t stop saying to this day.
While BBC1 where busy giving junior entrepreneurs a chance to shine BBC2 were reminiscing about the 1980s with a series of programmes including Royal Wedding a drama set around the celebrations of the nuptials of Charles and Di. Royal Wedding was written by Abi Morgan, whose previous works include Sex Traffic and White Girl, here giving us a little bit more comedy. It starred Jodie Whittaker as Linda a woman who got pregnant as a teenager and is now trapped in a loveless marriage to a loser musician while having an affair with her factory boss Alan. Linda dreams of running away with Alan to somewhere exotic but it turns out that Alan has lied about how much money he’s got and because of the 1980s economy he has to shut down the factory. The affair and the revelation about the factory closure are both revealed during the village street party to celebrate the wedding. The thing I really liked about Royal Wedding was its period detail from the costumes, to the way the street was laid out and even the way the character’s interacted with each other you could believe it was 1981. The music choices were also brilliant although there was the typical cheesy early 80s music there was also stuff from The Cure and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Dire Straits possibly one of my favourite tunes of all time. Again Morgan created a world where men are weak and spineless and women are the stronger species and applying this both to her fictional characters and Charles and Di. Jodie Whittaker again sparkles as an actress, although its a stretch to imagine her with a teenage daughter, her performance as Linda anchored the drama. The real revelation though was Gwyneth Keyworth as Linda’s daughter Tammy she was the show’s moral centre almost growing up throughout the 90 minute run time as she loses her virginity to the scummy local Dj and finds out the truth about her parent’s marriage. The supporting cast were full of familiar faces – Darren Boyd (Green Wing), Rebekah Staton (Pulling), Sarah Maitland (Mitchell and Webb) and Kevin Bishop as the hilarious local DJ. Overall Abi Morgan’s most gentle work yet but still one packed full of rounded characters and plenty of pathos.
Next time: Going Postal, Money and The Million Pound Drop