We’ll start this week with a double bill of one of the BBC’s biggest shows
In my Apprentice preview blog last week I wrote that, ‘Edward is one of the strongest contenders and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s still standing in the final five.’ At the end of Tuesday’s episode, Edward was fired but that’s what happens when you have an ad hoc attitude to one of Lord Sugar’s tasks as The Apprentice returns for what I think is its seventh series. However maybe it should be called The Business Partner as there is no job for the winner, instead a quarter of a million pounds will be invested by Sugar in a business with the winning candidate. Yes I know I thought that programme was called Dragon’s Den as well. Although this change of format didn’t change anything else we still have the idiots in suits and we still have the obviously scripted statements about their prowess in the boardrooms my favourite this year came from Melody who came out with the classic, ‘why say the sky’s the limit when there are footsteps on the moon.’ It was Melody who took on the Project Manager role for the girl’s team in task one, which involved using Sugar’s cash to buy fruit and veg and then sell it on at a profit, as well as coming up with the name Team Venture. Team Logic were led by the tragic Edward who seemed to want to move away from his accountancy background as he was sort of ashamed of this which meant he spend most of the money on oranges most of which went unsqueezed after baby-faced Leon broke all of the juicers meanwhile smooth-talking Irishman Jim bargained a bunch of soup ingredients down to 40 quid. The girls didn’t spend all of their budget but instead used £170 to get ingredients for fruit salad and pasta salad which they flogged on the streets to be fair I would’ve bought one of the products from most of these girls as they were pretty and most guys, if they’re honest, would buy something off a smiley pretty girl no matter what she was flogging. The boys had a late start and had to rely on Vincent, part George Lamb and part Private Walker from Dad’s Army, to use his ‘charm’ to sell juice to lonely women working in office blocks. The girls won easily after making over £500 on their fruit salads alone meanwhile Edward struggled to get his case across infuriating Alan more by speaking in business jargon and confusing catchphrases such as ‘It’s all there’, what did that even mean? Leon and Alex were both chastised by the boss for breaking the juicers and doing bugger all respectively but it had to be Edward he was just a fool and I’m embarrassed I picked him as a potential finalist.
But that wasn’t the end of it as we were treated to a double Apprentice week with the show settling down on its regular Wednesday night slot and also bought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The creation task this time around was to make an iphone app, personally I’ve got no idea what one is as all my friends will tell you I’m about five years behind everyone else when it comes to mobile phones, but thankfully the teams did and set about creating one with Leon captaining Logic against business psychologist Edna as Venture’s head. Edna quickly established herself as a no-nonsense boss after she stopped 21 year old Susan from revealing her app idea, to be fair to Edna, Susan was wittering on but I would like to see what she actually meant. Eventually the girls came up with an app to annoy your friend while the boys’ idea was an app that spoke in six different accents and refused to believe that it was racist or xenophobic in any way. As is usually the way, if the boys lose the first task then the girls have to lose the second task and the way things were going Edna’s gang were going down while the boys couldn’t stop congratulating each other enough. As they took the stage at a tech fare the boys combined to deliver a winning pitch mentioning both how to download the app and that it was free meanwhile Edna, doing her best Bond villain impression complete with black leather gloves, didn’t really explain it all. Despite this consumers are weird and the girls won the second task even though the majority admitted to Sugar that they had no confidence in the product. Leon initially chose background artist Alex and Jim but the latter talked himself out of being in the firing line and ideas man Glenn was chosen instead even though it was a moot point as this was definitely Alex vs Leon. Leon again survived by the skin of his teeth, even though I don’t think he’s long for this contest, as Alex’s antics cost him his place in the competition. Even with the format change The Apprentice is still exactly the same and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My favourites so far are Susan, Jim and inventor Tom who was the first ever candidate to apologise to Alan after losing the first task. The Apprentice is either a love it or hate it show and thankfully I still love it.
As well as The Apprentice the BBC’s other big show this week was the story of how volcanic eruptions and tsunamis tore apart the ancient island of Thera. Atlantis was billed as a factually-based drama or a drama-documentary however the facts checked for the documentary most probably came from Wikipedia judging from the melodramatics that went on during the hour-long show. In fact when the programme left the dramatised portion briefly to show artefacts left over from the disaster it almost seemed like it’d come from a Powerpoint presentation rather than a museum. I would try and write up the story if I really understood it, it seemed to involve a young married couple, someone not honouring a high priestess and some bull fights. But what the producers really seemed to care about mostly was the costumes and the special effects. As everything here is set in 1620 BC the men are topless and only really wear codpiece type things unless they’re old and don’t have a six pack and in that case they cover up. Meanwhile the women folk are dressed in leather attire which really accentuates their bosoms enough so that when the volcano comes the lava can just sort of hang around on their breasts for a while. The volcano itself and its aftermath dominated the last twenty minutes or so of the broadcast as the ash began to come down and people began to die we got ‘BIG SCARY MUSIC’. As the young girl ran towards the boat she saw her family pass away as the volcano started to come about and, in what must’ve cost the most to produce, the tsunamis that followed drenched the nearby island of Crete. We are then told that the name Atlantis was given to the island of Thera by Plato when he wrote about the tragedy hence the name of the programme. I’m not sure how much Atlantis actually cost to make but, judging from the effects, I can tell it was a lot and it really wasn’t worth it. I didn’t really learn that much apart from the Plato bit at the end and the acting was just atrocious throughout. The problem with drama-documentaries is that the drama is overshadowed by the facts and the documentary aspect is dumbed down in the need to produce a drama. In fact the only thing I really liked about it was Tom Conti’s campy narration which probably set the tone quite well if I’m honest. This didn’t even fall into the ‘so bad, it’s good’ territory it was just staggering awful.
I often criticise ITV1 for dumbing down a lot of their programming but in recent years they’ve improved their dramatic output and in addition have provided some thought-provoking documentaries including those based around prisons namely Holloway and Wormwood Scrubs. This week we had the third in the prison trilogy with a new three-parter set around Her Majesty’s Prison Manchester which is better known as Strangeways. The first episode mainly focused on two prisoners Adrian Fielding, who is serving seven years for an armed robbery of a post office, and Lee Smith who is awaiting trial for his part in a multi-million pound drug smuggling operation. Smith seems like a nice enough chap and quite intelligent he claims that he wasn’t aware what was in the van he was driving and that he only did three jobs for the people involved in the operation. In his interviews Lee said he was hoping to not get very long as he kept saying ‘its just for driving a van’ however it was clear that his story wouldn’t end well and indeed he was sentenced to 15 years. Fielding meanwhile was to wed long-time girlfriend Kelly in prison something surprisingly her parents weren’t best pleased about. Obviously you could tell the two were in love and surrounded by their four children they exchanged vows and had a photo taken before Kelly was ushered out of the door and Adrian went back to living alone only now he was married. The strong message seemed to be that these men might be getting T.V.s in their cells and the opportunity to better themselves but at the same time they are away from their young children and/or elderly parents. As the voice-over kept telling us if the inmates didn’t have families to lean on then they would often self-harm and instances of this were seen throughout the programme as well as an interview with one lifer who said he was getting through his sentence on as many drugs as possible. What was possibly most effecting about the documentary was the fact that the opening had no voice-over instead we were shown clips of the episode but just with Ernie Wood’s haunting score playing over the top of it. Strangeways was indeed a very well-produced documentary about isolation and loss and will hopefully act as a deterrent to future criminals but I’m guessing it won’t. This is the T.V. that ITV should be making more of instead of inane garbage like Sing if You Can and Celebrity Juice.
It seemed this was the week of interesting and gripping documentaries as we had Channel 4′s 24 hours in A & E in which every episode captures a day in the life of King’s College Hospital’s A & E Department. Heading up the team was Malcolm Tunnicliff, proof positive that not all doctors look like the sexy ones in Holby and in fact a lot look Hugh Bonneville. But Malcolm is a top bloke really caring about his patients to the point of being late home. Malcolm’s main patient in episode one was Theodore a Greek national studying in London who had been literally run over by a bus. Theodore had basically completely broken his pelvis and he needed several operations. As viewers we obviously thought that Theodore didn’t pull through especially as he didn’t appear as interviewee instead his brother Apollo was talking about his dealings with the friendly staff. But at the very end Theodore appeared saying he owed his life to Malcolm in the team and it had taken a month for him to fully regain consciousness and another two months to walk again. We also had Will who had been thrown back and was severely concuss luckily nurses Maria and Jen were on hand to tend to his every need trying to remind him where he was and asking him what year it was a question that he kept answering wrong. Thankfully Will, who came over as a genuinely nice guy, also pulled through. There was also the less serious case of 71 year old Tom who had fallen off his ladder and wasn’t moving afterwards but he came round quite quickly and ws able to chat to his wife and daughter. I had a niggling feeling that Tom would be the one who wouldn’t make it through to the end of the programme because, as is often the case with medical shows, it is the guy who didn’t come in with a serious injury that usually ends up biting the dust. Despite the lack of deaths, 24 Hours in A & E was another Channel 4 show that concentrated on real life people in actual important jobs who were both lovely and realistic. In the same vein as last year’s Coppers, 24 Hours also introduces us to a lot of jargon the only one I really understood was Hems which stands for the helicopter team who flew Theodore in at the beginning of the episode. 24 Hours also introduced us to a lot of different characters my favourite had to be senior nurse Jen who had sort of a no-nonsense attitude but also really cared about what she was doing. A brilliant documentary about people who truly matter and at times it was a lot more exciting than Casualty.
Continuing the documentary trio was the return of BBC2 strand Wonderland which kicked off its new run with – The Trouble with Love and Sex a doc set in the offices of counselling service Relate but presented as an animation. In fact this is the first ever full-length animated documentary made for British T.V. The three sessions shown in the programme involved long term married Susan and Iain, thirty-somethings Mandy and Ian and unlucky in love Dave. Susan and Iain probably had the most time to devoted to their story, they had been married for a long time and their children had all but flown the nest and Iain is wondering why Susan no longer wants sex. Through revisiting their relationship and animating their memories the makers of the documentary demonstrate how Susan hasn’t always been invested in the marriage falling in love with someone just before she was just about to get married and recently conducting another affair. By the end though they are learning to tolerate each other the final scene is of them arriving at a pub as their hands fall into each other. However it is not a happy ending as we find out as Iain died suddenly of a heart attack despite continuing with the counselling. Mandy and Ian were younger and they admitted that when they were with their three children the relationship worked but it started to disintegrate when they were on their own. Again through talking it through they managed to spend more time together sharing a bath and some champagne cocktails together. Finally Dave, whose miserable life was animated particularly in a very affecting scene in which his father tries to smother him with a pillow, had once again fallen in love with a girl this time work colleague Roxanne who again he’d put on a pedestal before even talking to her properly. Dave was someone who fantasised about forming a proper romantic relationship but at the same time was incredibly depressed and kept several bottles of pills just in case he ever felt like topping himself. I really enjoyed The Trouble With Love and Sex and felt that the animation really added something different to the programme. Had it simply shown the counselling sessions I feel it would’ve been very boring I’m assuming the decor in the Relate offices aren’t that visually pleasing and would maybe have alienated the viewer. But strangely the animation makes these people seem more real than they actually are for example Susan narrates her first date with Iain as we see it happen, by the way it was shopping for football boots in Leicester. Dave’s story talked to me the most seeing all the pills animated and the scene with his father was incredibly moving and it highlighted the good work that Relate did as Dave threw his pills away at the end. I’m just hoping a lot of people watching the programme who felt similar to those in the documentary got the courage to ring up Relate and ask for help.
And finally after the emotional ending of The Only Way is Essex a gap has opened up for a new reality show about vacant teens or twenty-somethings who are in the same social circle. Step forward E4′s Made in Chelsea. Like with TOWIE, MIC has a central couple in narrator Caggie and long-term friend and childhood sweetheart Spencer. However this relationship is a little bit complicated as stock-broker Spencer has a live in girlfriend in the form of the gorgeous Brazilian-born Funda. Meanwhile Caggie has to look all lonely singing a Goo Goo Dolls song to a bar of uninterested Chelsea types. Unlike Towie however the women are a bit less orange and have slightly normal faces however the men all look a bit strange in particular Scandinavian-born Frederick who has the body of a weightlifter but the face of a toddler and currently has a flirtatious relationship with Caggie’s mate Millie. Then there is jewellery designer Amber and her friend Rosie who describes herself as the Gossip Girl of Chelsea and is the only connection between all of the characters. Also on board are girl-about-town blogger Ceska her friend Binky (I’m not making it up), Spencer’s best mate Hugo, Caggie’s other suitor Francis and the incredibly camp but straight Ollie a club-promoter and the most intellectual member of the gang up to the fact that he knows that Charles Dickens didn’t write Winnie the Pooh. While more upper class than their ITV2 counterparts their also quite snooty and instead of being reem and telling each other to shut up they’re saying things that ‘High Street is an absolute no-no’ or ‘totes man,totes and instead of knowing random models and reality show types they’ve been linked to princesses and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson. After watching episode one of this I have to say I’m not impressed and it hasn’t hooked me as much as The Only Way is Essex mainly because these people are just too posh and there is no-one to relate to while in Essex I feel they’re either quite endearing or I just feel sorry for them.
Next Week: The Eurovision Song Contest