The Apprentice: A dog’s dinner

Last night’s programme kicked off with the bleary half-awake Apprentice contestants taken to ad agency TBWA where we found Nick and Karren standing in front of a freakishly huge bristly ‘big brother’ screen face of Lord Sugar telling the teams their mission, before self-destructing in “3,2,1…” No, not really, but he should have done. There are seventeen million pets in Britain, apparently, and simply not enough brands on the market. Cue – the perfect opportunity for Teams Logic and Venture to come up with a ‘new’ product and then create an ad campaign around it. Something exciting, cutting edge…

Save me from these bloody amateurs

Well obviously none of those things. You’ve seen this before with breakfast cereal. We know that the teams will create a bloody awful name then cobble together an unholy amalgam of some of the worst and most clichéd advertising strategies ever made. Do branding and advertising agencies watch these shows and piss themselves laughing? I hope so. I would.

Team Venture was led by Glenn and Team Logic by Vincent. They got together to ‘brainstorm’ and the puns were falling thick and fast. ‘Thick and fast’, in fact, would have been every bit as good as the names the teams actually came up with. The ideas that sadly fell by the wayside included Vincent’s suggestion of something one letter away from one of the biggest brands already on the market – ‘Pals’. Jim used his Northern Irish accent to great effect when suggesting an excellent pet porn name ‘Fur Play’ (they sure missed a marketing trick there). Logic’s sub group of Leon, Zoe and Helen were filled with pride at coming up with the ‘Lucky Fish’ name (Leon: “Shall I just become the Apprentice?”). But we then saw their happiness balloon shot down with callous disregard by team leader Glenn as they stood forlornly holding the phone up in a supermarket aisle. It became clear that he regarded actually listening to the feedback of pet owner focus groups (and therefore the work he had set his sub-group) as being pointless. Anyway, he had already decided on a charming concept suggesting body conscious pet owners extend their own neuroses about weight to their cats, and plumped for ‘Cat Size’ (cats eyes, geddit???) with a strapline so bloody awful and grammatically excruciating that I was actually gnawing the television screen: ‘see their light’.

Logic, led by Vincent, who of course had the advantage of looking like a cartoon dog, also decided to go against all focus group advice (and that of dog owner Ellie) about targeting food towards a particular size of dog and go for ‘universal appeal’ with the name ‘Every Dog’, with the not-cliched-at-all strapline – ‘has it’s day’. I was slightly surprised no-one suggested an offal-based product called some variant on the Dog’s Bollocks idea, but I digress. Vincent seemed to be operating under some kind of hypnotic spell cast by Jim, who was the one who suggested the name, and indeed concept. I’ll say it now, however creepy, arrogant and up-himself Vincent has proved throughout the series, Jim is a man whose behaviour really gives me the willies. It’s the eyes. If it came out in the paper that he had been under suspicion of crimes involving tempting old ladies to part with their life savings, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Anyway, back at the auditions. Knowing as I do how obsessively some people feel about their pets, this held some amusing moments. Especially the homicidal look in the eyes of the owner of the hairless cat as Leon gigglingly dismissed it as ‘not suitable’. The team went for the plentiful, hairball-inducing locks of a cat called Ruby in the end. With the dogs, we learned that the amazing bouncing Jack Russell had form, on Midsommer Murders apparently. I’m not sure if it actually committed the crime. But it was cute, and so was chosen to star in an ad directed by a similarly amazing bouncing Natasha. The co-star was a golden retriever whose coat reminded me of David Cassidy in his heyday, and whose key skill seemed to lie in eating the dogfood with the voracious enthusiasm of an animal who hadn’t been fed for a month. Every labrador I’ve ever met can do this.

The ad execs looked on and decided the Cat Size weight loss concept and packaging was most successful since the universal appeal of Every Dog was entirely flawed. That would be Jim’s concept let me remind you. But they also said Natasha’s dog ad was better. Lord Sugar decided to go with their view, Vincent’s dog team lost, the cat team were apparently saved by one of their lives and were sent off to play tennis with Pat Cash.

All for one, and by 'one' I mean me

This is a digression, but I found myself in the boardroom scenes thinking everyone looked increasingly like Thunderbird characters in there. Maybe it’s the fact that Vincent looks like the cartoon character Dogtanian, or perhaps it’s because Jim seems to operate Vincent like a puppet master, who knows. But anyway, Jim used his Jedi powers to telepathically tell Vincent he was not the Apprentice he was looking to bring back, even though the whole terrible Every Dog idea had been his. And Vincent duly obeyed, deciding instead to bring back Ellie, who I like very much and is the only contestant I can imagine working with, and Natasha of the strange fringe, whose ad had been good.
Lord Sugar, somewhat randomly in my view (except that she didn’t have a good week in the salon doing nothing for three hours last week), decided to kick off Ellie ‘for not doing enough’, which meant a brief look of triumph passed over Vincent’s canine features. Until  – shocker – Sugs told him to sling his hook too, for failing to bring the real culprit, evil villain and puppet master Jim, into the boardroom. I suspect Jim, if he reaches the final three anytime soon, will face the wrath of Sugar over that ‘sacrifice’.
For other fine Apprentice blogs by my PLA colleagues, see here
Posted by Inkface

6 Comments

Filed under The Apprentice

6 responses to “The Apprentice: A dog’s dinner

  1. Tim

    Ah, Dogtanian. Certainly qualifies as Vincent’s Ganger (oops, wrong show). 🙂

    I fear Jedi Jim has ventured over to the Dark Side. Or, at least, the Crap Side. He did have a point that it shouldn’t be entirely his fault just because he threw a bad idea into the mix. Isn’t the point of brainstorming to generate ideas, no matter how bad?

    Anyhow, aside from last week’s beauty task, am I the only one to notice how every time we see Tom he is pointing out the fundamental flaw in his team’s strategy and getting shouted down. In previous seasons, he would not be a big contender. In this season, where Sugar is looking for a business to invest in, why not partner up, Dragons’ Den style, with an inventor? Definitely my dark horse tip. So that’s him gone next week, then.

    My usual midnight ramblings on last night’s episode, as usual:
    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/06/02/the-apprentice-venture-are-top-dogs-two-fired-after-pet-task-cat-astrophe/

  2. inkface

    Very impressive summary as ever Tim. I’d wiped Leon’s appalling presentation from my mind – WTF did he spend those five hours prep time doing we all wonder? And ditto the male voiceover artist was just weird. It’s not logical that the public tend to feminize cats, but they sure as hell do.

    I suspect Tom’s glasses aren’t ‘real’. Do you have a view?

    • Tim

      Thanks Inky – loved your (so much more concise than mine!) recap too. I seem to have struck on port and very strong coffee (not mixed together!) as the ideal boost for late night verbose sarcasm …

      Leon seems to veer between being unbearably smug (“No one’s actually said how well I did”) and downright prissy (“I have a girlfriend”). I don’t like him at all, and I’m still waiting (OK, praying) for the revelation that daddy set up his company for him.

      Three years of drama school, and I get to do cat food ads where some bunch of muppets ask if I can do a higher falsetto. It’s not exactly Hamlet, is it?

      Really good shout about Tom’s glasses. When he does wear his glasses it certainly plays to his mad inventor image. Interestingly, I note that on both his personal website and his LinkedIn profile that he is pictured without glasses. Or is that Michael Sheen posing as him?

  3. Duncan

    I did go into this thinking that Jim was the hero of the story, as Ruth was back in series two, but I’m starting to get the impression (and Sugar is as well it seems; “his type”) that Jim might be a psychopath. There’s just something a little too clam, and controlled and manipulative about him. Watch his audition video – parts of it are positively eerie. I hope I’m wrong; I really liked the guy at first, but he’s starting to creep me out.

    Unlike Sugar, I /do/ know why Natasha was brought in. In both the cafe and the first board room scene she lied (again; did the exact same in the last task) about having realised and said that the team’s fundamental approach was wrong before the result and I think a) this annoyed Vincent and b) possibly he thought she would do this again on the firing line and get sent home for it.

    I do wish the other team had lost though, simply so Leon could have been phoned. It’s a great shame no one got a chance to tell Leon and Zoe what a /terrible/ name ‘Lucky Fish’ is for a Cat Food. My previously high opinion of Zoe has taken a little damage this week what with ‘Lucky Fish’ and her rambling about cats getting married in the brainstorming.

    Random comedy moments from this episode: Vincent talking about people being overcome by his charisma (ironic, given what happened with Jim; Asking the male voice over artist to do more falsetto; Leon /demanding/ praise after a pretty dismal pitch)

  4. Qwerty

    Finally got round to watching this. Excellent reporting, Inky. Bit sad Vincent’s gone as I found him very amusing and was looking forward to the first male-to-male kiss on the Apprentice between him and the increasingly terrifying Jim. It was a very puzzling episode, from why they hired a man to do a female voice-over, to why Leon thinks he’s so marvellous, to what the point of Natasha is, to why Ellie being less of a nob than loads of the others somehow seemed to count her against her. And despite this – or because of it – top telly as always.

    • pauseliveaction

      I’m fascinated by, and a little bit in love with, Jim and his mind-control powers. It’s about time a ninja won The Apprentice. Have you noticed how he doesn’t blink? Imagine the willpower it takes not to blink when there’s Lord Sugar backlit by a blue light in your face. That’s the kind of high-level skill you can only get by studying in a Tibetan monastery for ten years. Watch out for Jim deploying his five point palm exploding heart technique at a crucial boardroom moment in a future episode. It’ll be terrifying and spectacular.

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