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The Apprentice: A petri dish of twonk

Top Twonk

Top Twonk

(Series 10, ep.8) The delicious smorgasbord of idiocy that is The Apprentice got turned up to 11 last night. We’re at episode eight –  or roughly stage two as laid out in Qwerty’s series opener blog. Some chaff has been fired. Plenty more left to sneer at.

We know their names. We could do a set of Apprentice Twonk Top Trumps card featuring those qualities of imbecilic delusion that make them so annoying. But into the mix, we got the pleasure of the Royal Bath & West Show this week (best cider bar this side of Yeovil), hot tubs, flat cap handbags and Nick Hewer looking hella cool on a ride-on lawnmower.

Team Summit comprised Bianca; sexist über-knob 1 James; Solomon; calm, collected Roisin and Sanjay. And Team Tenacity included domineering Aussie Mark; the adorable Paddington bear-like Columbian Felipe; sexist über-knob 2 Daniel and the normal-seeming Katie. UK1 James got to be PM for Summit, Felipe was made PM for Tenacity over Katie, for no explicable reason that I could see, other than the fact that she carelessly forgot to be born with a penis.

This is the episode where members of each team gets to select from a parade of random objects, which in this series included a pet finder and a flushable cat loo. It’s the sort of motley collection that you used to see on the Generation Game conveyor belt or as prizes on Sale of the Century. Teams decide what they want most, then the PM has a conversation with the manufacturer of said chosen objects to try to convince them they are right team to sell to. Continue reading

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The Apprentice: Tat for tits

This episode began in Enfield, in a warehouse full of cheap plastic tat. Chandeliers, sponges, bales of towels. It was like the massed crap-heap of years of rejects from the Generation Game conveyor belt. Something inside me felt the sinister grinning pile of gnomes were looking on and mocking. So. To the task. Each team was given a trolley full of miscellaneous stuff to sell, “worth” £250. The concept, Lord Sugar explained, was to “smell what sells.” Sniff out what products can be shifted, then restock and keep “flipping” for profit.

Venture featured Susan, Jim and Natasha, none of whom I like very much. Natasha thrust herself forward as team leader, but signally failed to grasp the fundamental “flipping” concept. To Jim’s credit, he worked incredibly hard to sell the cheap nodding bulldogs and rubbish umbrellas to passing members of the public – and had a clear grasp of the concept of the task. At one point Nick Hewer actually smiled in his presence and said, approvingly to camera, “I’ve never seen such an abundance of baloney. But people like him, and I quite like him – now.”

On the second day, Susan also sold like a demon. It is Natasha who wins my coveted award this week for being the most passive-aggressive, deluded and unpleasant twonk in the pile. I have found Susan rather irksome in previous tasks, but she was doing a grand job here, whilst Natasha did very little. When Susan mildly pointed this out, Natasha, behaving like one of those nasty girls we all knew at school, had the nerve to snap at her:  “Stop embarrassing yourself.”

Later in the boardroom, Jim pointed out that, however hard he tried to sell, it had been a struggle with Natasha’s dismal leadership skills and lack of strategy. I liked his phrase: “It’s very difficult to push treacle up a hill.”  Sadly though, her team won, so she couldn’t be fired, but it should have been her sent, not on foot, but Verruca-Salt-like, down a chute-of-shame to a new life and a decent haircut. Lord Sugar was hacked off her team “won” despite a fine he imposed for Natasha’s failure to reinvest, and he took their prize away as punishment. Jim, Susan and Natasha went miserably back to the house where Natasha basically dumped all her own crap and insecurity on Susan’s shiny hair. All very unpleasant. Continue reading

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The Apprentice: Turning garbage into gold?

(Series 7, Ep.6) “It’s a very subtle business,” muses Nick Hewer from the safety of his bespoke overcoat. The business to which he refers is the buying and selling of rubbish. And frankly maybe it was a bit too subtle to make good TV out of it. The people who devised the task (I’m not kidding myself it was Lord Sugar – or Baron Alan, as @MrBButterfield – AKA Peter Serafinowicz – was calling him on Twitter last night) presumably thought the mere idea of getting the candidates out of their power suits and into high-vis jackets and hard hats and getting them to actually do some manual labour would be hilarious.

It wasn’t. Not at all as hilarious as watching them try to make a video for cat food, or sell cheese to the French or cosmetics to Brummies. Indeed the physical part of the task was no problem at all, as they all fell into lugging old sinks and office chairs on and off trucks with a pleasing air of can-do.

What they couldn’t do particularly well was work out the pricing. Do you pay people to take their trash or do they pay you? What kind of stuff is easiest to resell? And how do you cope with a dodgy builder who has popped a few more items than previously agreed onto his heap of stuff to be removed?

The answer to that final question is that you send in Jim, who’ll have a good go at the bloke, threaten him with his laser beam eyes, and then back down and clear the rubbish anyway. It was a bit of a low-key episode for Jim after last week’s impressive display of Vulcan mind-meld with Vincent. Indeed the most frightening he got was when he and Tom patrolled a leafy neighbourhood in a truck looking for household rubbish to take away, and Jim’s Dalek voice issued threateningly over a loud-hailer: “House number 73 with the skip outside! HELLO!” I could picture the inhabitants of no.73 crouching behind their curtains, utterly terrified. Tom looked pretty scared himself, but then Tom usually does.  Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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The Apprentice: Top hats and tea

We all know that the success of The Apprentice is due, not to our aspiring to be one of the chosen few ‘entrepreneurial elite’, but thanking the Lord that we’re not. Tonight’s episode did nothing to upset this general theme. Having lost the hapless Edward (a man with strength of character, honest and direct, according to the website) and Alex (ambitious, driven and extremely focussed), we’re now down to fourteen ‘hopefuls’ competing for the pleasure of a £250k business deal with Lord Alan of Sugar.

The call came early –“we leave in thirty minutes to go to the Shtrand!” What was waiting for them in the Shtrand, turned out to be The Savoy Hotel, coming to the end of a three year refit. Leon, Jim and Glenn were sent to Venture. Melody, Zoe, Ellie and another one (there’s too many to learn all the names at this stage) went to Team Logic. The teams have a few hours to find ten items that The Savoy, weirdly, seemed to have forgotten to buy. Logic choose Scouse Gavin as leader, whereas Venture get ‘Market Trader’ Susan (“I helped my mum pay off her mortgage when I was doing my A levels) Ma.

Nick seems impressed with Susan at the start – to be fair, she did take control, chiefly by shouting ‘go – go now – NOW’ at her team mates.

Vincent for Logic leaps into action on the phone: “can you tell me anywhere in London that sells fillet steak?” Try Tescos mate.

It all starts to turn a bit ugly. Gavin, after two hours of team wrangling, actually said, in his Liverpool accent, “calm down, calm down”. Three hours in and team logic still don’t know what a ‘cloche’ is. Wonder if they know what a cliché is? Have none of them got a dictionary app on their iPhones? Failing that, nip into a book shop and find a real paper one – ten minutes, and you’d know what you’re looking for which can only help the buying process. Continue reading

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The Apprentice 701: Return of the twonks

Ah! There’s just nothing else like it. It’s just utterly glorious Top Telly. An intensely wound-up woman, neck muscles about to pop, tells you she has no life outside work; but before you can tell her how sorry you are to hear it, you realise she thinks this is a good and clever thing. Then an earnest chap takes off his specs and says, ‘Underneath  these glasses is a core of steel’ and you immediately say, ‘No there isn’t sonny, there’s a pair of slightly mad eyes and a shiny nose, get back to make-up for another go with the powder puff.’ And then you relax into the sofa, safe in the knowledge that you have weeks – weeks! – of sheer joyous twonkery ahead of you.

The first week of the Apprentice is always a blur of twonkishness, with sixteen similarly-suited people vying to be edited in the least favourable light. This makes it hard to work out who’s who, but here are my fleeting impressions, divided, as is the Apprentice way, along gender lines.

The women:

  • Melody is the one who did everything and wants us to know that. She is reminiscent of Cleopatra, though with far higher levels of insane self-confidence than the comparatively self-effacing Queen of the Nile.
  • Edna has an expressive face which she mainly uses to express the belief that her team-mates are twonks. Which, fair play to her, they are.
  • Susie is being played by Tina from Glee and is enjoyably un-sycophantic to the Monstrous Melody Ego.
  • Helen resembles Mrs Tweedy from Chicken Run – not an original observation alas – and is as tightly strung as a free-range fowl suspended from a butcher’s hook. She’s the one who says she has no social life, though we had already kind of guessed that from the visuals.
  • There is a very young-looking blonde woman whose only contribution so far has been to suck up to Melody.
  • There’s a woman who ‘isn’t from round here’ [eg she is Northern], and alternates between looking terrified and terrifying. Could be a contender.
  • Two dark-haired women of whom I have no other memory whatsoever also appeared.

As a seasoned campaigner of five of the previous six series I must point out that the ultimate winner is always somewhat invisible in the first episode. So one of the ones I can’t remember properly will win if the winner’s to be a woman, which it won’t be because Shugs will be appointing a male business partner. You heard it here first.

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The Apprentice: ‘Extreme masculinity’ Baggs gets busted

I’m not a fan of Lord Sugar, but to his credit, he has working for him a pack of professionals so formidable, if there were an Olympic gladiatorial sport of savaging fools, I’d back this lot. And last night was the moment we’d all been waiting for this whole, rather marvellous series. This is the one episode of The Apprentice that makes the agony of watching earlier ones bearable. CV day is always going to be fun, because of the magnificent line-up of killer Claud, the ice-blue eyed Viglen boss, Bordan, litigator Alan Watts, regular sidekicks Karren and Nick, and our knowledge that every speck of self-deluded blagging previously uttered by the candidates will be used to wipe the floor with them. But my joy was unconfined in anticipation of the return of the metaphorically leather clad and whip wielding Margaret Mountford, a woman who it is not hard to imagine wears steel underwear. And she did not let her fans down. On his way to The Apprentice Careers Fair from Hell day, Stuart Baggs talked of needing ‘balls and minerals’. We knew what was coming. I could taste it before she opened her mouth. “Margaret!” Stuart gushed. “Do I know you?” she slashed back, like Zorro. “Ms Mountford?” he countered, tentative for perhaps the first time in his life.

Now I cannot help, with the rest of the country, being reasonably amused by the chutzpah (for which read also, ‘unadulterated drivelling bollocks’) that has emerged from Stuart Baggs. But after Lord Sugar’s lack of judgement last week keeping him in over Liz, and after seeing his utter lack of scruples in action time after time, more than anything else, I needed to see his comeuppance. And boy did we get that last night.

Highlights for me:

  • Claude to Stuart “You’re not Stuart Baggs ‘the Brand’, you’re a 21 year old boy”
  • Margaret, with that look where she’s shrivelling the extreme masculinity of any man, to posh boy Chris on his claim (on the basis of an RE A’ level) to be a ‘revered theology scholar’: “Do you know what ‘revered’ means? It’s when people hold you in awed respect”
  • Margaret to Jamie, on his claim on his CV to have a third nipple, “Is that supposed to be funny?” (pause as even the very thick skin on his scrotal sac withers a little, until she slamdunks him) “It’s puerile.”
  • Alan Watts to Stuart “You’re not very nice are you? You’ve got no ethics.”
  • Stuart, in putting forward his business proposal to a dubious Margaret about inventing tracking microchips for pets: “No-one is like me. I’m the only candidate who can take Lord Sugar out of recession.”
  • And this is my favourite. Claude to Stuart: “You’re not a big fish. You’re not even a fish.”

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The Apprentice: Das ist nicht wunderbar, Dummkopf

I have to kick off with an apology to Germany: entschuldigung, meine Damen und Herren, on behalf of the British nation and crisp eaters everywhere. You thought I was that famous ‘bilingual’ candidate, Stuart Baggs, for a minute then didn’t you? Equally fluent in bollocks and twattery. But no. I too can blether semi-literately with a bit of crap German thrown in too.

I know the twitter world was shocked when Christopher was Abgefeuert last night, but I’ve not forgiven him for the cleaning ad sexist crap, and neither was I impressed with the obnoxious and racist ‘I hate the Germans’ line last night either. It’s all very well pretending to Dara O’Briain that it was to do with football, but it wasn’t, and actually, he’s a dummkopf.

The critical point has arrived in the series when I’m almost (with some simultaneous text coaching by Qwerty) able to name most of the remaining fools, sorry, contestants, in The Apprentice. And I’m startled that the one person whose name I did remember, and not for good reasons, Stuart is still there. Mysterious, and not, we later discovered, a man who is much fun to go shopping with – in response to picking up a pair of £300 boots in the winning team’s shopping trip  ‘You could buy a car with that’! You could buy a brain too, Herr Baggs. The most cringey moment of the show was when we saw a shot of some pale sausage in a bowl that looked all-too-much like pickled penis and Stuart said ‘I’ve got a white sausage too’. I’m sure you have young man. Just keep it zipped up.

But back to the task. There they all were, off to Germany to sell their own spectacularly unpleasant sounding crisp flavours. Stilton, curry wurst, goulash (and hello Hungary, sorry to you too chaps for how unrepentantly thick some of my fellow countrymen and women are), they all sounded pretty grim really, but both teams did pretty well at selling deep-fried potatoes to a country as fond as our own of eating potatoes, fat and salt.

But Stella’s team won, Chris and Jamie mysteriously avoided relegation in the boardroom, and it was Christopher who went, apparently for being ‘popular’ (oh how Lord Sugar gives away too much about his own messed up psyche at these moments). This programme, remarkably, put me off eating crisps (Gillian McKeith has the opposite effect)

I’m thinking Stella or Liz to win now.

For past blogs on The Apprentice, click here

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The Apprentice: What a Bee-aach

I've had two years managerial shouting experience.

There’s no need to have seen an episode of the Apprentice in order to discuss it. Just say any of the following:

  • ‘Oh my god it was such an easy task and they still blew it!’
  • ‘My five year old could do better.’
  • ‘That team leader was an absolute twonk of the first order.’
  • ‘Why can no-one ever do a pitch that doesn’t make the nation pee itself in embarrassment?’
  • ‘I watched through my fingers.’
  • ‘Surely these can’t be the finest business minds in the country?’

 This episode there were some new phrases to add to this useful compendium:

  • ‘Who says no to BOOTS?’
  • ‘What has happened to Boots if they think that crappy plastic thing is worth a second glance? It’s Superdrug all the way for me from now on.’
  • ‘Did Lord Sugar of Alan fire Joy because she wasn’t quite as easy on the eye as the others? Because there seems no other explanation?’
  • ‘Talking of eyes, how does Sandeesh get hers to be that big?’
  • ‘Is Stuart Baggs the most appalling specimen of Apprentice manhood since Michael Sophocles?’
  • ‘Has anyone ever seen a bikini with tassles outside of a strip club?’

 Yes, it was as dreadful as ever. Marvellous! I’m afraid that as so much of the show is formulaic, and designed entirely to service the God of Good Telly, I now tend to switch off a little from the goings on. Unfortunately this means that I am focusing instead on everyone’s clothes and knees and noses. My goodness the women are a fascinating-looking bunch. In profile at the boardroom table they looked like Greek statues, except statues obviously don’t all scream, ‘You’re just TOTALLY AGGRESSIVE’ at each other. That Paloma, what is she doing here? She has the splendidly imperious look of a  Peruvian princess. She should be hanging out with polo players and married to a viscount, not elbowing for tv airtime with a bunch of  undignified Yahoos.

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The Apprentice: a dog’s breakfast

Is it laws and sausages you never want to see being made? I’m not sure it’s healthy to see the inner mental workings of an ambitious surgeon either, judging by last night’s return of The Apprentice. And the juxtapositioning (in viewing terms) of beautiful cuisine being made on MasterChef with rusk-filled dog turds created by the boys’ team on The Apprentice last night was all a bit much for me. But despite the stomach churning raw meat and blue hairnets that reminded me of a bad holiday job in a chicken factory, all the necessary ingredients are in place for a classic series. Monstrous, rampant egotism and humongously misplaced self-belief. Very young men who think it makes their willies look bigger to wave them around a lot. Well, metaphorically anyway, in the form of sausages. Women who support each other and work cooperatively (apart from Melissa) until a few episodes along, or when they lose, in which case they too will turn on each other with hair straighteners at dawn.

And talking of dawn, the first task began at midnight. It was a marathon session and a vertiginous learning curve. Both teams had to go to Smithfield to buy meat, then design and make sausages to sell on the street. The contestants were all, therefore, very tired which naturally enough ramps up the tensions. In sausage terms, the men went for cheap, the women, gourmet (ie contained some meat). As per every series so far, the men’s selling technique involved too much testosterone, the women with blatant sexual innuendo (‘Would your wife like to try a new sausage at home?’). But the sharpest mathematical knives in the drawer by a mile were those of two members of the women’s team, who nailed their price per pack with impressive skill. Continue reading

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