The Apprentice Season 7 - Part 1
It's an excuse worthy of the boardroom, but when I agreed to cover The Apprentice for TDF, I didn't expect to be faced with most boring set of candidates we've yet seen on the show. In fact, it's take eleven episodes to generate anything actually worth writing about.
It's likely a result of the show's tweaked format: this year the winner of The Apprentice doesn't become Alan Sugar's apprentice, but instead wins an investment in their business of £250,000. In exchange for half-ownership going to His Sugar-ness. So what we have are a bunch of candidates that aren't as hilariously useless as usual, because they can't just be buried in an obscure job at one of Sugar's companies for a year, nor are they particularly good, as if they were they'd have started up the business themselves already. Or gone on Dragon's Den, which only takes twelve minutes, not twelve weeks. Though to be fair, Leon already tried that.
Week 1: Ed Hunter
Ah Ed, we barely knew you. It was truly awful to see you go so early, as your name offered this writer so many opportunities for bad jokes about head-hunters.
It's interesting that this first task, as ever, is meant to demonstrate how you can start-up a small business from practically nothing, as the teams set about selling food. The winning team were commended for making nearly £600 in a day from nothing. Isn't that inspiring? That anyone could do that. That we could all get seven mates, hire a kitchen (apparently that's free), and after two full days of work come home with £75 each. At over £4.70 an hour, that's nearly the minimum wage for 18-year-olds. Nearly.
Most wonderful of all was Ed's appearance on You're Fired, where he explained exactly why he made the choices he did, before the panel all agreed he should have been fired anyway: "didn't you listen to a word of what I just said?" said Ed, still clinging to the idea that he'll be remembered for anything other than recruitment-based puns.
Week 2: Alex Cabral
In probably one of the most interesting and original tasks of the series, the teams had to make a mobile phone app. After a few false starts, with Susan asking the developers to basically re-invent FourSquare overnight, both teams went with soundboard apps. The girls' app was more annoying, so somewhat inevitably won, despite Edna attempting to pitch it at the Eurogamer Expo in full-on Phillipa Forrester circa-Robot Wars attire.
Alex was sent packing for being lazy, and we pretty much forgot everything about him other than the fact he's an estate agent. And there's a fun and interesting article by the developers of the apps here.
Week 3: Gavin Winstanley
It's that task where our candidates have to find a whole bunch of items on sale in London, and get them for the cheapest price. When you see them haggling with shop owners in London, you could be forgiven for thinking that this actually works in real life. Because it does, but only if you take a cameraman and boom operator in to the shop with you.
To make sure it's entirely unrealistic, the teams are also banned from using the internet (because it's bad television) and have to negotiate at least a penny off the price for it to count (to make sure they don't go to wholesalers or chain stores and get the actual lowest price). And while it's easy to mock, we have to remember that watching the candidates leaf through phone directories looking for suppliers is the only evidence people the people who compile the Yellow Pages have that anyone still uses them. It's essential for their job satisfaction. And sanity.
Gavin goes home, but wins my personal award for being one of the few candidates whose business website shows up above the BBC Apprentice website in a Google search. Whether that speaks to the quality of his business, or how boring he was on the show, I couldn't possibly say.
Week 4: Felicity Jackson
Selling beauty treatments in the Midlands. Oi! Stop sniggering at the back. As a midlander myself, this struck me as a somewhat unbalanced task. One team were stationed at the Bullring, a shopping centre that has recently had millions of pounds of redevelopment work done. The other team were in Merry Hill, affectionately known as Merry Hell to the locals, and famous for still having some disused monorail tracks on its roof.
And yet somehow, the team at Merry Hill won the task. And Felicity went home for failing to realise that saying "the beauty treatment room is up three floors and somewhere on the left" isn't a great sales pitch.
Week 5: Ellie Reed & Vincent Disneur
A task to create and pitch pet food saw Glenn squeak out a victory and in the process make himself the only male project manager to do so this entire series. All this despite "Cat-Size: see their light". I felt bad for Glenn. As someone who turns his hand to writing jokes on occasion, I know the frustration. Cat's eyes / cat size, light of a cat's eye in the road / a lighter cat / diet cat food... all the ingredients seem to be there for the perfect pun, but no matter how you put them together, it just never quite works. Sometimes the English language just conspires against you. It was either bravado or idiocy that convinced Glenn to go ahead regardless though, and in doing so caused the unremarkable Ellie to get the chop.
But Sir Sugar wasn't don't yet, and got rid of Vincent too, causing the loss of our first real 'character' from this year's show. But somehow we get by without him. Many people felt it was Vincent's bragging about his own slimy good looks that really marked him out as a bit of a prat, but for me it was an entirely different conversation that led to the same conclusion. At one point, the teams had been asked to meet Sir Alan at the British Museum. "Tom looks like the sort of person who would be familiar with the British Museum" sneered Vincent. Yeah! Take that Tom! You look like the sort of person that might be educated and have an interest in history! And in that moment, you realise that Vincent never really figured out how the world worked outside of the school playground. Though after assuming I couldn't possibly even like him, even I felt a twinge of sympathy when he appeared on You're Fired and the only person willing to stand up for him was Kelvin MacKenzie.
Week 6: Edna Agbarha
The teams have to sift through a whole load of rubbish in order to find a few valuable bits and pieces. For some reason while writing this article I'm really starting to relate to this task.
In theory it could have been an interesting task, but instead the whole thing was over-shadowed by the teams not really knowing what was going on. They were meant to sell their services as waste disposal and charge their clients, except for the one with the desks who they were meant to pay. Tom wasn't sure if you were allowed to steal barbecues or not. Then Edna got fired for being far to corporate for Sugar to deal with.
More in Part 2 here