Now in its 11th series, there’s something comforting about The Apprentice. I think it’s the combination of autumnal weather and looming deadlines that makes it so soothing to curl up on the sofa and wail with glee at a bunch of self-assured idiots embarrassing themselves.
The BBC handbook decrees that The Apprentice must start with picturesque views of London before panning to Alan’s – sorry, Lord Sugar’s – personalised planes and cars. A quarter of a million pound investment up for grabs, as per. Foreboding music accompanies the familiar voiceover man and we all snuggle deeper under our blankets, rubbing our hands in excitement for the vomit-inducing candidate soundbites. “I want the cars, I want the girls, but most of all, I want the POWER.” Amazing. “I am DISGUSTINGLY ambitious.” Wow. “I’m a Swiss Army knife of business skills.” Jackpot.
Obviously we have to hear Alan’s spiel about how he started out as a nobody, did loads of work, blah blah, now he’s amazing.
A great sadness for everyone watching is that Nick Hewer’s decided to pack it in as one of Alan’s advisers. Back in the good old days, he and Margaret were like your disapproving grandparents. Now we have the coiffed Karren Brady and the terrifying Claude Littner, who I struggle to believe has any friends because he’s so damn mean. Obviously we have to hear Alan’s spiel about how he started out as a nobody, did loads of work, blah blah, now he’s amazing. One last close up of his grizzly cheeks and we’re finally on to the task. We kicked off with the standard– a buy cheap, faff around, sell for £££s – involving fish.
We got more than our money’s worth of blunders. Serious indecision over team leaders and ensuing shouting matches resulted in Selina saying she was in hell. You and me both, love. In London’s massive fish market we were shown a shocking lack of bartering from April and Ruth, going round asking if anyone had cod. In the kitchen we had hapless Dan messing up his calculations and Brett trying to run the place as if he was still in the forces. Still, his Devonshire accent made us feel at home.
Serious indecision over team leaders and ensuing shouting matches resulted in Selina saying she was in hell. You and me both, love.
£9 for a tuna salad in a lunch box? Turning up to sell lunch, erm, after lunch? Trying to sell fish to a vegan shop? Even a business freshling wouldn’t have made some of these mistakes. But, after all the drama of rotting calamari and a howlingly low profit of £1.87, it was Dan Callaghan who got fired for his lack of… well, everything really. Lack of sales and sums, I think. He was the one who Sugar barked “get yer ‘ands out yer pockets!” at the start. Bless. Dan was too precious for such a cannibalistic process. “I can’t sell!” he yelped. “Shoot me!” So Sugar did. It’s like Dan got confused and should have been on the Bake Off, last week, with all the other lovable and self-deprecating contestants.
Episode 2 had 800,000 viewers less than the first. I wonder if, like me, the other 799,999 didn’t realise it was on the next day. Not a problem, that’s why iPlayer exists. In case we’d acquired amnesia in the past 24 hours we were again shown sunrise over London, contestants tearing into each other, Sugar being a grumpy git, the usual.
It was back to boys vs. girls for a marketing campaign for shampoo Week 2, inducing some classic gender-based bitching. A fierce battle over project manager for the girls was won by the cool Aisha who proceeded to ignore everyone and run with an idea everyone thought was terrible. Classic Apprentice. The boys poured watering cans of water over a model, then all pitched in to dry him for no apparent reason other than to guffaw “stay away from the package!” Okay. The girls were aiming for an over 50 market but their models looked about 12 so Ruth gallantly stepped in with some cringey acting that Sugar likened to a kebab.
The Apprentice pitches seem to exist in another world. These professionals spouted out lines like “the green bottle was chosen because the cactus is green” (Vana) and Scott painfully forgot his words. Teammates watched the pitches in another room and did more bitching, this time mostly deserved.
Fast forward 20 minutes, and Sugar was branding the boy’s advertising campaigns “one of the best” he’s seen on The Apprentice (really?!) and treating them to anti-gravity yoga. The girls sat in the ubiquitous café before a boardroom fight featuring Aisha being branded a dictator before snarling ‘DON’T TOUCH ME!’ at Natalie. Karren said Natalie’s pitch was so boring that she felt like she was in a university lecture (ahem) and to be honest I really thought she was going to go. Alas, it was Aisha who got the chop. Charleine, the hairdresser spurned as PM for a task about hair, didn’t bother hiding her delight back at the house. There was a brief joke about 2 of them being in the shower together, which was funny and I’d rather have more of that than boardroom blaming. Next week looks pretty standard, a task which involves leaping over fences and some of them going to France for some reason.
The Apprentice is entertaining but, like 3rd years, getting a bit tired. There is huge potential for an Apprentice drinking game based on the clichés and glaringly obvious pre-written jokes. Acorns turning into oak trees, something about Tinder – it’s at times like these that I realise people on this show take themselves seriously, and get freaked out, and think about how I should be writing that essay due tomorrow. As the greatly missed Dan would say, I’m just going to throw my thought into the thought pond: The Apprentice may be back, but let’s hope it proves itself to be worth watching too.