Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Apprentice (UK) Season 8 Episode 2

          Mathematical functions were big problems for the two teams this week. Firstly, division. It is an iron law of mathematics that if you take one large team and halve it you will get two smaller teams. And it is an iron law of reality television that those two teams will need to be apart for only a moment before they begin to distrust each other and disagree violently.
          So it proved.
          Given the challenge to design a kitchen, bathroom or garden gadget and pitch it to two big retailers, Phoenix (“The boys”) flushed with success after last weeks triumph set about it with much hearty mutual encouragement. They picked a project manager, Azhar who told us he is “like a killer whale of the sea world” to handily differentiate himself from all those land-based killer whales. Unaware of the orca amongst them the others began the brainstorm and thanks to Duane emerged with the idea of a bin that crushed waste. But more importantly would it crush Sterling?
          It was certainly looking that way. Sterling (“The girls”) resembled a braindrizzle rather than a brainstorm. First, they niggled over selecting a Project Manager. Katie, after last week's miracle escape, was desperate to step up but the other girls showing their own orca-like tendencies were having none of it. As far as they were concerned Katie was a penguin with one broken flipper and they were going to leave her to flap. They picked the brisk Jane instead. But even Brisk Jane couldn’t get a product out of them no matter how hard she tapped on the white board and said “Guys, guys!”
          Phoenix split into teams to do design and market research. The ever predictable sub-team coup started the instant the taxi did with Adam the plain-speaking, tell-it-like-it-is, salt-of-the-earth, honest-as-the-day-is-long market trader trashing Duane’s crusher bin in favour of a perverse mutation of heat resistant gloves and pan scourers – Glowerers, perhaps. At the focus group he was told bluntly “They sound silly and I wouldn’t buy them.” Luckily, Adam has magic ears which were able to translate this as “unanimous support” for his Glowerers in the subsequent phone call with Azhar.
          Brisk Jane’s “Guys! Guys!” had eventually borne fruit and the girls had a product. Thanks to Laura, a mum (and who dares argue with mums who, as we all know, having reproduced are entitled to win all arguments), it was a splash screen for the kids bathtime. The sub-team was despatched to do market research but took the opportunity led by Katie to stage a mutiny of their own. If Captain Bligh was a splash screen then Fletcher Christian was a tap cosy. A tap cosy! For the people who a big H and the colour red just isn’t enough. Has it come to this? That we need protection from our own taps!
          Amazingly just as it had come to pass with Phoenix so Sterling’s focus group turned out to say exactly what the person who was conducting the group wanted them to which probably explains the Curly Wurly and New Labour.
          Azhar the Orca and Brisk Jane’s leaderships teetered. But they did not fall. The tap cosy was smashed against Splish Splash. The glowerers were crushed by Ecopress.
          At which point the boys from the Phoenix sub-team came over all emotional. Ricky complained to Azhar that their input was not valued and invited him to empathise with their rejected feelings. Sadly empathy doesn’t come naturally to killer whales. Just ask a Wedell seal.
          The next morning the products arrived. This moment is always glossed over a little in The Apprentice as it doesn’t do to mention that the professional product designers the show employs have done all the real work while the competitors were back at the house feeling each others pain. Luckily, both teams can be relied upon not to dwell for a second on where much of the credit lies if it’s not with them.
          So to pitch. Amazon is a big retailer, no question. But whether an opening gambit of a million units was a wise approach by Jane was up for debate. Not least by the watching Karen’s eyebrows which were up so far threatened to launch themselves into the stratosphere. Still at least they couldn’t make things worse. Oh, of course they could. When questioned about the margins on the product by Mr Amazon, Jane referred him to her financial team which turned out to be a blank-looking Gabrielle and Jenna and their fingers - neither of whom appeared to know how to multiply by ten, never mind by a million. From the looks on the faces of the buyers this probably wasn’t going to matter all that much.
          Phoenix had sternly ordered Duane the Inventor to keep silent and entrusted the pitch to the experienced Stephen who is a national sales manager for something or other. And as something or other was pretty much how he tried to sell the Ecopress. His hangdog manner as he laboured through his spiel spoke volumes to the potential buyers. Behind him, Duane squirmed in his seat and began to twitch. Finally, throwing off his vow of silence like a drowning Trappist, he launched into a passionate defence of Ecopress. If it didn’t work he could be finished but greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his bin - Duane didn’t care.
          Back in the boardroom Lord Sugar was unimpressed. The Ecopress looked like “something to store nuclear waste in” he told Phoenix which left the viewers hoping that Viglen has no active contracts with Sellafield. Adam, the glowerers cruelly smothered at birth still fresh in his mind, saw his chance for revenge. Demonstrating a superb grasp of George Orwell’s concept of Doublethink he informed Lord Sugar that he was behind the Ecopress one hundred and ten percent while simultaneously thinking it was rubbish. Over in the girl's team, Jenna and Gabrielle exchanged glances and wondered what the word percent meant. The boys sniffed defeat in the air and all began to desert the Azhar the ailing orca.
          But the boys were wrong. Duane’s Ecopress had crushed and they were off to The Ivy. The girls had another date at the Bridge Café. Brisk Jane was in trouble and she knew it. She dragged Yappy Jenna from the finance team and Chippy Maria from the "I fell asleep in the car" team into the boardroom where they all competed to see who could talk themselves into getting fired the best. Jenna told Lord Sugar she was a trier, Jane told Lord Sugar she was a wanter and Maria told Lord Sugar she hadn’t been asleep for that long.  But her powerless nap proved costly and Maria became the latest subtraction from the “process”. Fifteen had become fourteen unless of course you happen to be part of Sterling’s finance team. In which case fifteen had become something else but nobody could be exactly sure what. 
        Tricky stuff, Maths. 

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