Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Apprentice Series 9 Episode 1





Lord Sugar was just in time. Only just freed from his recent legal battle with the last of his Apprentices (again demonstrating the noble peer’s uncanny knack of using the most detailed interview process on the planet to skillfully select someone who would soon be suing him) he set forth to find another business partner/potential accuser to whom he would give £250 000 of something which may or may not be money (I think it could be advice but I might be wrong). In return the person gets to let Sugar own half their business and the opportunity to humiliate themselves on national television.  

The sixteen candidates lost no time in throwing themselves into the first task. Some of you may be under the mistaken impression this was selling stuff from a container but you would be wrong. The real first task is to say something ridiculously boastful and unpleasant to the camera therefore liberating the watching audience from feeling guilty about revelling in their failure. This is the key point about The Apprentice. The programme makers have to make us despise the candidates right from the get-go or it just isn’t any fun for anyone.

Fortunately for the programme makers the candidates are always more than happy to oblige. Each one riffed individually on the same theme which was broadly that they were ruthless, determined, decision-makers and soon-to-be wealth creators who would happily stomp all over their competitors, their families, their neighbours and possibly some cute kittens too in order to go into business (and perhaps an eventual court case) with the grizzly guru. If you close your eyes and just listened, it sounded like jazz. Played without instruments. By psycopaths.

But Lord Sugar was having none of it. He’d heard all this type of stuff before and he was paying no attention to the big talk. My own personal highpoint of the episode came when he told the candidates he was fed up of clich├ęs because “actions speak louder than words.”

But in the boardroom nobody laughed.

So instead we got down to picking a Project Manager. The man formerly known as Sir Alan threw a curve ball making them self-nominate a Project m
Manager there and then. Now this blog has noted before that The man even more formerly known as Alan likes firing two types of people more than any other - first, older women and then people with lots of qualifications. So who managed to put themselves in the firing line fastest – yep the oldest woman, Jaz, and the man who described himself as a perpetual student, Jason. Lord Sugar must have been rubbing his briefs (legal) in anticipation of the first finger pointing.

The task was to get a whole load of stuff from a container and sell it. I don’t think coming up with task number one involved much burning of the midnight oil for the programme makers. It did for the contestants however as they’d already been up since the witching hour and there was to be no sleep for them until tomorrow's boardroom.

High on testosterone, adrenaline and almost certainly the smell of their own aftershave the boys were an unmanageable chaos of shouty suggestions. Jason looked bewildered. History seminars had never been like this even when things had got heated about which of the two defenestrations of Prague was the actually the real defenestration of Prague.

The boys sensed weakness and all told Jason he wasn’t managing them. Then they told him again. And again. Some people would have thought it was only fair to give Jason maybe a microsecond to do some managing before repeating the complaint but those people wouldn’t have made it through the auditions.  Somehow Jason managed to appoint Neil to run a sub-team. Neil had no hesitation in telling the cameras that this meant he was a better man than Jason and Jason knew it. Neil plays football very competitively at an amateur level having not been quite good enough to make it as a professional. It showed.

Meanwhile, over in the girls’ team, Jaz was asking everybody what they could expect of her and what she could, in her turn, expect of them. Here, to paraphrase the bearded clichemeister, expressions spoke louder than words. The other girls’ faces clearly stated that what they expected of Jaz was to get fired instead of them if they lost. What she could expect of them was that they would help her lose. You really can’t say fairer than that.

And so it came to pass. After a few traditional Apprentice cock-ups - the aimless bicker-filled wandering, the attempts to sell to someone who cannot buy and the negotiations which stank of desperation, the inter-team phone calls became ever shriller and by the time they reached the boardroom the girls knew they were in real trouble.

But before the loser could be revealed the boys had to be given the opportunity to get stuck into Jason which they duly did with gusto. Poor Jason looked genuinely shocked. Surely these guys were his chums, his buddies, his compadres...they were all in it together just a few moments ago, weren’t they? Suddenly it seemed they were all more than happy to see him summarily defenestrated.

But fortunately the windows of Lord Sugar’s pretend boardroom (his real one is in Slough and is much cheaper) remained unopened. For the boys had won. Once outside, Jason found himself engulfed in a huge celebratory group hug which is one thing that should have come as no surprise – history, as he knows better than most, is always being rewritten by the winning side.

Sadly for Jaz, the losing side doesn’t get this option. History was against her. She hadn’t managed, she hadn’t sold but, worst of all, she was old. Sugar’s finger like Jaz’s taxi was only ever heading one way.

And now a prediction because I do like being wrong. If I was a betting man I’d put my money on Tim. He has something of the young gauche enthusiast about him which always seems to appeal to Sugar. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have too many qualifications.

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