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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Apprentice: 10 Years of Selling: Talent or Tool?

Perhaps it's the fact that we've had to wait a lot longer for this new series, or perhaps it's the lack of dramas to get our teeth stuck into of late, whatever the reason I was strangely excited about the return of The Apprentice.  Much like the beeb's other massive success (that show where people bake cakes), we all know the formula of this business reality show like the back of our hands. Perhaps it's its familiarity that we latch onto.

The Apprentice has become a TV institution, but unlike a certain Saturday Night singing competition I don't feel it has outstayed its welcome just yet. I have to admit I was nervously excited and as the opening sequence revealed the 20 new candidates (four of whom were surprised to the other 16), it was just like old times.

Surallan, as he will now forever be known, was his grumpy codger old self, Nick Hewer was still squinty and cynical, despite being softened by Countdown, and Karren Brady, who anyone underestimates at their peril, brought just a whiff of steely glamour.

Before them stood 20 bright-eyed, bristlingly eager candidates, all desperate to prove themselves during the first task, selling the items featured in the opening instalments of the previous 9 series of the show. So, that meant coffee, lemons, potatoes, t-shirts, sausages, flowers and balloons. Yikes.

Divided into boys and girls, first they chose team leaders. Felipe - who somewhat creepily referred to himself in the third person - took the lead for the boys, who named their team Summit (huh?) while Sarah grabbed the girls by the horns, agreed to the name Decadence (even bigger huh?) and tried to drag them back 40 years.

She called on her team to wear short skirts and nice makeup, as she prepared them to sell to the masses. While the women looked on, horrified, Sarah declared that “females are more attractive” and are therefore better able to sell stuff. Sarah's tenor as the first project manager seemed doomed from the start as she championed cutting lemons into segments so they could sell more! Business genius!

Her project management style was simple: shout loudest, wear the reddest lipstick and stand around, telling everyone within lung-bursting distance that “I’m project manager, I’m managing this project”, while her minions sweated, slaved and ran what looked like the length of London in heels with big bags of potatoes.

Felipe, meanwhile, seemed to fare better. Robert - a dandyish sort who favours bow ties, espadrilles and NO SOCKS (how long before Lord Sugar bollocks him for that one?) trotted off to a supermarket in search of high-class ingredients to make their simple hot dogs more attractive to high class (and presumably stupid) lunchtime Londoners.

At the same time, Jason Statham-lookylike, Chiles (seriously, I spent the entire episode thinking his name was Charles but everyone was a bit posh), and fellow mini-team member Steven from Canada butted heads. In Steven’s defence, everything he said was right, but Chiles had to prove his manliness, and so flatly refused to listen to anything approaching reason.

As the opening instalment gathered pace, Sarah looked increasingly ludicrous and Felipe, despite not selling his t-shirts, seemed to have his shit together. Of course, when it came to the figures in the boardroom, despite the shambles that was Sarah’s project management style, the girls nicked the first win of the series - although they have been ordered to change their silly name.
Which left the boys in a bit of a pickle. As the girls scampered off to enjoy the delights of a VIP trip on the London Eye, Felipe and his team were given the Surallan treatment. Accusations flew back and forth and more than one finger pointed Steven’s way. “Don’t you dare!” he snarled and snapped, the diva in him threatening to burst forth at any moment, but Felipe saw sense, (especially after he was warned not to drag any old Tom, Dick or Steven in to the boardroom without good reason).

So, it came down to Robert (presumably minus socks), Felipe and Chiles to face the cold wrath of Surallan. Robert gave as good as he got over those bloody sausages, with Karren chiming in that the extra cheese (which lost them 90 minutes of selling time) was a waste, while Chiles even had the cojones to sneer at Ms Brady. Maybe it was that, and not his ability to shift a bunch of t-shirts that saw him become the first candidate of the 2014 series to get the boot…

Tool or Talent: A Guide to This Year’s Candidates - Task 1

Felipe - talks about himself in the third person - Tool
Steven - could claw your eyes out at any moment, but talks sense - Talent
Daniel - donned a daft costume to shift hotdogs - Talent
Robert - really? We have to say anything? - Tool
Sanjay - lurked in the background and kept out of the firing line - Talent (for now)
Solomon - decent salesman, supported his team leader - Talent
Scott - tried hard, but did bugger all - Tool
James - Interrupted when told not to at a pitch - Talent
Mark - Couldn’t shut James up at a pitch - Tool
Chiles  - Fired

Sarah - Good grief - Tool
Ella - Solid performance, spoke sense - Talent
Bianca - looks like a Sugababe reject, but has brains - Talent
Jemma - Who? - Tool
Lindsay - Complained a lot to Sarah, but makes kick-ass coffee - Talent
Lauren - Stayed in the background, clearly has opinions - Talent
Nurun - suggested group name Decadence, but was unclear on the meaning - Tool
Pamela - quiet but solid start - Talent
Katie - we love her for #london t-shirt design - Talent
Roisin - cool, calm collected - the one to watch - Talent

The Apprentice Continues Tonight at 9.00pm on BBC ONE

Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington

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