What to say if you liked it
Sir Alan Sugar, one of our nation’s foremost businessmen, takes 14 apprentices under his wing to learn the harsh realities of modern commerce, from which only one deserving winner will emerge.
What to say if you didn’t like it
Fourteen raw specimens of concentrated ego are moulded into a successor to the epitome of arrogance – avaricious entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar.
What was good about it?
• Sir Alan’s pitifully hilarious efforts to appear tall and imposing from standing on a staircase in the Financial Times print room above his acolytes, that made him look like a squat Darth Vader, to his boardroom throne that has a back so large Godzilla could use it as a surfboard.
• Even though Paul Torrisi made an initially bad impression (“I’m sly and ruthless”), we were won over by his endearing technique in selling the flowers by trying to connect with the punters. While trying to sell a bunch of lilies to an old lady he pleaded: “If you buy a bunch of flowers, I’ll buy you one.”
• Despite its faults, The Apprentice is strangely watchable especially when Sir Alan has to “fire” somebody, rather like in Halloween where the uniformally detestable teens are bumped off one by one, only Sir Alan culls the apprentices with a scarcely disguised disgust.
What was bad about it?
• One of the first remarks Sir Alan made was to reveal the incentive to the winner was “a job that’s going to bring a six figure salary”. And that sums it up that nobody is doing this for anybody else other than themselves, unlike, say, Jamie Oliver’s recent altruistic culinary quests. The 14 apprentices are after money while Sir Alan benefits from a vastly raised, though not necessarily improved, public profile.
• Sir Alan is one of least appealing people to appear on television this year. “Never, ever, ever underestimate me.” Oh, we’re so scared! He also likes saying “fired” while simultaneously jabbing with his forefinger as though he’s been up all night practising for this most facile indulgence of egotism. And his rudeness when “firing” Adenike: “Adenike, what have you got to say?” but before she could respond, Sir Alan raged: “I’ll tell you what the problem is with you!”
• The faux forced enthusiasm of the apprentices as they entered their luxury eight bedroom abode (“Chairs!” “Tables!” “A garden!”), as if they’d spent the last decade locked in a room accumulating money with no time to go home or even step outside.
• Other than Paul Torrisi, none of the other apprentices made a favourable impression. This is not to say they are all vermin in human skin, but more a case that many were not allowed to shine. For instance, flower selling project manager Saira Khan seemed, or at least was edited as such, to be an insufferable autocrat who largely ignored her team’s suggestions or cut them short (“Can I just stop you for a minute…” or “Can I just say…).
• You could edit the contribution of 6’ 9” haystack Matthew Palmer anyway you wanted and you’d still want to spread him on the cow dung. He “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, which must mean it’s torture to live with himself, and when the boys’ flower selling team started selling flowers near to where he lived in Maida Vale he came over like a posh Reggie Kray demanding they sell where he told them because “it’s my manor”.
• The tiresome overt masculinity of the men’s team Impact (“We are seven lions!”) and misguided macho feminism of the women’s team First Forté (“We are strong, independent women!”).
• Many of the contributions consisted of the apprentices churning out by rote the rubbish everyone says at job interviews (“I’m a team player”, “I am creative”, “I’m an individual”).
• The boys’ gloating after they won the flower selling challenge (“The women, you’ve never seen a sorrier mob in your life!”); and their subsequent “champagne reception” in Sir Alan’s capsule at the London Eye, so the lads could view what he descibed as “our wonderful metropolis” which is true so long as you don’t get a glimpse of White Hart Lane, home of the football team he helped speed into mediocrity.
Top 10 highlights of The Apprentice, BBC2
1 – Lindsay’s laughable idea in the challenge to design a new toy. Inspired by semaphore, she came up with a stupid thing called Secret Signals for pre-texting preteens. “Maybe in the 1960s they’d have got away with it,” said a games company expert. “I find this boring,” said Sir Sugar. It wasn’t as bad as a rejected idea involving toddlers playing with electricity sockets, but was not as good as a robot that all the women preferred especially Saira (The robot idea is modern. The next century.”). Despite putting Secret Signals and the robot to a vote several times, and losing every time, Lindsay still persisted with her pathetic cards – and deservedly got fired.
2 – Lindsay’s laughable bullshit. “We’re just crystalising the options.” “I didn’t have much visibility on Adele’s contribution.”
3 – Lindsay’s laughable style of waving – with wiggling fingers.
4 – The gloating smiles of the women when Sir Sugar found toys similar to the Switch Back invention by the men – a sort of electronic Top Trumps. And the way those smiles suddenly vanished when he said he liked it anyway.
5 – The men being early worms and not waking the women up until 20 minutes before they all had to leave.
6 – We so love to hate Saira who runs around all the time, talks in a Terribly Emphatic Way and does a sort of grasping movement with her hands when she’s speaking.
7 – Sir Sugar being so wrong when he said “kids are the most disloyal consumers in the world.” Has he not heard of Sunny Delight, Pokemon, crack cocaine?
8 – Big boring Matthew coming up with this week’s David Brentism. “Our strengths are, what are we? We are men. Ditto. I think the toy we should be designing is for boys.”
9 – The Adele v Saira squabble. “You’re too hyperactive.” “Listen to the emotive language you’re using.”
10 – Paul being bitchy about the amount of make-up the women cake on.
Top 5 highlights of The Apprentice, BBC2
1 – The squabbling between Miranda (Jane Moore lookalike) and Adele (looks like she should be in Emmerdale). We wanted patronising Adele to be fired, but Miranda got the boot for being disloyal after being appointed power-mad Adele’s PA. “I delegated it to you. That’s what delegation is”. “Make yourself clearer in future.” “If I was talking to you, I’d look at you.” “She’s a very confused person.”
2 – Hearing the expressions “wowee” and “oh cripes” for the first time since we left school. This bunch of wannabes are more like big kids than big businesspeople.
3 – Big blob Matthew being useless as teamleader but, rather unjustly, securing a win thanks to Saira’s strongarm tactics (“We are the Asian team”) in getting a free Freeview box in the buying task.
4 – The bowler hat disaster when Matthew’s team struggled to find somewhere to buy one – and then found out that the place they’d uncovered only sold second-hand (second-head?) hats when they needed a new one.
5 – Tim being quiet and sexy while Adele and Miranda bickered like Albert Square murdereresses.
Top 5 highlights of The Apprentice, BBC2
1 – The humiliation of miserable, deluded, paranoid Adele (“I’ve never been so undermined and demeaned in my life”), who took the easy way out by jumping before she was pushed after her arrogance upset Harrods’ expert Sean during the task to part gullible tourists from their money in return for sending them back across the seas with tat.
2 – Marigay from Harrods passing on the corner shop’s unique philosophy – “Teeth make smiles and smiles make sales.” Couldn’t she just have said “Smile, you bunch of self-important tossers.”?
3 – The smarmy Paul suffering a double humiliation – his ineptitude at maths was exposed and he was forced to don the costume of Rosie Bear which made him sweat link a (capitalist) pig
4 – The clod Matthew tripping up, nearly hitting his head and generally behaving like a village idiot.
5 – Ben’s horrified look when Adele survived the previous firing. He must be mightily relieved now.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
What roles would the candidates assume in Sir Alan Sugar’s business empire?
Paul – His mono-obsession with cars left him bereft of purpose in the frantic gallery sale of Lucy Bennett’s art. At one point he hilariously tried to compensate for his artistic ignorance by analogising the paintings of naked ladies with the bodywork of classic Italian sports cars which were “based on the female woman”. And while narrowly escaping the sack, his usually sunburnt effervescent face was a frigid scowl, which brought out his latent sexism (“The first time we have a girl as project manager, we lose.” “Put a woman in a position of power and she goes doo-lally. Adolf flamin’ Hitler.”) In Sir Alan Sugar’s company, his role would be the customised human/automobile hybrid which subserviently ferries Sir Alan to and from meaningless meetings all the while leaking an oily slug trail to lubricate its path.
Saira – Until this point her lack of humanity has been a virtue, as it is with all business people, but her failure to appreciate the expensive art of Rob and Nicky Carter through her obsession with that everything can only be measured in fiscal vernacular cost them their services which went to Firste Forte. “We have a great record in selling.” “Did you sell all of them?” “Who would buy a painting like this?” “What is the price range?” were among her clumsy enquiries; but worst of all was her sales pitch over the phone. “Are you the right person to talk to?” she asked Nicky belittlingly, and later patronisingly listed the team’s favourite colours as if they were at all relevant. In Sir Alan Sugar’s company, her role would be Director of Soul Management where she would dissect and analyse the souls of all employees with a view to putting them on the stock market to sell for more important business commodities like shares in British Telecom and EasyJet.
James – His myopic appreciation of art where he churned out winsome platitudes about the work of Rob and Nicky Carter that he might lavish on all paintings (“Oh, that’s fabulous! That’s amazing!” “It moves off the paper at you!”) was effective in winning Firste Forte the best art collection, and being the ultimate victors in the contest. In Sir Alan Sugar’s company, his arms and legs would be mutated into two giant pairs of hands and he would squat in the corner of the boardroom like an obedient dog clapping ferociously at anything Sir Alan said.
Ben – Moved about in the shadows and left all the hard work to his more artistically conversant team mates, but his telling personal ethos of “I think there is no place in business for emotion” makes him the ideal person in Sir Alan’s company to be Director of Emotional Persecution who scrutinises all employees displaying feeling and passion and then burns the endearing compassion from their beings with unremitting lectures on the benefits of Keynesian economics in modern commerce.
Rachel – Despite being the losing project manager she survived by blaming Matthew and Paul for all her team’s ills in her unique business idiom which makes her verbally illegible to anyone not in an overpriced suit. In Sir Alan’s company, she would be the Director of Boardroom Cheerleading who does nothing other than guide other directors to Sir Alan’s point of view with catchy rhymes along the lines of: “Two-four-six-eight! Who-do-we-really-hate? Matth-ew! Be-cause-he-needs-to-verbalise-his-mental-processes!”
Matthew – The lumbering three-legged oxen was “fired” after his bad temper reduced him to the role of irritating human car alarm, blaring out expletives in a posh accent after he claimed Firste Forte had purloined some of the invitations meant for both teams. Later, Rachel kept him away from buyers by making him stand outside the gallery and poach potential customers from a gallery across the road. In Sir Alan’s company, his bad temper precludes him from a core role and he would be rebranded as a water cooler that irascibly bubbles away in the corner of the room.
Raj – Made little contribution to Impact’s effort and his only deed of note was to fruitlessly persuade television’s Mr Anti-Christ, Dr Fox, to attend their art sale. In Sir Alan’s company, he would be Director of Communications with Sordid and Disreputable Clients.
Sebastian and Miriam – This pair were both on the winning side, but made a negligible donation to the success. In Sir Alan’s company, Sebastian’s mouth would be stretched and moulded into the boardroom table and survive on a diet of rough-edged ideas which are then ruminated and disgorged in a fountain of upper-class cogency; while Miriam would be acoustically sensitive wallpaper which incessantly mutters all of Sir Alan’s suggestions to stubborn clients to subliminally plant his dogma in their heads.
Tim – Placated the outraged Matthew, but seemed anonymous otherwise. In Sir Alan’s company, he would be the The Apprentice, the Chosen One of legend.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
Which loyal candidates to the cause of Sir Alan Sugar’s ego, this week displayed in the form of a London bus with his Medusa-like stare plastered onto the side, were drinking deepest from the fiscally over spilling loins of Mammon this week?
1 – Saira. Just as footballers get locked into a cramped lexicon of expression churning out “basically”, “disappointed” and “he’s gone in there” like unpalatable cakes from grim Northern factories, so as the pressure grew Saira recoiled to the safety of her convoluted business glossary and her favourite, although highly inappropriate, word of “professional”. “I’m professional! I’m an actress!” she flounced as she was lectured on how to deliver an advertising pitch. “Paul, you don’t have to tell us how to be professional,” she tautly rebuked. Also exhibited a chronic ignorance of imagination, coming up with an appalling press ad (with hindrance from the ad agency’s “mac man”) and claiming that she moved the chairs around in the presentation area to “make the room look more creative”. At the end she sobbed uncontrollably, but hints in the media suggest she does better in future weeks.
2 – Paul. The man whose whole body is an oven that slow-bakes his face a deeper shade of permatan the higher the stakes get was again in Sir Alan’s sights, this time over his shambolic guise as Project Manager. As the safety pins fastening his enduring salesman’s grin popped out after he saw Saira and Rachel’s appalling press adverts, it looked as though the former favourite was going back to a life of flogging cars to people who would best serve the world by only using their vehicles in shut garages but he was saved as Rachel’s supposed advertising expertise was exposed as a sham. And we’re quite glad as it would mean we’d berobbed of moments like when, outraged at Saira’s claim that the feuding pair didn’t shake hands retorted: “I’m a Roman Catholic and, as God is my witness, I shook your hand out there!”
3 – Rachel. Got the boot because her “ideas board/mood board” for Amstrad’s new JB-1000 (a “cheap and tacky” CD player which can hold 10 CDs at one go in a market where the admittedly more expensive iPods can contain as many songs as there are people in the world), were dismissed by Sir Alan as a “total waste of space”. But her most appalling moment was during the presentation to the ad executives of Publicis when she pranced around like a corpulent ballet dancer and asked them: “How do you feel when you enter this room?” She followed up her opening atrocity by caressing her ideas board like a corporate hippy and exclaiming: “Music can do incredible things! What music represents is an escape from real life!”
4 – Simon Sugar. Sir Alan’s first born gave much hope to the candidates when he showed that belching marketing clichés and targeting the lowest common denominator to sell to are qualities much admired by Sir Alan. He branded Amstrad with the philosophy of being “value for money” and “user friendly”, which could have been plucked from Saira’s affliction of saleswoman’s Tourette’s Syndrome, all of which afforded Amstrad the identity of being the Jodie Marsh of businesses – up for anything no matter how vulgar or the cost to dignity.
The Apprentice, BBC2
The candidates continue to orbit the Sun sized ego of Sir Alan Sugar as they raise money for a charity auction at the Hackney Empire (Thank you, Sir Alan, says the marquee) by coercing 10 celebrities into coughing up prizes.
Paul: Despite committing a crime deserving of a prolonged torture when he sang “we are the cheeky boys” in the back of a car, Paul was firmly in his element dealing with the celebrities to extort the gifts to be auctioned for charity, especially when coaxing the motorbike from Diarmuid Gavin. If Paul were a planet he would be Mercury – small, brimming with half-baked ideas and permanently sun-tanned.
Miriam: Often quiet in previous weeks, Miriam is now surging to the fore as she becomes more confident. When Michael Winner needed to be charmed (“There are people starving and you are collecting money for a variety theatre?”), she persuaded him to part with four seats at his favourite restaurant the Ivy (the earthly equivalent of the lavish banquet halls of Valhalla if inhabited by Joseph Stalin and his fawning cronies). If Miriam were a planet she would be Venus – exploiting her alluring femininity to wheedle precious prizes from captivated male celebrities.
Raj: Utterly in awe of his idol Paul McKenna, Raj mumbled his way through the interview and ended up with a jumble of a therapy session and some DVDs, which caused confusion during the auction. If Raj were a planet he would be Mars – blushing crimson in the presence of Paul McKenna and having the capability to support life, despite a barren, sterile surface, but lacking the vitality to do so.
James: Sir Alan seemed jubilant James had finally lost and set about persecuting him for his inability “to close a deal” and being over-reliant on his charm after securing a near-worthless tour of the GMTV studios from the rather sour Eamonn Holmes. If James were a planet he would be Jupiter – relentlessly releasing inconsequential gusts of verbal wind that swarm politely around the giant red spot of his aristocratic insincerity most vilely shown by his exaggerated chortle at compere Griff Rhys Jones’ joke about “ a 19-year waiting list at the Ivy” as though he’d had first hand experience of it.
Saira: She relished the challenge of wresting items from celebrities as it enabled her inhuman insensitivity to be perceived as a virtue, and even had the audacity to claim she read “Mel Smith’s body language” which is like a boulder professing to comprehend the stars. Despite being satisfied with First Forte’s negotiations at the time, when they lost she wasted little time in plunging the knife into James over his failure to persuade Eamonn Holmes to give more generously. Apparently, she did well but most of her contributions were edited out. If Saira was a planet she would be Saturn – once past the dazzling exterior of her superficial front you quickly discover she’s little more than a gassy bag.
Ben: After lurking in the shadows for previous tasks, Sir Alan press-ganged Ben into being project leader and his abrasive, brusque style helped win Diarmuid Gavin’s prized motorbike and 50 tickets to the Chicago stage show. But most noticeable was his ungracious rudeness as he rarely thanked the celebrities for their gifts as though they were obliged to part with something valuable. If Ben were a planet he would be Uranus – because he acted like an arse.
Tim: He got very upset when the fractious Ian Wright accused him of caring more about the competition with the other team more than the charity he was collecting for and was only saved by Miriam’s impassioned plea. If Tim were a planet he would be Neptune – as his mood after emerging from the meeting with his sporting hero matched the deep blue shade of the planet.
Sebastian: Out of his depth from the beginning of this particular mission and his lingering ineptitude was finally exposed by the thinning number of candidates. Firstly, he was arranging a meeting with Mel Smith through his agent and forgot the name of the Hackney Empire. And when he finally met Mel, Sebastian slimed him with such grotesque sycophancy (“It’s a pleasure to meet you as I’m a huge fan of your work”) it could’ve been a scene in Ghostbusters, and he then only managed to secure four tickets to the opening night of Mel’s new play. If Sebastian were a planet he would be Pluto – on the periphery since day one and never really belonging to the durable, rough and ready solar system of Amstrad, Sir Alan released him from his orbit to find a planetary system more akin to his genteel sensibilities as he viewed him “more as a Cartier and Rolls Royce man” despite Sebastian’s hackneyed assertions he had “a huge, huge set of skills; a broad range”.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
How did the candidates in The Apprentice convince Sir Alan Sugar they are deserving of a role in his bubonic business as it spreads across the globe?
Saira: When Sir Alan remarked the week’s task of buying and producing food to sell at a rural market would necessitate the need to “negotiate”, she glowed as though irradiated. Although, when she got outside the safe boundaries of the city she behaved like one of those cosseted urbanites oblivious of rural England as she spoke to cook Nancy in staccato tones tourists usually reserved for those impertinent Spanish waiters in Ibiza who have the audacity not to learn English.
Saira was quite distinctly the most impressive voice in this amoral sales-driven assignment especially when she knocked Nancy’s fee down from £50 an hour to gratis with a little half-hearted promotion thrown in, but that’s as commendable as ricin being a more lethal toxin than mustard gas.
If Saira was a continent in Sir Alan’s global empire, she would be Europe for her startling mimicry of a Brit abroad when patronising Nancy and for charging through Swindon town centre like a Nazi stormtrooper on parade as bystanders scattered out of her indignant path.
Paul: After his team lost, he spent the whole time in the boardroom complaining he had done nothing wrong becoming even more vexed when Ben and Miriam ganged up on him (“You only said ‘Paul’ because Ben said ‘Paul’ five minutes ago”). And he regressed to the primitive human state known as Carus Salesmanus when he moaned: “We spent £63 on cheese! I bought a motor for that at 17!” He was also curt about Tim’s business experience (“What Tim has learnt from reading books, I’ve already done.”), and morphed into a sanctimonious Yorkshireman ripped out of a Monty Python sketch (“In Yorkshire, people can do their most of their shopping for £2!”).
In Sir Alan’s global empire, Paul would be North America for his naked, petulant capitalism and because there’s plenty of commotion and bluster on the periphery of his physical boundaries but very little in-between save for the arid grasslands of his own incompetence and the deep lakes of his deluded infallibility.
Ben: After Paul had cunningly coerced Ben into being project manager through flattery and overconfidence (“We are a man up. We beat them convincingly last time. And the team with the most people has always won.”), the Headhunter who limply adheres to his own pseudo-militaristic motto of “I never lose” became not so much a wet drip as a drip held in all eternity on the rim of a broken rusty tap on an isolated farmhouse. He was also castigated by the market manager for curdling custom through his sour face and for failing to budget Miriam’s extravagance in purchasing ingredients as she bought in stock with the rapacity of some idiot stockpiling for the Millennium Bug.
In Sir Alan’s global empire, Ben would be Asia for its booming counterfeit trade in the American consumerist ethos as he failed to even get his piteous clichés right (“Miriam stepped up to the base. I didn’t see Paul step up to the base.”)
Miriam: Talked utter gobbledygook in the boardroom when on Death Row with Paul and Ben like a computer doused in water with the highlight being: “Personally, on a personal level, I felt Paul (contributed least).”
In Sir Alan’s global empire, Miriam would be Africa for her ineptitude in frittering away the rich raw materials to leave an indigent continent.
Tim: Despite being the supposed financial mastermind who enabled Miriam to go bonkers on buying and was guilty of parsimonious pricing, Tim was reprieved by Ben and slipped from the boardroom like an astronaut’s corpse being flushed into deep space.
In Sir Alan’s global empire Tim would be Antarctica, for a lifeless, drab contribution and also for when Sir Alan asked him about Ben’s leadership, Tim responded as though the Amstrad’s chief’s voice hadn’t penetrated the five-mile deep permafrost that surrounds him.
Raj: Although Project Leader, Raj was nothing more than figurehead and influenced his team with the potency that the Queen exercises over economic policy. He staggered around in a daze as Saira ferociously worked his puppet strings and is no closer to achieving his aim of not being “a total failure”.
In Sir Alan’s global empire, Raj would be Australasia – the land of the indolent and the infirm who spend much of their year striving for mental oblivion on a beach.
James: Taking James out of the city of London was like exposing the bones of Tutankhamun to sunlight as he crumbled immediately. Saira bemoaned him as a “dithering old fool”, while he spent the first hours of life in the country perfecting his impression of a donkey (Think a chorus of posh singers laughing raucously in a production of Ascot: The Musical).
In Sir Alan’s global empire James would be South America, as was forced by Raj to pick elderberries in the dark like a Westernised Amazonian tribesman bedecked in an
Armani Suit where he childishly complained of nettle stings.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
Which footballers did the six remaining candidates resemble as sought to promote Tottenham Hotspur’s goal flash text service (0-1, 0-2, 0-3 etc)?
Raj was Roy Carroll, having survived so far by being part of a strong team and thus remaining largely anonymous; his fallibility was exposed as his shortcomings became evident at the highest level and he even signed his own death warrant from the show by stating to Sir Alan in the execution chamber: “I’m not a salesman and if that’s what you want then I’m not your man.” He was then fired with the same summary brutality as Carroll was axed from United’s first team after his crucial blunder against AC Milan.
Saira was Robbie Savage who spent much of the show blathering through a loudspeaker as thousands of Tottenham fans passed by – and utterly ignored her. She even possessed Savage’s own sense of self-delusion when she remarked: “I can talk people’s language within two minutes of meeting them. James can’t do that. Where I’ll say ‘See ya, mate’, he’ll come out with ‘Cheerio’.” She also managed to upset almost everyone she met, including Spurs’ communication officer Matt House who warned her to be less aggressive in those whom she deals with, although on the positive side, she didn’t take a dump in the referee’s toilet.
Paul was Eric Cantona minus the charisma and genuine talent partly because of his enormous collars that are getting larger each week like a nasty abscess. And he also has Cantona’s predilection of speaking total rubbish and somehow beguiling his audience; a trick that worked wonders when he managed to help his team to get almost 250 more texts than their rivals, but was less effective when one burly parent confronted Tim about Paul deceiving his daughter into making the text.
James was Forbes Phillipson–Masters for no other reason than his aristocratic nature made him the most inappropriate person to mix with the rough, industrial Spurs supporters and he came across like a wine waiter in a coalpit. The most working class thing he’s done in the whole series was to buy a portion of fish and chips.
Miriam was David May for having made little contribution to the victory of her side, but savoured the glory of victory as if she had been at its core.
Tim was Paul Scholes as he performed admirably, but rarely attracted attention to himself or was exclamatory other than when Spurs reneged on the deals about using the jumbotron and the club website to advertise on. Although this was initially blamed on Saira’s gnawing of Matt House’s patience, Sir Alan revealed Spurs withdrew their support in a puerile demonstration of his lack of influence at his former
club, despite him still being the largest shareholder.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
What digit on the iron business fist of Sir Alan Sugar does each of the remaining candidates most resemble?
James. The human champagne bottle was more adept at selling the goods on the home shopping channel than team-mate Saira and so won the opportunity to flog “toot” to bored housewives looking for ways to waste money. Upon being shown the trash Saira had nabbed for him to sell, he emitted a raucous laugh like Basil Brush, which then descended into a peculiarly accurate impression of Stan Laurel in a paroxysm of mirth. His natural charm helped shift over £5,000 worth of rubbish (a jacket with wolves on, foam rubber, yoghurt maker etc), but the experience wasn’t enjoyable for James as for a whole hour he had Saira shouting in his ear.
Occasionally his sales inexperience was evident especially when he was trying to exhibit the virtues of a foam bed (“When I press my fingers into it, it COMES BACK TO ITS ORIGINAL SHAPE.”), which prompted the watching Sir Alan to remark: “Of course it comes back to its original shape – it’s a lump of foam”
On Sir Alan’s iron business fist, James is the thumb forever plugging holes created by Saira’s aggressive bargaining.
Saira. After returning from Raj’s firing, she was initially defiant towards Sir Alan’s dismissal of her gobbyness (“If he wants a servant it isn’t me!”). Saira’s most notable contribution to her and James success was bellowing in his ear for the full hour (“STOP TALKING ABOUT THE PRODUCTS AND USE THEM!” “TAKE A YOGHURT OUT OF THE FRIDGE AND SHAKE THAT CREAMY YOGHURT AT ME” “STOP SAYING ‘REALLY’ AND FOLLOW WHAT I’M SAYING”).
It’s a pity she didn’t offer her services when the Channel Tunnel was being built as she could have verbally blasted her way from Folkestone to Calais within a week. Even in victory, Saira’s prickly relationship with James wasn’t soothed as they flew to Skibo Castle in Scotland for a weekend of regal pursuits as the pair competed to be the last to sum up their win. (James: “A brilliant job” Saira: “So did you. Good team work” J: “Great team work.” S: “Fantastic. Well done.” J: “Perfect.”) On Sir Alan’s iron business fist, Saira is the index finger used primarily to make rude gestures towards other people and also able to crawl the furthest distance up Sir Alan’s rear.
Paul. The “master salesman” spotted a huge flaw in his own flogging technique when he auditioned for the shopping channel – an utter absence of charm, prompting one executive to mutter “God help us”. But perhaps Paul should have taken the speaking role as it would have kept him away from the job of co-producer with Tim where he was as dangerous as a toddler playing with a box of matches. His smugness was also insufferable as he assumed victory after the product selection noting First Forte was “dead in the water”.
Came out with an aphorism of his unique philosophy when he remarked: “If 100 people tell you “you’re dead” – lie down.” On Sir Alan’s iron business fist, Paul is the forefinger forever jabbing rudely into a customer’s chest until the digit has burrowed into the heart.
Tim. As the number of candidates dwindles, so Tim’s lack of expertise and adeptness is becoming more and more apparent like a shipwreck in a desiccating lake. Along with Paul, he dragged the microphone in the TV gallery like an extravagant rock singer and gave encouragement as if an ignorant football fan. Yet Tim’s ignorance had been evident even before the actual sale as he had complacently mocked Saira’s choice of goods, and in particular the wolf jacket (“No one would buy that, it’s grotesque”). But he had reckoned without the inhuman logic of the consumers and the jacket, along with the foam beds, were two of the biggest sellers in the task.
On Sir Alan’s iron business fist, Tim would be the little finger trying not to attract attention to its timid puny self, but oblivious to the notion that this also made him the most expendable.
Miriam. The hotel manager was very unlucky to be fired as she had performed excellently as the saleswoman for Impact, but made a “fatal error” because as project leader she should’ve had greater rein on her twin bulldogs of machismo as they shouted incomprehensible and pointless instructions to her at the same time.
At one point she forebodingly joked with the impressed home shopping executives: “I’ll be calling you when I get fired!” While Sir Alan was impressed by her selling, the tycoon also betrayed doubts over her suitability for the role of his apprentice; at one
point stuffily sneering “She has not stopped bunnying for 25 minutes. I wonder if she’s married. Poor husband.” Even the efforts of Sir Alan’s advisors to axe someone else (Margaret nominated Tim, while Nick elected Paul) wasn’t enough to save her.
On Sir Alan’s iron business fist, Miriam would be the ring finger, adorned with a glistening diamond band but ultimately having little use beyond that superficial impression.
The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday
Which Horseman of the Apocalypse did the four remaining candidates resemble?
James. After laughing so loud upon Paul and Tim’s return from Miriam’s execution pensioners were panicked from their rest homes fearful the shrill cacophony heralded another Blitz by the Luftwaffe, James resumed his usual exterior that’s so smooth could be used to unobtrusively probe babies’ innards. But at the marathon four-hour job interview with a phalanx of Sir Alan’s most trusted aides and associates, James’s slickness was his downfall. Lambasted by Paul Kemsley, the CEO of Rock Investments who looked like a dirty ashtray, for being “here for the cameras”, James defended himself with his customary modesty claiming that he would award himself a derisory “nine-and-a-half out of 10” for sales and marketing and that Paul Kemsley should note he has been on the winning team “eight times out of 10”.
But even though fellow posh bloke Claude Littner, Sir Alan’s troubleshooter, spoke up for him, James was damned by his superficial snobbery especially when asked to explain his mystery dislike expressed as the acronym of HKLP. It turned out to mean “holds knife like pen” and stems from James’ loathing of people’s incorrect table manners that “brings him out in bristles”. Of the Four Horsemen, James would be Pestilence for his aspirations to spread his affliction of upper-class mores to Sir Alan’s “rough and ready” company ethos that defines Amstrad.
Saira. Just as the first thing many people do after getting in from work is to make a cup of coffee, so Saira likes to launch into a venomous diatribe about Paul. “I would’ve got rid of Paul,” she confided in James. “In terms of trustworthiness and respect, Sir Alan doesn’t see any of that and Paul defies all those things.” In the interview scenario, she loaded up her cliché-barrelled shotgun and gave her inquisitors the full blast. “At the end of the day,” she churned out even though it was still the morning, “I want to work for Alan Sugar. I respect his views.” And while we’re on the subject of the day, why does the clock in Sir Alan’s offices have the 24-hour time inserted on the inside of the 12 hour clock. Surely even his simian workforce can grasp whether it’s morning or afternoon.
Saira was rather happy with her performance in the interviews. “I hope all the women out there say: ‘Well done Saira, for representing us’,” she trilled. This is rather like Lucifer representing the conduct of the arch-angels on Judgement Day. Aside from comments about her sole success as a saleswoman, Saira escaped detailed scrutiny on Death Row and sat quietly (itself an astounding first) as James and Paul were fired. Of the Four Horsemen, Saira would be Death for her approach to business, and even life, would cause the extinction of the human race within a couple of generations and the world would instead be populated by giant mouths shouting at each other while the ears atrophy through disuse.
Tim. Tim’s first error was his terrible shoes that look like they’re borrowed from Trumpton’s resident clown; his second was to try to describe his “unique” personality. “I’m effervescent, it’s magnetic. I can work with everyone from the shop floor to the boardroom.” But Paul Kemsley was impressed enough to proclaim Tim as a “gem”, a view Sir Alan concurred with despite protestations from the haughty Claude. “With a 27-year-old man you can’t expect a lifetime of experience,” he condescended.
Even as Sir Alan listed Tim’s weaknesses on Death Row, you didn’t imagine he’d get the chop as the sinister You’re Fired anthem hadn’t piped up (in contrast to James, it began as soon as Sir Alan addressed him). Of the Four Horsemen, Tim would be Famine for his paucity of commercial experience in business that almost proved his downfall; but oddly became a strength as it meant Sir Alan could mould the malleable young man into his own vision should he be the victor.
Paul. Paul talked through the interviews with the same pointed, routine aggression as Leatherface cutting up bodies in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “Yes, I’m Italian. I do have a temper, definitely.” “That’s not an excuse for having a temper,” Margaret responded reasonably. He was also blasé when the interviews were concluded. “I found them all quite boring,” he mused. “They tried to dig into me, but they didn’t really.” But digging into Paul would be like excavating a sheet of paper for hidden depths.
Almost all of Sir Alan’s assessors disliked Paul’s belligerence and this gave spectral Nick the chance to sneer: “I’m surprised he’s got this far.” While all the time trying to disguise his true form of a writhing mass of maggots feasting greedily on a corpse. Bordan, who runs Sir Alan’s computer business and has a curious green shading on his eyelids, was most scathing, stating that Paul seemed to think he was a “trouble-shooter” rather than a mere apprentice. On Death Row, the perhaps already damned Paul crucified any hope he had when he expressed a desire to work for Sir Alan despite running a successful business of his own. “When I started my business at 18, I would never have gone back to work for anyone in my life,” Sir Alan exclaimed. “But we’re different,” Paul replied, decapitating the sole source of affection that Sir Alan had for him – that he saw much of a younger self in the perma-tanned squat form before him, and as a consequence Paul was “fired”. Of the Four Horsemen, Paul would be War for his persistently argumentative nature that caused all of Sir Alan’s confidants to warn against hiring him.
The runner-up Saira
Pulling on her boots that look more at home goose-stepping in Nuremburg, Saira set out to claim the top prize of a year’s enslavement in the business equivalent of a muddy beach. “If you were to ask me,” she stormed, utterly unprompted. “Do I think I was better than all of the 13 out there, then “yes, I do’.”
After heralding the smart silver cars sent to take her and Tim to Sir Alan’s office like they were chariots of the Gods, Saira was almost silenced by the surprise of seeing the rejected candidates skulking in a corner of Sir Alan’s boardroom as though about to face a firing squad. “Oh my God! Oh my God!” she shrieked with her hands in front of her mouth that reduced the distance of her deafening exclamation to Mars from Saturn.
Unwisely, she chose inconsequential James and Raj plus prize idiot Paul to be on her team to organise a party on a riverboat. She began in trademark style by ignoring James’ suggestion that they all go into a corner and come up with three ideas for a theme, but Saira dismissed this as “faffing around” and eventually agreed on a Californian theme in exchange for flogging some plonk with US numberplates on the label. The lady from the plonk company suggested they maybe decorate the boat US style. Maybe even a Harley Davidson. Showing nil imagination, Saira did nothing nore than shove a Harley on the dancefloor, making the do seem more like a tribute to The Terminator – appropriate seeing as he too is a heartless unemotional killing machine.
While dragging Paul around like a tired infant, the champion saleswoman was spurned in her bid to sell tickets and so took out her frustration first on those who scorned her. “Bunch of tosspots,” she raged. “The other tosspot was being such an arsehole.”
She also managed to rile Paul again when she called a meeting and the exhausted Paul, he hadn’t even had time to guzzle a Southern Comfort, snapped back at her. “I’m going to make an executive decision,” Saira shouted. “You can’t fire me with your executive decision” “You’ve done nothing but caused me problems.” “I don’t shout because I’m bored, I shout because I’m angry.”
In the boardroom, a smile came unconsciously to her lips when Sir Alan mentioned how her team had made an £800 profit while Tim had delivered a loss of more than £2,000. But any conceit was short-lived as Tim was declared the victor.
The winner Tim
Mr Nice Guy began his quest for victory by selecting a rather posh line-up – Ben, Sebastian and Miriam – for his team. He then metamorphosed into a slavering oik as he first mused with turning the lower deck of his riverboat into a lap dancing club before settling on an even more vulgar attraction – a fashion show.
During the party, Sir Alan popped his head behind the curtain to greet the models at Tim’s request and for the first occasion in the whole series, we observed a rather meek man rather than the searing, grizzled human pot of testosterone that is usually ablaze in his boardroom, “Ello ladies,” was all he could muster.
Like Saira, Tim indulged the tastes of one of the most corrosive groups in Britain today – champagne drinkers. A breed of insect who would drink their own vomit if it elevated them to an elite social class, but are quite contented to sip one of the foulest concoctions known to humanity.
Tim also seemed to have set his sights very low. “Four quick changes, four different outfits for each model,” he enthused as his party drew to a close. “You couldn’t ask for more than that.”
After his win, Tim can now look forward to a career in a business where his vibrant soul will be slowly drawn out of his body through the mouth (his arsehole will be converted into a gob in alignment with all business executives) and be subsequently crushed and reshaped to only ever delight at the thrill of making profits for Amstrad.