The Apprentice Series 2, BBC2

by | May 10, 2006 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

It was exquisite contemporary gladiatorial combat with Sir Alan Sugar gobbling up the role of the squat, intolerant emperor whilst the candidates grappled with verbal gladii and nets (or, in the case of the more flirty women, fishnets). Although there was a sagging sense of complicit guilt for The Apprentice is the epitome of Hate TV.

What was good about it?

• Sir Alan Sugar snarling at Syed after he escaped being “fired”: “I’ve got your cards marked!”

• Poor Ben Stanberry, the men’s project manager who got “fired” after Syed and Samuel verbally pummelled him in front of Sir Alan to show off their masculine business “acumen” and save their own hides. Ben resembled Jeffrey Fairbrother from Hi-De-Hi with his strained efforts to show enthusiasm and was so out of place he could have been a plant to show how easily timid mice are gobbled up in The Apprentice bear pit.

• Syed’s petulant insistence that the men’s team should be called The A-Team. They settled for the rather pompous “Invicta” (apparently it means “indestructible” in Latin – a dead language for a dead team), while the ladies plumped for the more digestible but utterly soulless “Velocity” (from your own home, you can almost smell the stale plastic brochure, hear the upbeat, eyes-twinkling sales spiel and see the featureless blue suits, blue blouses and regulation “sensible” footwear).

• There’s a new game to play other than the main contest. Tally up the number of times the duplicitous Syed exclaims “To be honest” and pitch it against the frequency with which Jo Cameron is swept up in a maelstrom of emotion. After episode one, the scores are: Syed: Six, Jo: Nine (four jumping around, three cackling like a witch wallowing in her warm cauldron and two tearful outbursts; but three of that total came in the preview for next week’s edition).

• Sir Alan seeing through Velocity’s attempt to use their feminine wiles to purchase stock for nothing from gullible, easily corruptible market traders. Nargis tried to mitigate their actions by claiming that the stock was “sub-standard” and the vendors were desperate to be rid of it. To which Sir Alan warned her about selling sub-standard goods to the public.

• Here’s our quick and sketchy chart after episode one, and their most dominant characteristic: 1. Mani (diplomatic); 2. Nargis (sly); 3. Syed (bastard); 4. Jo (neurotic); 5. Karen (school ma’am strictness); 6. Ansell (booming); 7. Michelle (chest); 8. Paul (blokey); 9. Alexa (hockey sticks); 10. Tuan (laconic); 11. Ruth (“End of”); 12. Sharon (fingernails down blackboard screech); 13. Samuel (slimy).

What was bad about it, but bad in the good way that made us addicted last time?

• The candidates for the job are mostly once more, to paraphrase Ben Kenobi in Star Wars, “a wretched hive of scum and villainy”. Clearly the worst, and no doubt the buzzing topic of conversation around “water coolers” across the nation is Syed. He negotiates purchases through ostensibly agreeing a price (“£40, yeah!”), and then his very next breath lowering it and hoping the vendor is too dim-witted to notice and then trying to reduce it further (“Now we’ve got you down to £30, how about another discount?”).

• The language used by each candidate is far more offensive than even Gordon Ramsay. His oaths are largely spontaneous, responding to the environment and situations around him, while the candidates lexicons seem to have been learnt parrot-fashion from Harvard Business School’s landmark self-help book “How to become the number one, not the number two, but the ABSOLUTE number one in business (even if when your brain is removed during your autopsy it is wearing a straitjacket of mediocrity)”.

• The brassy self-aggrandising included: “I’m passionate, hard-working, driven”; “I’m a business bad boy”; “Two things motivate me – money and recognition”; “I’m going to win because I’m a winner. End of”. But Sir Alan wasn’t much better (“I am the most belligerent person you will ever meet), nor was the narration (“Burning ambition will meet the school of hard knocks”).

• But amid all this primal chest-beating lurked that most repellent of all The Apprentice’s denizens – Sir Alan’s major-domo Nick Hewer, who skulks in the background like a shadow on probation for stalking and sneers like a wandering, scabbardless dagger searching lustily for a back to stab.

• However, aside from the plastic odiousness of Syed, the least likeable candidate is Samuel. You’ll see Samuels around all over the place whether it’s sprawled on neglected garden ponds, festering in infected wounds or oozing from blocked sewers; you see Samuel is Slimy and shall be named Slimy Samuel from this moment forth.

• Michelle, 24, preparing to go out on the streets flogging rotting fruit in a very tight leotard top saying, without any irony: “We’ve got to make sure everyone can see what we’re selling.”

What was just plain bad about it?

• As happened last year, when the candidates stumble into their luxury abode they react with the ecstatic capitalist sensibilities of slumming Dickensian orphans adopted by rich benefactors to live in incandescent opulence. “A bath!” “A bed!” “Chairs!” “A sofa!”

• And Sir Alan branded the house as being situated in “the best road in England”. Why is it the best road in England? Apparently, because the house two doors down was sold for something like £45m. This was damning evidence that the human race has taken a significant, but largely imperceptible split. To check if you fall into the grasping hands strain of humanity here’s a quick quiz. Did you attend Live 8 for “the experience” or the music? Do you call people you have never met before “mate”, but have no Australian blood in your veins? Do you take your watch off when you wash your hands? When you walk around changing rooms (Graspers might know them only as “locker rooms”) do your polished black shoes reverberate with enough sonic force to collapse skyscrapers? Have you ever tucked your jumper into your belt? Have you ever used the phrase “mark my words” in a threatening manner? If a city dweller, when on a rural break does the pure country air pierce your lungs with such ferocity as to cause you to stagger back to your two-seat juggernaut and head back to your urban sanctuary?

• Sir Alan barking a warning at the candidates about turning up to build a media career. This may have been a valid point had Sir Alan turned down appearances on Room 101 (where he was awful) and Jonathan Ross.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 1 March 2006

thecustard chart – now with added Nick and Margaret!

1. (4) Jo. A grotesque hybrid of the Mad Hatter, Mad Frankie Fraser, the Mad Monk Rasputin, the pop group Madness, the Madness of King George, the song Mad World all headbanging against the padded cells in the Bedlam asylum. If her temperament was invested in Sellafield there’d be a critical meltdown within the hour; while her unsleeping, saucer-shaped eyes glare with such searing incandescence they could be used as searchlights in Colditz. Emotional outbursts this episode: 17, to bring her total to 26.

2. (11) Ruth. Didn’t do too much, but achieves her lofty position because when she was arguing with Sir Alan she spat “that’s irrelevant” at one of his observations.

3. (3) Syed. After being the villain last week, Syed was sinned against as much as sinner after Mani attacked him unreasonably after Syed had correctly objected to Mani’s general incompetence.

4. (NE) Nick. As the candidates were being assigned their task, Nick surgically angled his head at them as if a hangman inspecting his latest victim for signs of life, and then winced with a sadist’s disappointment at the limp corpse. Later sneered, “I thought it was poor” when assessing Velocity’s calendar.

5. (10) Tuan. Forlornly banging away with a rubber hammer to make an impression on the granite features of Sir Alan by claiming, “I’m a control freak. I feel my attention to detail is second-to-none.” He was removed from his role of designing the calendar as he had such a gratuitously fastidious eye, were he God none of us would be here as rather than taking seven days to create the world it would take a billion years as the Almighty would still be fussing over the number of spots on a ladybird. Oh, and isolating yourself in a room and pointing your fingers to your head doesn’t award you an impression of spiritual profundity, it makes you look like a pretentious knob.

6. (5) Karen. Nargis claimed Karen had deliberately set her up by composing an awful script for the pitch. We think this is Nargis trying to excuse how rubbish she was, but if Karen really is that manipulative she could go a long way.

7. (6) Ansell. Says everything twice to try to make out he’s more intelligent than he really is. “It’s 8.30! It’s 8.30!” he shrilled, like an over-excited child who once was an irritating extra in Rod Hull And Emu’s Pink Windmill. He also uses the phrase “I’m going to be brutally honest” as a euphemism for: “Please don’t be offended, but you’re s**t.” Emerged from the bathroom in just a towel as Syed and Mani argued.

8. (NE) Margaret. Her handbag hangs loosely from hands like a headhunter brandishing his latest trophy head.

9. (8) Paul. Blokey, bloke’s bloke did little other than to whine to Ansell and say “are we all singing from the same hymn sheet” as if trapped in a dystopian nightmare where every aspect of everybody’s lives are governed by tacky business-speak.

10. (9) Alexa. With no hockey sticks, jolliness or general “what the f**k are you actually doing here” potholes for her to fall in to, she did little else other than sit mutely and hope the great shadow of death passed over her.

11. (7) Michelle. A quiet week. Was seen frolicking in the swimming pool wearing a bikini scientists would need a microscope to see.

12. (13) Samuel. Slimed his way to victory as the team leader of Invicta with their uninspired safe calendar for Great Ormond Street. Use the phrase “This is still thinking in the box.” He also organised such a becalmed “brainstorm” that had it occurred in the Adriatic Sea in the early 17th century Shakespeare would have had no inspiration for the Tempest.

13. (12) Sharon. Her screeching voice is such an elongated death rattle any sentences she speaks resemble a daily laborious walk around a prison exercise yard by a lifer trying to ease the ennui of his eternal boredom.

14. (1) Mani. Yes, we got it wrong about Mani. Before his pitch he boasted: “I am a complete expert in presenting. It’s what I do for a living.” But at the presentation he simpered: “Forgive me if I become emotional as I’m very passionate about this cause” with all the sincerity of a vending machine disgorging a furry seven-year-old Mars bar with several metallic clicks, the consumption of which would have left a similar nauseating sensation as his pitch.

And we bade farewell to:

Nargis. Quite possibly the most ham-fisted showing of anyone on this show, beating even the overtall and unstable Matthew from the last series. She insisted the calendar was “contemporary, timeless, classic” with the same inhuman detachment as those who weren’t given the gift of life as they left the womb (and who can all be found working in the centre of London with pleasure cruisers moored in St Tropez). She asked at one pitch “shall I sit down or stand up?” And churned out a phrase at every single pitch that really should be her epitaph: “Do you know that there are six million cat owners in the UK, and the majority of them live in London?” as she flogged cat calendars to raise money for a children’s hospital. And as Sir Alan castigated her efforts before firing her, her facial expression altered from smug conceit to open-mouthed shock with the same fluidity and dexterity as inept theatre hands changing scenery at a ramshackle pantomime.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 8 March 2006

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1. (2) Ruth. The modern day reincarnation of Boudicca. When she is in her jeep, she could fly a flag with her grimacing visage as substitute skull and crossbones to instil fear and panic into businessmen across the capital. Ruminates, gnashing her teeth violently as though she exists on a diet of raw steel.

2. (1) Jo. Volunteered to be project manager and came out with a brilliant quote when she stormed that she has “eyes and ears in the back of her head”. The eyes we can understand, but why would she need ears, too? Stars are lining up in the celestial firmament to fill up on Jo’s excess emotion to keep their fires burning for a few billion more years. Emotional outbursts this week 13, bringing the total to 39.

3. (10) Alexa. After her flipchart marathon caused the girls to procrastinate over getting out and buying the goods, she was in the boardroom with Jo and Karen to be fired. Sir Alan made an error when he called her “weak”, a comment that caused a transformation on a par with Dr David Banner morphing into the Incredible Hulk. Gone in an instant was the winsome timidity, and the metaphorical hockey stick she carries around was wreathed in bloodstained barbed wire and brandished threateningly in Sir Alan’s face.

4. (4) Nick. Sneered condescendingly from his lofty perch on the balcony at the Stock Exchange.

5. (11) Michelle. A note to the team producing The Apprentice. Can you please feature Michelle a little bit more, please? It’s difficult enough to write this chart without having to repeat week after week that Michelle looked quite pretty again. Yes, she is good looking, you’ve established that; but can you feature her doing something other than frolicking in a bikini or parading in a tight top. Thank-you.

6. (8) Margaret. Couldn’t disguise the anguish on her face when Sir Alan claimed she “couldn’t sell a box of matches”.

7. (13) Sharon. Disobeyed Jo’s instructions to check with her before buying the items on the list. Her voice could be used as an instrument of torture.

The boys have been relegated en masse to the bottom of the chart because their prize was a day out at Sandown watching horse racing, which not only did they, like all other people who adore horse racing and hate sport, enjoy it, but they also senselessly drank champagne and some even wore sunglasses.

8. (7) Ansell. Was on screen very little and so managed only one of his repetitious sentences as his team charged to a parked car. “Let’s go, go, go, go, go!”

9. (3) Syed. This week, retuned to his roots in the East End of London to use his local knowledge to attain the goods at a bargain price, only he managed to get lost. Managed to guarantee a restaurant business for the “rest of his life” after they sold him a pair of cooked lobsters for £15.

10. (5) Tuan. The little schoolboy laughing at the jokes of his friends at the back of the classroom. Managed to get a 1p discount from the price of a tyre.

11. (9) Paul. Could play centre-forward for England in the liars’ world cup after saying he needed some silk on the cheap because he was getting married.

12. (12) Samuel. His slime is needed in the remake of Ghostbusters.

13 (14) Mani. When he gets fired he can transform into slick, vomit-smelling lubricant used to rescue small animals from narrow pipes. But the rescue must be quick as the nauseating fumes can overcome and kill mammals within an hour, even those that can’t speak Modern Business Dialect.

And we lost:

Karen, who made a face of resignation when Sir Alan fired her (unjuestly) that more resembled being told her cooked dumplings were too tough rather than being sacked from a dream job.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 15 March 2006

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We can’t resist that sensuous, sonorous voice any longer, and so we have bowed to our baser instincts and included Sir Alan’s monosyllabic secretary Jenny in the chart. And no, we can’t include Sir Alan as it would be akin to ranking God amongst his angels (not that we think of Sir Alan as a God, more King Rat).

1. (7) Sharon. In previous rundowns, we’ve poked fun at her voice. But this was in ignorance of its true ferocity when unleashed against someone as deserving of derision as Mani. If Mani the poser had been a ship caught in the swirling tempest of Sharon’s verbal storm he would have been splintered into flotsam and jetsam in moments.

2. (9) Syed. The Syed Dictionary of Business Etiquette, the latest entries:

“You have got some professionals here” – Definition: You couldn’t get someone more cack-handed and incompetent than if you went to Mickey Mouse’s cowboy builder brother and asked him to build a house out of glue and gravy.

“Can I order 100 chickens, please?” – Definition: Yes, that’s right we need 100 fat, juicy chickens; so large you could hide Ant and Dec under each wing. And we will use one chicken per chicken tikka pizza, therefore wasting 75% of the meat in the process. What do you mean ‘we only have 90 pizza bases in total’?

“To be honest…” – Definition: Can I stall you with these three meaningless words while I concoct a suitable and convincing half-truth to extricate myself from this mess of my own making?

“I think the project manager is out of her depth.” – Definition: I don’t take orders from no woman.

“I’m a born fighter.” – Definition: Please don’t fire me, Sir Alan.

“I gave 150%.” – Definition: Please don’t fire me, Sir Alan. And I don’t understand the concept of 100%.

“I like taking on challenges.” – Definition: Please don’t fire me, Sir Alan. And I’m using the phrase ‘challenge’ for even something as simple as ordering chickens as it gives me an excuse if I should fail.

“I’ve learnt from my mistakes.” – Definition: Please don’t fire me, Sir Alan. And I’ve learnt Stan Collymore’s list of excuses for his unsavoury deeds off-by-heart.

“I stepped up to the mark and delivered.” – Definition: Please don’t fire me, Sir Alan. And I know every baseball cliché in the book.

“Thanks, Sir Alan. Thanks for the opportunity.” – Definition: Thanks for not firing me, Sir Alan. And Sir Alan, what’s that up your arse; oh, it’s the filthy London sewer system from Victorian times. Here, let me clean it out with my tongue.

3. (1) Ruth. The reincarnation of Boudicca reined her frisky horses in as she bellowed orders for food ingredients while casually executing trembling captured legionnaires from the invading Roman armies. After Sharon had stormed out after her argument with Mani, she sagely noted “I think that comment is out of order” while dunking the severed head of a Roman centurion under the boiling water of her cauldron as a side order to go with the noodles. And when Mani breezed in to the kitchen where the girls had been preparing food all day while he’d been creating verbal oil slicks throughout London and said: “Come on girls, the thinner you shred the chicken the further it goes!” Ruth spat: “Well, don’t tell me mate, I’ve been standing here for ten hours doing it.” And then she pulled a face so sour it could have routed Caesar’s elite legions from the battlefield, and sent them with their tails between their legs all the way back to Rome.

4. (2) Jo. Emotional outburst tally this week was nine, bringing the total to 48. As the ‘girls’ (‘led’ by Mani) prepared the food for their victorious noodles menu, she clocked up minus points for being part of the chorus who sang a song sacrilegious and offensive to all decent folk – Against All Odds by Phil Collins.

5. (11) Paul. Guest analysed for us this week by Gertrude McNoseycow, from Gozz! Goss! Gossip!, the nation’s most throwaway, and most frequently thrown away, gossip magazine. “Awww, he’s a sly one, I bet he’s a Virgo, they’re always so devious. You can tell by the way he keeps out of the way that he is evil on a par with someone like Nasty Nick; I just bet he’s a Leo, they’re all bad apples. He was so lovely when he dressed up as a fat chef (not that he needed the false belly (I bet he’s an Aquarius, they’re all fat), and I bet it embarrasses him when he struggles to put on a Paul Smith shirt; I bet he’s a Scorpio they’re all dedicated followers of fashion) and made that little girl laugh. I bet he’s a Gemini; they’re always jokers.”

6. (4) Nick. As Invicta were making their pizzas, Nick screwed up his face with trademark scorn for the people around him. But as he was forced to wear a little white hat for health and safety reasons, he resembled a Spanish Inquisitor gazing on contemptuously as a condemned witch pleads for mercy.

7. (8) Ansell. The one-man-air-raid scared passers-by as he tried to flog pizza on the banks of the Thames. His booming voice so well mimicked a Blitzkrieg that pensioners could be seen scurrying to the nearest tube air raid shelter before angrily shaking their fists at the dark skies cursing Hitler and his “bastard Luftwaffe”.

8. (12) Samuel. He has become far more likeable since he forsook any hope of actually winning the damn contest. In the car, Mani over-enthused “we’ve bonded”, Tuan repeated his words with gusto, while Samuel mumbled “we’ve bonded…” like a condemned man waiting for the morning to break when he would be hanged. Flew into a tantrum with Tuan after the work he was doing was deemed “a luxury”, leading him to throw a lump of dough onto the pastry board with blood-curdling brutality.

9. (5) Michelle. We nabbed an exclusive perspective from the camera working on The Apprentice that has fallen in love with Michelle. “You don’t know me, Michelle-from-The-Apprentice, but I’m that big bag of nuts, bolts, glass and electrical wiring that each episode lingers long on your pulchritudinous features. This episode, I intensified my light especially for you to enhance your winning smile. And then I stayed on your knee-weakening pout for just that split-second too long. Did you notice? In some ways I’d be glad if you didn’t. And when you and Ruth ventured to buy ingredients, did you see how you were always in the foreground even when she was speaking? And did you catch sight of the way I honed in on your soft, clasped hands? And when Mani and Sharon were bickering, I thought ‘no one’ll notice if I take a quick peek at Michelle’.”

10. (NE) Jenny. “You can go through to the boardroom, now.” “Sir Alan’s ready for you in the boardroom, now.”

11. (6) Margaret. As both teams entered Sir Alan’s boardroom to be given the verdict of the catering challenge, Margaret gave Alexa that sorrowful look that doctors can’t avoid giving patients who are about to be told very bad news.

12. (10) Tuan. Possibly the most annoying man in the country, but largely it’s not his fault. It’s the continually repeated BBCi clip of him saying “Once I had someone staple my ear to my head…”, and then pausing for that polite laugh that you always get from people who you don’t know very well when you make unfunny quips. This week: “(Pizzas) are flexible; vegetarian, carnivores,” Tuan trilled, as if expecting the pack of wolves ordered weekly by Sir Alan to devour what’s left of each “fired” candidates’ self-esteem would turn up for a quick pizza before polishing off what remained of poor Alexa’s confidence. Also added to the general malaise when, in front of the hired caterers, Alexa enquired of him: “With your experience (of 15-16 years (Source (Unreliable): Syed’s Dictionary of Business Etiquette)) how many customers do you think we’ll be serving an hour?” “I haven’t got a bloody clue!” came the helpful response.

13. (13) Mani. You see Mani at 13 and Tuan at 12? Seems close doesn’t it? But imagine that instead of one digit apart, their places in the chart are separated by a distance that Han Solo would need to go into hyperspace to cover during his lifetime. Where to start? That he says “Reeee-alll-eee” like Loyd Grossman after he’s popped an arrogance pill? He serves up sentences as prime, cooked, juicy bollocks crackling with conniving insincerity such as: “You go from a divergent phase to a convergent phase, which is where we are now.” Vilely harangued the valiant Sharon by blinding her with utter verbal effluence, and then had the bare-faced cheek to remark: “You’re just being vague. I don’t understand a word you’re saying.” He also used the tyrant’s vernacular of false inclusiveness: “What we realised was…”

And we lost:

Alexa. We’re quite sad at Alexa going. She seemed quite sweet, especially when she was forced to put on a ruthless, aggressive demeanour that was utterly alien to her. Instead of her being fired, think of her being invalided out of the World War One trenches for overt, crippling sensitivity. This was seen when Syed blustered about running “Marco-Pierre White’s restaurant” “for nine years”, while Alexa meekly admitted that she used to work “on the pizza counter at Asda”. Alexa’s cheeks redden the more anxious she gets like a nuclear power station about to go into meltdown, and after Sir Alan castigated her as “a lightweight” it was a blessing she went then as if she had suffered any further humiliation next week she would have exploded causing a choking miasma of hockey sticks, baseless jolliness found only in the inherently happy, and supply teacher ineffectual authority all over the business capital of Europe. Which may, on reflection, actually be a good thing to happen.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 22 March 2006

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This week in association with Amsair, a customer card service for those people so rich and bloated they could feed the desperate avarice of a thousand green stockbrokers for six months should the markets ever crash.

1. (3) Ruth. Being made team leader meant the barbarian queen of The Apprentice could mount her battle chariot, affix blades to its rapidly-spinning wheels and swing her battleaxe with abandon. But as she travelled to the airport she did an impression of air stewardesses in a mock shrill tone – “Tea or coffee? Coffee or tea?” But this meant a flint-headed arrow of femininity pierced her armour made from the tanned masculine hides of ex-boyfriends glued together with liquid testosterone captured from dull Daniel Sugar’s sober forehead. When she and Paul were made project managers, she gave him a ferocious look that could have stripped the skin from his torso and made the bones into rudimentary pre-historic tools used to gouge out the hearts of her foes.

2. (2) Syed. As he arrived back after being let off after last week’s fiasco, he spat out his tongue like a toxic viper. And he was also kind enough to let us have a few more entries from the Syed Dictionary of Business Etiquette:

“I gave Sir Alan as good as I got.” – Definition: I grovelled and pleaded, I promised to name my firstborn after him, I pledged to build temples to the sky bedecked in his image, I assured him I would lead a chorus of genuine, licensed East End working class barrow boys in a chorus of devotion, I guaranteed to pluck each bristly grey hair from his dinosaur-hide cheeks with my teeth and soothe the raw skin with my naturally oily nature.

“I’m disappointed; no one was prepared to step up to the mark. And I gave 110%.” – Definition: I still don’t understand the concept of 100%, and I can only express my deepest emotions using crass baseball phrases like an obese American ‘sportsfan’ with a walrus moustache and hamburger dregs hanging from his teeth.

“I want to get this idea out before I lose it.” – Definition: Listen to me, what I will say next could alter the path of humanity, or alternatively it might be a ruse to draw attention to my overwhelming banality.

3. (6) Nick. Did significantly less sneering but gained his habitual sadistic pleasure by grassing up Ansell and Mani for wrongly deciding that the ad campaign for the Amsair customer card focus on the concierge service. Nick leaked his poison into Sir Alan’s ear by whispering in his cold, dead tones, “I made a list of 14 points and the concierge was 14th on the list.” And the red pen he scribbles his notes with seems to be forged from the frozen blood of virgins damned for eternity after their sacrifice during an Amstrad ‘brainstorm’ to ensure a good corporate harvest.

4. (9) Michelle. Against our better judgement, the BBC camera that has developed a crush on Michelle has requested to compose her entry. “You did notice me? Oh, hallelujah! Hosanna! Eureka! That beautiful blonde creature has become aware of my metallic sheen (I even tucked my wires in and buffed my rust patch). Twice she appeared in little more than a towel in my presence. Oh forgive me, while I clean my lens from the tears of happiness. But what’s this? Is she responding to my advances or is she trying to impress Syed?”

5. (8) Samuel. Actually becoming quite likeable among the bunch; but this might only be a comparative illusion in the same way that Pluto seems like a decent summer holiday destination when compared to Ruth’s stare.

6. (7) Ansell. Blew a verbal hole in the side of the Amstrad headquarters when he was rather too eager to accept the blame for sending Ruth’s team off on a wild goose chase and bellowed at his co-incompetent Mani “We did focus on the concierge”. Before this he had done little other than become Mani’s temporary portable echo to increase his delusions of grandeur. “Flexibility!” hailed Mani. “Ultimate flexibility!” echoed Ansell. “The ultimate experience!” cried Mani. “Ultimate experience!” mimicked Ansell.

7. (1) Sharon. Apparently, she lectured in advertising but was as creative as a sieve. But this turned out to be a euphemism for the whole of the advertising industry as a whole – much bluster, but essentially a mirage mired in business speak.

8. (11) Margaret. Was more sneering than Nick, as she caustically observed that Michelle “was doing a bad job” directing the advertisement for Amsair.

9. (4) Jo. She seems to have taken on board Sir Alan’s warning that she needs to speak less and contribute more by rejecting verbal communication in favour of sporadically bulging her eyes. Sucking them in to signal caution or disappointment and making them bulge to denote excitement like a trap door spider tensed, and about to ambush an unsuspecting lizard from its lair. Emotional outbursts (including eye-bulge-orgasms): 16, bringing the total to 64.

10. (10) Jenny. Was cruelly robbed of the spotlight when one of her alluring “You can go through to the boardroom now”s were cut.

11. (12) Tuan. Is incapable of using a telephone in the correct way. He doesn’t seem to understand that they can be picked up and placed close to the ear, and that you don’t have to put it on a table and lean into it.

12. (5) Paul. The Gospel of Paul Tulip, Messiah. This visible second coming of the son of Christ is kindly sponsored by Guts For Farters – Bringing the fast-food joys of fried raw meat back to Britain. Paul’s sapphires of sagacity this week: “That’s magic. I need to be 110% confident in what I’m doing. A rock star could write an album in two hours. ADVERT: We take a break from Paul’s wisdom to bring you a word from our sponsor: “Guts for Farters’ Cholesterol enhanced-flesh. You’ll be dead by 30 or your money back!” AD ENDS. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m going to win. I’m definitely going to be his Apprentice. I’m proving I’m the best, there’s no one here that can touch me!”

And we lost:

Mani.

Not seeing him next week will be the equivalent experience of being cleansed of all bodily and spiritual impurities. If brought to life, his laugh would resemble a James Whitaker licking clean Prince Charles’ boots. At one point he supped from the fountain of business speak to such an extent that it should have drowned his lungs. “This is a 60,000 feet take on the whole campaign.” And then followed in up with, “I’m a world class presenter!” At which point, men in hard hats set up a big drill around his mouth and started to drill for the seemingly-inexhaustible supply of crude oil spilling from his lips. And as he strolled out of Sir Alan’s boardroom for the last time, he reflected, “You win some, you lose some. It just hasn’t rolled my way on this occasion.” At which point, George W Bush appeared in an emergency address on US TV to solemnly announce a unilateral invasion of Mani to protect the free world from his “world class bulls**t”. And on this occasion, Mr President, we salute you!

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 29 March 2006

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This week, we imagine the candidates as characters in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, in which an intrepid band of adventurers seek to remove the shadow of evil cast across their fair land by a Dark Lord from the south east.

1. (7) Sharon. Admirably ignorant of all things car-like, Sharon became unable to cope with the power of being a project manager as she became more aware of the monumental task ahead, just like Frodo Baggins.

2. (1) Ruth. Her beady little arachnid eyes make her the giant spider Shelob. Ruth scuttled about the convoluted web of the car supermarket, and first paralysing her hapless victims with her regimented toxic salespeak sting before sinking her fangs into them, liquidising their common sense before sucking out all their cash. “I’ll tell you what we have got!” she exclaimed to one disinterested customer, puncturing his pliant willpower with her sting. “Come and have a look.” She then lured him into her lair and the poor man was soon trussed up in sticky sales threads from which the only escape is a cheque for £8,000 plus a little bit more for the needless extras.

3. (6) Ansell. Often talked too loudly to make what he was saying intelligible, and therefore his role in Middle Earth is that of the Horn of Gondor, which, when blown, can be heard across continents. As they pulled into Sir Alan’s estate and the senseless masculine corporate phallus of Sir Alan’s fleet of posh cars came into view looking like siege machines ready to storm the gates of Minas Tirith, Ansell boomed: “Now that’s what I call a house!” in the process, blowing the windows out the car, causing the Thames to flood and the whole Earth to go so deaf that it immediately ordered its lugs to be syringed. He also walks with freakishly straight arms and legs as though he is wearing a deep sea diving suit.

4. (8) & 5 (3) Margaret & Nick. Akin to their roles as Sir Alan’s “eyes and ears”, the pair are ring wraiths; empty vassals of the Dark Lord’s will and instruments of his terror. They have served him unquestioningly and fawningly for over a thousand years (or more like three thousand judging by Nick’s haggard state) and will only perish when the Dark Lord’s empire comes crashing down, or it is bought in a hostile takeover by venture capitalists, or someone tosses Sir Alan into a bubbling volcano.

6. (2) Syed. His sly, poisonous method of employing half-truths and lies to sell make him the Grima Wormtongue of the candidates. Much like his kindred spirit, who caused a king to become a shell of his former self with his lies, Syed sees the truth as a navigable impediment in the way of a sale. He assured a couple that if they buy a car they could expect to make a profit on it within the next few years. But the manager in charge of the car supermarket gave him a severe dressing down.

The latest entries in the Syed Dictionary of Business Etiquette:

“An absolute joke!” Definition: Any woman whom I’m forced to take orders from.

“I come from a hard-working background” Definition: Bow before me poor people, for I have risen above you even though we once slept on the same hard stone floor.

“I’ve never had any hand-outs.” Definition: People generally take an instant dislike to me.

“We all make mistakes.” Definition: Indeed, everyone does make mistakes but it’s the people who repeat the phrase “we all make mistakes” who invariably make more than anyone else.

7. (12) Paul. Mr Arrogance in a Bottle is the wizard Saruman who is willing to sell his principles for a job as minion to the Dark Lord. Began the show by crowing “Right again!” as Mani failed to come home. His crowing continued on the way to the car supermarket. “People often say to me ‘you should be a car salesman’.” And arrogance throbbed in his breast so forcefully it seemed ready to burst forth like an Alien. “I’d be surprised if I didn’t do well. What the hell, I’ll probably be the best.” He also managed to sum up his entire persona when he spat: “It’s going to be a whole day of bulls**t!”

8. (10) Jenny. Sir Alan’s receptionist resembles the Elf Lady Galadriel, who can coerce the weak-willed into performing tasks that may lead to their deaths, or at least eternal damnation, through the power of her honeyed voice alone, such as: “Sir Alan would like you to be at his house at 9am” or “You can go through to the boardroom now”.

9. (5) Samuel. With his enduring adoration of ideas (while never actually having the aptitude to put them into practise properly through a combination of procrastination and laziness) Samuel would be the ponderous ent Treebeard. He ‘strategised’ an idea which involved his team getting dressed up in garish purple sashes as a sales ploy but instead made them look like some weird Ulster Protestant band off to march provocatively past a Catholic estate.

10. (4) Michelle. Her cowardice when faced with the prospect of being project manager was similar to that of Denethor, the ruler of Gondor. “I think you mentioned yesterday that you were quite keen, Tuan,” she connived. “If it’s a girl it should be Sharon!” she urged, sharpening her dagger she would later plant squarely between her team mate’s shoulder blades. She displayed the same cold-heartedness as Denethor after he sent his son to almost certain death by ordering him to assault the Dark Lord’s forces when she said of her miserable project manager: “Sharon was upset, but I didn’t particularly care. Business is business.”

11. (11) Tuan. This utterly pointless, pathetic specimen is the Gollum of the Apprentice. Whereas Gollum was obsessed with getting his mucky paws on the Ring and was willing to murder to fulfil his aim, Tuan has an even more repulsive obsession – cars, and is even willing to stifle the minds of his colleagues by talking about them. When answering phones, he even mimics Gollum’s hunched demeanour. As they sped to the car supermarket, he grinned: “I’m going to love this task, my precious!”

And we lost:

Jo. For her unreliability and tempestuous temper, Jo can only be Borimir, the valiant warrior whose emotional weakness ultimately cost him his life, just as her instability cost her any chance of getting this job. She insisted that the others wanted to get rid of her because she was “a threat” to them. Even as the Dark Lord Sugar drew back his potent verbal bow and took aim she screamed defiantly, “Some people think I am stronger than them, and want to get rid of me”. And even as the first arrow imbued with the fatal venom of “You’re fired” plunged into her chest, she still refused to submit. “I’ve resilience. I’m a survivor, I’m happy to go out of here, but only on the basis of being crap…” she raged until the last breath of defiance left her noble body and she passed into the great scrapyard of reality TV stars known as UK TV. Emotional outbursts: 35, bringing the final total to a grand 99.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 5 April 2006

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As the winners this week were rewarded with a break in an imposing gothic mansion, we wondered what role the candidates would fulfil in a haunted house.

1. (7) Paul. Despite looking like a young Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard, Paul managed to charm, nay seduce, a parade of young women to come into Top Shop to win the task for his team. (Sample: Paul: “Come on in and buy a jacket!” Sobbing young lady: “I’m sorry, I need to get to the hospital to bid farewell to my mother before they turn off her life support in 15 minutes!” Paul: “I’m sorry to hear that. But think of her; wouldn’t she prefer it if you were enjoying yourself splashing out money on a jacket you obviously don’t need rather than weeping over sick little her? Like all mums, she only wants to see her daughter happy!” Sobbing young lady: “You’re quite right, now where’s my credit card…” Paul: “You know, I could also do you a deal for a great funeral veil.”) We can only presume he possesses the very soul of each customer like an avaricious spirit before releasing them from his thrall the moment they key in their card number.

2. (6) Syed. Before the selling began, Syed seemed to accede to Sharon’s superior know-how: “To be honest, you’ve got a lot of fashion experience and I’m happy to listen to you. At the end of the day it’s team decisions.”* As the day started, Syed’s absence of shopfloor decorum was immediately apparent as he enquired of a woman: “What size are you? A 10? How about we try a 12?” Such a gross error of social protocol was actually written in the statute books in the 15th century as a justifiable reason for a woman to kill a man. But the enduring impression of him was of a misguided poltergeist hurtling about the store, tossing clothes about randomly and whispering into the ears of every young woman that their outfits could “be finished with a pair of black skinny jeans” before thrusting the garment spectrally into their hands and following them to the cubicles, bundling Sharon out of the way and ogling them as they got changed.

* Translation courtesy of Syed’s Dictionary of Business Etiquette: If I’m to be dishonest, I’m going to pay you a compliment to lull you into a false sense of security that your views will be listened to and to shut your whining up. I’ll only be happy to listen to you when I’m six feet under. And ‘team decisions’ actually means what me and Paul think and can coerce Tuan into thinking, but if Paul disagrees with me, then a ‘team decision’ is actually ‘my decision’.

Also: “If any f**ker wants to go head-to-head, I’ll go head-to-head with them!” What was that? Oh, only every artery in my body bursting with bubbling testosterone.

“A toast. Three wins. Sharon, you look absolutely gorgeous.” I’ve won again, and you know what, I’ll let you wastrels celebrate with me. Even you Sharon, whom I may need to get onside for the next task just in case one of you dolts messes up and we lose so I’ll just melt your animosity towards me with this pithy compliment.

3. (2) Ruth. After the teams had decided which Top Shop clothing lines they would like to sell in their half of the floorspace, Ruth and Tuan negotiated. We say ‘negotiated’, but such was Ruth’s feral ferocity, it was handled in the same way as a bomb negotiates with a house. After tearing Tuan limb from limb like a particularly grumpy werewolf, she crowed, “If I got his eye contact, I’m stronger than him” while picking clean a gobbet of his hapless flesh from her teeth with a claw. As the selling started, Syed encroached on Ruth’s territory and, with a smile that bared her fangs still glistening crimson with the shredding of Tuan’s self-confidence, demanded, “Do you want to move over to your side, then?” After her rashness in providing Top Shop owner Philip Green an outfit for just £66 when he had requested one worth £100 was criticised by Sir Alan, she was brought back in to the boardroom to face firing by Michelle. And even though she said she agreed with the decision, she eyed Michelle with the yellow-eyed fierceness of a werewolf sizing up its next meal.

4. (5) Nick. Gazed archly over proceedings like a black raven perched on a blasted, charred tree outside the haunted house, sneering at the efforts of all about him while eyeing the ground for any carrion to scavenge upon as the taste of plastic from the red pen on which he was gnawing was beginning to pall. As Michelle tried to wriggle out of responsibility for her team’s loss, he scorned: “The sales floor was the battlefield. You were miles behind lines downstairs.” He also, from some previously unseen fathom of his being, coughed up twin fur balls of fashion expertise and teenage slang when he croaked: “The store was flooded with gothic. The hot one was admiralty.”

5. (6) Ansell. In the haunted house, he is the melodramatic thunder shaking the rooms to their foundations, the lightning illuminating the foreboding corners of dusty bedrooms, rain rat-a-tatting on the window pane and wind billowing in the curtains to make them look like ghosts. His major contribution was to inform Michelle that her team were 23% behind their rivals at lunchtime, but needlessly did so through a phone when he could used his booming voice to let the whole of Oxford Street know his woes.

6. (10) Michelle. Her love of fashion counted against her as project manager as she seemed over-eager to abandon the rest of her team to the drudgery of the shopfloor for the presumed glamour of the VIP boutique. But it soon became evident this was an error, and she soon metamorphosed into a little zombie girl but where a taste for raw flesh had been replaced by a mindless compulsion to try on expensive clothes. While preparing the day before the task, My Little Zombie had demanded “some champagne while trying on the clothes” (or clurthes, as she calls them) rather like demanding some bile to soothe her palate while she scoffed down some entrails. The only difference being we have more respect for undead cannibals than fashionistas, especially after she boasted: “People are going to see me and think, ‘Cor, she’s got style’.”* Ultimately, she wasted most of the morning trying to extort money from thrifty tourists who bought a £30 skirt. Survived in the boardroom largely because of Samuel’s serial ineptitude rather than any saving grace on her part, although we would have been tempted to ‘fire’ her for her repetitious response to any of Sir Alan’s accusations which she countered with “Not at all”.

*Translation of what people will actually think courtesy of Michelle’s Book of Delusions (Volume 4: The Amstrad Years): There is a young woman with more style than sense, we’ll not seek her sales advice as her expensive attire shows that she ranks senseless chic over value; and, more importantly, why is that BBC camera attempting to peer down her cleavage?

7. (1) Sharon. Sharon was the moaning banshee of the haunted house. After last week’s disaster with cars selling, she was in her element as fashion was something she knew about but the boys on her team – Syed, Paul and Tuan – largely ignored her. “You don’t take my views into account!” she wailed, causing half of the men in Top Shop to fall to the ground clutching their ears, screaming at the auditory torture.

8. (4) Margaret. Was her usual impassive self; her facial frigidity resembling the eyes that creepily dart back-and-forth behind an noble, revered portrait hung in the haunted house. Received a finger massage that will have thawed the permafrost that has engulfed her sensibilities since her employment by Sir Alan.

9. (8) Jenny. She is the disembodied voice of the haunted house that cackles through the walls at anyone unfortunate to stumble into the lair of her master. “Sir Alan will see you now!” she whispered. And while we’re on the point, why does Jenny always answer the call from Sir Alan with a “Hello?” She must know who it is, but this is just one of the many mysteries about this enigmatic receptionist.

10. (11) Tuan. Even though Tuan was a project manager, he still managed to drift harmlessly along the peripheries of the petty palaver. In the haunted house, he would be the affectations that add an indefinable sense of dread such as the bloodstained graffiti on the walls speaking of some terrible curse, the broken furniture, the haggard harridan’s face that appears in the window, or the pentagram etched on the wooden floor with a bloodied hand.

And we lost:

Samuel. Or more likely he lost himself, as Samuel is one of those meek inadequates who you wouldn’t search for if you lost him down the back of the sofa. He was supposedly in charge of marketing, but this consisted of him docilely ambling across the pavement in front of Top Shop like an empty bag caught in a gusting wind, but the passers-by would have paid more attention to the bag as Sam handed out free bottles of water, and as the potential customer disappeared into the distance he called after them, “please come back!” with such timidity they would have left him drowning in quicksand. In our Haunted House of Horrors he would be the rubbish ghost who would descend the scale of employment for restless spirits – stumbling from guest spots on Scooby Doo and Rentaghost before taking a job as a stand-in for the cardboard cut-outs on a ghost train, only to be sacked for failing to scare a child. Eventually, he’d fall to the very bowels of dignity and end up making spooky noises on Most Haunted to give some credibility to Derek Acorah, but fail as the rustling he makes while reading his ubiquitous notes gives him away.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 12 April 2006

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1. (2) Syed. A tour de force of self-delusion, duplicity, selfishness, sycophancy, arrogance and planned genocide means a bumper entry into Syed’s Dictionary of Business Etiquette. And he was made to squirm in the boardroom by Sir Alan. “Do you think Tuan is a patsy?” Sir Alan demanded, to which the cowed Syed replied: “I wouldn’t use the word ‘patsy’ but… yes.”

An exasperated Sir Alan also chastised Syed for trying to sell to Sainsbury’s when he had explicitly told them not to bother. “I wanted to push the boundaries,” contended Syed. “The greatest salesman in the world isn’t going to sell to Sainsbury’s in a day,” Sir Alan raged back, which was the cue for one of the most supercilious statements in the history of television as Syed actually seemed to think the greatest salesman in the world Sir Alan was referring to was he, Syed. “I know. I found that out,” he graciously conceded. And as Sir Alan targeted Syed’s incompetence Syed interrupted him and was twice told to “Shut up!”

Syed’s Dictionary of Business Etiquette:

“Whatever problems we have between us in the team, can we just put them on hold?” – Definition: Yes, I know you hate me but if I can stall you until this task is over you’ll either be kissing my gilded shoes in worship or being “fired” by Sir Alan after I’ve slimed him with toadying compliments and hung you out to dry.

On the phone to the B&Q office: “Your salesperson will scream with delight.” – Definition: Your salesperson will soon be screaming in agony after spending five minutes in their company as my pleas to buy our petrol cans evolve into little bugs with sharp teeth and eat her alive.

“I’m not letting her tell me what I can and can’t do!” – Definition: She’s a woman, how dare she order a man around! She should be at home watching daytime TV waiting for me to phone her up and sell her a fuel can.

“I’m going to shut up now.” – Definition: I’m only telling you I’m going to shut up firstly to keep talking despite having nothing useful to say, and secondly to make it seem my silence is voluntary when really I’m busy tugging the next cliché receipt from the ever-churning sales machine of my mind.

“This product is going to be the future for fuel cans, herein.” – Definition: As long as I am trying to sell fuel cans I will regard their empty plastic cases as living, breathing entities and within two days I will have completed the impassive genocide of all previous breeds of fuel cans and wiped them from the memory of every garage consumer in Britain.

“I grew up in East London; I’ve learned life the hard way. And all I can say is that you have a very good product.” – Definition: I’m going to exploit the illusion that working class people are somehow inherently more honest and sincere to flog you these glorified teapots.

“I’m dying for a leak.” – Definition: Just to warn you, people, that I would rather douse my trousers in warm piss than miss the chance of a sale.

“I’m not here to make friends or play happy families.” – Definition: I have no friends and I sold my family into slavery a decade ago for the telephone number of Hewlett Packard. Yes, I know I could have looked it up in Yellow Pages but I wanted to feel as though I had sacrificed something. Have I mentioned I grew up in East London?

As Sharon left the boardroom for the last time. “You’re a great person you are.” – Definition – See, I do have a heart. I have conveyed what you humans call ‘sympathy’ to a fellow creature.

2. (8) Jenny. We were swamped by a wave of sympathy as over the past two series of The Apprentice it appears that Jenny exists sullenly in a bubble of nothingness which is only occasionally pierced by the muddled herd of a bunch of reality TV wannabes or Sir Alan’s gruff, unforgiving voice. Again her meagre contributions were, “Sir Alan will see you now” and “You can go through to the boardroom now.” Has she had her humanity exorcised from her body to become little more than a talking doll with three set phrases?

3. (5) Ansell. Got off to a bad start. “You are the Faraway Trading Company!” he boomed down the phone to a potential buyer as if trying to hypnotise them. They hung up. But he was successful in selling the coat-stands and Alight (cubed). The prize for winning was a trip to a health spa, where Ansell took a dip in the pool and drifted past like the partially-eaten corpse of a hippopotamus floating down the Nile.

4. (1) Paul. We abhor his snide manner of using the monologues to camera throughout the day to vent his spleen over his colleagues’ ineptitude and his godlike virility in sales like a puritanical priest lecturing in an empty church. “I want to start every deal and close everyone!” pontificated Father Tulip, while scribbling assent for Sharon to be burnt at the stake for giving the wrong minimum order thus costing him sales of four ‘Ledge-ibles’. Dismissed by a relaxed, muscle-bound shop owner as a “second-hand car salesman”, the portly man-of-his-own-god spat back: “People like that need a kick up the arse, and to get on with things rather than drinking coffee, reading books and eating croissants! Even if they’re allowed to, they won’t make decisions!” Which essentially means that any person alive who isn’t metaphorically down on all fours scampering after the next meal shouldn’t be allowed to live.

5. (10) Tuan. Perhaps realising, like an uncommonly intelligent lobster, that merely trying to become more inconspicuous in the tank isn’t going to save him from being devoured and spat out by a crotchety, uncompromising businessman he has turned to religion for succour. “My job is to play Devil’s advocate,” he explained to a product seller, before playing Angel’s advocate by praising the product to the heavens. In the boardroom, he caught the lying bug off Syed when he claimed that if Syed hadn’t gone haring off to south London for the last sale Invicta would have won. They wouldn’t. The sale that made them late for the deadline brought in over £2,000 while Sir Alan’s penalty was only £700.

6. (3) Ruth. While she may be able to sell raw meat to Morrissey and coach him in the best technique to separate the bloody loins from the fat, she herself is highly susceptible to the commercial guile of others after being lured into agreeing to sell a coat stand as some must-have accessory. The vacuous verbosity also seemed to rub off on her as she breezed into a store with Michelle and fawned within earshot of the owner: “This is the best one we’ve been in. This is a new contemporary, quite funky cosmopolitan minimalistic coat stand – it attracts the eye when you walk in the room.” But surely the owner would point out the coat stand for any guests to hang their coats on rather than “the eye” being attracted to it – for what other purpose would “the eye” be attracted to it, it’s a coat stand not a work of art. And such products (the coat stands, the light blocks and the “bent metal”) typify the great décor illusion where functional furniture are sold as luxury enhancements as though they will elevate the buyer to sit at God’s right hand upon a golden throne upon their demise as a reward in much the same way as suicide bombers are promised 1,000 virgins and a tube of superglue.

7. (8) Margaret. As Syed, Sharon and Tuan stewed outside, she chortled haughtily: “You’ve got to choose from the whinger (Sharon), the liar (Syed) and the planner (Tuan).”

8. (6) Michelle. As part of Velocity she was party to flogging to retail stores the “50s-inspired coat stand” after project manager Ruth’s fishy-jowls were snared hook, line and sinker on the salesman’s line that “coat stands are coming back into fashion”. Excuse us, but when did they go out of fashion? Surely it’s impossible – unless we experience a year-long heatwave or the extermination of the middle-classes – for coat stands to ever go out of fashion simply because people will always wear coats. Thankfully, she had the insight to realise the folly of her task with the Alight (cubed) which she saw as “concrete blocks with a light in them”. They retail at £83 and are bought by the kind of people who should be paying a much higher rate of tax or hanging around in Sherwood Forest to martyr their unseemly wealth to Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

9. (4) Nick. Mute throughout, the scorn-wrinkles and disdain-lines on his face remained slightly ruffled and skewed like a disturbed grave. The only time he was animated was when the teams strode into the boardroom. This startled him a little as he had his finger plugged in to his ear as he filled himself up with his daily dose of bilious contempt so he could spray it about like a garden sprinkler.

And we lost:

Sharon. As she and Paul tried to sell the Ledge-ible to a store owner, he replied with the common sense that it was “just bent metal”. She had to suffer the hardship of lugging a huge wheeled suitcase through the streets of London while portly Paul was weighed down only by a folder containing his “logistics”. After imploring Paul for a chance to sell, he replied with a confidence boosting “On your head be it” as though it was Douglas Bader demanding to take a penalty in the World Cup final. And even then he had to make a song and dance about how he wasn’t going to be involved (“Just ignore me while I set up”) before butting in once more. Sir Alan gave her the boot as he thought she was “too nice” to work for him, which, along with his endorsement of Syed, is hardly a glowing reference for Amstrad.

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 19 April 2006

thecustard.tv chart – this week brought to you in association with corporate arrogance, the blind pursuit of wealth and crumbling delusions of competence.

1. (6) Ruth. Began the episode by placing herself in Big Grumpynuts’ shoes, “If I was Sir Alan…” she mused while cracking a rib with her teeth of the unfortunate delivery man she lured into her lair the day before. If Sir Alan does hire her, he should be wary of garrotte in her hands whenever he turns his back.

When she was switched to Syed’s team, she smacked her lips with relish and exclaimed she was “looking forward to working” with him as though he were a slab of appetising venison slowly roasting on the spit.

On the second day, she ran through the list of appointments like a bloodthirsty executioner baggsying all the beheadings, “I’ll do that one, that one, that one, Syed you do that one, I’ll do that one, that one, that one, that one, that one and that one.” Also, we’ve noticed that most of the candidates have a catchphrase; Ruth’s is: “Without a doubt!”

2. (3) Ansell. Managed to be likable and efficient, but was tripped up by having to use the banal insincere lexicon of estate agents. At one point, he showed a client a bedroom and commented: “You’ve got big windows that let in the beautiful light” as though most windows are glazed with metre thick lead. Ansell’s catchphrase: “Excellent!” said in a voice loud enough to shatter mountains to rubble.

3. (1) Syed. Despite his weekly mantra about how he “grew up here”, Syed’s knowledge of London left him wandering to a railway bridge to meet a client called Nicholas, he had arranged to meet at Wandsworth Bridge in the most egregious example of misdirection since General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. At the nondescript bridge, he called out to random passers-by, “Nicholas! Nicholas!” And then snarled that the absent Nicholas “hasn’t got a clue”. In the boardroom he berated Tuan for “pointing his finger” at him while jabbing his own digit in Tuan’s face. Syed’s catchphrase is: “To be honest…”

The Syed Dictionary of Business Etiquette:

“Sir Alan really ripped Tuan apart; he really went to town on him!” – Definition: My ears are deaf to the critical savaging I received, and I want to instil a lack of trust in Tuan among the rest of the candidates.

“I’m excited to be working with Ruth.” – Definition: How dare a woman challenge my masculine mastery of sales, I’ll soon cut her down to size!

After he had forgotten the keys to a flat he was trying to let he stalled the viewer with: “Do you go out at weekends?” – Definition: Can I call you this weekend to sell you some skinny jeans?

“To be totally honest, this has been a big learning curve.” – Definition: I don’t have a clue what I’m doing; I may as well try and build a spaceship.

“To be honest, I’m frustrated. Not my bag, to be honest.” – Definition: My words are much like a cheap beefburger: 90% gristly, unpalatable clichés, 10% gluttonous, fattening, self-deluding rubbish.

“I’ve no confidence in Tuan selling and closing. I’ve always taken the lead because he starts to use big terms like ‘variables’ and ‘consultant’. – Definition: Anybody who doesn’t attack customers with the same ferocity as a hungry wolf savages sheep and who also uses words of three syllables or more should be drowned in the nearest lake and their black hearts burned on a pyre.

“I’m good aren’t I?” – Definition: Worship me as a god! Cast my effigy in gold, and all dress in skinny jeans! And make unsolicited sales calls to Sainsbury’s!

To Tuan in the boardroom as Sir Alan decided which of them to fire: “You couldn’t close a barn door if you tripped over it.” – Definition: When pressurised, all those clichéd sentences that have been gushing out of my mouth like effluence for the past six years become jumbled and confused.

4. (9) Nick. Acted like a conceited prophet by sneering about Tuan that he was “disappointed because to impress Sir Alan he has to sell”. In the boardroom, he stroked his chin the way most people sharpen pencils. Nick’s catchphrase is to fix a candidate in his gaze and try to kill them with the power of his sneer alone.

5. (8) Michelle. Sagely noted that spoilt brat Paul is at the centre of much of the friction in the teams. She also received flowers from a man whom she let a flat to, and was flattered by his attentions more than gladdened by the sale. Michelle’s catchphrase is: “Not at all!”

6. (2) Jenny. Her catchphrase is: “You can go through to the boardroom now.” But, like the loveable tease that she is sometimes varies it to: “Sir Alan will see you now.”

7. (7) Margaret. Of Syed’s messy sales techniques she said: “You also need the man with the brush and shovel coming up behind.” Gets by without a catchphrase but instead elevates her voice to the pinnacle of haughtiness before deriding one of the candidates.

8. (4) Paul. His rotund, awkward shape at least found sexual favour among the fixtures and fittings as a light cover swooned as he strode beneath it and fell on his head. Has now soared past Syed as the most annoying candidate. Each week he throws his toys out of the pram with such petulance it’s a wonder someone hasn’t slung him in nappies. Stamping his feet, going bright red and threatening not to breathe after being kept in the office while Michelle and Ansell showed people around the flats, he said to Michelle: “It’s all about the team for me, don’t get me wrong.” Or: “All I want to do is have a chance to contribute to the team.”

But in his bitchy comments to camera, he whined: “Michelle has just blatantly gone out there to try and get the numbers in as she knows she can’t compete with me and Ansell!” And as he and Ansell stood outside a property: “This is how it should have been throughout the task.” Also, when it became apparent that he was as skilled at selling houses as dining tables are at marathon running he blamed the nature of the task. “There’s no variables,” he complained. Paul’s catchphrase is to the rest of the candidates: “I’m quite happy to do that if…”, and to the camera: “I’m the best.”

And we lost:

Well, nobody really. There was this bloke called Tuan hanging around the house but he was far too ineffectual and flaky to have been a candidate for the role of Sir Alan’s gruff attack dog. Although, we’re not sure. If he was a candidate, then he gave everyone a laugh when he claimed, “I can win it!” For the rest of the task he floated about like a spaceman in the endless vacuum of space cut loose from his craft and who is waiting sanguinely for his oxygen to run out. In the boardroom Tuan managed to tangle Sir Alan in knots with his hackneyed management-speak, “I wanted to go and sell by myself. But for the benefit of the task as project manager, I chose not to do that.” All of which caused Sir Alan to conclude, “It looks like you’ve given up!” His catchphrase is to mimic the catchphrase of whoever he is speaking with, so as he worked with Syed it was: “To be honest…”

The Apprentice, Wednesday 26 April 2006

thecustard.tv chart

1. (5) Michelle.

Floated to the top of the chart in much the same way as lifeless corpses emerge from the treacherous waters beneath them. Remained admirably unaware of the irony when she scorned Tuan with “I think he is quite non-descript”.

2. (4) Nick. Greeted the candidates in Istanbul looking like a charred pencil with shades and seemed elated to be able to lift his voice above his trademark whiny sneer when he pointed out the huge cruise liner the teams would be working on. “Look behind you,” he squeezed out of his ever-morose mouth with the same difficulty as a mouse giving birth to an elephant. “It’s the very, very big one.” And as Sir Alan deliberated over who should go out of Ruth and Syed, Nick poisoned Sir Alan’s mind by saying: “God forbid that Syed should win this thing. He will give you endless trouble.”

3. (6) Jenny. Was finally given more to say than her mantra chants of, “You can go through to the boardroom now” and “Sir Alan will see you now”, when she instructed the candidates that a car would “pick them up at 3.45am”. And added: “You’ll need to pack for a week, and the weather is changeable. Also, you need to pick a project manager tonight.”

4. (1) Ruth. Seemed to act with deliberate incompetence to make sure project manager Syed got the bullet, or was shown up as a professional charlatan. She hit golf balls with the same ferociousness as butchers reserve for the gristliest parts of a cow. Managed to use her catchphrase again when she asserted: “Without a doubt, we’ve been ahead of the game in the marketing department.” In the boardroom, Ruth revealed her unique marketing skills: “The tactic I took was to physically hit as many people as I could.”

5. (7) Margaret. As Syed tried to attract custom to his haphazard fun day, Margaret could be seen in the background head bowed in despair at his inept antics.

6. (2) Ansell. Broke free of the chains of false modesty that have been quite endearing, when he spluttered with odious conceit: “I think the right five people are here.” Alas, he failed to note that both he and Michelle’s cowardice of only project managing one task each has made them as plausible finalists as a general who trots into the scene of a long-finished battle and tries to claim credit for the victory with a yellow stain along their spine.

7. (8) Paul. Less a man more a social sickness. He and Ansell seemed to be duelling in a contest to see who could make the most banal observation. As the pair packed to leave for Turkey, Ansell exclaimed: “A week away!” Paul: “A week!” Ansell: “A week!” Paul: “A week!” And when they were shown their rooms in the cruise liner Paul chortled: “This is awesome!” Not to be outdone Ansell chimed in with a “fantastic” only for Paul to snatch the last word with another “awesome”, bringing up to a total of 2,639 the number of words he has used with an absolute lack of sincerity since the series began.

And when Paul came up with the idea of ‘Chance to Dance’ (essentially a rip off of Come Dancing with geriatrics) he shouted: “We could have a dance!” “A dance!” echoed Ansell. “A show,” Paul went on. “A show!” mimicked Ansell. The only time he and Ansell were joined at their portly hips was when Paul publicised ‘Chance to Dance’ on the cruise liner’s TV station alongside the terminally simpering presenter. And after a period alongside him, Paul couldn’t resist his weekly bitch to camera, “That pair are totally wired” he scoffed, unaware that at this point we all would have liked to see him wired to something too. Boasted that: “We’ve got 32 bookings, the other guys are doing well, they’ve got five.” And his loathsome arrogance also was apparent as his team celebrated their win with the kind of grace barbarians used to show on European battlegrounds when they decapitated the bodies of their fallen foes as he roared: “Absolutely annihilated them; smacked them off the park.” But then came his biggest error as he got excited about going to Rome, “You’ve got the Coliseum where Gladiator was filmed”. Utterly ignorant of its grand history, to Paul it’s just a glorified film set than a historical monument. And as he and

Ansell ventured into their hotel suite, Ansell boomed “Unbelievable!” Not to be outdone Paul screamed “Oh my God”, before Ansell said “Now that’s what I’m talking about”.

And we lost:

Syed. From the very early moments when he lost the coin toss with Lady MacDonald’s, Ruth, to see who would be burdened with the job of project manager it seemed as if were doomed and was merely acting out his last moments as part of his own execution ritual. “Very confused, to be honest,” he remarked as he was on the plane. And his confusion continued when he was shown his cabin. “Two double rooms,” he said, only for Ruth to mutter, “Two singles” behind him. Also seemed bewildered and bafflingly claimed that grown men hitting golf balls in to the sea “was a big statement”. A statement of what? That they can hole out when the target is a couple of hundred miles in diameter? After his plans were dismissed as imaginative but shambolic and he and Ruth lost he expressed his dismay at the defeat with: “I was shocked. I was gobsmacked. I was actually stunned.”

The Apprentice, BBC2, Wednesday 3 May 2006

Did Sir Alan fire the right pair?

Ruth: Genghis Khan would have been proud. Short of changing her surname to ‘Less’ by deed poll, there’s little more Ruth could have physically done to win a place in the final. As she prepared for the three-pronged assault on her integrity from Sir Alan’s Three Dullards of Commerce, she bawled: “I wouldn’t let anyone get in my way!”

Ruth approached each interview with the war-mongering malice of a barbarian queen outside the gates of a hated foe; she raises her army into a frenzy by getting them to batter their swords on their shields before she smashes through the gates (without knocking) and charges up to confront her interrogator. It was a good job there were tables separating Ruth and the interviewers else when she stampeded in they would have been trodden into the ground, and then decapitated by the smirking Valkyrie.

Claude, one of Sir Alan’s henchmen who speaks with such calculating insensitivity in a previous life he could have been Pontius Pilate, was sceptical of her claim to have resigned from her last job to take part in the Apprentice rather than just a sabbatical. Claude: “You were resigned or you were fired?” “Without a doubt, resigned,” replied Ruth with her trademark clarity.

Paul queried her on how she gets on with colleagues, to which she replied that some people “resigned the moment I took over”, in much the same way as civilians in besieged cities would toss themselves onto burning pyres rather than become prisoners of the rampaging Mongol hordes.

But in the boardroom, Sir Alan savaged her seemingly habitual lying and appeared to be building up to firing her, and as he did so the tears welled up in those arid, heartless eyes like storm clouds gathering over the Atacama Desert as it welcomed its first rain for 400 years. However, Sir Alan, perhaps raising the melodrama stakes after booting out Paul almost as fast as he could get the words out, did a u-turn and put her through to the final.

Was Sir Alan right? Without a doubt. Ruth may have stretched the truth on her CV, but her desire to apparently be willing to eat the still-beating hearts of slaughtered calves to work for Sir Alan gave her the edge over Ansell.

Michelle: Began by quoting a line from every clichéd thriller since business became ‘sexy’ in about 1986 when she said of her ambition to be the Apprentice “Failure is not an option”. She also exposed the flawed notion of Sir Alan having three middle-aged men conduct the interviews as in the boardroom they were like libidinous walruses competing to for who could pay her the most gushing compliment.

It was only Margaret who had anything negative to say, noting “she is a cold fish”. Which is a cheek considering Margaret herself is a lawyer, and it’s well-known that all lawyers forfeit their souls when they qualify and have their blood swapped with the molten metal of a million innocent one pound coins.

In fact, she charmed the bustling slabs of testosterone so much that only Claude picked up on her frequent job interview bluster such as her assertion that “instinct gives you that initial steer” slapping her down by stating that you can’t conduct business by “a feeling in your water” (which may be true but also exposes business’s aversion to imagination).

In the boardroom, Nick came over all mystical when he mused with all the dread portentousness of Yoda foreseeing the rise of Darth Vader and the evil Galactic Empire: “I fear Michelle may have seduced you all. I wonder if her ambition is a danger.”

Was Sir Alan right? While there’s no doubt her prettiness enabled her a far smoother ride than any of the other candidates, her steely determination and dead-eye stare suggests that should she lose next week to Ruth there’s a role awaiting her in the next series of Doctor Who as a Cyber(wo)man.

Paul: Throughout the show, it became evident Paul has not lived in the real world with the rest of us for very long. He chirruped: “People have said to me ‘I’ve never met anyone like you’. And I’ve never met anyone like me.” A self-aggrandisement that was debunked by one of Sir Alan’s flunkies who was doing the embarrassingly tough interviews (it was Tulip’s namesake Paul, the one who looks as though he’s spent a couple of hours in the washing machine with a weather beaten cliff face).

In his first interview, he was brought down a peg or two when Claude dismissed his CV as “one of the worst I’ve seen in my life”. Paul then proceeded to perform the job interview equivalent of a Kamikaze pilot hurtling into a US battleship, but missing by about a mile. Asked how he measured his life, Paul replied that it was enjoyment not money and that he “loved his life”. However, he then rapped his own argument over the kneecaps with the big metal bar of stupidity, as he explained he wanted to work for Sir Alan because of the huge salary.

After baffling with a convoluted analogy as to why he was like a cake, Paul decided to instead try and impress with sheer bravado. And while such techniques may work with selling apples, cars, flats and coats, it cut no ice with the bulls**t-hardened acolytes of Sir Alan.

But the worst thing about him came out when it was revealed the thing he hates is a Big Issue vendor waving a copy of the magazine in his face, instead he suggested they outline the features and stories. Seemingly oblivious that homeless people might not be trained in the art of sales, it might be possible for him to forge a career in TV in Tulip Talks in which the chirpy recruitment sales executive explains how the poor could have bettered themselves throughout history.

And the first episode could have Paul travelling to Rome’s Coliseum where he will outline how, through hard sales techniques perfected on the forecourts of Britain’s ponciest car showrooms, that gladiators could have made themselves into sporting heroes with image-rights deals; presuming, of course, he knew the Coliseum wasn’t “the place where Gladiator was filmed”.

Was Sir Alan right? While, when not bitching to the camera or trying to manipulate his rivals, Paul was the most personable of the candidates he was always far too full of himself. And while his cheery exterior was enough to succeed in the superficial world of sales, once he became exposed to the white hot analytical skills of Sir Alan’s major-domos, he disintegrated into dust.

Ansell: Ansell came across well, but rather one dimensional like an exotic pet such as python that is friendly and has novelty value, but whose limitations become exposed pretty quickly; it’s not as though you can take a python for a walk or let it play with the kids.

In the boardroom, it was a close call between Ansell and Ruth and Ansell probably lost it by the fact that his sentences came out of his mouth like organs being plucked from a corpse during an autopsy.

Each reason he detailed for why he should be allowed to go through was devoid of spirit and spontaneity, everything he said could have come from the mouths of a billion other people, which may have been enough if he hadn’t been up against Ruth who could storm the Bastille with her voice alone.

Against his nonsensical “I have a number of skills over a period of time”, Ruth gnashed her teeth and snarled “I’m your Apprentice for a number of reasons”.

After his firing, Ansell came out with a statement even sillier than his “skills” maxim, when he noted that “the two people in the final have a great chance of winning”.

Was Sir Alan right? Unless he was looking to hire someone who could have done away with the need for a loudspeaker system and channel all company-wide messages through the booming vocal chords of just one man, then Sir Alan was correct. Ansell simply lacked Ruth’s hunger, or at least the shamelessness to broadcast it.

The Apprentice Final, BBC2, Wednesday 10 May 2006

“Team” Michelle:

Michelle: As she ironed her “clurthes” before leaving for Sir Alan’s bunker, she spoke with that same stoical detachment common to all those who sell their souls to business, describing her actions and emotions as “strategies” and using horrid corporate terminology such as “day one”. God used “In the beginning”; if it’s good enough for an omnipotent being it’s good enough for you, young lady.

As Sir Alan laid out the task, Michelle showed the imperious invention and tack-sharp mind when she came up with a James Bond Double-O Heaven themed night, which would have been admirable had Sir Alan not tossed it lightly away as one of the example ideas when outlining the mission. Of course, Michelle later claimed that both she and Syed had, in the 10 seconds between Sir Alan announcing the task and giving the examples, both written down a James Bond themed night.

When Sir Alan asked her to give a reason why she should be “hired”, she responded with typical clinical corporate language that everyone puts on their CVs: “I give 110%, I’m passionate, focussed and committed. I can add value. I will deliver passionately and strongly without a doubt.”

And it was probably her last words that extinguished any doubts in Sir Alan’s mind she should win, as through saying “Without a doubt” she had stolen Ruth’s catchphrase that had helped her through many a boardroom battle and. in doing so, make Ruth seem like she was copying Michelle should she repeat those words.

Paul: Began as we’ve learnt to expect Paul to begin by pledging his undying loyalty on the pious honour of car salesmen across the country that he will do all in his earthly power to help his team win the task. “We are Michelle’s slaves,” he conceded. “We’ve got to do anything she wants us to do.”

He finally wised up to Syed’s technique of bathing someone in lathery praise, so the next insult might not seem quite as caustic or the next hare-brained idea might be pondered with more credulity.

He bitched to camera as Syed charmed a group of Americans. “We’re not in a rush,” he muttered under his breath. “Time isn’t a problem.” And as Syed went into some anonymous building in London (you know one of those phallus skyscrapers where, if you cut deep enough, wads of pound notes flop on to the street like dead fish from a net) he called him a “cock”.

Syed: The man whose eyes look as though they’re fugitives from Scooby Doo’s Hall of Villains was so cantankerous you would think he was still in with a chance of becoming The Apprentice. Bickered with Paul by senselessly repeating what his colleague had suggested, adding a pointless appendage and then claiming it as his idea before leaning across a table and saying, “I’m respecting your space.”

The pair were then observed driving around in the car with no discernible destination as they frantically tried to secure the use of an Aston Martin (“No Paul, it’s As-TON not As-TIN”), which begs the question: why were they in the car at all? Was it to enhance the vibrant momentum of the show, or simply to give the illusion of endeavour?

Sharon: Despite looking like she had spent the last month inside a toaster, Sharon showed she had lost none of her talent for complaining when she baited Syed over his failure to sell more than four tickets for Double-O Heaven.

“Team” Ruth:

Ruth: As she prepared to depart for Sir Alan’s office, her cheeks glowed with such crimson ferocity it looked like a recent skirmish had been fought there and the blood of the rampant barbarian queen’s foes still stained the battleground.

Strapping her battleaxe on to her back and fixing the shrunken heads of her vanquished foes on a bandolia across her chest, Ruth snarled: “I’ll be as much of a challenge for Sir Alan, as he’ll be for me as I won’t roll over and let him tickle me.” Unaware, of course, that to feel and enjoy being tickled it is first necessary to be able to feel emotion.

After the teams were selected, Ruth gnawed hungrily at her pen as though suffering withdrawal symptoms from not supping on the raw flesh of her enemies, perhaps contemplating in how few mouthfuls she could devour Syed. And with the thought of killing on her mind, came up with a Murder Mystery evening for her Tower Bridge party.

She even tried to get profound, but discovered the deeper troughs of the ‘human condition’ were as impenetrable to her as a seven-year-old attempting to dig his grandfather’s grave in the Siberian permafrost with the plastic spade he was bought for that holiday on the Black Sea his parents could never afford when she said: “There’s only one letter’s difference between ‘hired’ and ‘fired’, but it will change the rest of my life.”

Getting dressed for the event, Ruth found it difficult to squeeze into her fancy dress wench’s outfit after a lifetime of wearing chain mail armour. But the event itself was a bit of a washout with the actors hired to play out the murder mystery being drowned out by the throng of paying guests, thus being reduced to just a bunch of people shouting nonsensically in loud posh voices while being largely ignored – rather like the forgotten Ben and Karen in the early episodes.

When Sir Alan demanded why she should be The Apprentice, Ruth launched into her speech like a true barbarian queen diving into the thick of a thronging battle cutting down enemies to the left, decapitating those on her right. “I am the Apprentice for the following reasons – I am the all-rounder, I’ve a sound foundation to build on, I’m not a trainee, I’ll improve your productivity and revenue.” But it wasn’t enough.

Tuan: Suffered the schoolboy humiliation of last-pick-at-football when Ruth grudgingly accepted him on to her team. Again showed his awkwardness at using the hackneyed verbiage of sales when he flatly flogged Ruth’s Murder Mystery as: “It’s just going to be a bonkers night” and “It’s going to be mental fun.”

He was then out-negotiated by three tipsy women who battered his price down from £200 for three tickets to £120 for three tickets. “Let’s say £130 and we’re done,” he exclaimed with all the confidence of a baby antelope offering a lion one of its legs rather than its whole body. “Let’s say £120,” the ladies countered. And he continued to act like a resident of the Serengeti when Ruth was cheered by selling out her event and Tuan affectionately nuzzled his head along her arm.

Jo: Seemed to be able to rein in her impulsive tendencies to support Ruth far more competently than Syed did for Michelle. But this didn’t halt her irrational emotional outbursts that tallied 29 for this single episode, bringing her grand total to 128.

Ansell: After his elimination last week, and perhaps looking for a new challenge, Ansell pitted the potency of his voice against Mother Nature by walking across Tower Bridge in a gusting gale with his mouth further obstructed by two plants. Could we still hear his booming tones? Of course we could.

The judiciary:

Sir Alan: As Michelle and Ruth nervously entered the boardroom, Sir Alan, still looking foolish on his dais-like throne elevated slightly above Margaret and Nick to make him more imposing when it makes him resemble a spiteful Mini-Me, gestured towards the ex-candidates and referred to them dismissively as “those people” as a battle-weary sergeant refers to a pile of corpses who were once his comrades-in-arms.

The next time we saw Sir Alan he “was relaxing on his yacht and not happy”. Leaving aside the anomaly that there is more oxygen on the Moon than joy in Sir Alan’s soul, the shot seemed to be just an excuse to hammer home just how wealthy he is.

Attending the events, Sir Alan seemed impressed by Michelle’s party although we don’t know this from any sign of ecstasy on his features more because he made a joke about a hanging dummy being Syed. At Ruth’s Murder Mystery, a clearly scornful Sir Alan was confronted by one of the actors blathering some rubbish about shareholders, and expressed his bemusement with a distinctive raising of the eyebrows.

When Ruth later claimed that the Can-Can girls weren’t as a direct consequence of his disapproving intervention in a phone call, the exasperated, sceptical tycoon shouted: “Have I got some antenna coming out of my head like I’ve just arrived from Mars?”

Sir Alan actually gave away that Michelle had won by smiling thinly at her as he assessed her overall candidacy and also adopted the only other sign of visible emotion when he hunches his shoulders up like a deckchair left half-folded up in a summer shower. We knew this as Sir Alan’s smiles are even less regular than Halley’s Comet and often twice as cold, but this grin had a warmth to it that even started to thaw his frigid features and the beardy snow that flecks his impassive face.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

10/05/2006

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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