ITV has an appalling record with its tacky derivations of BBC hits, but this competition among a bunch of gruseome salespeople has come up with a good formula and executed it pretty well.
What was good about it?
• As in The Apprentice, there are plenty of opportunities to sneer at deluded imbeciles who only exist to make money and have astronomical levels of self-belief. The contestants are thrown into the Quality Hotel, a soulless roadside motel (or, in the words of one contestant, “a shithole”), before being dispatched to show off their selling skills. One becomes the “top dog” (yuck) and gets to fire one of the two weakest performers.
• Thea – oh how we love to hate you. Everything about you is utterly hilarious. You think you are special; you are not; you are despicable. You say you are 31; if that is true, moisturisers have had no impact on your skin. You have the ugly, elastic mouth (and the money-grabbing tendencies) of Cherie Blair. You didn’t deliver on the task after bigging yourself up, only managing to rack up a few sales by unbuttoning your blouse and acting like a whore. And you say things that make you look utterly foolish (“I’ve worked my way up to IT solutions salesperson in the City” and “I like being glamorous. I’m good at it. Being pretty helps. When you’re a customer, it’s easier being sold to by someone who’s easy on the eye” and “Sex appeal sells and I’ve got lots of it”).
• We wanted to hate wide boy Scott, as well, but we ended up loving him in a David Brentish way. He’s the “discount man”; his catchphrase is “Check your bad self out”; he don’t like none of that nega’ivatee; he does like playing trance music loudly in his car.
• Andy, the stone-faced boss at Ideal Homes, a furniture store on a bleak Derby trading estate, resolutely failed to be impressed by the antics of the contestants. But we were very impressed by his claim: “My clinical eye can measure everything to within a millimetre”.
• As in The Apprentice, one of the contestants was a useless posh boy, which is always satisfying to watch. Nervy Nick couldn’t even programme his satnav. When he did turn up, he scurried sweatily around the Derby townsfolk as if they were wild creatures who could turn on him at any moment.
• Danny the car salesman who won the “top dog” prize (a ride in a Lexus) and milked his role of executioner – fretting for ages before dispatching Nick. Counting against him was his “gold” ring which spelt out “Dad”, but we guess that is required part of the uniform if you’re offloading motors in Essex. Counting for him was his philosophical motto: “I’ll walk the horse to water as many times as it takes for it to drink it.”
What was bad about it?
• The absence of a forbidding Sir Alan-like presence hanging over the contestants. A chap who made a fortune from selling Phones4U turned up at the end as referee but didn’t have the chance to utter any pithy putdowns or dissolve the contestants into gibbering wrecks.
• The creepy Gavin, who donned a straw hat to make himself seem to be a bit eccentric to disguise the fact that he’s the dullest man on earth. He tried to sell a sofa by conjuring up a lifestyle of “EastEnders, a glass of wine, Malteasers.” He screwed up the paperwork. He was rubbish.
• We didn’t get enough exposure to grey-haired Leighton and squeaky-voiced Anna Marie to form an impression – or Kirsten who bottled out after day one, no doubt thinking there were better things in life than flogging three-piece suites.
• The purring narration of Peter Egan.
• The use of the term “salesman” instead of “salespeople” (or “scum”).
• The rubbish title.