Saturday 18 October 2014

The Apprentice, episodes one and two.

The world is in turmoil, the Ebola crisis is worsening each day, Islamic State is going strong, Muslims are at war wherever you find ‘em, Jihadis’ plots are straining our security services to breaking point, the BBC is preoccupied with the so-called Freudian slip and the Madeley family’s trolling problem

Of all the artificial constructs, in all the schedules of every channel in all the world, no wonder I was watching the most artificial construct of all; the Apprentice.
We do like our unreality reality programmes.  We know they’re slickly edited, tweaked, manipulated and moulded into a package for our goggle-eyed gratification.

The Apprentice is so ridiculous that I like it a lot, and I’m not alone. It’s uniquely voyeuristic and cringeworthy, but without the viciously cruel humiliation of the X Factor auditions. There’s still humiliation, but it’s more benign.

Of all the dumbed-down, ratings-driven, populist crap that make the BBC what it is today the Apprentice is the daddy. It’s so peculiar, what’s not to like? 

Like all the other unreality programmes, the Apprentice sticks to a rigid, obviously nonsensical format. Unachievable time-limits are imposed, designed to inject suspense into the action, despite viewers knowing full well that what they are seeing is not what has actually happened. 
The latest series of the Apprentice opened with a flourish. A treat! Episodes one and two on consecutive days, with extra candidates!

We’ve still got the translucent screen through which Lawd Sugar makes his dramatic entrance before making his way to the throne. You’d think by now, after several episodes - a decade, we’re told - someone might have put him right about his pet saying:  “What was you thinking”. Is everyone really terrified of Lordy, or is he deliberately modelling his TV persona on the Dick Van Dyke school of cockney grammar?

No-one who has ever watched the Apprentice would volunteer to be the first project manager. One assumes these candidates had watched it before, but someone had to do it, and Sarah Dales (33/1)and Felipe Alviar-Baquero (9/1)were the first foolhardy guinea pigs.

The girls chose a name that none of them knew the meaning of, ‘Decadence’. 
The project manager had ordered them to glam up for the hard sell, so decadence might have accidentally been quite a fitting team name. Unfortunately those instructions antagonised the team, who felt  their intelligence had been insulted, so all semblance of  ‘teamwork’ went down the pan from the get-go. The the girl who suggested Decadence thought it meant something to do with ‘decade’  (Ence of decade?)  There is a scent called Essence of Beckham, so...   

It was a shame that the first episode was so mundane. Selling job lots of unrelated merchandise, if possible, for profit, in the space of a working day, and back to the boardroom, ready or not, at 5 on the dot, the girls tottering frantically from inappropriate venue to inappropriate venue in killer heels, eventually offloading most of their wares at a small profit or a substantial loss.

The boys wasted so much time at an outlying organic suppliers, adding value to some sausages that they missed the lunch trade, forcing them to abandon a valuable stock of T shirts at the printers that had been briefed to decorate them with the ill-conceived slogan “Buy this T shirt”. Who would wear that?  Not so much adding value as subtracting it.
They too eventually offloaded most of their wares at a substantial loss or a small profit.

On episode two, they chose (nothing to do with municipal incontinence) “Tenacity”, the meaning of which someone allegedly understood. 

From the losing team (the boys) the one who made the decision to sell off the spuds instead of collecting the T shirts was fired. (Chile(s) 9/1)

Episode two.

In the second episode Nurun Ahmed (25/1) was railroaded into being project manager. The task was to design wearable technology as fashion.

She seemed to be wearing several headscarves at once, with a small red hanky kirby-gripped on top. Her headdress seemed to have its own superstructure, capacious enough to house a considerable amount of wearable technology. A transmitter that could have relayed instructions on how to project manage would have been useful. Obviously that was not the case, as she was hopelessly bullied into incorporating everyone’s ideas into a hideous jacket.

It had the ability to charge a phone and warm your front torso with the aid of solar panels. Unfortunately no-one discussed the solar panels with the technicians, and at the last minute they discovered that solar panels must be exposed to the sun, so had to be stuck on the shoulders of the jacket in the hope that they would be mistaken for striped shoulder pads, which they would not. 
One of the initial ideas for the design was that the lapels of the jacket would change colour according to any top worn underneath. This effect could have been achieved with multiple tiny lights, but the concept was lost in translation, and the final lapels were edged with one or two sparsely placed lights that twinkled like a sad christmas tree decoration. 

Unbelievably, they achieved some orders for this garment, which won them the task.

Nick Hewer has morphed into a TV personality. When he appears on HIGNFY he constantly makes socialist, anti-capitalist asides. Since he is fortunate enough to have created an apparent demand for his own TV appearances solely through a purportedly capitalist venture, this is disturbing.

Of course, the whole thing might indeed be a Marxist plot, because any real business founded on the unsustainable principle of unabashed rip-offness wouldn’t last ten minutes. But still, surely Lord Sugar must be aware of the need to keep the customer happy? 
The boys’ team fared even worse. Their creation was a drab grey sweatshirt with a tiny camera in the front. None of them addressed the concept with the obvious question: “What was we thinking?” 
It was secret filming, but not secret because of the words “On Air”, which were written in fairy lights across the front to warn people when the jumper was filming. 
No-one knew where such a sweatshirt would come in handy, even in the unlikely event that anyone would take a fancy to the style of it.

When the idea of a sweatshirt sporting an illuminated ”On Air”  was first mooted, one imagined twinkly LEDs rather than the surface-mounted trail of wires with old-fashioned fairy lights that was greeted with dismay when it arrived at the crack of dawn at the house next morning. 
We all expected cutting edge technology, but what we got was wind-the handle, penny-in-the-slot, sticking plaster and glue, make do and mend-ology.  Another disappointment. 

No sales were generated. The girls won by default. Two people from the boys team were fired, including the one tipped to win the series, six foot seven Robert (high-end) Goodwin (Goodwin?) (6/1) and the Scottish Scott McCulloch (10/1).  The winning team was duly rewarded.
Nurun the PM was last seen hovering above London on a jetpack in the arms of a man in a wetsuit, in a most unIslamic fashion, if I may say so. 
Next week there will be some other contrived, faked set-up, artfully engineered to appeal to the attention-deficit-flibbertigjibbets that the BBC assumes we are. Cheers!

Meanwhile the BBC news and current affairs department is still wondering if Lord Freud should step down and agonising over Richard Madeley’s trolling problem or Ed Miliband’s polling problem.

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