Wednesday, October 06, 2010
The Apprentice, 2010: Week One.
Finally, it’s here! After (what I felt to be) a very underwhelming series of Junior Apprentice, we’re finally onto the original. Margaret has gone (replaced by Karen Brady), but the rest of the formula is reassuringly familiar. And by that, I mean deluded contestants who are almost swimming in their own stench of arrogance and tasks which bring out said qualities. The challenge this week is to sell sausages, and from the looks of it, the contestants will be making a pigs ear of it.
“Everything I touch turns to sold”, drawls one of the contestants. “Where’s my glass ceiling?” Already, he has established himself as a self-serving, egotistical goon amidst a sea of egotistical goons. The episode kicks in when Sir Alan divides the teams, as per standard, by gender. The first task for both teams is to pick their names. The women, after dallying with an atrocious “Winning Women”, plump for Apollo, because, as said by one of the women, for the Apollo, as for them, “failure is not an option.” The men flit between Fusion and Synergy, before the latter is selected by the majority.
Next up, picking the project managers. Dan Harris, the oldest of the men, puts himself forward straight away, whilst for the women, Joanna volunteers with more reserve. The two teams then have to decide how they’re going to set about selling their sausages, and the types that they’re going to supply. The men opt for bargain basement sausages, whilst the women decide the more delicate approach with gourmet sausages. Already the two project managers are starting to exhibit their true colours; Dan waves his arms around and hollers the f-words repeatedly, whereas Joanna shows her patronizing streak. Karen Brady, observing the men, is far from impressed with Dan, noting that heis “very aggressive.”
“Who the fuck is it?” hollers Dan, in another display of said aggression later on in the show. By now, the two teams have gone to the meat markets, bought their supplies (and on the whole failed to get a good bargain). The women go for some fairly obscure ingredients for their sausages - ham and mint, and chicken and chilli being two of their sausages. When they put all the ingredients into the machine and produce sausages, I must say, the sausages looked like willies initially. Soon, however, Apollo have take-off, and produce sausages that are on their way to looking mildly presentable.
Elsewhere with Synergy, Dan pouts a bit, before throwing his weight around. The boy’s team’s sausages come out of the machine looking like dried faeces; most unappetizing. Jamie Lester, one of the men, is truly unimpressed with his PM, noting that Dan “can’t organise a piss-up in a brewery”. Meanwhile, the women’s sausages are overstuffed with pricey mint, and the two ladies doing the accounts note that Apollo aren’t making as many as they’d hoped.
After that ”night of hard graft”, the women’s sausages are actually looking fairly professional. Unfortunately, when packaged, they look much like the men’s – sausages in a box. To exhibit their higher end ingredients, they must give tasters. The men start selling, telling people that the sausages are “Made by us” - - not really a selling point if you ask me. Synergy hit Portobello market, complete with speakerphone. The deal they’re offering is £3.99 for a pack, 3 packs for a tenner. They are frying samples, which pulls in buyers.
Of Synergy, Stuart Baggs is very eager to let it be known that he sells a lot. “To be honest I sell the most here”, he drawls. When his intrusive selling style is called into question by another team-mate, he gets shirt. “Who’s selling the most?” he demands, with the air of a spoilt child. The women need to recoup their high production costs, but as of yet, they’re not making a great deal of sales. Nick, watching them, observes wryly “You sell the sizzle, not the sausage,” touching on the fact that the women haven’t cottoned on to giving tasters. After a while, they do realise what the cooking utensils next to them are doing. “Better late than never,” he mutters.
The men then try to sell sausages to people in pubs. 90p a sausage, the guy in the pub is not having any of it. Dan just moves his arms about and swears in an attempt to be assertive. Meanwhile, in Apollo, friction is arising - one woman feels she’s being usurped; she’d talked a seller into buying some sausages, but feels that Joanna is hogging the glory by closing the deal. Joanna says that “As long as the deal’s done”, it doesn’t matter who does the selling, but this doesn’t stop the other team-member from moaning. It’s “a matter of professionalism” she complaigns.
The men, for some godforsaken reason, decide that when faced with a huge amount of stock that won’t sell, it’s time to take a stocktake. Even though that’s certainly not goning to make any money. Yet again, Dan continues to bark at his team and wave his right arm about, left hand in apron pocket, as if this proves what a good project manager he is. Dr Shibby Robati, a surgeon, talks about how fed up he is with his project manager’s brash confrontational ways. Soon, the day ends.
Apollo and Synergy enter the Board room. Sir Alan asks them how their names and project managers came about. “I put myself forward”, Joanna says smugly. Then, it’s the moment of truth. Synergy spent more, and made more money than Apollo, but Apollo spent so little that overall, they made £15 more profit than the boys. Nick gives some rare words of encouragement to the women who’d done the numbers, “Stella and Elizabeth are hot on the figures”. True enough; both women didn’t push themselves to the front of the camera, rather, they sat back and carried out their task with diligence and precision. Stella and Elizabeth are two to keep an eye on in a sea of despicable goons.
So, the women win, and are escorted back to their place of residence for the duration of the show – a Georgian townhouse slap bang in the middle of London’s west end. It is gorgeous, complete with a grand piano, a luxury sofa, a modern deco kitchen, sauna, and gym with treadmill. Downstairs, a chef is cooking sausages. Apollo can just about see the funny side, and tuck into (what looks like) some delicious finger food.
As for the men, they come home later, after the celebrations, as Sir Alan Sugar says he’s too tired for the recriminations to begin immediately. Stuart confidently declares “I’m going to take my suitcase in and I am not going to pack a thing. Because I’m not going home.” Once in the board room, the sniping begins immediately. It is revealed that Dan only sold £14 worth, though his defence – and it is a defence he uses many times in the boardroom – is that he was too busy “managing.” When questioned on being “Out of his depth”, he declares “I focussed on being a project manager”. But his teammates aren’t having any of it. One of them chirps that he was like “a bull in a china shop.” “So aggressive and so thuggish”.
Dan decides that he will bring Stuart and Alex into the board room. Once they’re in, Stuart and Dan begin arguing immediately. It is funny, after all that harping on, it turns out Stuart didn’t sell the most. More dissent in boardroom follows, with Dan claiming that he had his hands full Project Managing, and Stuart being sarky in a way that only a 21-year-old can (by the way, it is very hard to believe that he’s only one year older than me, such is his weather-beaten face, making disparaging comments.
In the end, Dan gets fired, which I think is by far and away one of the best firings Alan Sugar has made. He has time to take Stuart down a peg or two, telling him to only speak when he’s being spoken to, and thus ends the first episode of a long-awaited season of The Apprentice. Next week, they’re selling package holidays. BRING IT.
Quote of the episode: a toss-up between:
01. Everything I touch turns to sold
02. My first word wasn’t mummy, it was money
03. I’ve had a similar offer from a Nigerian