Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Nine

The Apprentice, Episode Nine

An interesting statistic: almost a quarter of adults in the UK are obese. Ever the keen entrepreneur, Sugar decided to target this statistic in this week's task by challenging the candidates to create, brand and pitch a new type of biscuit. After turning up at the candidates house, and being greeted by Tom in a very fetching grandad style body-warmer, Sugar mixed the teams up, meaning I can finally stop using their ridiculous names and call them whatever I want. Poor Tom was left on a team with the three witches of London Town: Melody, Susan and Zoe, leaving Jim with Helen and Natasha.

Susan immediately stepped in to take the project manager's role, stating that she had "experience in this field". "You work in cosmetics" Zoe pointed out. In fairness, this wasn't the dumbest thing that's come out of Susan's mouth this series, but still. Zoe essentially told Susan to shut up and put up and decided to put Tom through even more horror by pairing him up with Melody and sending them off to Wales to create their new biscuit. WALES. Even if he wanted to escape, he couldn't. This left Susan and Zoe alone together. Susan's already huge, Bambi-esque eyes grew even wider at the thought (and possible fear) of working with Zoe, but surprisingly, they got on quite well. Tom, however, had defiantly drawn the short end of the straw.

Being paired with Melody is like having a constant migraine; always droning away in the background, doing nothing of any real substance but still managing to be a massive pain in the arse. He had an excellent opportunity to go all Hansel and Gretel on her, and lock her in one of the ovens, but Tom is too nice for that. He did, however, show some authority by essentially telling Melody her heart-shaped biscuit idea was stupid (it was). After making a bit of a tit of himself in the focus group - you could tell that everyone in that focus group just wanted to give him a cuddle and a pat on the head - Tom's idea of a two in one biscuit for sharing came out on top. Melody tried to do her usual "no, my idea is better so I'm going to lie about the feedback" spiel but Zoe saw straight through it. You probably wouldn't take advice on food from Melody, who looks like she hasn't eaten a biscuit in 20 years as it goes "straight to her thighs". She probably enjoys celery. I don't like people who enjoy celery as a snack. Melody was then reduced to whining "but I don't like it" about Tom's idea while he tried to talk to Zoe on the phone. I bet she never spoke to the Dalai Lama like that.

Helen took charge of the other team, because she has actual experience with food. She decided that the most successful course of action would be to ignore everything Natasha said, thought or did, which is an excellent tactic as Natasha is an idiot. Unlike Zoe, who wanted the whole world to share in their biscuit idea, Helen and Jim decided to target children. This was a great idea, as children are greedy little things who like nothing more than eating, especially if it's food that's going to be bad for them. To prove this point, Jim made a huge tray of biscuits and sat back and laughed as these kids essentially scrapped with one another to try each type of chocolate-y goodness. Yum. They decided to make a biscuit shaped like a star - "because they give stars to kids in school, don't they?" said Helen. Natasha didn't say anything. I bet she never got a gold star at school, just a chalkboard eraser being lobbed at her head - and Jim, I thought, played right into the kids hands by having a really small biscuit with a HUGE lump of chocolate on top. It might encourage the kids to use the star points as a weapon, sure, but damn it, it was tasty.

Off they went to the pitches. Helen, as always, led the pitches well, and her tactic of not letting Natasha do anything was brilliant, as whenever she did open her mouth all that came out was a stream of non-sensical drivel. I don't like Natasha, in case you've not guessed. Jim also got a chance to use his Jedi powers by essentially talking at the representatives from Asda; he used a lot of words to say not very much. He got so into the idea that he was promising Asda that if they made this biscuit, Harry Potter HIMSELF would come down and advertise it to the kids. Karen's face was a picture.

Zoe's team decided to go with one of the most embarrassing, and bizarre, pitching techniques I've ever seen in my life. Melody, who is a communications expert - I hope the irony of that isn't lost on anyone. A communications expert. A woman who shrieks over the top of everybody because SHE IS ALWAYS RIGHT is an expert in connecting with people on a personal level - decided that she and Tom should role-play a couple to emphasise the sharing element of the biscuit. Melody. Tom. Melody AND Tom. Tom is nice. Melody is half human, half lizard woman. They called each other honey; they pretended to be cuddling up, watching a chick flick; they said how much they loved each other and I was a little bit sick in my mouth. It was awful. It was worse than awful. Nick, at one point, began gazing wistfully out of the window, probably wondering if he could throw himself out of it without anyone noticing. The people they were pitching to must have wondered where they'd got these idiots from. It also led to Zoe and Melody having a huge showdown in the Asda shopping centre, rather like two angry mothers fighting over a loaf of bread. I don't know what they were arguing about - it was just screechy vs. monotone and I lost interest - but it was bloody annoying.

In the boardroom, Zoe's team were completely arseholed, with Helen's team securing 800,000 units. This came from Asda, the group that Jim pitched to, proving that bullshit does work. Zoe and Susan blamed the product; Melody and Tom blamed the packaging. The biscuit box did look more like a tampon pack than a delicious sharing treat, but the actual biscuit itself didn't exactly scream 'luxury'. This gave Melody the chance to do her Pinnocchio impression by basically lying about everything. She lied about the market research (again), lied about her contribution to the final product and lied about her brilliant idea about the role playing ("that wasn't all down to me", she said. Maybe she's got temporary amnesia? Or maybe she's just a dick. You decide) and basically made me want to pull every hair out of her head, slowly and painfully. She's also got one of those permanent pouts on her face: her top lip juts out as though someone has punched her and bust her lip. Knowing Melody, I wouldn't be surprised if that had been the case.

The most joyous thing to come out of the boardroom was that Tom FINALLY stood up for himself. Not only did he pull up Melody on being a liar - she scoffed. Nick shot her a death glare and everyone in the country had to restrain themselves from lobbing the remote at her televised face - he also pointed out that the complaints Zoe was bringing up about the product had never materialised at any point during the task. He was right, of course, but the thing with Tom is is that he's got this slight aura of useless-ness about him. He's a lovely person but you look at him and you think "maybe I'll ask someone else for their advice". He's a genuinely nice person though; too nice to be working with the likes of Melody, who should start having her mouth superglued shut. Despite being excellent at selling, I find her to be an infuriating stereotype of female businesswomen; you have to be a bitch to get ahead. And that simply isn't the case anymore. Never mind that she's won "woman of the year", or whatever bullshitty qualification she was banging on about: if you can't work with, and be civil and respectful to, other people's ideas, then you're never going to get anywhere.

Zoe was fired. Disappointingly, actually, as it would have been great for my blood pressure if Melody had gone. But that's the way the cookie crumbles, I suppose. (I'm SORRY. I had to get that pun in somewhere.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Eight

The Apprentice, Episode Eight

This week's Apprentice sparked the return of everyone's favourite task: send the bunch of idiots abroad and point and laugh as they flounder to sell stupid products to a group of distinctly unimpressed French businessmen. Everyone remembers last year's attempts at striking up intercontinental frendships, with Stuart spending a lot of time drinking German beer and saying "dat is vunderbar" at every possible moment, and tonight's episode had some equally beautiful moments of idiocy.

Tom was put in charge of Venture (I think? Does anyone even remember which stupidly named team is which anymore?) and had the misfortune of being lumped with Natasha. Leon and Melody jumped on the nearest train to France after Melody had proclaimed that she could speak six languages, and therefore could be suitably condescending no matter which country she was in. Susan put herself in charge of the other team - presumably she was scared that Jim would play the Bambi card again and try to rip her to shreds in front of Sugar - and she and Zoe went off to look at products to sell.

After being relatively reasonable for a good five minutes of last week's episode, Susan was quick to remind us why she's one of the most irritating candidates in this contest, by asking a serious of stupid questions that had Karen Brady's perfectly sculpted eyebrows travelling further up her forehead by the second. "Are the French fond of their children?" she bleated whilst looking at a fold-away car seat. "In fact, do the French drive?" was the next question she asked. The next question surely should have been "do the French enjoy running their children over?". Zoe, who had obviously decided to be nice to Susan for at least one week, somehow managed to keep a straight face. The two, having established that yes, the French did like to keep their children in one piece, chose to pitch a foldaway car babyseat and a iPod grip thing to their clients. This led to Jim doing his best British-man-abroad impression, by speaking very slowly and saying everything in English but with a slight French twang. Except in this case it had a hint of Irish as well. No-one knew what he was on about but it sounded lovely.

Over on Team Nerd, Tom had decided that he too liked the foldaway car seat. However, he made the mistake of mentioning this to Melody, a woman who is simply too busy saving the world to procreate with another, and therefore couldn't see the point in such an object. After deriding Tom for a while, she decided to do her own market research to find out how stupid everyone in France thought the idea was. Despite Tom asking her and Leon to research the company they were pitching to, and get some opinions on three of the products, Melody decided that the best place to conduct a survey about French car safety was in a Metro station. Unsurprisingly, this pitched up the opinion that no-one in France drives and therefore the car seat was a stupid idea. Tom should have stuck up for himself, but as always, Melody bulldozered on, covering her own arse whilst setting Tom up for a major fall. He and Natasha eventually decided on a bone china teapot lamp and a grow your own herb garden postcard. I shit you not.

Whilst Zoe and Jim travelled around France attempting to sell their products to various small businesses - most of whom looked at them like they were crackers. I don't think Jim's attempt to sell the iPod kit as "a small, petite... thing" helped any - Helen and Susan were off to deliver the pitch to La Roudette. Susan floundered, and ended up sitting in the car seat to show how 'comfy' it was, rather than actually saying anything useful. Helen, however, who has really come into her own the last three weeks, completely saved them by addressing the assembled businesswomen on a personal level. Tom and Natasha had much less success, largely because they didn't know anything about La Roudette (Leon later admitted on You're Fired that he used to work at La Roudette, proving that he is as big a idiot as we all thought he was) and ended up looking like complete idiots. Melody, who was getting right up Nick's nose by essentially being a selfish cow and only booking appointments for herself, sold brilliantly, leaving Leon standing around like an awkward teenager at a party. He did sell, eventually - but only when Melody let him.

After everyone had a good laugh at Susan's idiocy in the boardroom - I suspect Nick is falling out of love with her by the minute - everyone was surprised when Susan's team won, completely thanks to Helen's pitch and Jim and Zoe's appointment making. Susan herself also sold well in a phone shop, proving that maybe she's not as useless as I thought she was. Melody's face when they won was a picture: the epitome of smacked arse syndrome.

She then set about patronising Tom, calling him weak and non-existent. How he's supposed to show total authority over someone that is condescending, rude and always convinced that she's right I don't know, but still. She also banged on about her qualifications for a bit, which got up Nick and Karen's nose. Sugar however decided that he liked Melody because she had a bit of 'aggression' in her. Personally, I think she's a twat. And if being in a business means you have to become an awful, patronising corporate robot then I'd rather be skint but well liked, thanks. This brought it all down to Tom v. Leon.

Everyone has a soft spot for Tom. It's impossible not to like him: he's dorky, nerdy, slightly slow on the uptake but just a genuinely nice person to watch. His method of deciding who did the pitch to La Roudette - a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors - was utterly adorable, as was the moment when he attempted to call Leon and realised that the voice he was hearing on the phone was his own. However, in nearly every task he has always been right about something. He's been talked over in the rudest manner by Felicity, Natasha and Melody, and yet the points he makes always comes back to bite them in the arse. He needs to be more forceful; not be afraid of offending people. God forbid, maybe he should take a leaf out of Melody's book. Leon is useless, pure and simple. He did nothing except stare at Melody in awe, draw a picture of a teapot and occasionally make a sale when Melody allowed him talk.

Unsurprisingly, Leon was fired. Sugar has seen something he likes in Tom; in fact, nearly everyone in the country has seen something they like in Tom. Melody might be the better businesswoman, but on the whole, Tom is a better person. When the two returned to the house, Melody started to brag about the "praise" Sugar had given her, obviously expecting the others to be impressed, only to be ignored for everyone to start praising Helen for her success in the pitch. Melody has a business brain but would you want to work with somebody who would stab you in the back at any given moment? Give me lovely, nerdy Tom any day of the week.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

War of the Roses, take two: Yorkshire Carnegie vs. Lancashire Lightning

There are many people who don't see the appeal of T20 cricket. They feel it detracts from the integrity of the game, and maybe they've got a point. But when you're sat in a crowd of 10,000+ slightly half-cut Yorkshiremen, it's impossible not to get caught up in the shorter format of the game.

There's long been competition between Yorkshire and Lancashire; a wise man once said that the aim of cricket was 'for England to beat the Australians', but he failed to note that the aim of short over county cricket was for Yorkshire and Lancashire to take each other on and fight to the death. After Yorkshire's quite frankly astounding win at Old Trafford last week - and it wasn't an easy win by any means, with Sidebottom and man of the match Rafiq putting it an excellent tail end fight to save the game - the atmosphere at Headingley was incredible. The best thing about T20 is the way it unites cricket fans of all generations; the amount of young children at the game, waving flags and cheering on their team, was lovely to watch, just as it was to see the older cricketing generation downing a pint and merrily abusing the nearest Lancashire fielder. Lancashire won the toss and decided to bowl on a pitch that, in all honesty, didn't look like it had much in it for the bowling side.

The main problem with Yorkshire recently has been that they've lacked a bit of direction. After starting well in the majority of their games, any momentum they gain seems to peter out after a few bad overs, usually resulting in a loss or a draw if we're lucky. Lancashire on the other hand have had a great start to the season, although their winning streak has faltered recently after some unfortunate injuries. Yorkshire captain, Andrew Gale, decided that the best way to boost Yorkshire's confidence was to lead from the front, and lead he did. He and Bairstow put on a lovely partnership of 69; they run exceptionally well together, and both are big hitters, jumping on any ball that was slightly wide or too short. Lancashire's spin attack slowed the partnership considerably, but all credit has to be given to Gale. He put everything into his innings; fours and sixes came left, right and center and his 60 from 46 balls was joyous to watch. In fact, I was so distraught when he fell to an excellent catch from Moore (who was under a bit of pressure from the crowd, as you can imagine) that I split my pint. Horrifying, especially when it costs £3.20 for a drink.

After Gale and Bairstow's dismissals, things seem to peter slightly for Yorkshire. Lyth and Bairstow batted well but were limited to singles, largely thanks to an excellent bit of bowling from Lancashire's Keedy, whose figures don't really suggest how important he was. After Lyth fell to a great bowl-and-catch from Mahmood, who was fairly nonthreatening, in came Shahzad, who decided that it was time to whack it about a bit. And whack it about he did; he made 11 from 6 (that doesn't sound too impressive but it got the crowd livened up and despite not being the most exciting score, it boosted Yorkshire's run rate from the achievable to the more difficult) before Hogg had him caught by Croft. And so Yorkshire ended their batting spell on 178 for 4, a score largely thanks to Gale's excellent lead.

There didn't look to be much in the pitch for the bowlers; it was clouding over, there wasn't much swing and it was cold. Very, very cold. However, Yorkshire did what Lancashire couldn't. They got an early breakthrough by breaking up what was beginning to be a dangerous partnership between Moore and Smith with Joe Root running Moore out in an exceptional piece of fielding. After Moore attempted to thrash Sidebottom down to the boundary, Root slid, stopped the ball and threw a direct hit at the stumps from the boundary edge. It was an incredible shot - there was a split second of stunned silence from the crowd before it erupted into chants of 'Yorkshire!' - and from then on, the wickets seemed to fall quite quickly. Yorkshire's spinners were in fine form, Rashid in particular. He picked up 3 wickets in 5 balls exceptionally quickly; despite Cross and Brown attacking the spin and staging a threatening partnership, it was Rashid's tight bowling and excellent aggression that really halted Lancashire's innings. He finished on 26/4, which really highlights how crucial his spell was in slowing down Lancashire's pretty threatening run rate.

Although the last few wickets seemed to fall quickly - Parry, Hogg and Procter seemed to fall within minutes of one another - the last real batter standing, Clark, put in an excellent attempt at saving the match. But Yorkshire's pace bowlers, who up until this point had seemed fairly unthreatening, finally found a bit of bounce. Sidebottom, who at first seemed to be in fairly dismal shape, bowled a fantastic last two overs, claiming the last wicket and limiting Lancashire's bowling rate in spectacular fashion. Shahzad, who is always brilliant to watch, started badly as well, but pulled it back to claim a wicket. And Pyrah, whose figures are also unfair, was wonderful with the ball. Despite conceeding 48 runs, he was the first pace bowler to really get something out of the pitch, and he paved the way for Sidebottom and Shahzad.

And so it was that Yorkshire won the second battle of the Roses. The atmosphere was incredible when Sidebottom took the final wicket; pints flying everywhere, kids dancing, old-ish men chanting 'you're not singing anymore' (although who they were chanting at, I don't know. Maybe the row of Lancashire fans sat behind me, who went oddly quiet round about the 10th over) and it was fantastic to be a part of it. Yorkshire v. Lancashire is always good value for money, although all credit has to go to Lancashire for putting up with some seriously terrible Yorkshire banter. Kyle Hogg in particular was getting some stick off the boundary line; he shrugged it off with a grin, a nod of the head and an excellent shot at the stumps to nearly run Gale out. But that's the thing about Roses matches. There's a sense of hostility, sure; there's a sense of real pride. But it's all good natured. There was no nastiness, no anger; just some good old fashioned (and bloody awful) banter, and a real sense of people coming together to watch a fantastic piece of cricket.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Seven

The Apprentice, Episode Seven Review

For reasons known only to himself, Lord Sugar decided that this week's task would be all about marketing a 'freemium' - a free, premium magazine (See what he did there?). After dragging the candidates out of bed via a wake-up call from Melody, who I'm convinced sleeps in her best clothes, Sugar met them at Fleet Street and gave them a brief lecture on the media. It always amuses me how the candidates always greet Sugar like he's a lecturer about to show them the rules of algebra; they all chorus his name and wait eagerly to be told what they're doing this week. Nick is also looking angrier and angrier by the week. He's starting to resemble a weary teacher who doesn't really care about what any of the kids do any more; he'll let them run riot so he can get back to the staff room for a cup of tea and a sit down.

Team Logic (or maybe it's Team Venture. I don't know anymore) was headed up by Jim, and therefore automatically became Team Jedi in my head. They decided to aim their magazine - I refuse to call it a freemium. I just can't. It sounds like a nickname for those sex chatlines that you get advertised on late night TV - at the older generation, and Glenn and Susan were quick to rush off to patronise some over 60's. Jim put his mindfuckery skills to good use early on by making every decision a collective decision, and attempting to charm Zoe onto his side. Since Zoe has no emotion other than anger, it was pretty entertaining to see her giggling and squirming about like a schoolgirl with a crush. This quickly went to pot when the two decided on 'Hip Replacement' as a magazine name. Zoe thought it was ironic. Jim and Glenn thought it was brilliant. I thought it was shit, as did Susan and, judging by the look of utter disgust on his face, so did Nick. Jim talked over Susan anyway and quickly set about designing the blandest looking magazine I've ever seen, complete with a nauseating couple on the front cover. Bleurgh.

The other team was headed up by Natasha, who is possibly the single most irritating woman there's ever been on this show. And she's up against some serious competition for that title - I still remember Joanna from last year. Team Irritating, or rather Natasha, decided that 'sex sells', and ignoring the looks of despair from Tom and Helen, went down the route of trashy-meets-classy. At least, in Natasha's head that's what it was. In reality, it was cheap and tacky and the cover girl - modelling bikini, Tom's blazer and a hard hat. And I wish I was joking - looked like the calendar girls you see in builder's garages.

Tom and Helen both pointed out, several times in fact, that they were ignoring what the target audience (in this case, a group of exceptionally attractive rugby players) wanted; they wanted the sex appeal but at the same time they wanted articles that didn't patronise them. Helen and Tom are two kindred spirits, in that they're both quiet but they both talk a lot of sense. Natasha, predictably, decided that no-one's ideas could be greater than her own, and took their "feedback on board" with a few eyerolls, shaking of the head and sighs. What a tosser.

The teams then went off to pitch to various advertising agencies. No-one in Jim's team wanted to do the pitch, presumably because they realised the product was shit, so Jim did it, and stuffed the first one up royally. For some reason, Jim refused to negotiate, determined that the magazine was worth more than what they were offering. It really, really wasn't; at this point, it vaguely resembled a cheery advert for retirement homes rather than the ironic touch they were looking for. Susan pointed out, as she'd pointed out (albeit a bit quietly) with the name that they needed to be flexible. Jim ignored her, which wound Nick up. It also wound me up. Now, I don't like Susan. I think she's irritating, whiny, condescending and every time she gets that massive smile on her face I want to throw the heaviest thing I can at the TV screen. But for the first time ever, she was talking sense. The name was crap, Jim's attitude in the pitch was unfathomable, and yet they just ignored her because... well, she's Susan. It was horribly unfair, and yet it was bloody good entertainment. Susan was literally a second away from stamping her foot and having a full on spoilt-girl tantrum.

Team Irritating let Leon lead the pitches, and he did surprisingly well, right up until he stumbled slightly and Natasha jumped in, presumably because the attention had been directed from her for longer than a minute. A lot of the advertising execs found Natasha's magazine dated. "But it's business AND sex!" Natasha whined, or something along those lines. Karen's face throughout this entire task was also a treat, none more so than when Natasha tried, in an exceptionally patronising way, to explain why her magazine was so "clever" to one of the most important female advertisers. She was shot down, had the good grace to look meek and Karen smirked in the background. Beautiful.

Despite securing a few late advertising pitches, Team Jedi lost by £60,000. This was largely down to Jim's inability to negotiate in the first pitch, but if we're honest, it was a good concept that was executed in the crappest way possible. The most irritating thing that came out of the boardroom is that we're stuck with Natasha and her whiny corporate talk for another week. Ho hum.

And so, Jedi Jim leaped into action. He conceded for ooh, at least a second that he'd messed up in the pitches, and then set about blaming everybody else. In one of the most amazing displays of bullshit that I've ever seen, Jim derided everyone on his team, calling Susan a 'Bambi' (he has a point, actually. Those are some big eyes she's got going on), telling Glenn that he was essentially, one step up from useless (once again, he might have a point) and asserting that since Zoe thought of the name, it was her fault the pitch had bombed. Obviously, he was forgetting his own brilliance at devising names a few weeks ago; 'Everydog' still sticks in my mind. But he just kept talking. And talking. It was beautiful to watch.

Every time Karen, Nick or Sugar shot him down, Jim would pull out a new personality to change their minds. He went from passive aggressive to charming to sarcastic to witty in a matter of seconds. After letting Zoe go - which is a shame, I'd have paid to have seen her and Jim face off - Jim rounded on Susan, telling her that her contribution was none. Nick spluttered with indignation; I think we can safely say that Nick is not a fan of Jim. Susan gave an impassioned speech which had everyone rolling their eyes, apart from Nick, who looked like he was ready to bow at her feet. But what's irritating is, she was right. In actuality, Susan talked the most sense on this task. She just doesn't know how to let her voice be heard. She also did that annoying thing of playing on her age, which winds me up no end.

So, it was then between Glenn and Jim. And once again, Jim pulled out all the stops. After he'd stopped attempting to shoot Bambi (Sugar's knowledge of Disney films is worrying), he turned on Glenn, directing a stream of rhetoric at him that was impossible to understand. And somehow, SOMEHOW, he got away with it. Despite losing the task, despite making a horrible magazine that I wouldn't use for cat litter, Jim escaped the axe. Sugar fired Glenn, as he thought an electrician couldn't be a good businessman. He's obviously never been conned by a Northern builder before.

Jedi Jim's true colours have been revealed. And yet, he's still oddly likeable. He's charming. He's polite with customers. But when he's backed into a corner, he's manipulative, argumentative and just downright conniving. And it is such fantastic TV. Sugar obviously likes him (or he's got the producers whispering into his ear. Depends on how cynical you are) and singlehandedly, Jim is making this programme one to watch. I hope he wins; he'll bring down Sugar's corporation from within. Either that or he should become a spin doctor. British politics could do with a man like Jim....

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Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Six

The Apprentice, Episode Six Review

Lord Sugar's uncanny ability to use the randomest of tasks to show the usefulness of generic business platitudes continued this week, when the teams were tasked with becoming junk collectors to prove that you can make money out of everything. Standing atop a windy scrapyard, Sugar sent the teams off to do his dirty work, all the while looking like a man who hasn't really done a day's manual labour in his life.

Helen, a woman who has been so far in the background every episode that I have to double-check every week that her name is Helen, put herself in charge of Team Logic, or as they'll now be known, Team Non-Descript. Natasha was keen to point out that she has experience in construction, therefore she'll be excellent in the task. This arrogance, as always, came back to bite her in the arse when she, Helen and Melody went to their first business appointment - clearing a load of junk, stainless steel and general crap from some offices. Natasha and Helen decided not to charge anything for moving the rubbish on the basis that they would get more money from selling on the metals, a risky strategy that Melody wasn't too keen on.

I've grown exceptionally fond of Melody over the past six weeks. She pointed out - and rightly so - that there was more rubbish than saleable material, and then when Natasha shot her down with a load of cliched corporate bullshit, Melody replied in exactly the same manner, reminding Natasha that she had said she'd be good on this task. Natasha is one of those irritating people who have worked in such a corporate environment for so long that they can't speak like normal people, instead relying on tedious metaphors and strange dance movements to make their point. Watching them argue was like watching the worlds worst, and most middle class, rap battle. Helen stood by and did nothing, but proved to be an exceptionally good team leader. Obviously doing nothing for six weeks has served her well.

Tom and Jim, meanwhile, went off on a little male-bonding roadtrip around London, using a megaphone to try to tempt business. Tom, who is lovely but still fairly useless, resorted to jumping into people's back gardens to see what crap they had lying about; "we can't just take that, can we?" he asked Jim as he stumbled across a barbeque. No, Tom, no you can't. Because that's stealing, and that won't make you any money or any new friends. Jim's mind tricks also failed to work as he was out-bullshitted by a dodgy geezer who, after agreeing on a set payment to take some rubbish, then casually added a few more bags to the pile. Tom looked like he was going to cry, Natasha bleated some rubbish in the background and Jim looked as though he was calling on his mothership to blast the guy down there and then. Lovely work.

Team Venture, or as they will now be known, Team Robot, were led by Zoe, who wasted no time in shutting Susan up for the good of the nation's collective eardrums. Leon and Glenn took to the junk collecting like a duck takes to tarmac, i.e. badly. Their first prospective customer? A junk salesman. Not the brightest move. Leon reckoned that he'd be brilliant at manual labour. This is a man who was bullied into having a fake tan last week. He'd probably be more worried about breaking a nail. As Helen's strategy of charging nothing was obviously going to beat anything Zoe could offer, they ended up not making any big deals. The most shocking outcome of this was that Zoe showed some EMOTION and started crying, leading me to think she might be more than a Cyberman in human skin. Glenn, obviously a bit uncomfortable with seeing her cry, gave a rousing speech that Churchill himself would have been proud of (I jest. It seemed to largely revolve around him saying 'lets just do it' a lot) and they did quite well in securing two plumbing jobs that gave them plenty of saleable resources. Edna, as usual, stood around ordering the teams about; "come on, hurry up!" she shouted, in a tone that would rival Paxman's, whilst she casually stood on the truck and did nothing. She should have chucked those gloves in for good measure, I'm sure some mug would have paid a quid or two for them.

Anyway, despite both teams doing quite well, it was Team Robot who lost, giving Tom his first ever win. This made him hyperventilate slightly, which was both adorable and slightly disturbing. Their reward was to go to a spa, something which Jim looked far too excited about. Team Robot squabbled amongst themselves, with Susan claiming that she was 'the whole brains behind the operation'. Of course you were, dear. Zoe, who I actually quite like, brought in Susan and Edna. Susan obviously thinks that she is tough and aggressive, but in comparison to Zoe, she pales into the background. She also seems to be afraid of offending people, or at least she's too fond of sugarcoating stuff to make it sound more sweetness and light. Which is incredibly irritating. Zoe's straight-talking manner is far more suited to somebody like Sugar.

Edna got fired, largely because she's not done anything of any worth since the show started. Apart from give a god-awful pitch about a phone app that no-one really cared about. And all we can remember from that pitch are those gloves. Long live the gloves.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Apprentice, Episode Five

The Apprentice: Episode Five Review

The Apprentice's love of using stupidly obscure tasks to get rid of the more useless contestants was in full flow this week. The two motivationally named teams - names that are so generic that I can't remember what they are - were tasked with creating, branding and marketing a new type of pet food. Susan had a huge smile superglued to her face throughout Lord Sugar's opening monologue: whether this was from genuine excitement or over-use of Botox, I don't know.

Vincent took charge of 'Logic', or as they will be known from here on in, Team Charisma. Vincent reckons he's a charmer; a real smooth operator. I reckon he's a pillock. Team Charisma started by brainstorming brand names, ranging from the obvious ("I like Pals" "There's already a brand called Pals. It's the second biggest producer in the UK") to the ridiculous ("Fur-Play" oh, Jim. You old devil). They, or rather Vincent, under Jim's hypnotic influence, settled on 'Everydog', despite everyone saying that dog food cannot be targeted to every dog. Natasha, who I worry is suffering from smacked arse syndrome, was then tasked with creating the Everydog advert. As is always the case on The Apprentice, she threw herself into the task with gusto, doing her best Steven Spielberg impression. She actually looked more like a first-year media student, but whatever. In her head, she was brilliant.

Glenn was chosen to lead Team Venture, who will now be referred to as Team Northern. Glenn is exceptionally slack, but wanted everyone in the team to give him the respect he deserves. It's a little difficult to respect a man who not only ignores the advice of his sub-team and an entire focus group, but decides to name a brand of pet food 'Cat Size' after those lights you get on the motorway. I kid you not. Leon's idea of 'Lucky Fish' - complete with an adorable pencil drawing that any five year old would be proud of - was much better and actually quite clever. Glenn rejected this idea because 'it doesn't make sense, having fish on a cat food tin'. No, but having motorway lights on it does, obviously. This got right up Zoe's nose, who is clearly part-way through the transformation from human to Dalek. She gave Glenn a real bollocking in that emotionless, monotone voice, before leaving him to make their product taste as good as it sounds. 'It looks revolting!' squealed Susan. No-one's asking you to eat it, love. Although....

Both teams then pitched to a group of experts. Melody's pitch was informative, straight-laced and actually, incredibly good. Melody grows on me more and more each week; it's a shame she's got a voice that would break even the strongest of window panes. Leon led Team Northern's pitch - I was exceptionally disappointed they didn't let Edna lead, just for the return of those gloves - but Leon managed to stuff it up in spectacular style, by rabbiting on for twenty minutes and making no sense whatsoever. Lovely.

Lord Sugar missed a cracking opportunity to enter the boardroom with a white cat, a la Ernst Blofeld, but he did get to practice his most withering looks on Glenn, whose blathering attempts to explain why 'Cat's Size' was so clever, despite making no sense whatsoever. Despite looking like they'd lost it, Team Northern somehow won, giving Glenn the mistaken idea that he's actually a very good team leader. It also looked like the game might be up for Jim, who took full credit for creating the name that ultimately lost them the task. However, we were then treated to the full force of Jim's mindfuckery talents. Everyone in the team was gunning for Jim, yet somehow he managed to avoid the boardroom AGAIN, by putting doubt in Vincent's mind over Natasha's contribution, and then managing to pass all the blame for the 'Everydog' thing on Vincent himself. Jim has, however, marked his card with Lord Sugar, who can't work out if he's made of brains or bollocks. He also mentioned something about Jim's arse. Methinks someone's got a little bit of a mancrush.

Whimpering out on taking Jim back into the boardroom, Vincent decided to drag in Ellie - who up until this point, had done sod all - and Natasha, whose face dropped another two centimetres. Vincent spouted his usual bollocks, Ellie said her usual pieces about how she was keen but everyone shouted over her, and Lord Sugar, evidently tired of the same old rubbish, fired them both. Fantastic. Natasha also argued her case exceptionally well in the boardroom, finally finding her voice after 5 weeks of moping around in the background. She's one to watch.

So, who will win it? My money is still on Jim, largely because I find him the most aesthetically and orally pleasing. There are people who are better than him - Melody, despite being exceptionally annoying, has a very good business brain and an excellent style of delivery - but he's exceptionally formidable and he's what you want a businessman. I've also got a massive soft spot for Inventor Tom. Yes, he might be slightly useless, and yes, he might look like he spends his days inside playing World of Warcraft, but I like him. And if I had Jim's Jedi powers, I'd make sure you all liked him too.
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