Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The One With The Sweets And The Grooming (or The Apprentice Candidates Get Drunk On Jelly)

We’re down to the final five. 

Lord Sugar says at the start of each episode that he doesn’t want a friend.  “If I want a friend, I’ll get a dog,” but which of our candidates will demonstrate they have the pedigree to be the 50/50 business partner with Shuggs?

We’re offered a fleeting glimpse of him in the round-up of the previous episode, but, for the most part, we’re without the Alien Face of Stephen this week.  And I do miss him, tis true.

As this episode opens, we’re not offered the traditional timecheck, but we see Tom, Nick and Adam still a-bed with Ricky and Jade both up and dressed, so we can presume it is “early” when the call comes.  And come it does, telling the candidates to be at Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, in 30 minutes.  Home to the finest in luxury retail for almost 200 years.  And now the scene of the next challenge for our intrepid final five.

The task

To create an affordable luxury product range, to present to industry experts and Lord Sugar.

The teams…

Tom gets put with Ricky, the sole remaining member of Sterling and they need to decide between them who is the project manager (they both want to do it, but Ricky wins).  No such choice for Phoenix - Adam is made project manager by Lord Sugar.

What luxury products will they go for?  Will Phoenix leave the decision to Adam, the market trader who thought takeaway was a good luxury option in the voucher challenge last week…  Please, no.

Sterling opt for grooming (not the sort that paedophiles favour, the sort that sees men looking and smelling like ladies).

Phoenix aren’t quite sure what they’re going to do.  Adam suggests they go for the name, identity, packaging and logo first.  Unfortunately, they haven’t chosen on a product.  They decide to go for chocolate.  Nick runs a coffee business which sells hot chocolate and says they need a clear brand and product, but Adam wants a bit of everything.  Adam decides that it will be Nick and Adam creating the brand, with Jade creating the product range.

It’s all in the name…

Ricky thinks the name could be make or break for their product.  I expect they’ll come up with something sensible, don’t you?  Ooh.  They say words like Dapper, Debonair, After Club, The Grooming Guild, Men’s Choice (eek, maybe like an adult magazine.  And I don’t think they mean one about sensible shoes or gardening, do you?).

“Choc-o-lite” suggests Adam, saying it is “quite clever”.  Nick winces his face inside-out.  “Choco-o-local” suggests Adam.  “Lovely Chocolate” suggests Adam.  “Choc Stop” suggests Adam.  Possibly he is thinking with his market trader head on – I’m expecting “Get-yer-chockerlate-here” to be the next suggestion, but, fortunately, Nick stops cringing and starts talking.  Well, I say “fortunately” because then we hear what his suggestions are, “Co-co-co”, “Co-co-cho”, “Cho-cho-cho”.  Adam (wisely) dismisses those as being “like a train” and then turns into a sheep, saying, “Chocolate Baa” over and over.  Or it may be that he’s saying “Chocolate Bar” (because he is) but I prefer to be wilfully whimsical as I rather enjoy the sheep imagery conjured up by his constant bleating of “Baa”.

They (wisely) enlist Jade’s help and she suggests “Sweet Thing” (like “Wild Thing”, she says).

The products, the branding…

The Phoenix boys head for a chocolatier and talk flavours.  Ginger, lavender, mint, lemon.  Yes, they’re definitely flavours.  Salted caramel is the best seller for him.  Karren is SCATHING of their time wasting though – they were meant to be grilling this man on his business model, not stuffing their faces.  Adam starts talking again – can he bring the conversation round to business strategy?  “Jellies?” he asks.  Hmm, no, no, he can’t.  But he does love the jellies.  Will they dilute the chocolate brand though?

On the second day of the task, they’re going to be able to test their products on a cross-section of consumers.  But, today, they’re in the empty space in the warehouse with their interior designer.

Sterling want to go for a heritage feel, using the very eye-catching colour “charcoal”.

Phoenix want to use bright colours, like baby blue (I’m unsure this is a bright colour, but, hey, we’ll see).  Jade rings when the boys are mid-conversation with their designer to confirm the product range: marshmallows, hot chocolate and chocolate discs.  Adam says “jellies” again, Nick wants to leave them out.  Adam thinks jellies are going to be the next big thing (possibly because he wants something to match his massive pink face?).  He decides that they all tie in together because they are “all sweet”.  As are honey-dipped sheep brains, but I think Adam may find eating one of them akin to cannibalism.

Jade’s at the chocolate factory, where she confides that, like any pudgy little girl, she’s always wanted to have a sweet shop.  She sets fire to some marshmallows in the chocolate factory (Willy Wonka has NOTHING to worry about).

Ricky’s at the perfume factory, where they’ve decided upon a lathering shave cream, an aftershave balm and a face moisturiser WITH anti-inflammatory properties.  Oh, yes.  As he rubs in one of the potions, Ricky says he feels like his hand is getting a bit more youthful (this, remember, is the man who came up with the strapline for fake tan “it makes your hand a bit browner”).

No brand name as yet, so Tom suggests Gentry, but Ricky says he doesn’t get it, so says maybe New Tradition (which sounds like a boy band), but they finally settle upon Modern Gentleman.  So to speak.

Phoenix are going with “Sweet Thing” as their brand name.  Jade suggests putting booze in the jellies and calling them Drunken Jellies.  The boys don’t like it, but Adam decides to go with it for the reason “we might as well”.  Because that is clearly how to make the best business decision EVER.

Tom, meanwhile, is doing some yawn-tastic branding designs – Nick Hewer isn’t impressed that Ricky’s titting about in the perfume factory whilst leaving what are the major business decisions to Tom.

Day two…

The next day dawns bright, early and drenching as the candidates leave the house in a downpour.

Phoenix: Nick says their brand is “Indulgence, luxury, ethical and fun.”  Targeting it at females, aged “15 to…old”.

Sterling: the boys are painting everything they can see charcoal grey, bookcases, backdrops, etc.  It looks a bit…well, grey.  And we all know how vibrant and fascinating a colour grey isn’t.  Will the industry leaders like it?

Phoenix: Karren is grilling the boys on their pricing strategy (careful near that chocolate with your grilling, Karren, you’ll melt it).  They’ve decided, quite firmly, to sell a cellophane bag of half a dozen or so of the chocolate discs with salted caramel and honeycomb sprinkles for £2.99.  Or £4.99.  One of those prices, anyway.  Karren does her “I’m disgusted with your answer” face.

Sterling are having shaves from a trained barber.  *Bum-fluff klaxon*  A clean-shaven Tom talks about showing people “the traditional way of grooming yourself”.  For Adam, presumably that would be at shearing time.  Ricky feels Tom’s smooth face and pronounces it “exactly what we want”.

Karren’s eyes look like shrivelled raisins of scepticism as she watches a cocktail expert help Jade to add yet more booze to the Sweet Thing experience.  It seems they’ve lost their grip on the brand thing entirely.

Punter time…

Industry experts are scattered through the would-be customers, unbeknownst to the Apprentice candidates.  Will they screw up as badly as Stephen’s masterclass in “how not to treat a corporate client” at the street art task?

Nick tells his customers that he hopes they are “the most chocolatey chocolates you’ve ever tried”.  A career in writing straplines for adverts surely beckons, post-Apprentice?  Jade, meanwhile, is getting her punters pissed on the Drunken Jellies and cocktails.

Over at Modern Gentleman, Tom’s proffering his hand to women to sniff.  Hopefully, he has some of their product on it, but that isn’t completely clear.

Ricky’s talking himself out of building the brand by telling his punters they are aspiring to be “a small shop”.  Nick Hewer calls the boys “pedestrian”.  Nice.  He also says their display is like “a closing down sale” and pronounces it “too minimalist”.

Back at the sweet shop, it’s warm and friendly, classy, bespoke, lovely.  And that’s just Adam’s massive pink face.  But the punters appear to like the sweets and drinks too.  Adam is planning world domination with products in shops, hotels, possibly the International Space Station.

Back at the barber’s, Ricky’s shaving a man who appears to have only eyebrows anyway, no other hair at all, presumably an industry expert.  Their brand is pronounced “dull”, “conservative”, the branding isn’t distinctive enough, a bit bland.

Back at the house…

The Sweet Thing team are looking at an unsaved spreadsheet of product costings for their Chocolate Puddles, Melting Spoons, Mallow Moments and Drunken Jellies.  It probably won’t mean anything that they haven’t saved it; indeed, they may be just about to, but it’s good practice to save your work BEFORE you start doing complicated sums in it, isn’t it, children?

Ricky’s trying to avoid saying anything negative at all, even the word “negative” - so he talks about receiving lots of feedback, “both positive and some very constructive”.  Come on, dear heart, they said it was frantically dull, didn’t they?

The next day…

7am dawns at seven o’clock in the morning, same as ever, and we see the candidates preparing themselves for their pitches.  Tom’s tying his tie, Adam’s shoving a toothbrush at his teeth in a strange, accusatory fashion, Jade’s eating her breakfast, Ricky’s banging on about how he didn’t sleep for worrying about the pitch and Nick’s drinking something hot and eating what may or may not be an Eccles cake (surely not).  As the camera pans out, we see that he’s sitting in what appears to be a wooden ball in the garden, surrounded by autumn leaves.  Seasonal, given that we’re watching this at the end of May.  He’s fretting about the “confused” brand and expecting some difficult questions today (perhaps “Why do you favour sitting in wooden balls?  Are you a hamster?”).

Ablutions, ruminations and mastications finished, the teams head for the warehouse in East London where they are to give their pitches.

Lord Sugar, a man who is smaller in real life than he appears on television (and he appears small on television – we’re talking BORROWER in real life), hops down from his personal number-plated Rolls Royce (AMS 1)and scampers inside, where the industry experts are already stuffing their faces with chocolate.  Representatives are there from Green & Black’s, retailers Debenhams and House of Fraser and male grooming range, Bulldog.  No Willy Wonka, though, sadly.

The teams wait nervously to do their pitches, pacing, mumbling, Phoenix not practising, Sterling doing full run-throughs.

Tom says, “to fall at this final hurdle, it would crush me”.  Perhaps like Verruca Salt and the squirrels.

Sterling are up first…

Ricky says he and Tom would both classify themselves as “a modern gentleman”.  Just the one.  Perhaps one stands on the other’s shoulders and they wear a big mackintosh over the top?  They both like to groom (OH, DEAR!), but they don’t necessarily talk much with their friends and family about their grooming methods (OH, DEAR AGAIN!).  The audience looks amused.  Or perhaps it is nervous horror?  They talk figures as they say the UK’s grooming market is worth £862 million and growing.  They want to start in Europe, which gets a nod from a colossal-nostrilled blonde in the audience.

Tom runs through their prices (£8-£10 for their products).  As he talks about their boutique shop where the shaving experience can be had, we notice the hairless man who partook of a Ricky special the previous day looking dubious.  Perhaps he was offered something for the weekend and it never materialised?

The “dull” branding is criticised, so Ricky suggests that putting it in a box may make it a luxury product.  Anybody smiles at the phrase “dick in a box” will agree that putting things in boxes makes them instantly more appealing, so he may be onto something here.

The industry experts say they liked their business strategy and thought they worked well together, but questioned the actual product, calling it “forgettable”.  I think.  I forget.

Next up, the Wonka-tastic Sweet Thing…

Jade talks about adding booze to the confectionery experience, making it a more special thing.  Adam is astonishingly nervous and his massive pink face coughs and blusters its way through different opportunities for people to purchase confectionery (he came up with birthdays, Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, so he didn’t do too badly).  Jade gets asked about the cocktails they’ll be selling in their flagship London shop – will they be complementary and will that affect profitability?  No, because they’ll be one or two pounds.

Nick goes through the pricing structure (more expensive than el cheapo supermarket, but not as expensive as el posho chocolatier chocolate).  Shuggs says the flagship shops (try saying that after a Drunken Jelly or three) will clearly be loss-making and then the range is criticised for being confused.  Nick says it’s not just a chocolatier or a sweet shop, it’s both.  The industry experts are confused.


Lord Sugar hops up onto his chair and, swinging his legs, he asks the teams how they felt the task went.

The Bumfluff Returns
Ricky wanted to be team leader because he’s lost twice already.  But I’m distracted by Tom’s face.  His bumfluff has grown back again.  He drones on about putting product in boxes and Lord Sugar criticises their minimalistic shop front.

Phoenix are blasted for their lack of business discussion with the chocolatier by Karren.  Jade bangs on about how she came up with the name, the products, the theme tune (well, maybe not quite, but gawd, she banged on).  Karren, her voice fair dripping with scorn, criticises the boys’ names – “Choco-Holster, Chocolate Heaven, Cho-Cho-Choc”. 

The Analysis

Sterling – praised for their presentation, their research, very thorough.  Shop a bit sparse.

Phoenix – bit of a wow factor.  But as soon as they all opened their mouths, it started to go downhill a bit.

In the end, Sterling was the better business proposition, far more professional and thought out and good, justifiable winners.  No treat, because they’re going to be very, very busy, but they’re in the final.

Phoenix – lack of cohesion, no real plan, no attention to detail.  It’s late, so they get overnight to think about where it went wrong.  Oh, and a trip to the greasy spoon café too, where they realise that Adam’s lost as PM twice now.

Nick called Adam “a detriment to the whole task”.

Jade’s looking forward to going into the boardroom, because she feels she did all the good stuff in the task.

Adam…what will be will be.  He effectively (surely) signs his own death warrant by saying “It will be no way it’ll be me that goes tomorrow, no way”.  Has he never watched this show?!


Where was the pricing strategy?  Above supermarket, below luxury chocolatiers.  Shuggs, “Why are you selling cheap chocolates in a luxury place and hoping they’ll end up on the mass market, when they’re too expensive for that?”  Whoops.

“The honest truth was we had very little pricing strategy,” Nick confesses.

Adam highlights what we know from Azhar (don’t think of the shorts.  Oh, too late, sorry *brain bleach*) – that people say strategy a lot when it all goes wrong, but nobody knows what it means.

Lord Sugar says the industry experts felt too many ideas diluted the brand.

Nick Hewer says Tom and Ricky drilled each other before their presentation (ahem.  Grooming, drilling – get your minds out of the gutter, you lot).  But, with Sweet Thing, there was no brand strategy, no lead product.

Nick blasts Adam.  Jade then blasts Adam.

Karren says Adam said, patronisingly, “You go off, Jade, and make us some really nice chocolates.”

Nick’s got a coffee shop, selling high-quality, ethical coffee.  So why didn’t they do high-quality hot chocolate?  Was Nick not persuasive enough?  “I did try, but I failed.”  Karren says he didn’t try that hard.

Jade made good products and came up with good ideas.  Adam hasn’t got a particular skill other than selling, but he’s very enthusiastic.  However, to see Adam’s leadership skills, Shuggs had to appoint him as the team leader.  Is Nick playing a clever game?  Why didn’t he push his ideas more?  WHY indeed.

Back to the boardroom…

Adam uses his massive pink face to say that he thinks he’s the best candidate overall (well, he would).  He says Nick’s fluked his way to the final; there are plenty of other people in the UK that are good on computers and good at logos and stuff.  Seen no special talents from Jade.

Jade says Adam’s probably the best face-to-face salesman here, but is that what Lord Sugar needs?  What about creativity, coming up with ideas?

Nick says it should be Jade who leaves, if it’s across all the tasks.

Jade defends her corner – why would these two have listened to everything she said on this last task, if they thought she was such a listless no-hoper?  GOOD POINT, spiky-eyelashed one!

Will Lord Sugar be able to fire someone who’s got the same market trader background as him?  Will he?

Yes.  Yes, he will.  He fires Adam’s massive pink face, and the rest of him too.

And I, for one, won’t miss him (well, maybe a bit).

Next week, the final.  THE FINAL.  Are we excited?  Yes, yes, we are.  It’s business plan time and Margaret Mountford’s back!  Woohoo!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The One With The Fish Puns (or The Apprentice Candidates Don't Go To Tring)

Nibble, nibble, toil and trouble...

A lie-in this week as the call comes 15 minutes later than last at 6am.  The remaining seven candidates have half an hour before they need to meet Lord Sugar in the City.

Stephen the Alien is so motivated to win this.  He’s going to give 110%.  Adam’s massive pink face states the obvious when he says no-one wants to lose.  Well, no.  Anyway.

Lord Sugar sets the candidates the task of seeking out suppliers, like restaurants, hotels and shops to negotiate with and get the best discounts to present their deals to the daily discount website (being the BBC, can they mention Groupon?  Or will it be Wowcher?  No, it's Key Noir, and their emphasis is "luxury" - will the teams remember this?).

After last week, Stephen is project manager of Sterling.  But who will be Phoenix’s team leader?

Ricky’s only thinking about how much they’ll win by.  Confident.  Has he remembered Stephen is his team leader?

Jade’s keen to put herself forward as project manager and they all agree and sit in a meeting room for Quite Some Time.

Stephen’s on the move.  He’s making appointments from the back of a cab.  He’s positioned himself with Gabrielle, who he consistently calls Gabriella, because he doesn’t think much of her.  Nifty power play, arsehole.  They get a couple of deals from a dentist, who promises to whiten teeth for less (a typical voucher saver - is it luxury enough?).

Ricky goes on a restaurant tour, taking the time to taste some scallops en route.  He hasn't talked business At All yet.

Jade’s team eventually get on the move, having made some appointments from their meeting room.

Jade wants to do the pitch.  Nick’s also keen.  But Jade’s doing it.  Not Nick.  So they go to The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary won’t move to a 50% discount – has Jade done the wrong thing by targeting them?

Ricky’s having rather a lovely tour of the restaurant, but the restaurant manager won’t offer any discount at all.  What a waste of time!  I could bang on about the BBC and editorial guidelines and not just giving posh restaurants free adverts, but there's good news from Camp Jade...

The Sanctuary will move to 50%!  How did they do it?  It's not really clear, but they did and Jade looks happy.  So does Nick.  All together now, ahhh.

The Big Pink Face and The Bumfluff are at a boutique hotel.  Adam says it’s “gah-jus, just gah-jus”.  I think this means he likes it.  They manage to get 35% off PLUS the all-important free tea and coffee.

Ricky’s having collywobbles about going to a hotel in fucking Tring.  This is because it is in fucking Tring.

Stephen asks Gabrielle whether he’s right to send Ricky to Tring.  Stephen can’t decide and his alien face goes through a variety of expressions before settling on one that looks slightly human.  He tells Ricky to book additional appointments instead of going to fucking Tring.  Hurrah.  Well, lucky Tring.

Jade and Nick ring a Thai Massage & Steam (brothel…maybe...Jade shrieks, "It was a WHOREHOUSE!" to an impassive-faced Nick) from the back of a cab and they’re not interested in offering discounts.  So, no happy ending on that phone call.

Stephen and Gabrielle are in Fulham, hoping to “hook” a deal at a fish spa.  They have their feet nibbled.  Stephen, when he puts his feet in to be munched upon, channels what the fish are thinking of his feet when he says, “Jesus, that’s horrible!”   Gabrielle and Stephen “net” three deals from this pedicure parlour, though it remains to be seen if they involve the fish as the CEO of the business wasn’t too sure that this was the sort of thing the luxury voucher emporium would be interested in.

Jade and Nick are with restaurateur Marcus Wareing.  Not doing maths.  Jade: “I can work it out if it’s round numbers”.  Oh, dear.  No calculator.  Not even a phone-with-a-calculator.  Marcus isn’t impressed (totally fair enough - who goes to a business meeting without being able to talk business?  Only Apprentice candidates!) and leaves them to work out some sums on the back of a napkin.

Ricky’s at another hotel and they’re offering 50% for their luxury lunches and dinners.  And Ricky’s eating scallops again.

Adam and Tom have done one deal in seven hours, the industrious little bell-ends.  Adam suggests perhaps they could look at takeaways.  High end, Adam, HIGH END.  Not kebabs.  Although maybe that does count as high end Oop North, where Adam’s from.

Jade and Nick finally work out their sums (“this little piggy…”) and get a deal with Marcus for a discount dinner for two.  They put their socks and shoes back on, pack away the abacus and head off.

Nick Hewer – “the deadline’s rushing towards them like a steam train at100mph and they don’t look up”.

Ricky’s eating more scallops (I suspect this “coincidence” has been set up by the programme, Don’t You?!).  I want to make lots of puns about this, is that shellfish of me?  Or should I kipper lid on them?  I fillet cod get old really quickly, after all.  Anyway, he's having a whale of a time (sorry, I'll stop before you batter me).  What I'd really enjoy seeing him eat is a plate of the fish pedicure fish that have just been a-nibbling Stephen's feet, because I'm a sick puppy.  Admit it, though, you'd like that too.  You sick puppy.  I love you.

Adam and Tom blag a candle discount (candles, guys - does it GET more luxury than candles?) with four minutes to go, then it’s the traditional rush to hand in their homework.

The results

On Jade’s team, six deals.  But she doesn’t know whether they’ve “smashed it” or not.  (What is it with reality TV shows and “smashing it”?  It’s a Tulisa stock favourite term.  Watch out for talk of “the journey” they’ve been on and how they “have a dream” – how about an original reality TV show where people “don’t really mind” who wins and are “relatively pleased” with how they’ve performed?  Let’s celebrate mediocrity!).

For Stephen's team, nine deals.

The obligatory “but which team could they be talking about” montage from the daily deals website ensues, as we are left guessing till the boardroom bonanza how the teams have done.

But, what’s this?

It’s the teams!  En route to the boardroom bonanza!  We won’t have to wait long then…

Top boardroom news – Adam’s wearing a more purple tie than he usually favours.  It makes his face look, if anything, MORE pink.  Hardly believed this to be possible.

Sterling…Stephen’s eyes widen to an extent hitherto never seen on planet Earth as Lord Sugar begins to talk about Sterling’s performance.  How was he as a team leader?  Ricky says the stress got to them all…and begins to outline his trip to the first scallop-munching stop.  Half an hour looking round the restaurant before learning that they don’t do discounts.  Shuggs is gobsmacked – what a waste of time!  Ricky “made a bad assumption”.

However, Ricky got a seven-course evening meal AND a lunchtime meal discount.  100 for the dinner and 200 for the lunch.  But did Ricky limit the deals the could sell by only asking for that number?

Stephen’s strategy was to get multiple deals from individual places.  Five vendors, nine deals.  “That’s quite smart” – praise indeed from Lord Shuggs.

Jade’s strategy wasn’t multiple deals.  She wanted quality, not quantity.  Was it a mistake not to go for multiple deals?

“You should have come to the table with intelligence,” said Marcus Wareing.  Unfortunately, it was Jade and Nick going to the table and they forgot their calculator.  And their brains.  But they did manage to get a deal, by the lucky fluke of remembering their toes (and the abacus).

Adam and Tom managed to get a 35% discount at the boutique hotel, but Shuggs isn’t impressed.  But they did manage to get FREE TEA AND COFFEE thrown in.  Complimentary.  Not discounted.  Free.  I’m left wondering just how much it is for a cup of tea Oop North…

They got the candle discount too.  But Lord Sugar STILL isn’t impressed.  It would have to be a pretty fucking special candle, he almost says.

What was accepted and how did they get on?

Phoenix: of the six deals offered by Phoenix, only two were accepted.

Sterling: of the nine deals offered, three were accepted.  Of the deals that Stephen and Gabrielle put forward, the golf deal sold a mere seven units, making £350.  Ricky got two deals.  The 100 dinners sold out completely and 90 of the 200 lunches were taken up, making £6,090.  Sterling's total: £6,440.

Phoenix: Tom and Adam drew a blank.  No deals accepted at all.  Not even with the free tea and coffee.  Baffling.  The lunch deal brought in 77 sales, giving total sales of £5,950.  Over on Sterling, Gabrielle looks worried.  And Jade’s spa deal achieved 87 sales, total revenue, £8,613.  Overall revenue of £14,563.

So, Phoenix win by over £8k and they go to Cliveden for afternoon tea.  Hurrah!

The others remain for the boardroom bollocking…

Lord Sugar doesn’t give anything away as he says it won’t automatically be Stephen who’s for the chop, it’s about who didn't perform on the day.  But, given that Stephen didn't - can he save himself?

Back at the prize...

Cliveden charge £500 for their afternoon tea and Adam suggests they do some kind of discount…goodness, what a card!

Jade loves winning.  And eating.  And they clink (not chink, Stephen, jeez) their teacups together and enjoy themselves.

Back to the boardroom…

Where did Sterling go wrong?  Well, they didn’t sell enough.  Obv.

Stephen slates Gabrielle again.  Gabrielle says Stephen lost the plot.  Will Ricky manage to keep his head down and watch the other two talk each other out of the boardroom?

Lord Sugar – nine deals, he thought that was rather good.  But Ricky’s suggestion that they only offered 100 deals for the dinner was “sickening”.  Karren says they could have sold at least 250.  Lord Sugar questions the choice of the dentist and the fish spa.  Stephen drops Gabrielle in it.  Shuggs says the fish spa is too common.

Lord Sugar says the health spa in fucking Tring should have been gone for (only more grammatically correctly than that, he's an educated man, after all).  Stephen lies about how much he tried to push fucking Tring as an option.  Shuggs is unimpressed.  “Why did you not go there yourself then, you steaming great twat?” he almost says.

Ricky clearly did more business than Stephen and Gabrielle – and the fish thing was flawed from the start, so surely it’ll be one of them what goes.  SURELY?  Shuggs and his advisers have a chat.  Will Stephen the Alien be beamed up?  Has Gabrielle found the pressure too much?  Has Ricky "Not That One" Martin shimmied his last task?

The firing line…

Lord Sugar asks Ricky who he thinks should go.

Ricky says Stephen buckled under pressure and Stephen tries a Jedi mind trick, asking Ricky who he feels is most to blame for the failure of the task.  Which backfires neatly when Ricky says it is Stephen.  They argue a lot about fucking Tring and rubbish negotiating.  Shuggs asks Stephen why he doesn’t feel he’s responsible for the failure of the task.

Stephen blames Gabrielle and then does his upside-down U face again some more as she tries to justify her ideas a lot.  And tells Stephen he lost the plot.  Stephen admires “Gabriella’s” passion, but still can’t get her name right, the passive aggressive python.

Ricky’s such a great prospect for the future, according to, well, Ricky.

Gabrielle’s a nice girl, but Shuggs doesn’t need any more friends.  Has she still got the fighting spirit she showed at the start of the series?  He isn't sure.

Ricky tells Stephen not to be condescending when talking to Gabrielle.  So Stephen stops speaking, because he can’t talk to her without being a patronising cockwart.

The final judgment:

Ricky made a massive mistake in not going to fucking Tring.

Stephen hasn’t won the task, despite being a colossal cocky gobshite last week.  Panicked.

Gabrielle – didn’t contribute much in this task.

Shuggs reiterates that it is the person who is responsible for the lack of contribution in the task – is this because he wants to keep Stephen “comedy gold” Alien to keep us watching?

Ooh, maybe.  Because he fires Gabrielle.

And I, for one, won’t miss her.

And that's it, The End. on!

There's a twist!

For it isn't over till the fat lady sings (or Ricky Martin does a quick jive) - Lord Sugar has had Quite Enough of Stephen the Alien as well and he gets the pointy-fired-finger treatment too!

A DOUBLE FIRING!  Didn't see that coming.

I will quite miss Stephen though, it turns out.  Hmph.

And that really is The End.  Or, if you like, La Fin.  (Sorry)

The Magnificent Seven (or The One With The Remaining Apprentice Candidates)

A whole field of ponies. Or pony. You decide.
We're down to the last seven Apprentice hopefuls, each eager to be Lord Sugar's business bitch, as he signs the winner to Amstrad Corporate Entity, owning all future profits, business ideas, blood, sweat, tears, offspring, etc.  Read the small print and you'll see that if Lord Sugar ever needs a new kidney, one of The Apprentice candidates will be harvested.  But, of course, the keen-as-mustard seven aren't thinking about forcible organ donation, oh, no, they are thinking of the "ker-ching" of success, fame, fortune and breakfast telly opportunities that being an Apprentice winner - actually, hang on.  Surely being an Apprentice winner leads to utter obscurity?  Can we remember the names of those who've won in the past?  There was that crazy inventor bloke, was it Tom?  And someone called Badger (but she didn't actually win, did she?).  And Stuart Baggs - he of the "not a one trick pony, a whole field of ponies" fame - but, again, he didn't win.  He does have a website, with showreel, promoting his "brand" - but it talks about exciting opportunities in 2011; hardly current.  And...oh, there have been others.  Lots of braying tosspots, banging on about how brilliant they were - now all being quietly fabulous somewhere else.

So, of the seven remaining, who will fall furthest into obscurity?  Or, to put it another way, who will win?

Let's look at the evidence in a "Who Are The Final Seven Anyway" round-up.

In best reality TV show style, in alphabetical order of first name, the remaining seven candidates in The Apprentice are:
  • Adam "Corblimey" Corbally
  • Gabrielle Omar
  • Jade Nash
  • Nick "The Fop" Holzherr
  • Ricky "No, Not That One" Martin
  • Stephen "Alien" Brady
  • Tom "Bumfluff" Gearing
One thing that immediately strikes me about the list is that the boys are easier to nickname than the girls.  Is this meaning?  Does being nickname-able lead to winning reality TV shows?

Of the seven, the one who stands out for me is Nick.  He was the first choice for Phoenix in the last task, when they were allowed to pick from Sterling - clearly the others know he is A Prize Catch.  Salacious gossip snippet - apparently Gabrielle and Nick are an item.

But let's have a quick look at each of them, as we enter the last half of the contest.

Adam Corbally is a market trader from Oop North and manages a property portfolio, whilst juggling fruit and veg and shouting, "You don't get many of these to the pound" from his massive pink face.  Favours a pink tie, to match.  Facial expressions noted thus far:
  • baffled
  • bemused
  • boggled
  • confused
He apparently organising turning on the Christmas lights in his local town.  This is, for some reason, so surprising to me that I have literally no opinion on it.  Unusual.

Gabrielle Omar has mostly stayed neatly under the radar so far, apart from a rather lovely boardroom row with the frankly bonkers Bilyana.  An architect with experience of working in a fish and chip shop, she's flattered street artists almost to the point of spaffing (quick, fetch a canvas, you'll sell it for a fortune!) and done a fine line in glass/rose logo design.  But is she too quiet to win T'Apprentice?

Jade Nash is an ex 18-30 holiday rep with a penchant for drag racing.  A terrible project manager, she is seemingly incapable of making a decision, leaving her wide open to criticism from Lord Sugar.  However, he can't quite decide whether he likes her or not (oh, the irony), meaning she's squeaked into the final seven by the skin of her teeth.

Nick Holzherr will win if he doesn't make a colossal fuck-up between now and the end of the show.  Popular with the other candidates, foppish, he's been an entrepreneur since he sold lost golf balls back to golfers at the age of nine.

Ricky Martin (no, not that one) models himself on the aforementioned Stuart Baggs.  He's cumbersomely proportioned by comparison with his famous namesake and does a lot more talking about learning from his mistakes than learning from them.

Stephen Brady is an alien-faced eel of a man, slippery, quick to point the finger of blame at everyone else, full of ideas that are really just words he's randomly spewing.  If he makes it past the next task, I'm booking my next holiday to his home planet, Planet Dickweasel.

Tom Gearing reminds me of a pastier Stewart Lee, without the humour.  He has a fledgling moustache and is a wine entrepreneur who also knows his street art.  But did he impress Lord Sugar by simply getting pissed on the wine branding task?

What we have to remember as we watch this is that Lord Sugar has seen all of their business plans.  He must surely have a fair idea of who he wants to go into business with.  But we will all willingly suspend our disbelief until after the last task, when whichever of these seven hopefuls (please, not Stephen, I've just remembered my passport has expired) wins the £250k business deal will disappear instantly from the public eye.

And I, for one, won't miss them.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Search For The Mummified Baboon - or That My Life Should Come To This

Today, I visited the British Museum with my eight-year-old son (I know, I don't look old enough) and my mother (nor does she, good genes, innit). Neither of us were sponsored by P&G, but we set our faces against this crashing disappointment and made our way to Bloomsbury.

First, the tube. Living as we do to the west of London, our Metropolitan line journey took us past Wembley, where there was some sort of football match on, and we were accompanied for part of our journey by a troop of West Ham fans singing about forever blowing bubbles, as is their wont, the considerable remains of a McDonald's and innumerable empty cans and bottles which rumbled their way up and down the train as we rattled our way into town.

London was busy.  And it was my least favourite kind of busy - busy with tourists.  You know, those people who don't know that you walk on the left and stand on the right on the Underground escalators.  Gah.

Roof-tastic British Museum
Anyway, we hurled and burled our way through the crowds to the British Museum.  Past the signs saying, "Don't sit on the steps" and the people sitting on the steps we went, to the information desk where the most cheerful woman in the world was extremely friendly to us.  We decided we'd like to see the Egyptians (my eight-year-old wanted "to learn more about hieroglyphics") and were handed a photocopy of the Sailing The Nile Hamlyn Family Trail booklet.  Clearly every other bugger had had the same idea, because they were fresh out of the actual booklet.

And off we set, to Room 65, where we were to find gold rings, logs of ebony wood, a monkey, gold nuggets (small lumps), giraffe tails, leopard skins, a baboon and some lumps of red jasper, as well as a sphinx, whose mood we had to describe.  The booklet photocopy warned us that case numbers are "small and high up on the glass" - in other words, perfect for an eight-year-old to find.  If "perfect" means "next to bloody impossible".  We hunted out most of the things, decided the sphinx looked "relaxed" (despite the two cobra on his forehead - the sphinx was a dude).

Into the next room, 64, where half of the things weren't in the cases they said they were.  Still, we found the game and the hippo furniture leg and looked at some skeletons (you can't go to the British Museum without looking at a skeleton, it is illegal).

That must've taken bottle
The next room, 63, was heaving with rucksacks attached to people, as several tours had converged.  The overwhelming odour was body, a veritable wall of smell.  Weaving through the cases, trying to find the numbers on them whilst not breathing, was tricky.  The temptation to raise an umbrella in the air a la every tour guide in the place and see how many tourists I could collect was almost overwhelming, but I figured I wouldn't know what to do with them once I had them, so, reluctantly, I left it (this time - I expect I'll do it one day).  We found the coffin with the eyes on (so the dead man could see out) and the wooden neck rest and all the other things on this page and were Quite Pleased with ourselves.

Then room 62 and the search for the mummified animals.  Ibis - tick.  Cat - tick.  Crocodile - tick.  Falcon - tick.  Bull - tick.  Baboon - nowhere to be seen.

And it occurred to me that this obsession with the dead, their comfort in the afterlife and all the pomp and ceremony afforded to it by the Egyptians was a colossal waste of time.  I wondered what they would have invented if they'd had simple burials in wooden boxes and not done all that mucking about with building and stocking pyramids.  Maybe they'd have invented electricity.  And the internet.  Perhaps they would have said they were "on-Nile" rather than "on-line"...  I realised my attention span was waning (it's gnat-like at the best of times) and we made our way to the gift shop, which is almost bigger than the museum.  En route, we saw the Rosetta Stone, which helped us to identify the Rosetta Stone keyring, the Rosetta Stone fridge magnet, the Rosetta Stone tie, the Rosetta Stone jigsaw, the Rosetta Stone coasters, the Rosetta Stone pen, the Rosetta Stone notebook, the Rosetta Stone paperweight, the Rosetta Stone... - oh, you get the picture.

But we never did find the sodding baboon.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Apprentice Candidates Go Mad In Vineyards (or The One With The Quality Piss-up)

Quality fizz. Sorry, quality sparkle.
The rise and shine call comes at 5.45am this week and the remaining eight candidates are delighted to hear they are headed to the Champagne Bar at St Pancras.  Lord Sugar is there in person this time, rather than as a disembodied head on a massive telly, and he soon dashes any hope that this will be the episode in which the candidates go on a Eurostar jolly.  Instead, the brief for this week is to raise awareness of English sparkling wine – superior to much of that French muck, says Lord Sugar (I’m paraphrasing, slightly).

The standard fodder of branding, website and advert are all required elements for this task – though, one hopes, without the Tight Red Shorts of Azhar we have all been trying to forget.   Oh, sorry.  *passes brain bleach*

Since Laura’s departure, the teams are an unbalanced five-three, so Lord Sugar offers Phoenix the chance to do something PE teachers across the land have been doing for years (no, not that, that’s illegal) – they get to pick someone from Sterling.  Like giddy schoolchildren, they jump up and down and clap their hands, squealing, “Nick, we want Nick!” and Nick is duly wrested from the arms of Sterling to assume his position between Adam’s big pink face and Tom’s bum-fluff ‘tache.  Ricky and Gabrielle look particularly bereft at this loss, but Stephen’s colossal alien visage remains impassive (or has he been at the cryogenics in his spaceship again, we may never care).

Traditionally, the team leader bunfight is the first thing to occur on a task and this is a particularly messy one, as each team member knows that any seeming reluctance to step up to the plate will mean ball-squidging wedgies from Lord Sugar in the boardroom. Team Sterling ALL want to be the leader.  So, they have a vote.  And Gabrielle, Jenna and Ricky all manage to vote for other people, but Stephen wants to vote for himself (the weasel-dicked dickweasel).   He is soon slapped into place by Jenna and manages grudgingly to cough out a less narcissistic vote, and so it is that Ricky is team leader.

Team Phoenix have a wine entrepreneur in the form of Tom (street art and now wine – he’s basically a pisshead vandal, isn’t he?) and Nick is a tech wizard who wants to take responsibility for the online stuff.  So, without any of the unseemly squabbling of Sterling, Tom is installed as team leader and there are congratulations for being Very Clever Bastards all round.

Ricky’s first words to his team are the inspirational, “Let’s forget that the other team have masses of experience in this very field.  We’re better than them.”  However, he offers not evidence of this (because there isn’t any). And…they’re off! Adam’s massive pink face looks confused (you’ll have seen this expression in previous tasks.  All of them) as, alongside Tom in the back of a cab, he tries to understand why Champagne is called Champagne and why English sparkling wine isn’t.  Tom explains it to him using Vaseline (oh, dear GOD, that sounds revolting), by saying that petroleum jelly is the product and Vaseline is the brand name.  Adam seems to get it, but then Tom muddies the waters by offering Coca-Cola as a brand name for the generic…er, he doesn’t seem to know what and Adam’s massive pink face comes over all bamboozled again.

Stephen, keen to prove that his forte is, well, everything, tries rummaging round in the alien brain he keeps behind his alien face for a word that sums up English sparkling wine.  “Cert” is his first offering, and then it gets worse.  “Grandeur” or “Chink”.  Gabrielle, seemingly more aware of offensive terminology than Stephen (whose "how to be a human" manual must've skipped any mention of race relations), vetoes “Chink” immediately and it eventually dawns on Stephen why.  So, “Grandeur” it is.  You have until Nick Hewer mentions it in a minute to work out why it’s a bad idea for an English sparkling wine.  Tick-tock.

Ricky and Jenna head to a vineyard, where they’re told to remember three things about English sparkling wine (ESW) – “quality, quality, quality”.  I’m concerned that this might be at least two things too many for them to remember, but we’ll see.  Ricky wonders whether Tom will remember they’re not “creating wine” - as apparently it already exists. Meanwhile, Tom and Adam are quaffing wine.  Adam knows as much about wine as he knew about street art.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nowt.  He is “completely” out of his comfort zone and knows “zero about wine”.  This much is in evidence when he says you can “smell Christmas cake” in the wine.  Karren is amused.  Just not very.

Gabrielle and Stephen are in Tesco.  Gabrielle is looking at labels and branding.  Stephen is looking for a wine connoisseur; about as common in Tesco as gin at last week’s street art gallery task. Nick and Jade and Stephen and Gabrielle begin work on their respective websites.  Nick and Jade make their desire for an English Sparkling Wines brand clear, whilst Stephen splurges random guff at his poor website developer, including the strapline “Less fizz, more sparkle” and his “Grandeur” brand name.  Nick Hewer is on hand to tell us why "Grandeur" isn’t a good name for English sparkling wine – did you work it out?  Of course – it’s a FRENCH word.  But Stephen believes in the logo (a pretty English rose/wine glass combination, that Gabrielle designed), he believes in the name and he believes that it looks like a really nice bottle of wine, so Gabrielle goes along with it.  Colour us baffled.

Ricky and Jenna plan their ad, a wedding party with a demanding bride, who wants English sparkling wine.  Ricky thinks having her sitting on a throne may be de trop, but Jenna’s keen to fill us in on the plans for any wedding in her future – she wants a throne.  Heaven help us all.

Adam and Tom are…well, getting pissed in a vineyard.  Nick wants them to do some work on the advert, but Tom makes it clear that drinking wine is what they’ll be doing.  Jade says she thinks it’s strange, because Tom already knows about wine.  But Tom feels he needs to show off and drink more.  They’ve really, “ to grips with the English wine sparkling…<giggle> Sorry… The English wine sparkling…” – yeah, Nick and Jade have every right to be hacked off that their team leader and Adam Corblimey have been on a piss-up whilst they’ve been doing all the work.

Ricky’s team are planning their ad campaign.  Ricky doesn’t want it to be gimmicky.  It has to be quality, quality, quality.  Not gimmicky.  No gimmicks.  Gabrielle wants it funny.  Ricky wants it…quality and “thinks it will come back as we are expecting”.  I suspect the advert will be gimmicky, don’t you?  *hopeful face*

Ricky says “quality” some more.  Is this going to be the word of the episode?  Or will it be…”grandeur”?  Jenna can’t manage to say it – “grand-yoo-er” – so perhaps not. Adam is “choreographing” the Phoenix advert, and asks that the make-up isn’t too over the top.  Indeed, he requests simply that “everyone is touched up” which Jade finds rather amusing.  As do we all, if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t we?  Yes, we do.  Jade says she doesn’t enjoy working with Adam, which we can all also understand, can’t we?  Yes, we can.  And Adam offers his services as advert choreographer to the professionals he’s been working with to create their vision (which, incidentally, is a lot of people saying “Cheers”, smiling and clinking their glasses together (“clinking”, Stephen, not what you said)).  Karren does her unimpressed face A Lot.

Ricky calls Stephen and Jenna to make sure they haven’t killed each other (they haven’t, not even a flesh wound, I'm afraid, fight fans) and to check the advert won’t be “too gimmicky”.  He talks about quality again.  And he’s sure they won’t make it gimmicky.  Really sure.  *upcoming opportunity for Schadenfreude face*

Stephen and Jenna's advert is a bride in a throne, with a few others toasting her with English sparkling wine (including a man who isn't sure whether to look at the camera or not.  Awkward).

Karren highlights the flaw in Tom’s team’s campaign – they’ve created a website for people who already drink ESW, not something that will grab people who have never tasted the stuff.  Whoops.  Oh, surely the industry professionals won't notice.  It's not like they know about this stuff, after all.

Gabrielle and Ricky finally see their advert.  And Ricky pronounces it… “a lot cheesier than I expected it”.  #SchadenfreudeAchieved

Nick and Tom’s verdict of their own advert - “A bit boring, really”.  Cheesy and boring – Lord Sugar’s gonna be SO proud, guys!

Pitches next...

Ricky Martin is taking the industry bods on a journey.  He talks about quality.  A lot.  And heritage.  But mostly quality.  Quality.  And quality.  They’ve used gold on their website, so that’s definitely quality.  They’ve also started an English sparkling wine social networking forum, with its own logo and everything.  Quality.  Mark Zuckerberg must be shitting himself.  So, it’s all going quite well.  They even like Stephen the Alien’s strapline, “Less fizz, more sparkle” – and then they show the bridezilla advert.  “Why is it necessary to make it so flippant?  Do you think you would find a Champagne website that would portray itself that way?”.  Ah.  Fuck.

Next, Phoenix and ESW.  Remind me – “Extra Special Winners”?  “Ever So Wank”?  “Equally Silly Whingers”?  Oh, no, of course, “English Sparkling Wine”.

Tom talks about branding all English sparkling wine with their own logo and they play their “boring” advert.  The industry bods question whether a group of people drinking wine and saying “Cheers” is a good plan.  “Er…” say Team Phoenix.

Nick demonstrates how the website will work.  Or not.  Mostly “not” – because stockists won’t be interested in keeping their stock levels up-to-date on the ESW website.  Whoops again. Lord Sugar speaks to the panel to get their opinions.  The panel say random things that could be about either team edited together in a montage of raised and then dashed hopes and Lord Sugar says it’s interesting and “hmm”.


Lord Sugar introduces the task as a marketing campaign for English sparkling wines. Lord Sugar asks what Tom is like as team leader – Nick channels Azhar as he praises his “strategy”.  Shuggs asks, “innocently”, whether Tom and Adam tasted the wine…  They look at Phoenix’s website and advert, “An English tradition that’s finally English” – which is somewhat bizarre.  What was it before?  French, perchance?  Lord Sugar asks if the url for the website is – oops.  He points out that they’ve missed the point of the brief, making it a sales campaign rather than a marketing campaign.

Ricky Martin saw himself as David to Phoenix’s Goliath.  And he doesn’t like wine.  But he sees this as an opportunity, not a weakness.  Lord Sugar does some scoffing at that. Stephen pushes his “Cert” again as a brand name, saying they wanted something simple.  They should’ve called it “Stephen”, in that case.  Lord Sugar and Nick Hewer roll their eyes at it being called Grandeur, because it’s FRENCH, as we all know.

The last line in their bridezilla advert is “English sparkling wine, oozing luxury with every pore” – bleurgh!  “Spielberg can rest easy, that’s for sure,” says Lord Sugar, the frantic wag. Gabrielle done good with the rose glass logo – English rose, etc.

Shuggs – “Hmm…” The industry bods say Sterling started off reasonably OK.  Phoenix were boring.  More sales orientated than awareness.  They haven’t mentioned quality yet.  Will they?


The Phoenix campaign didn’t do what Shuggs asked them to do, but Sterling messed up So Much with the bridezilla farce that it was they who lost. Phoenix head off to the rooftop of a boutique hotel.  The lucky bastards.  And a hot tub.  With some sparkling wine.  Six nipples and Jade in the hot tub, laughing and joking. Sterling head off to a greasy spoon café.  The unlucky bastards.  Although, to be fair, they don't have to see those six nipples... *reaches for brain bleach again*

Ricky – “The result is not the one that I wanted”.  No shit, Sherlock.  But Stephen is hoping that his gigantic alien face will save him.  Or his win record, I can’t remember – I was side-tracked by his looming eyes.

Back to the boardroom for the bollocking…

Why did you use humour?  WHY?!  Lord Sugar is baffled.  “I might remind you of Sid James, but I didn’t ask you to make Carry On Boozing!” – he’s getting funnier year on year, isn’t he?  He imitates Kenneth Williams as I cringe my face inside-out.

Stephen attempts to defend Jenna by saying that Jenna had a bad day at the office.  Talk about backhanded compliment.  Gabrielle attacks Stephen for trying to find a wine connoisseur in Tesco and Stephen tries to take credit for Gabrielle’s logo, in a staggering display of arrogance.

Ricky looks at the facts of what went wrong and decides to bring back Jenna and Stephen to face the firing.  Stephen does an upside-down U for a mouth again – is it game over for the alien?  Or will Ricky Martin dance his way out of the programme?  Jenna…described as “A good sport who works hard” by Nick Hewer.  But will it be enough to save her?


“Why did you think humour was a good idea?  WHY?!”  Lord Sugar is still incredulous. Nick Hewer reads from his notes and backs up that Ricky’s requirement was for “quality, not cheese”.  Lord Sugar questions why Ricky didn’t take more responsibility for the quality of the advert.  Apparently he should've been in two places at once.  Jenna is given enough rope to hang herself – will she?  She’s been in the losing team five times, in the final three twice. Stephen blames everyone else, Ricky points out that Stephen is good at deflecting any kind of responsibility.  Perhaps his skin is coated with Teflon, in some sort of alien/saucepan hybrid, not seen since Enid Blyton wrote the Faraway Tree series.

Lord Sugar, “Stephen can talk the hind legs off a donkey, looks like butter wouldn’t melt, Ricky, defeatist attitude.  Jenna, you work hard, you take responsibility for the disastrous video”. Jenna didn’t realise that this was a high-end, quality product and she should have worked out that this was not an opportunity for humour.  Lord Sugar isn’t joking as he fires her and Jenna leaves the process.

And I, for one, won’t miss her.

Stephen is project manager on the next task, whatever happens…  Will he save himself?  He pretends to the other candidates that he made a bet with Lord Sugar that he’d win the next task – he got as much brass neck as he has alien face.  And that's loads.  And loads.