Let me get one thing clear.
The Apprentice is a business-orientated reality TV programme.
So why is it transforming into the lamest type of comedy sketch show with each passing week?
Everyone seems to resemble the sort of grotesque, OTT stereotype that infests sketch shows, from the very top all the way down. Sir Alan is dangerously close to becoming a self parody at times, Nick’s gurning suggests he might well end up chewing off his own face and Margaret is turning into a worrying mix of June Whitfield and Anne Robinson.
Needless to say the candidates themselves provide the bulk of the unintentional laughs – although they do tend to be pained groans, more than outright chuckles.
From brain (sic) storming and choosing the project manager right through to the culling of one of their number in the boardroom, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take any of them seriously.
And this week’s relatively straight-forward task – laying on some lunches and an evening canape reception for a bunch of London suits – proved a goldmine of dubious humour, rather than highlighting any business credentials.
It was more Swedish Chef than Yo! Sushi.
All they had to do was pitch to corporates already lined up for them, get the best possible price and provide the food. But the boys (Team Empire) even failed to secure a lunch order from the company they had been provided with.
At least they managed to land the evening canape reception, albeit after a prolonged and excruciating negotiation when the poisonous, mumbling estate agent Philip huffed and puffed his way down from his original pitch of £60/head to a much more realistic £15/head.
Philip is fast turning into the pantomime villain, insisting to one and all he’s a team player then in the next breath declaring “This is shite” or the even more helpful “We’re in big trouble.”
His negativity is being matched by the windbag qualities of James McQuillan, who managed to talk non-stop throughout, contribute very little and then bark at Sir Alan in the boardroom.
I’m not sure which I found the most disturbing revelation from James – that his CV includes the fact that he can “taste success in his spit” when he wakes each morning; or the fact that he did a little wee in his pants when he thought he was for the chop in the boardroom (courtesy of You’re Fired! on BBC2 after the main event).
It was painful stuff from Team Empire, more so given the fact that it was led by sandwich chain owner Rocky and also numbered the gormless Howard who apparently manages 10 pubs. They seemed doomed from the outset, coming up with a naff theme, failing to secure the lucrative lunch order and spending a small fortune on ingredients for what turned out to be very uninspiring fayre.
Coming back with a loss seemed inevitable and handed victory to the girls (Team Ignite) on a plate.
Unsurprisingly the women were triumphant as they trotted off for their polo-playing treat.
But it smacked of a hollow victory to me.
The aim of The Apprentice is to find the best business brain to sit on Sir Alan Sugar’s right (or left) hand. On the face of it, therefore, making a £600+ profit in a day with a sarnie-making operation sounds like excellent business.
But surely that is only part of the Team Ignite story?
Its all very well drumming up good business in one day, the bigger and more difficult task is to secure the repeat business over a much longer period and keep your customers happy.
Team Ignite, under restaurateur Yasmina Siadatan, cut corners, failed to inspire any confidence in their clients, produced even worse food than Team Empire and yet were deemed this week’s stellar success story. It wasn’t exactly a great advert for her restaurant, or her approach to business.
They looked professional and they made a big profit. But their business failed badly in just about every other respect.
I’m sure if Sir Alan employed such a team they would barely last 24 hours because of their abject failure on so many levels. But this is reality TV and the short-term win is all that matters.
It doesn’t bode well for any of the candidates’ longevity, however, and special mention should go to Kate Walsh – she floundered more than the cut-price tuna they served up during the pitch for the evening canape reception.
But it was Team Empire who lost and it was the project leader, Rocky Andrews, who took the knock-out blow.
Rocky was a likeable enough chap, but possibly a bit too out of his depth. A rough diamond in the style of Lee McQueen, last year’s winner, but then that could be levelled at all the candidates given what we have seen so far.
Rocky failed to stamp his authority on his team and was too democratic on issues he should have taken control on given his business background. He was also badly let down by his team, which included the invisible man (Noorul), although Nick is clearly trying his best to keep a watchful eye on him.
It was a comedy of errors from start to finish again this week, which makes it difficult to accept there were actually winners as well as losers.
Rocky at least showed some spark of humility, but as we know all too well that is one character trait that is not required on The Apprentice. He needed to punch above his weight, but lacked the necessary power and technique.
His opening gambit on the show’s website tells us: “For me business is about hard-work, attention to detail, being willing to make mistakes and learning from these mistakes.”
Sadly, the m-word is not acceptable in Sugarworld.