Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Plumb lucky

Ten Things About... Week 12 - The Final

1. Guess who's back? Back again - Technically this episode was all about Joseph and Vana going head-to-head to earn that £250,000 start-up investment from Lord Sugar, but let's be real: the thing we're all here for in the final is the returning candidates who turn up to help, because we want to know who is bitter as and who is just flat-out incompetent. Obviously the ideal return would've been for Scott to return and stand there seething throughout, shooting daggers every time Lordalan walked up and making "you, outside, now" gestures at him, and of course for Selina to come back as well and end up on the same team as Charleine. Of course, neither of these things happened so every return felt like something of an anticlimax, even though a few of the selected candidates still held some promise: Richard (hooray!), Ruth, Gary, Natalie, Charleine, Mergim, Elle and Brett. Using the traditional alternating schoolyard pick approach (with Joseph going first after Vana lost a coin toss), Joseph picked Gary, Brett, Elle and Mergim, while Vana picked Richard, Charleine, Ruth and Natalie. I'm not trying to say that Joseph frankly deserved to lose the whole thing here, but having first pick and going for Gary doesn't exactly scream "astute and focused business mind" to me. As much as I'm loath to ever admit that Karren might be right about something, I think she summed it up pretty nicely when she said that Vana picked people who would be useful to her while Joseph picked people he liked. (I liked Ruth's observation that they weren't here to act under their own initiative but to serve the two finalists, or as she put it, they were "vessels of Vana". A shiny sixpence to the first person to suggest that as a team name next year.)

2. Business development - After the criticism they'd both received in the previous round, the first objective for both Joseph and Vana was to round off the edges of their business plans. For Joseph, that meant proving that he's not just a smalltime plumber and he has the brains, drive and commitment to expand his local plumbing business into a large national concern. For Vana, there was the slightly thornier task of proving that there was any money to be made at all from her dating app and that Lordalan's investment wouldn't disappear faster than Sam's clothes on Instagram. However, in the midst of all that they still had to design a digital billboard, film a promo video, and then pitch to a roomful of industry experts, and Karren.

3. App-y talking talking, app-y talk - Despite the show's best efforts to obfuscate the actual amount of work that needed to be done by both teams, it was clear that Vana had a mountain to climb whereas Joseph merely had a leisurely stroll up a slight incline. With that in mind, a considerable part of the episode was spent on Vana's efforts to establish whether her business idea was profitable or not. Unfortunately, she seemed to think it was more important to oversee the marketing and promotional side of things than to actually go and do this aspect of the job herself: first she sent Ruth, Charleine and Brett off to speak to the people at eHarmony, where they were advised to go for a fresh, non-cheesy brand (in other words, the complete opposite of the ad campaign that Vana was currently halfway through), advice that Vana brushed aside. Then, the following day, Natalie and Ruth were sent out to meet with some app developers to get an idea of how much it would cost. (One of the app developers was the spit of Barney Lumsden, convincing me for a hot second that this was in fact all taking place within an episode of W1A, which was a very strange feeling.) Vana wanted them to reaffirm her belief that she could get the app launched for between £30k-£40k, and one of them rather hesitantly said that it was certainly possible in theory to launch it for that price, but that apps are never a finished product and that it would soak up the initial investment soon enough. Ruth asked when they might see a return on the investment, and the app people told her that it would be a long time before any money would trickle in the other direction, and that they really had to look it at more as building a brand at this point. (It was at this point that the task was inexorably lost for Vana, I think, no matter how good her pitch turned out to be.) [And Ldalan didn't invest in apps when Nick wanted to do one the other year, so it was always risky... - Rad] Ruth and Natalie did their best to break the bad news to Vana but, being Ruth and Natalie, weren't quite able to specify whether they'd been told that the figures they were quoted included the marketing budget or not (Ruth thought not, Natalie thought it did), so Vana disregarded their reports once again and finally opted to ring the MD of eHarmony herself to ask for his advice. He said that it was possible for her to launch her business with the money that she had, but she would have to limit its scope somewhat and be aware that 10-15 dating apps go out of business in the UK every week. Vana, being Vana, just heard "it's possible".

4. What's in a name? - Coming up with a name for each company was deemed to be of the utmost importance by both Vana and Joseph, to the extent that they took a very personal interest in it. Vana was determined to get the words "play" and "date" in there, so despite having an apparently fully-formed brand in "PlayDate" last week, she decided to switch it to "DatePlay". I can only assume that someone informed her off-camera that this name had already been taken, because I can't think of any other logical or sensible reason for the reversal - while the former is a little too cutesy and juvenile, at least it's a functioning play on words, whereas "DatePlay" is just...nothing. I don't know, I give up with these people. Joseph, meanwhile, rejected "The Plumbing Co" and Mergim's suggestion of "Enerpluture" (a terrifying hybrid of "energy", "plumbing" and "future", apparently) before settling on Prime Time Plumbers. Despite Sarah Dales briefly popping in to point out that when written down it looked more like Prim Eti Me Plum Bers [I can't believe Not That Mark Wright has actually called his thing Climb Online in real life because I will never, ever, hear that as anything other than Clim Bonline - Rad], Joseph proceeded with this branding.

5. Ad nauseam - Both adverts and promotional videos were, of course, entirely terrible but in entirely separate ways. Marketing expert Richard came up with the idea of having a man and a woman playing on their phones with buzzwords like "go-getter", "professional", "hung daddy" (okay maybe not that last one) emerging, while someone (it could only have been Richard or Vana) came up with the idea of having jugglers under neon lights representing the inner workings of the app. Richard and Charleine ended up being the models, and both kept their wedding rings on throughout. Sigh. Still, at least there was an internal consistency to both her digital billboard and her promo video (same style, same actors, same overall concept), even if they were both a bit crap. Joseph, meanwhile, made a digital billboard that was almost entirely grey and not, as far as I could tell, animated in any way, and then got Elle, Mergim and Brett to make what Elle rightly identified as a "1970s porno" for their film. Things did not get off to the best of starts due to Mergim's über-wooden acting and Elle's inability to get through a line without corpsing ("I'm trying! How can you not laugh at that face?!"), but between them and Brett The Porno Plumber, they eventually managed to get together something rudimentary but usable, even incorporating Joseph's eleventh-hour phonecall asking them to incorporate smart technologies into the ad somehow because he'd just been told that's what the people want.

6. Bigwig bonus - That knowledge came from Joseph's meeting with a group of company bigwigs from the plumbing industry on the second day. (Note to self: business idea for series 12, "big wigs".) Having been told on day one by a British Gas supremo that his major business idea - renewable technology - was still very niche interest and not something that the majority of his customers would be interested in, at least not within the next 15 years (which seems a bit of a stretch, I can count at least six hours with solar panels on the roof just walking around the block from my flat, and I don't exactly live in an upscale area), Joseph spoke to those in the know to find out what people do actually want, and the answer turned out to be smart technology - the ability to control your heating from your phone while you're out and about, or the ability to run a bath when you're not in (????????). Notably, Joseph actually attended this meeting himself, not only enabling him to ask the right questions and listen to the answers without trusting someone else to relay the information, but also enabling him to get the bigwigs to record endorsements to be edited into his promo video, and grabbing some business cards for when it's time for him to come a-pitchin'. Well-played, Valente.

7. Know your market - Since there's always a need for people to do pointless busywork on day three, Joseph and Vana were both required to send some of their lackeys out to do market research on the terrible adverts at London termini. Natalie, Ruth and Charleine were sent off to harangue strangers at Victoria in their capacity as the Vessels of Vana, while Elle, Mergim and Brett went to Liverpool Street to act as Joseph's Witnesses. Things did not go brilliantly for either team: nearly everybody that got polled for PlayDate was not in the market for a dating app (because they were in relationships, and people in relationships don't use those things *look to camera*) though the three single people Charleine found definitely said that they would download it and pay for it. Meanwhile, Joseph's billboard was so grey that nobody in the station even noticed it was there until it was pointed out to them, so that was three hours well spent.

8. Pitch perfect - While the whole episode felt like a slam dunk for Joseph most of the way through (Lord Sugar is his idol, he's pulled himself up by his bootstraps, his business plan isn't a transparent money pit), Vana put up a heck of a fight when it came to making the pitch at City Hall. Her presentation was brilliant - she was calm, confident, funny and personable. Vana's a hell of a public speaker, and she even handled the questions about her scheme's questionable profitability with aplomb. While I'm not sure she necessarily convinced people to invest in her business, I think she convinced a lot of them that they could do a lot worse than invest in her. Joseph couldn't quite match Vana for her sheer naturalness in front of such a large crowd, but that ended up working out in his favour: instead of trying to compete with Vana, he set himself apart from her by explaining his humble roots, his clear plan and his tangible business. He was never as articulate as Vana, but he always looked like he knew what he was talking about.

9. Boardroom blitz - Despite this being the most foregone of foregone conclusions, there was still room for one last round of sparring in the boardroom once everyone else had been dismissed. Vana made it clear that for her, the investment would be seed money to prove that her model works, and that she would need to secure a second round of funding at a later date - but she hoped that she'd proved at this point that she could persuade people of the validity of her idea. Joseph in turn batted a six by referencing Pimlico Plumbers (at least I assume that's who he was referring to, since those strange BBC product placement rules prevented him from naming them outright) and how they'd grown from similarly humble beginnings to a £14m turnover. When it came to infighting, Vana kept drawing attention to the relative modesty of Joseph's ambitions - she had international potential and could promise Lord Sugar a smaller piece of a much larger pie. Joseph had an answer for that, however: Vana was charging £40 a month (£40?!?!?!?) per person to use the app, whereas Joseph would be charging £50 per hour for a callout. Then he went in for the kill by outright stating that Lord Sugar's money would "evaporate" if he gave it to Vana.

10. And the winner is... - Joseph, of course. It was never in doubt. He feels like a strange winner in some senses, because he just seemed like a comedy wideboy in the first half of the series, one who would inevitably be fired by around week eight. He never seemed to have a breakout moment of becoming a star, he just held in long enough for everyone else to fall out of the running and had the business idea with the most potential. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anyway, I think we're missing the most important point here: Joseph winning meant that Elle was on the winning team for the first time ever! If you want a happy ending, there it is.

So there we have it: a bit of a disappointing season overall, I thought, with some uninspiring tasks, uninspiring people and an uninspiring finale. But I daresay we'll still be back to do it all over again next year. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Interview to a kill

10 things about… Week 11 - Interviews

  1. Interview from the top - We’re back at the Leadenhall building for lots of lift and escalator shots again. The panel remains pretty much the same- Mike Soutar, Claude Littner and Claudette Collins, who I hope get married, are joined by Linda Plant, a 20 year long acquaintance of Lordalan’s who is the type of woman who will berate another woman for crying.  Mike is still a hard ass, as is Claudette but it’s almost nice to see Claude soften a bit with his knowledge of the candidates. How do the interviews go, though?
  2. Tricky Dicky - I’m using Ludalan’s moniker for him here as he really does nothing to detract from this during the process of the interviews. He wastes no time reminding us that he’s got the best record in the process and he’s feeling massively confident.  His business plan is no different to his performance throughout the process - lots and lots of bellowing with very little substance. For example, his claim to run Surrey’s number one digital marketing agency turns out to be one that was decided by his “breakfast networking group”, which is definitely the “my mum says I’m cool” of business claims. His business plan makes me want to poke sticks in my eyes and ears. The only thing that stopped me from doing it is that I want to do his first. It’s a “business growth campaign that starts with a focused base camp to remove the clouds from the client’s business growth mountain so they clearly see the summit they’re aiming for”. I told you. I warned you all. It seems to be about outsourcing marketing for small businesses and claims to be a unique model, despite Richard using it in the business he already has. The interviews break him. He starts out claiming 11 out of 10 and telling everyone he’s smashing it and ends up in the foetal position crying out for his mum. Which leads me to my next point.
  3. Waking up - Richard did a first on The Apprentice. He stopped in the middle of shoveling a steaming pile of bull and managed a moment of self awareness. I didn’t like it. This isn’t why I’m watching. I’m watching to see a load of idiots bumbling through and making tits of themselves. Mike Soutar begins the process by telling him that he knows that the model isn’t unique. Richard then just says its tried and tested. He spins faster than a pepped up spider, but the cracks begin to show. Linda calls bullshit on him and he just bullshits back at her. Claude wants to know why he hasn’t made his millions already if he’s been doing the same business for so long. He waffles and the questions keep coming. by the time he gets to Claudette he’s a broken man. He admits the business plan is waffle and says he can’t believe the pretentious crap that comes out of his mouth sometimes. he returns to his colleagues a visibly broken man.
  4. Vana know what love is - Vana’s business plan is all about the gamificaiton of internet dating. Speaking as someone who has been internet dating, adding MORE unspoken rules and messing about to it isn’t really going to appeal to anyone but hey ho. she’s going to be using SCIENCE to match people together. The people will then play games with each other until their faces are revealed to each other. Sounds a bit like the one where you play a game with a boy on Tinder to see how long it takes them to get your number so they can WhatsApp you a picture of their [REDACTED]. Vana also interviews like her performance in the competition. She’s confident, competent and if she’s in doubt, she just adds MOAR OIL [She could go into an Italian seasoning production company with Yasmina - Rad]. She seems to know her stuff but everyone’s a bit worried that she’s being over optimistic in terms of figures. we’ll see.
  5. Charleine on me - Charleine is still reeling a bit from her board room cry but I just bloody like her, ok? Her business plan is about expanding her hair salon but she doesn’t really have a brand or a name for herself so it’s all a bit pointless but she’s lovely so nobody really minds that she’s wasting their time. She’s going into business to show her kids that they can do anything and is doing this in the memory of her dead child. I can't pick her apart. It’s too easy. I wish her well. The panel could be a lot more savage. They merely reiterate that she’s not really got a name to franchise on and her business plan is a wishlist rather than anything concrete.
  6. Gary up and Wait - Gary, who is a lot more pleasingly hairy than I would expect, describes himself at the beginning of the episode as a “Corporate G” [Despite being way too much of a plonker/market trader type to ever be corporate - Rad], has been very quiet about what his work outside of NOT TESCO is about. He doesn’t even appear to be sure about what his achievements inside NOT TESCO were all about, as his idea of how many people he managed and what he was responsible for seems to differ wildly. Anyway, in the curviest curveball ever to be curved, it seems like CORPORATE G is mr Mobile Disco and is currently very big in the West Midlands. He wants to turn these discos into events with an app that beams people in. It’s not a hologram and it’s not Skype. The consensus is that nobody has a clue what is going on, especially him.
  7. Hey Joe - Joseph is TWENTY FIVE YEARS OLD. Let's just let that sink in. TWENTY FIVE. He shaves his tache for the occasion and manages to be the only man in the entire world who has grown more creepy after losing a moustache. Joseph is full of confidence and it oozes from him. The interviews justify it almost entirely. He claims to have been inspired by Ludalan’s book. Mike Soutar thinks this is bullcrap and quizzes him on it like a schoolchild. he passes with flying colours. His business idea is to franchise out his plumbing business but this falls at the first hurdle when it’s pointed out to him that if he’d bought into his own franchise he would not have made any money. Fair play to him though, he manages to adapt his business model, charm everyone, show his enthusiasm whilst being sincere and can do actual maths on demand. This episode made me like him and lord knows I hate liking anyone genuinely on this show. DAMN YOU, VALENTE.
  8. Results are in - So how did they all get on? Charleine is a fighter but her expectations go beyond her ability. She’s a fantastic candidate but she may only be able to replicate her success in Plymouth. Her boardroom plea is all about countering her small town reputation by suddenly announcing that she’ll just move to london and charge more. Karren rightly says she’ll just get swallowed up. Lordalan does have a chuckle at her bowling up to “high st, London” though. bless her. Gary is found to be one that exaggerates his own importance and doesn’t understand the difference between leading people and being their actual line manager. Lordalan does have a scoff at his mobile disco and makes a Piers Morgan joke that I’m too busy YAWNING about to replicate here. The main thrust of his argument is that his business is unique but it seems to be so unique that nobody has a clue what it’s actually about. It seems to be video conferencing for parties, as far as I can tell, but he’s got no idea. He’s so irrelevant at this point, he may as well be someone’s suitcase. Joseph’s franchise idea may be a non starter but the consensus is that he’s hard working and a bit of a rough diamond. Lordalan is concerned that he was a fish out of water in some of the posher stuff but it’s pointed out that he knows his plumbing onions. In the boardroom, he’s compared to Boycie when we all know he’s Mickey Pearce. He has an alternate business plan that could be viable. Lordalan isn’t sure if backing Vana’s dating app would make him stupid or cupid. Let’s go with the former. They agree that it’s a booming market and she’s a clever girl but Siralan is worried that not seeing the person at first would make people too cautious about ending up with an ‘ugbo’. What a lovely man. Vana’s answer to all the concerns is to disagree. She’s all about bringing in the high end men and the high end women will follow. She’s got a point. Finally, they all laugh about breaking Richard and share their concern that he’s replicating a business he’s already got. He argues that despite the mountain being the same, they’re different things. We’ll see.
  9. Two cool for school - So who is in the final two? Charleine is sent out almost straight away because the best she can do is replicate her Plymouth success locally. She leaves with her head held high. The others have a bit more fighting let to do. Joseph has done some great things but it’s about small business versus big business and Richard’s other business is a conflict to the one he wants investment for. None of these hold a candle to nobody knowing what the hell Gary’s business is about so he’s off too. He’s left with Richard, Joseph and Vana and has a little chat with his team about what to do next. They summarise Richard as being good in tasks but full of shit. Joseph gets the diamond in the rough, see myself in him treatment and they’re not sure about the money for Vana. They’re all called back in to give a final plea. Joseph reiterates that he’s already made 60k in two years and wants to make even more. Richard goes from being a silent partner in his business to offering to sell his brother down the river completely and Vana reminds everyone that 25% of couples getting married these days have met online. Joseph’s enthusiasm and straight talking earn him a place. He says he’s going to make Lordalan a lot of money. It’s then down to Vana and Richard. Vana gets the edge because Lordalan has heard of Tinder. Bye Richard! He taxiterviews that he’s good at The Apprentice but hasn’t shown any business skills, thus blowing up the entire process and making everyone self aware again.
  10. Quotes of the week
“I have been branded as a Corporate G” - Gary
“It would be crazy to pass by Richard Woods” - Who else?
“I’m part of a business networking breakfast group” - Richard
“Are you a romancer?” “I’d like to think so” - Claudette falls under Joseph’s spell
“600 people danced to the tune of my development programme but I actually managed three” - Gary
“You haven’t got a brand. You haven’t even won a hairdressing competition” - Poor Charleine
“You will be sweating from every single finger”
“It’s like a bad 1980’s business book” - Claude on Richard
“I’m just so competitive” - Richard
“So they didn’t go over your business plan?” Vana on hearing upon Richard’s supposed success
“You’re just a mobile disco, you’re far from a global event planner” - Linda
“Is it bullshit? I think it’s bullshit”- Linda on Richard
“Expecting her (Charleine) to go as big as Toni and Guy is like expecting Claude to grow an afro” - Ludalan
“Party planners are fun people, aren’t they?” - Karren

That's it from me this series! Join Steve for the finale.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Everyone's a loser baby

10 things about... Week 10 (health snacks)

1. Snack attack. This task was not exactly a rarity for The Apprentice-it was one of those make a product and flog it tasks that we’ve seen hundreds of times before. This time, the teams were tasked with creating a so-called healthy snack. Charleine took PM role for Versatile whilst Brett took the PM role for Connexus (at least I think, we've long gone past knowing which team is which). The teams were tasked with creating, marketing and pitching a 'healthy snack' in three flavour combinations and we were treated to a display of current products on the market, including a bag of meal worms.  Why neither team took up that particular telly-gold bait, is beyond me.

Charleine, Gary and Joseph decided to go for snack bars and agreed on the name 'Rejuvenation' which then, sensibly, was contracted to 'Rejuvenate'.  The snack bars were each 'flavoured' with a different 'superfood' ingredient: acai, baobab and maca.  Apparently one of them also tasted of pomegranate and peppermint, which sounds utterly vile.  We weren't really told what the others tasted of, mainly because no-one could eat the things, due to them falling apart in the packet, never mind the hand, and having the texture and appearance of dehydrated soil.  

Brett, Vana and Richard produced vegetable crisps (which were also called V’s, somewhat confusingly) and settled on three varieties: courgette, tomato and oregano (for some reason Brett pronounced tomato the American way, like Vana, but still pronounced Oregano the British way); red onion crunch - a sensible name choice from Richard for a product that tasted of cheese but was made with 'nutritional yeast' and cabbage and beetrot.  Somewhere along the line, they abandoned plans to make cauliflower cheese - which is just as well, as it was spelled 'cauliflour cheese' on the design mock-ups we saw.  The crisps were vegan, raw and gluten-free, and contained ingredients like smoked paprika and Himalayan salt which I think they could totally have made more of.

The main failure of this task, for both teams, lay in the kitchen, as is so often the case.  For Versatile, Charleine went to the kitchen alone, for some unknown reason, where she promptly lost her head and just shoved any old ingredient in a bowl without measuring them, while the concerned professional snack maker looked on her suspiciously (this was quite the episode for side characters throwing shade, scorn and side-eye at the candidates from every angle) and Karen foreshadowed that if they didn't know what was in the product, they couldn't promote the health benefits.  This culminated in Charleine screaming her ingredients at triple speed to a confused Gary and Joseph (why they couldn't have emailed or texted them over is a mystery but it's probably one of those times where the show has some weird anti-technology clause in the rules as is its wont), and when she said she'd replaced almond butter with peanut butter at one point, I really thought we were due a repeat of their party task fiasco, but this was never mentioned again, even without them having ingredients on the packaging so this time they could actually have caused a random allergy-related death.  The logic of this show...

Meanwhile, Claude thought team Connexus could possibly be onto something by creating a product through a dehydration process.  But then Vana got a bit worried and randomly started chucking loads of olive oil at the thing (to the point where the product was apparently 14% oil!) and it all came out as a greasy (albeit nice tasting) mess, bagged in foil, which Brett said made it even worse.

Given the fundamental flaws with each product, the packaging design and branding was a bit of a side issue, but still provided some drama.  For Connexus, this was somewhat minimal, with Richard actually being nice-ish (in a patronising way) to the designer, revelling in being a one-person task force and making an OK-looking design, but omitting any of the nutritional benefits or the cooking process on the packet info.  This was made out to be a MAJOR FLAW in the boardroom, as if otherwise the greasy dollops would have totally sold.  However, this marketing slip was marginal compared to Versatile's decision to make their product 'less gender specific' by decapitating the very-female body of the model on the wrapper.  As they didn't get Charleine's instructions and couldn't put an ingeredients list on, Gary decided they should just write 'Superfoods!' 'High in Antioxidants!' all over it... only to then have to manually cross the antioxidant claims out with marker pen when they were told there weren't sufficient quantities of superfoods within the product to make those claims.

2. Location, location, location. The series finally gave up any pretence at trying to make tenuous links between the tasks and the venues where candidates were told what they would be. This week, the venue of choice was the London Aquatics Centre. I suppose this was ostensibly because the task was to create healthy snacks, but this was never explicitly stated and seeing the candidates sit around there looking at products for hours only served to give the feeling of the place being empty. Olympic legacy!

3. Market bleurgh. We all know how well market research goes on this show, but that didn't stop them sernding Vana and Joseph out to do it, whilst the rest of their teams did the first pitches, thus rendering it useless for those sales.  This basically gave lots of people the opportunity to pull faces for the telly by wiping their hands on oily napkins when eating the crisps and telling Joseph that the bar was completely gross and he needed to go back to the drawing board.  Oh, and there was one guy who thought cabbage doesn’t seem healthy because he equates it with kebab shops.  

4. Pitch imperfect.  The pitching was a car crash for both teams, although it was worse for Versatile who started out with Gary piecing to camera that they couldn't pull the wool over people's eyes by lying about the product and then immediately said they needed to think about how to spin it.  Poor Joseph said he probably shouldn't talk about the market research because all he could say was that people liked the name (and one person we were shown pointedly said he didn't) and Gary agreed they needed to be super-positive, so then pushed Joseph in front of the buyers anyway where he spluttered that people thought the product was amazing and they would eat the product any time, morning, afternoon, as a dinner replacement... and Gary saying they should say that again because it was all true.  Bless.  Charleine, meanwhile, decided their products could cure cancer and prolong life and were full of antioxidants and superfoods before it was revealed there were bugger all (3g) of the magic ingredients in there.

The pitches for Connexus mainly focused on everyone telling them the product was greasy, to the point where Richard basically opened by saying they knew this and were going to make the product 50% less oilly.  This didn't work for them, but I am pretty sure it has worked in previous years, so it was worth a punt.  And Brett spat words out from his random word generator out throughout his own pitching attempt.

5. Pushing the limits of product placement.  This week there was no pretence at hiding the big names involved in making and buying.  The teams were sent to Graze and somewhere I couldn't make out but looked like 'Excellent food' or similar.  Then they had to pitch to Holland and Barrett (Versatile), Virgin Active (Connexus - why they were pitching to two different places was never explained), Tesco (also referred to as a superstore) and Asda (referred to as a megastore.  What the difference between super and mega is wasn't made clear).  This was just an excuse for the buyers to sip water, pointedly wash hands and roll their eyes repeatedly, and the Tesco team looking strained as Gary waxed lyrical about how wonderful Tesco was and how he used to work there (without pitching the actual product) was one of those 'we cast this one for that reaction' moments.  

6. The end of Tough!  Economic! Times! With only three left per team, I'm not sure why the show kept using two cabs apiece (I'm even more unsure why Richard was not the one on his own).  Still, I guess they had cash to spare after the really low-rate winner rewards they've had this series.

7. Zero sum game. We've had loads of past examples of this kind of task where it looks like no-one is buying anything, only for Asda (because it's always Asda) to buy 6 gazillion and gift one team a massive win, but as the zero sales came in one by one, I found myself wishing very hard for no-one to buy anything, and so it was.

OK, this was a task it was always going to be difficult to salvage anything good from, given these people not being food producers, and you could argue it was foolish to put a task that made all the candidates look stupid at the end of the process when you're supposed to be discovering that they really were 'credible candidates' all along (plus there have been other groups of apprenti in the past whose double failures would have been even more sweet).  It was still really funny though.

The final boardroom saw Charleine burst into tears and taking firve minutes out before bringing back Gary 'because of the pitching’, which Gary couldn't believe, claiming it was the 'best part' because such is his lack of awareness about anything. Brett brings back Richard for no stated reason, despite saying Richard was amazing repeatedly, and it being Vana who'd doused the veggies in oil.  

Richard is amazing in the final reckoning, saying he was ‘very complimented by’ LdSugar liking the shampoo brand they made and having Brett spending the whole time telling LdSugar how awesome Richard was whilst LdSugar was telling Brett how much he hated Richard and trolling Brett when he didn't agree.

8. All Bretts are off. After grumbling all task and dirtying his trousers with beetroot, Brett spent the final boardroom basically begging to be fired, and responding 'fantastic' when he duly was.  This year's lot have really embodied the joy of the 'process' haven't they?  He got a sign-off as being an 'honourable man' and in his cabterview he says he ‘spoke straight’.  Bless.

9. Quotes of the week
 'Are we gonna play paper, scissors, rock?’ – Gary
‘What I am nervousness about’ – Gary
'It’s worth sticking me there on my own. I’ll be happy as Larry'-Richard
'A lot of people do skip meals these days'-Charleine
'They give you energy, and energy’s good for you'-Gary
'I'm thinking Life' - Joseph' 'How are you spelling that?' - Charleine 'L-i-f-e' - Joseph.
'We are not going to allow the colours to dictate our taste'-Vana
‘It’s known as Britain’s Viagra, so, great for conceiving!’ – Charlene
‘It’s great for contraception!  No, not contraception, the other one!’ – Charleine
‘Mate, I can’t sell red onion and nutritional yeast’ – Richard.
‘All down my trousers, that’s fucking beetroot, I swear that’s gonna stain.’ – Brett
‘Did you weigh those?’ – manufacturing lady ‘No I’m just going to go with what’s best’ – Charleine
‘Just hold on one sec you need to listen to this really really carefully’ – Charleine, before bellowing a list of things at breakneck speed over the phone to the others
‘Raw means uncooked’ – Brett
‘Giving people the Vs, Vana’ – Helpful voiceover man
‘Tastes like it’s gone off’ – Market research customers
‘We’re living in a generation where people are a lot more health cautious than they used to be’ – Charleine.
‘I need some water’. ‘I think I’m going to need a litre’.  Holland and Barratt people after eating Rejuvenate.
‘Our product is passionate to be in a position where it like needs to be’ – Brett.
‘The only oil content that’s in there is literally just to base the construction of the chip’ – Brett.
‘You say be positive, but I can’t just say people liked the name’ – Joseph, after market research.
‘Have you ladies ever heard about the superfoods?’ – Charleine
‘We should use it, cos it’s not falsified or anything, it’s true’ – Gary, after Joseph's pitch about the market loving it.
‘It’s vegan-free’ – Brett.
‘We could pioneer this product right into the future and run that gravy train with it to be fair’ – Brett
‘The picture of the vegetable iconifies the fact that it IS raw.  It’s not cooked’ – Brett.
‘It’s quite odorous’ – Tesco lady on Vs.
‘Looks like a sample of the soil from Chernobyl.  There’s as much info on the back of this as a North Korean tour guide’-Diplomatic Lord Sugar
'Is it or isn’t it healthy?' - Lord Sugar ‘I’m not too sure Lord Sugar’ – Charleine
‘If we didn’t hold onto those claims, what would our USP have been?’ – Joseph, on why they talked about their product as life-saving.
‘You were in the smallest sub-team ever’ – Lord Sugar ‘My favourite size’ – Richard.  

10. The final five.  So, here we are with the five going into interviews and we had the annual 'Final Five' programme where we learn a bit more about the candidates.  Going on previous form, the edit they get in this show tends to indicate what will happen to them in remaining episodes - this was where we learned Michelle Dewberry's difficult backstory, for example.

So, how were the candidates edited?  There weren't many winning actions Karren and Claude could attribute to Joseph, and Karren even tried to spin ‘came up with the story for the bee book’ as a POSITIVE.  Other than that, he has the same narrative as every other candidate of his ilk - a greasy wide boy with potential and Sralan sees something in him etc.  His mates are all ‘wurgh mate’ types, because of course they are.  Karren sets out clearly what his redemption arc will be by repeatedly reminding us he could be a contender if he shaves off his 'silly moustache'. #everdyaysexism

Vana is presented as possibly the most credible as a businesswoman, having set up her own social network for finance professionals and a dating site.  Her family all appeared terrified of her, unsurprisingly, when we learned that she used to sell her sister’s toys on the streets of Park Avenue.  

Gary was presented as the David Brent-cum-Trigger type he's been all series, 'corporate' but a bit stupid.  At one point, he said he uses business cliches 'because they’re good words’.  He left Tesco because he 'has faith' in the Apprentice process, which makes him a bit of a rarity amongst the hysterics and quitters of the rest of this cast.

I said a few weeks ago that I could see a Charleine victory (and I think she will beat Vana in the final).  This show only strengthemed that for me, as she was presented as the most sympathetic character, with the most interesting and impressive backstory.  She kind of joined the navy for a bet when her friends said she wouldn't stick it out but stayed for 11.5 years, going into conflict at 17 and, at one point, working for the navy at the same time as setting up her own salon - something she did after losing a child and deciding she wanted to spend her life with the family, not away on navy business. It was the strongest back story I can remember for a good while, and very reminiscent of Michelle's.

Richard, on the other hand, the show is desperately trying to make a villain out of.  We had LordSugar and Claude calling him 'Tricky Dicky' all the way through this week's episode and the Final Five show, Karren commenting that 'Richard’s greatest invention is himself.  I don’t know whether it’s smarm or charm’, his brother basically saying he does all the work in their joint business whilst Richard takes all the credit, his dad saying he's a 'legend in his own mind', his wife gleefully hoping 'the process' has taught him he's not always right, everyone slagging him off for not being a team player and Richard pointing out how he's wonn the most tasks.  #teamtrickydicky

Next week!  Interview time!  And Joseph’s redemption arc completes with a shave!  Join Helen then!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Estate of the nation

Ten Things About... Week 9 - Property Agents

1. The sky's the limit - Instead of being summoned directly to meet Lord Sugar this week, the remaining candidates received a delivery of hi-vis jackets and hard hats, along with the instructions to meet him at the South Bank Tower. (Brett: "South Bank Tower? What's that?" Selina, as if to a very small child: "...the tower at the South Bank?" ♥) In the cars, the Selina-Richard dream team spoke of their desire for the teams to remain as they are, the subtext being "because we don't want to have to work with Charleine any more and we're pretty sure she doesn't want to work with us either" - so of course, upon arrival at South Bank Tower, Lord Sugar made Selina move over to Versatile so she and Charleine could be together once again. Selina looked like she would have rather hurled herself right off the building than spend any more time with Charleine, but across she went nonetheless. Also, even though the briefing took place on the roof of a building site that was apparently only accessible by a builders' temporary elevator, Lord Sugar, Karren and Claude were not wearing any of the safety gear that the candidates were told to wear, suggesting that either being a business overlord makes you invincible, or that they just wanted the contestants to look stupid. Or perhaps both. Lord Sugar told them that they would be selling luxury London properties so that the rest of the country could see just how stupid and awful London is. Hooray!

2. Building the dream - Each team would be split into two sub-teams once again, with one sub-team working on a luxury development and the other working on "mid-range properties" (which turned out to be properties still a good £100k clear of what I bought my flat for, around a year before this episode was filmed. London property is RIDICULOUS). Naturally, both project managers (Joseph for Versatile, because he has a property rental business, and Richard for Connexus, because he worked as an estate agent to put himself through university) put themselves on the high-end team, while Joseph selected Selina to join him (partly because she's used to dealing with wealthy clients, and partly because he knew better than to leave Selina and Charleine on the same sub-team) while Richard selected Vana, because her parents are architects and she grew up visiting building sites in the New York real estate market. That left Charleine and Gary selling mid-range properties for Versatile, and Brett and Scott doing the same for Connexus. Charleine made it clear that she would much rather have been on the high-end team, but don't worry if you missed that because she will be mentioning it again.

3. Arrested development - The first job was for each PM to pitch their skills to the developers of two luxury blocks, one in Stratford and one in Canary Wharf. Richard and Vana spent their whole time in both oohing and ahhing, gushing their approval of the aesthetics and the overall concept and making it clear that Richard had experience selling properties while Vana had experience with architecture. Joseph and Selina, however, said nothing about the buildings themselves: Selina stayed mostly silent while Joseph just wanted to ask about prices and commission, including angling for a 4% commission at Canary Wharf (the developer basically told him to fuck off and he would get 1.5%, non-negotiable). Now, I get that failing to show enthusiasm when you're pitching to someone is a bad business decision because we've seen that countless times before on this show, but frankly I was unmoved by Claude couching their failure in terms of Selina and Joseph having hurt the Stratford developer's feelings by not believing in his dream. You know, the dream of charging excessive amounts of money for London property, driving up the average home price and making it increasingly impossible for local people to afford property in that area. Forgive me if I shed no tears for Woobie Developer And His Precious Feelings, Claude. Unsurprisingly, both developers preferred Richard and Vana, and since they chose Canary Wharf, they got it [Whyyyy?  It was fucking HORRIBLE.  Oh, That London - Rad]. In rejecting Joseph and Selina, Canary Wharf guy said this much: "I think [Richard and Vana] were a little bit more polished. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting yourself in front of clients of mine, it doesn’t sit that well with me." That's right, he said "yourself" instead of you. What an absolute thumbscrew. (Though, since it will be useful later, "yourself" seems pretty unequivocally directed at Joseph specifically whereas the more ambiguous "you" could have meant Joseph and Selina. I suppose terrible grammar has its uses sometimes.) So Selina and Joseph returned to Stratford and Woobie Developer Of The Hurt Feelings, who clearly didn't want them there, and told Joseph to ditch the suspenders and wear a more neutral shirt. So yeah, while it may not have been especially modest of Selina to say out loud on more than one occasion that she didn't think the "unpolished" comment was aimed at her, on the face of the evidence presented here I think she was accurate in that assessment.

4. Buyer beware - As you might expect from a task devoted to selling luxury property in London, every single incidental character in this episode was total human garbage. A would-be landlord on the phone to Brett who clearly intended to rent out one of these flats at extortionate prices. A client of Selina's who wanted to know what her flat would look over because "I like a good aspect". The same client of Selina's asking her what the average price per square foot in Stratford is, clearly wanting to catch Selina out because she already knew the answer. (Also, like basically anywhere in London, Stratford's a pretty big area and some parts are far more expensive than others, so what an utterly pointless question.) A douchelord in a Rolls Royce (a Rolls Royce!) buying a £1.4m luxury three-bedroom apartment from Richard and Vana and haggling over a free parking space. A woman who, while signing her contract, said "my husband's going to kill me" because she apparently impulse bought a luxury flat. I like to think of myself as an optimistic person but this episode really brought out my inner misanthrope. Meanwhile, there were the usual slip-ups from the sales team: Richard and Vana ignored the fact that they had an (unfinished) show home to show people [I thought that was deliberate because it was such a health and safety hazard tbh - Rad], Brett got caught by Karen trying to sell a view of a street when the apartment in question actually had a view of a giant wall, and Scott messed up basically everything by saying things like "[Clapham] is very highly-populated by everybody, everybody's enjoying the Clapham" and "it's a nice open space for the windows, to have the sun come in throughout the day and the night".

5. Take the eye road - One of the sales stars of this task was Charleine, who seemed to have a natural warmth and trustworthiness that appealed to the buyers of Lewisham, where she and Gary were based. You wouldn't know this to hear her speak to the cameras, however, as she repeatedly snitted about how wrong Joseph was to take Selina onto the high-end sales team instead of her. She angled for a transfer based on netting a valuable sale on Day 1, and Selina couldn't resist pointing out that she and Joseph had been told they were less polished than Richard and Vana, with the subtext of her follow-up of "and they said that to us, so..." hanging uncomfortably in the air. Charleine fumed to the cameras that Selina didn't think she was polished enough "to sell at the eye-end", and not wanting to sound snobbish, but the fact that you called it "eye-end" kind of supports Selina's point. Anyway, every single sale Charleine made on this task added fuel to her righteous fury over not being selected for the high-end team, to the point where you just hoped someone would actually take her off to the high-end team as long as they'd promise to push her off the aforementioned high-end afterwards.

6. Market value - Okay, I can't hold this off any longer: this entire task was stupid. London property is a nonsense. It is absurdly overpriced to the point where your sales skills are essentially redundant: a person can either afford a property in London or they cannot, so you're not going to be able to just charm a person you meet on the street to buying a property. The people featured in this episode were all clearly looking to buy, and while I don't doubt that the personalities of the contestants may have impacted on a sale (or the loss of one) to some small extent, the fact remains that most of those sales were made before the client even walked through the door: they either already wanted a piece of lucrative real estate, or they had no intention of buying and just wanted the chance to humiliate an oik in a cheap suit on national television. There was little to no skill on this task and a great deal of chance. I don't necessarily believe Selina's claims that Joseph got all the easy clients who were going to buy a flat regardless, but I do believe that when even the cheapest properties on a task are selling for upwards of £300,000, there's not a lot you can do in the realm of sales patter that's going to convince someone to buy unless they were already 100% sure to begin with.

7. Board stupid - This was a fairly unpleasant episode from start to finish: not only were all of the clients generally rather unpleasant, but Lord Sugar and his aides were pretty awful in the boardroom. When Karren brought up Richard's mispronunciation of the development company he was working for, Lord Sugar said "we don't go around calling you Dick, do we? NOT TO YOUR FACE, HURR HURR HURR." After Karren made it clear that Scott didn't really know much about the properties he was selling, Lord Sugar leapt in: "did you call the 'bidday' a hot tub?" And I mean if you're the one calling it a "bidday" in the first place, I'm not sure you should be taking the piss out of anyone else's pronunciation or identification errors, but of course this is The Apprentice where the rules are that you can do what you like if you're rich. Include making up numbers out of absolutely nowhere, like the mysterious appearance of 78p in the figures for Connexus, which I've transcribed as they were stated on the show:

Versatile earned £18,200 commission in Lewisham and £11,360.25 in Stratford for a total of £29,560.25
Connexus earned £12,725 in Clapham and £63,901 in Canary Wharf for a total of £76,626.78 (seriously, where did that 78p appear from?)

8. Exit strategy - So Connexus won handily thanks to Richard and Vana [Loved their dream team this week after his bastadarry last week - Rad], and Lord Sugar made a point of telling Scott and Brett that they were lucky that they were on the winning team, before telling them all that their reward was a "high-octane speedboat experience", a prize so comically shit that even he couldn't talk about it without laughing. All of Connexus got up to leave...apart from Scott, who stayed seated because he wanted to tell Lord Sugar that he could shove his Apprentice experience, actually. Naturally everyone reacted as though this was the most shocking and absurd thing they had ever witnessed, but I think the combination of the task being totally stupid combined with the pasting he'd just been given in the boardroom was the final straw for Scott. Now, I don't know if you've seen season six of The Apprentice USA, but it is a glorious disaster of television: Donald Trump moves the show to LA, the rules are changed so that the winning PM must stay PM every week until they lose (a move that indirectly led to the eventual winner of the season never having PMed at all) and each week the losing team had to live in tents in the back garden with no hot water or electricity. Most of the candidates recognised pretty early on that the season was an absolute joke, and one of them quit in the third week because she wanted to retain what was left of her dignity, while those that remained essentially laughed in Donald Trump's face throughout and more or less skipped out of the boardroom when they got fired because they recognised the competition for the utter circus that it was. What made it superb television, however, was Trump's total refusal to acknowledge that he'd made a mistake, or even to recognise that he was being made fun of most of the time, and his insistence that anyone who dissented was missing out on a life-changing experience. The reason I'm saying all of this is because Scott's resignation is the closest the UK series has come to that, since his exit was followed by Lord Sugar huffing that he "didn't deserve to stay", Karren huffing that Scott "knew he was out of his depth", and Claude huffing that Scott had "been floundering for weeks, really." It was self-justification of the airiest kind, with no ground given to the possibility that actually Scott had had enough of the pantomime and didn't see the point in sticking around to be insulted any longer. [He was so awesome on YerFiyud, too, you can tell 'the process' really ground him down, because he was much lighter and funnier - Rad]

9. Scream queens - Sadly Scott's exit didn't prevent Versatile from returning to the final boardroom, so off they went to Loser Café where Charleine SCREAMED at Selina for talking over her (and she screamed at such a volume as to make the very idea of anyone at all being able to talk over her entirely impossible) before opting to blank Selina entirely and say that she would "talk to THESE" (ostensibly Joseph and Gary, but possibly also the cruet) about why she thought the task failed. Joseph, having worked with Selina on this task for the very first time, declared her to be relentlessly negative, an avenue he pursued in the boardroom, where Selina was criticised for not engaging with this task and not being able to get on with people, while Charleine tried to absolve herself by saying that it was only Selina she'd ever had a problem with, and she hadn't clashed heads with anyone else in the house. I'd love to have seen Richard's head spinning when he eventually saw that comment. Gary, meanwhile, was so ineffectual on this task that he barely even factored into the discussion when Joseph was asked if there was anyone he should have brought onto his sub-team rather than Selina. Oh, and in this week's edition of "would you say this about a man though?", Karren decided that Selina's problem was that "her mood gets the better of her".

10. Finally facing her Waterman-Smith - Despite Gary's overall irrelevance, it was inevitably Selina who got fired - for not selling anything, for upsetting Woobie Developer, and quite possibly for the fact that she'd clearly lost the will to carry on anyway. Now, having complained vocally about her edit on the show in the media, and having stated outright that she had broken contract and would not be turning up for You're Fired! (not that I blame her, it's awful this year), Selina decided to do her own version on YouTube, where she talked through the process from her own perspective and even did her own "best bits". Amazing scenes, you must see it:

Let's just dispense with You're Fired! entirely and make everyone do this from now on.

Next week: healthy snacks (allegedly) and "the British viagra". Christ.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Party and shade

Ten things about...Week 8, Children’s party planning.

  1. The main event - this is our task about organising something and trying not to make it the worst thing that has ever happened by simultaneously keeping an eye on the budget but not making it look like you’ve been on a trolley dash in Poundland. The task concerned keeping two little delights, Jamal and Nicole, happy as their parents decided that TWO THOUSAND POUNDS was a viable amount of money to spend on keeping their little treasures happy on their (non landmark) birthdays. This was not going to be the kind of party I went to when I was young, where we all taunted the Saturday girl in a Mr Wimpy suit and all we went home with was a slice of cake and a party popper. I had to have a chuckle as the voiceover declared the meeting point, The Museum of Childhood, the largest collection of children’s things as a miniature Lordalan walked into shot. Apparently kid's parties are a two billion a year business. Lordalan made Selina PM of Connexus and Gary PM of Versatile, as they both have event management business plans. Selina was allowed to pick a member for her team and she chooses Richard, which turns out to be both the best and worst decision, with absolutely nothing in between. It looks early on that Versatile are going to smash it - they ask the right questions, listen to the client who actually seems to like them, and remember such important things as getting the client’s phone number, but a series of disasters seems to befall them so frequently it seems like they’re cursed. Connexus don’t get contact details, don’t upsell and have Richard on their team being a complete subteam despot but still manage to walk it in ,with a profit of around £614 as opposed to Versatile’s £396.
  2. Party on? - So what were the parties like? Versatile’s party is an outdoor assault course which had all the atmosphere and charm of a corporate away day for 11 year olds with added health and safety awareness, which of course, it was. This was followed up with an afternoon somewhere that had a beach volleyball pitch. This tied in with a vaguely beachy theme which inspired the party bags which they tried to shill for £15, but dad managed to knock them down to £9. Connexus went sporty because that’s what the birthday girl wanted, despite Claude’s grumbles that it may not be what her friends like. Well, if mummy is spending two thousand pounds on her party then I could probably take a punt that she’s fairly well used to getting her own way. In fact, in the most Veruca Salt moment on television this week, and also the funniest, she went running into a hurdle and yelled “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME” as she tumbled to the floor. Neither party were happy with the… parties though. Both paid less than the two grand. The difference came when it came to the upselling. Basically, because Connexus didn’t really attempt it, they won.
  3. Upsell down the river -  This point is annoying me. It seems that Connexus won because they didn’t upsell. The reason they didn't upsell was because Selina forgot to take any contact details. By her own admission, with the contact details ,she would have been flinging unicorns at them. Why couldn’t we have seen this? The whole thing makes me angry and disappointed. Speaking of which...
  4. Have you Selina? - This episode was Selina’s chance to shine. There were a few grumbles at the beginning from her team regarding her perceived negativity but as Rad pointed out last week, she has hardly been getting the fair end of the wedge. This week we got to see her putting on her eyeliner (interesting technique) and learned that she’s been fire breathing for 10 years. Not in a metaphorical sense, as Richard and Vana cheerfully bitch on their way to suss out food, but she’s an actual performer. I’m impressed. She also makes her feelings on children very clear (see quotes below). I also enjoyed the way she totally projected on to her poor party victim about the things that she might like including Karaoke, a dance off and possibly something called a Glam Booth. She also probably had the idea to put Scott and Brett in vests for a party of teenage girls. I have no proof of this, but I know it was her. In my heart. An honorable bitch mention to Charleine for feeding back to Joseph that David doesn’t think he’s much cop. It was truly a beautiful moment.
  5. Nut- hella - Much was made over Versatile’s cake-gate. What seemed to happen was that Charleine and Joseph were charged with making a nut free cake which they did apart from having a chocolate spread that may contain nuts. Charleine confidently thought that that was just “something they said” and went ahead. Maybe not the best of judgements, but better than Nutella. Then we see Gary very confidently tell Jamal’s parent’s that the cake was a Nutella cake and have to be told by Karren to actually check. It turns out it wasn’t but at this point, the parents are sufficiently freaked out that mum is sat outside whilst dad goes in to check the packaging because at this point he rightly has zero faith in anyone or anything. This is twisted round in the boardroom to being Charliene and Joseph’s fault. Yes, it's clearly Charleine and Joseph’s fault that Gary told the boy’s parents that the cake had Nutella in it. FFS. This is so ingrained in everyone’s mind that they get pulled back to the boardroom for it.
  6. Scott’s arms - No further questions M’lud.
  7. Gary the Giraffe  - “some people call me Gary the Giraffe because I’m so tall”. Well, Helen from the Apprent-Bitch calls you an idiot because you are one.  Lordsir Sugar doesn’t care for your inability to choose who to bring back to the boardroom, nor your “retail giant” that you’ve been working for for years. Does anyone know which one it is? [It's Tesco, which, of course it is - Rad] I’d look him up on Linkedin if I could be bothered. The way he weaseled out of trying to pick someone for the board room was unforgivable, so he must have an epic business plan for Ludalan to let him through, even if it is by the skin of his teeth. The way he hid round the corner when they all returned home was unforgivably cheesy, though Richard bounding over to him made up for it. Just.
  8. Bit of a Dick - Lets take a moment to speak about Richard. To quote Vana, he’s the ‘actual worst’ and he proved it in this task. He was horrible to Vana pretty much all day, to the point where they needed to get the cake out and he basically screamed at her for suggesting it might be needed at the party. He sabotaged the afternoon tea idea to get round to his idea of making a barbecue ( which he also cocked up by serving late) and refused to get stuff to decorate the party bags because he didn’t want to. He did all of this whilst managing to convince Queen Selina that he had her best interests at heart and was merely managing the budget. The man is an evil genius and lord help us, he’s probably going to win.
  9. Quotes of the week -   “I don’t have children and I don’t like them. That’s not to say I’m not brilliant at putting on children's events” - Selina
“Selina, she can’t do fire breathing, does she have the tools? can she just breath any type of fire?” -  Yes, Vana. She’s an actual Dragon.
“I’m not sure how you got to that figure” - Versatile’s dad, on asking why it costs £15 for some novelty sunglasses and some glow sticks.
“Were we supposed to get her number or something?” -  yes, Selina. You were.
“Was (Richard) a brick of Lego in a Meccano set?” - Yes, Lord Sugar, he was.
“I just wanted you to shut up about the cake” - Richard, because he wanted Vana to be quiet and not interrupt the grown ups working.
“I don’t want to dance around the bush, it left a sour taste in the client’s eye at the end of the day” - Gary, getting as many metaphors in as possible.
10. Down to a T - In the end, David clocked the blame for the t shirt fiasco, which cost them £179 pounds. It’s unclear if this is real or metaphorical money but it cost David dear. He moaned about the lack of content in the party bags but gave half of it away on the bus. He turned the party into a safety training session and tried to get some 11 year old boys to do the Hokey Cokey. He then cocked up the tshirts both in the printing and the ironing.  It looked like Charliene might have been for it at one point as Lordsir took the unusual move of insisting she remained in the boardroom and getting insulted when she stood up of her own accord like they do every time. How presumptuous to presume that the usual thing that happens will happen. It was David that got it in the end though, and thoroughly deserved it was.

Anyway, that’s it for this week. Join Steven next week for Property selling! It was bound to happen [again - Ruth Badger did it in her s2 unstoppable sales force mode. And that year's other Apprenti were also in the episode allegedly - Rad] one day.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Manchester's Discount Flaw

Ten things about... Week 7 Discount store challenge

Broadcast 18 November

1. Our annual trip to the North.  The teams decamped to Manchester (aka the one place in the north the show has heard of) this week because it has a lot of poor people warehouses.  The task was essentially 'smellin' woss sellin' in disguise, although the phrase wasn't really mentioned except for a subtle 'last chance to sniff out top sellers' comment from helpful voiceover man at the end of day 1.  The idea was that they sold their products on Day 1 via the medium of tressle tables hastily assembled in the street to as closely resemble things that fell of a lorry as possible, and on Day 2, they restocked with the best sellers in a here today-gone tomorrow (literally) discount store in the Arndale centre.  For some reason the restock involved a lot of running to and around the warehouse, presumably because this show would fall apart if it didn't give the impression of everything being last minute, all the time.  The shops were branded with those nasty disposable signs you get on those shops that sell sheddable tinsel and felt Santa hats in the run-up to Christmas and the idea was that the teams 'pile em high' and 'sell em cheap'.  Given this show usually relies on 'mark-up as much as possible to respect the HOLY MARGINS' some of the contestants - notably Gary - were a bit confused by this.  Connexus had a shop called 'Discount Haven' whilst Versatile had 'Manchester's Discount Store', a pandering to local pride name that implies the whole thing was a stitch up from the start.  Perhaps.  It also looked like, on day 2,  both teams were selling very similar stock which makes day 1 seem a bit futile.  Such is this show, I guess.  LdSralan also lied that he wouldn't have cared this week if the PM sold anything or not.  Sure, Sugs, whatever you say.  The best-selling products, by the way, seemed to be phone chargers, should you wish to replicate this task at home.

2. Manchild(s), will you ever win? This series might be notable for MAN POWER but the men are becoming like little boys more and more each week (with the exception of Uncle Gary and Grandpa Brett).  We started out with Joseph whining that he didn't get to be PM despite the pitch of 'I really really really want to do it'.  He later, when selling ugly soft toys, declared that if he wasn't selling it, he'd be buying it. I'm wondering if the show is trying to make him some sort of idiot savant though, with last week's super special immunity for being a good boy, and this week's 'sell five items for £5' idea being shown as a key win for his team.  It's not just him though, we had David wanting to blow bubbles, Sam's 'MINE' approach to the catalogue when Selina wanted to have a look, just like your little brother being precious over who got to look at the toys page in the Argos catalogue first, Scott's general toys-out-of-pram antics (see later) and Richard's well... Richard, which we'll also return to.  It's unclear which, if any, is a potential winner at this stage (I am leaning towards Charleine taking it at the moment but we'll see).

3. Vana de cash generator.  Vana's edit has been a bit unclear so far - some weeks a motormouth moaner, others an under-the-radar goddess.  This week she was portrayed as a dynamic selling machine - she and Brett were basically credited with every good thing that happened in their team, and her skills even extended to selling in different languages.  Could we be seeing a potential winner here?  Would Sralan really let a forrin win the show?

4. Tricky Dicky.  Oh Richard, such an enigma.  He has been everything this series, from a grouchy villain to a misunderstood savant; from a bully to being bullied.  Tonight he was sidelined by Gary into rubbish jobs, got into a passive aggressive candle-off with Charleine, wore some 80s-dad pastel blue trousers (possbly jeans?), and skated around the shopping centre making fishing rod motions, twizzling his nipples, moonwalking and singing hoping it would attract customers.  Brett's snide 'He so reminds me of David Brent' finally utters one of the obvious but unsayable truths about the appeal of this show, ie everyone is like David Brent, every series.  Heck, Lee McQueen did a 'reverse Pterodactyl' and WON with that shit. Still, I can't see that being quite Richard's trajectory somehow.  I just hope he flames out massively rather than getting a lukewarm redemption arc and a 'with regret'.

5. Viva Versatile.  Despite Gary receiving a lukewarm PM edit (late to restock the shop, dithering over decisions, pricing too high), he led Versatile to a win. They priced their stock too high, selling things for £1.50 or £2 that you could get in Poundland for, you know, a pound.  This made Claude 'livid' apparently.  Oh, for the days when the advisors would raise an eyebrow or drop in a sly 'I'll leave that with you'. Claude also got snitty at Charleine trying to get a big discount from the wholesaler, even though if she'd succeeded, you know LdSralan would be all over that.  They won, allegedly due to their strategy of selling homewares, toys, and  candles.  However, for some reason, Charleine was rocking a one shoe on, one foot bare look during the set-up of their shop and  I can only assume this was some kind of good luck voodoo ritual that was actually responsible for the victory - coming out with a £1511.07 value (cash plus stock - Connexus's business value was £962.04)  because of having higher valued stock than the others despite having less cash.  They won a trip up the shard but all the innuendo of that one was bled out in previous years, so there's no fun to be had here.

6. What in the name of all that is sacred is this?

7. Justice4Selina.  For all the 'bitch edit' she has had both on and offscreen this series, this episode she looked like a total victim of everyone else's bullying.  She started the episode being snapped at when daring to suggest that going for electronics wouldn't necessarily attract a female customer base; when Sam asked her in the cab which products she'd want to buy and she asked to see the catalogue, he wouldn't let her have it; she got blamed when some stock fell off a table; she was criticised for being negative when Scott walked around with a face like a slapped arse all day, Sam floundered and Brett and Vana griped the whole time.  To ad insult to injury, Vana and Sam declared her responsible for all the things that are wrong in the entire world for no other reason than her being Selina.  Fortunately, she rose above it all, dissing Scott's sales failures on day 1 with a 'fortunately, me and Sam are picking up the slack.  Imagine if we were all shit' and doing a little dance, and then escaping being brought back into the boardroom after telling LdSralan she was a sensitive tortured soul.  Goddess.

8. Not-so-Great Scott. It started out badly with team Connexus as Scott went for selling electronics despite everyone in the team identifying the purchases they would make in discount stores as being cleaning products.  Sam and Scott had maths fail at the wholesaler's, which Sam was roundly blamed for.  They then took to selling products at a 'discount' from a price they'd never originally offered.  However, Scott was a pretty lousy PM throughout, snapping at his team mates every time they made a suggestion - and nearly always a better suggestion than his own ideas.  He snarked at members of the public with a 'yeah, yeah whatever' when they wouldn't buy from him, he pouted and stropped his way through the whole task, he decided Sam had no viable business plan (probably true, but still), he made up that Brett had offered to smash his face in to try and get Brett fired and he even eye-rolled and huffed at StLrdalan TO HIS FACE.  How Scott got away, er, Scott-free, was a mystery.

9. Quotes of the week:
'I wanna be fluent in Mancunian' (Vana)
'That's a nice box.' (Richard)
'You smell of roses, or even watermelon.' (Richard, to two older ladies.)
'You just wanna smash him all the time' (Charleine, on Richard)
'Richard keeps me going' (Charleine, on Richard again.  Feel the sexual tension)
'Do you feel comfortable misselling to the public?' (ethical Karren to team Connexus.  I don't know, Karren do you feel comfortable cutting the tax credits of the so-called working families your political party claims to represent?)
'It's going to be so vital to get customers into the shop.' (Yes, Sam.  Such a journey he's been on!)
'I want them in the centre because it'll form an orderly journey, it'll stop people being like ants.' (Gary)
'This is our toilet world.' (Gary)
'Does Jammy Dodgers go with washing powder?' (Gary again)
'Does this look alright?' (Joseph, putting braces over T-shirt).  'Looks stupid.' (Charleine).  *Leaves it as it is* (Joseph, who at one point managed to change the braces from a one-per-shoulder look to a crossed-over the back style)
'Discount Haven, right over there, next to Ann Summers'  (Varna, to an elderly chap, pointing at her bosom all the while.)
'It's Jelly Belly very cherry body wash.' (Brett)
'Your life will change if you have this.' (Vana - but what was this?  We never found out.)
'Everybody's got to self-preservate' (Brett)
'Do you fancy, when you move to London, getting a place round there Charleine?' (Richard) 'Yes, but not with you Richard' (Charleine).
'You are now the highest thing in Europe*' (*since the days of Trent and Pixie's Amsterdam odyssey in last year's Strictly) (Richard to Gary).
'I don't agree with the whole positive thing.' (mardy Scott)
'To be honest, I don't think people like to hear honesty.' (Brett)
'Throughout this whole process I've said that integrity was key.' (Oh, Sam)

10. Play it no more, Sam.  Oh my Sam.  You read TOLSTOY in the Apprentice mansion whilst the LADZ ON TOUR played cards and I like to think that was a deliberate attempt to troll LdSralan. You had no maths skills, no sales skills and no SRS BSNS attitude but your florid language, dreams of high culture tasks and love of everything that this show is not made you a very endearing watch.  Never mind, we'll always have Snottydink.

Next week!  Giving people food poisoning at kids' parties!  Well, that calamari from week one had to be used somehow.  Join Helen then!