Welcome back to another year of London porn, 110%, the best salespeople in Europe (after Jennifer Maguire of course), epic fails and, if rumours are to be believed, the return of our favourite ever task, shopping channel week, later in the series. Steven, Fiona, Joel and I (and possibly Carrie occasionally) will be here to recap it all for you week by week in all its 'glory'.
Every now and then we get asked how to play the drinking game - there are no hard and fast rules, but essentially any business cliche, London porn, mention of 110%, appeal to be project manager, eyeball roll from Margaret, pursed lips from Nick and so on are the things to watch out for. This week I'll give you some handy DRINK hints, but forgive us if we don't bother doing that after this time - we'd clearly end up with a blog that was impossible to read (and you'd end up without a liver, so be careful kids).
Opening voiceover: The job interview from hell, Britain's brightest business prospects (ahem) yadda yadda yadda.
And into the obligatory 'I'm great, me' VTs we go:
'Making money is better than sex' (Ben) 'I am outstanding, it's a given. I'm intelligent, articulate, eloquent' (Anita) 'Making money's more important than being popular' (Phil) 'I'm a winner. I'm a winner every single month that I do what I'm paid to do' (and by that token so are the rest of us, yay, we win, everyone) (Debra), 'I was born to do great things' (Majid), errr... 'I'm a rough, tough cream puff from New York'. Bless you Kimberly, but I don't think you've got the hang of this thing yet.
They'll fight it out for a 'top' job with a six figure salary (I half expected that to have been 'credit-crunched' this series).
'People say it's the taking part that counts. Rubbish, it's the winning that counts' (DRINK!)(Noorul). The others clearly didn't give good enough VT.
Here's Sralan, who started out selling car aerials from the back of a van (DRINK!) and here are some snazzy close up shots of his face iterspersed with a few choice boardroom Sralan moments from later in the series, although none of them are as memorable as those from previous series. Someone didn't sell, apparently. He now heads up a 'vast' business empire rather than an umpteen-hundred-million pound one, so clearly its value is depreciating... helicopters, London porn (DRINK) and Sralan saying 'first prize is working for me, second prize is a lucrative media career for a year, a few days of public adulation, lots of 'you woz robbed' headlines and more money than the winner will get, plus the bonus of not having to have the life drained out of you at NotAmstrad for a year or more'. Or rather that's what he should be saying. He actually says 'second prize doesn't exist'.
The voiceover calls them 'YOUNG business prospects'. They may be young, but are they 24? That's young, you know. The voiceover is all over the 16 candidates thing, which bags the question of whether this was recorded pre-contestant 16 jumping ship (he was on You're Fired. He seemed a bit of a twat. Some very strange men I know thought he was attractive).
NotFrances calls them into the boardroom where Sralan delivers the news that one of the men has 'bottled it' and 'you can't even blame me cos I've never met him'. They laugh nervously as he lectures them about being able to put up with pressure. He wants to find out if they're good with words as he knows the words to 'Candle in the Wind' but it don't make him Elton John, which I don't entirely get, and neither do they judging by the two people giving a vague nervous laugh in response. He then gets a slight dig at Helene Speight in by saying 'don't tell me you're a Global strategist, cos you're talking a load of balls'. He tells them he's as hard to play as a Stradivarius (which, no. Make me PM Sralan! I'm a good Jewish boy like you Sralan! I worked hard from the ground up Sralan! I made sure I kept showing the product in the advert Sralan!) whilst they are as easy to play as bongo drums (as a percussionist I reserve the right to huff a bit here). He's looking for a diamond and reminds them that a diamond started out as a piece of coal but then came good. So is he actually looking for a piece of coal then? Grubby, a bit useless and needs to be crushed? Actually, that's possibly fair, going on several previous winners.
Close ups on people's scary boardroom-blue coloured eyes as we get our first look at the contestants. My PVR is currently paused on the face of someone who looks nothing like anyone in the publicity shots. I'm guessing it's Yasmin but if so, it must be her on a bad, bad day, as her skin looks rough, her hair's a mess and she looks nothing like the fierce-Jennifer-Maguire-bitch-potential-esque person I imagined.
Sralan tells us he was never afraid to dirty his hands (DRINK) and their first task will involve them getting their hands dirty. They have to clean things - toilets, windows, anything. They have some vans with equipment, every time they take something from it, they'll be charged, and the team who makes the most profit wins. Got that, everyone? Good.
They have ten hours of hard graft ahead, which seems quite a lot of time to be cleaning, actually. James and Philip introduce themselves to each other, and this is the first instance in the episode of anyone being named (this series has got so lazy with its opening episodes since it moved to BBC One and assumed everyone was well-versed in the pre-publicity. I mean, most of us are, but that's no reason to get cocky about it). Some of the other men talk about their job and Noorul (who actually gets a name tag) shuts them all up by boasting that he's a teacher, he likes to stand out in his job (which is surely the point, I mean you don't want the kids thinking you're one of them. I teach students and occasionally get mistaken for one and it's embarrassing). In his best Manc accent he tells us he looks posh and talks posh, which: no. Also, way to go, Mr Choudhury, abandoning your class to appear on a reality show that you'll never even win (see also Beverly from that show with all the dead relatives and Westlife songs).
The third Appleton sister, working a nice shirt and waistcoat (Kate Walsh) tells us she's not a dumb blonde, she's a straight A student and that's why she should be the next apprentice. One thing in your favour: if a bladdy woman has to win, it's likely to be the pretty blonde. One thing against: the last pretty blonde woman to win did a bladdy runner.
Anita is the complete package (DRINK) and has the rainbow of skills, apparently. She's a lawyer that doesn't work as a lawyer. Debra, who looks like the bastard offspring of Sharon Horgan and a Moomin, says she doesn't think anyone's background will be a particular advantage. Anita sneers and turns her back.
We're told it's hard to start a business in the recession (DRINK, for I feel recession/credit-crunch relevance will be a recurring theme). They discuss what to clean and Jo Cameron mk2 (Paula) suggests 'people'.
They arrive at a warehouse that the men think looks like a mafia den. Poor Kimberly proves her inability to be on this show by being jolly and suggesting they call themselves Shazam. Bless. The others piss themselves and she looks quite hurt. Noorul suggests 'Carpe diem which is like seizing the day' in a clear attempt to prove he's of superior intellect to the others, which: that's the one bit of Latin every buuger in the world knows, and you pronounced it Carp-like-a-fish Deeyemm, so score one for the 'standards in our schools are slipping' brigade. [People on this show should really steer clear of Latin-inspired team names - I remember a team on the third season of the US version mispronouncing 'magna cum laude'. - Steve]
Philip suggests Empire, as it's distinctly British and reminds us of the greatest nation and of us once being a super-power, and I sure as hell hope he's not a secret BNP man. They settle on Empire anyway. [Let's hope future tasks involve setting up a record shop and a magazine. - Steve] The women want something strong and not stupid. They debate Genesis briefly, before settling on Ignite.
Time for the poisoned chalice of first PM of the series. The men fight about it, with both Philip and Howard (who runs ten pubs apparently) fighting for that. The women all pretend they have no business experience because they know exactly how dodgy being the first PM is. Mona leads the discussion and essentially talks herself into it. She says 'it's a cleaning task for god's sake so we've got to win'. This will not be the last time this series that sexist stereotypes are employed. The yellow pages are out, roles are allocated, Anita is put in charge of the women's spending, the music playing is full of doom. This may be important.
Howard tells the men to work our what they will spend as this will help them work out the profit. He sends them off in the dark and the next minute we see them in the sunlight. Eerie. They're going to wash cars but Howard suggests not taking on jobs that involve cleaning the interiors. Philip's VT. He gives a paltry 100%. Tut tut, Philip. The non-car wash men are going to clean shoes.
Mona pronounces her name 'Monna', much to the displeasure of everyone on the interweb, who all recall the great Craig McLachlan hit and now can't use it. The women are also cleaning cars but can't agree on how much to spend. Nick VTs something about getting a spanking in the boardroom. Ooh-err. Anita says they've used their budget wisely and have come within budget at £196-something. [And looks to Nick for approval - he's not your PM, dear. - Steve] The other women fear they've spent too much money. This may be important. Just a hunch, y'know.
The men pitch to a man to clean cars for £17 a unit. He tells them they can do it for £15 and they settle on £16. It's all pretty quick. He tells them they'll only pay for work they're happy with. James compares unravelling a hose to Sudoku. James says he's looking for a 'doer' on this task. The men start to lean a car before the doors are closed. With a jetwash. Oh.
The women negotiate to clean some of those fugly hummer limo things you get for stag and hen dos. They offer £300 and the business owner balks, saying their current supplier is way cheaper. Mona asks what their supplier does for them and he lists the works. I am dying for someone to offer a 24-hour hotline here, but sadly not. He says his current supplier charges £20 a car and the women are all 'THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE'. Mona tells him he's got his figure wrong. Good start.
The other half of the women's team, led by Debra, say they'll do the cars on the front for £80 all in and then pitch for the other ten in the showroom at £10 a time. No-one told them it was impossible to clean cars for under £20. They need to ask one of the car showroom staff how to work the pressure washer. Nick tuts (DRINK).
Mona's half are 'haggling', offering to do £60 per hummer. They come down to £45 and the men concede they can do it for £40 because of the telly cameras (I presume) and Mona says they;ll get a good job because they're women, not stinky men. To a couple of men. Oh, Mona.
At St Pancras station, and Howard, Maj and Noorul are cleaning shoes, which makes me think someone's been playing Animal Crossing: in the City and taking tips from that. Expect fortune tellers, forged paintings and pink hair makeovers later in the series if so.
With the car washing men, their client tells them off for washing the car with the doors open and disses their cleaning because the cars are, you know, not actually clean. Howard rings them to discover they're finishing off their first car. He sighs and decides to bring his half of the team over. Phil snarks that Howard won't be able to clean a car. In the cab Howard moans that he told them not to clean the outside. Maj says they can't lose to girls: 'I'm not a sexist but...', which is the equivalent of 'I'm not a racist but...'
One of the hummer limos drives away and it really is the ugliest car I've ever seen. Back with Debra's team, and they didn't do a fantastic job, with ace mad cleaning skillz as great as the men's. The man at the showroom points out there are five cars left and there isn't time. Debra's all 'we can do five in an hour easy' and he's like 'well it took you three hours to clean four so do the maths'. He then says 'it's great that you've done these' in the kind of patronising manner you use for praising a three year old whose big brown splodge on paper is meant to be you. It's even funnier because he looks about twelve.
Notalie Appleton phones the others and pretends their epic fail is a 'change of plan'. She has a ridiculous sidegob, almost worthy of Pirate Jessie.
The men regroup and that Western music they always use for stand-offs, which I'm sure one of the others will know the name of. Margaret VOs, Churchill-stylee that 'never have so few cars been washed by so many people in such a long time' and doubts their ability to break even.
Notalie begs a man for business and the other ladies accost people in the car park of a shopping centre (DRINK). Lorraine jumps in front of a car shouting 'stop' then says 'I'm not scary honest. Oh, clearly I am'. Heh.
Debra gets frustrated and phones Mona to moan about the other team members (DRINK). The teams regroup, London porn (DRINK), Philip VTs about how crap Howard is. It's only half an hour into the show. How long will this boardroom be? Mona VTs about how she's been a fantastic team leader.
NotFrances sends them through. Sralan jokes about Ignite setting the world alight and calls Mona 'Mono'. American Kimberly says she thinks Mona did a good job of keeping people under control, Kate snarks that she was crap and Mona was all 'so why didn't you make yourself PM, bitch?' Sralan jokes that Howard was the emperor for the day, and I will never get the image of the Empire Stores Catalogue out of my head when thinking of this team from now on. Phil bitches that shining shoes was rubbish and Ben backs him up.
Figures. Ignite took £35 and spent £196.45 = £160.55 profit. Empire took £347, spent £107.39 = profit of over £239. Empire win, Howard looks 'surprised'. He says 'relieved'. Sralan comes over all The Queen and says 'one's going to congratulate you on it'. They win cocktails.
The loser cafe looks slightly different, and in fact more prison like. Mona demands answers and the others are appalled, but Mona bitches that her half of the team did better than the others. She calls Debra on her bitchy phone call. Debra is all 'Anita is crap at cleaning cars'. The whole thing descends into shouting.
The men go back to the NEW! PENTHOUSE! LUXURY! house. Someone says it's 'so feng shui'. [Which: no. Be quiet, whoever you were. - Steve] Oh. There's a fishtank, which is rumoured to have one fish per contestant, which will dwindle during the series. There only look to be about two fish in it from the brief glimpse I get so maybe the others are all hiding. It's bright blue, though, like the boardroom. Nice touch.
Someone else feels like P Diddy and another one does the 'I'm the King of the World' schtick on the balcony. The cocktails are poured, jollity ensues. There's an impressive bit where one of the bartenders pours four different cocktails at once.
The women arrive back and start talking, and I hope for a moment we're going to get the first night of everyone hating each other stuff we got in series 1-3, but it's not to be, as 'the boardroom awaits'. I won't be impressed if the rest of the series is all twenty-plus minute long boardroom. I mean, the boardroom is great, but it doesn't need to be more than fifteen minutes max.
Debra says she knows Mona will take her to the boardroom and if she doesn't, it'll be a waste of a good suit.
In the boardroom Debra bitches about Mona being crap. Mona says 'we wasted time' in the most long-winded way possible but admits she's not right about everything, she's human, she's here to learn and at least she had the courage to be PM unlike this lot who are all mouth and no trousers. She says Anita was given the job of costing. Sralan points out they didn't have a 'budget', they had to spend as little as possible. Notalie says she can see this, Sralan's all 'why didn't you speak up then?'.
They bitch about who made what decision. Sralan says to Anita 'didn't it occur to you that the way to win was to spend less'. Anita looks dumbfounded at a leading question, so he tries again 'didn't you think to question it?' she flounders some more and says there was a team of strong individuals and she didn't want to be a strong individual as well. Sralan hasn't got a bladdy clue (DRINK).
Mona decides to bring Debra and Anita back. Debra says everyone on her sub-team a did great job and Mona says 'so why bitch about them on the phone to me then?'. Margaret calls them a complete shambles (DRINK).
Mona says Debra was a rubbish group leader, has failed her and has failed the task. She says Debra is dishonest. Debra says they lost because Mona didn't delegate early enough and they spent too much money. Mona says Debra's half of the team didn't sell as much. Sralan says he can understand why Mona thinks she's done better. Nick says the failing to win ten cars and £100 was a problem. Anita says she added up some sums, which was what she was asked to do. Sralan says 'you were elated at being in budget? What bladdy budget?'. Anita says with hindsight she can appreciate she should have done more. Sralan asks what she'll bring to his party. She says she's hungry for it (DRINK) and really really wants the job (DRINK) and doesn't think she was responsible for the failure. Debra says she worked hard and is different from people who want to remain under the radar. Mona says she made a profit and the people they worked with WOULD refer them unlike the other half of the team. Sralan says how do you know? The other two snark that they needed to plan. Nick points out they'd have won if Debra's half had cleaned the other ten cars. Debra gives Nick a bitchface, which will surely come back to haunt her.
Srals says Mona has shown spirit, but no business acumen, Anita saw the money flow out, Debra, at the end of the day (DRINK) is seriously responsible for a lot of the things that went out. His gut instinct is telling him something. Anita put herself forward as one of Britain's best business prospects but showed no initiative - Anita, you're fired. Sralan says Anita showed no business acumen. Nick sharpens his knives for future use and says Debra should count herself lucky.
Coat watch: stylish but boring black thing.
Back at the house, Notalie says they made more money, Phil says they made more profit, Ben businessclichés (DRINK) that 'turnover is vanity, profit is sanity'. Everyone whoops and cheers at the returnees, which I doubt will happen in future weeks. They all laugh and joke.
Anita is bitterly disappointed, and 'without appearing to have a chip on my shoulder I think Sralan doesn't like lawyers. Let's sit and see if in ten year's time he doesn't think that maybe I made the wrong decision'. Yes, let's see.
Next week: cookery task! Yay! And the men wear togas. Ummm.....