Sunday, 31 May 2009

As seen on TV

Week Ten
TX date: 27th May 2009

It's the task we've all been waiting for, says the BBC announcer. Dude, you're not kidding. I reserved this recap at some point during last year, because the home shopping tasks are generally epic. But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?

London porn, 'Dance of the Knights', job interview from hell, etc. The opening of this show gets a bit samey after a while, doesn't it? I wish it had titles like the American version. Come on, don't tell me you don't want to see Yasmina attempting to smile naturally for the camera right up in your face every week.

Oh God, I just paused on James with his legs wide open doing his labour face in the birthing pool. That's five years of therapy, right there. Last week, the teams sold baby stuff at Earl's Court. Lorraine PMed for Ignite with a handy pushchair and some headgear, while James and Empire attempted to flog birthing pools and rocking horses with little success. Eventually, Ben's ultimate wish to "let me FUNUSH" was denied forever and he was sent packing. Six remain!

6am, and Lorraine trudges down the hall in her PJs to answer the phone. Sralan requests their presence at Ally Pally (or Alexandra Palace, if you want to be pedantic about it), and they need to bring an overnight bag. Everyone fumbles about in semi-darkness to get ready in a frankly inadequate amount of time, and James admits that he'd like Sralan to see him be capable of winning a task for a change. This is accompanied by footage of him filling the steam iron with water from the kettle, which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. Howard VTs that they are close to the finish line and today could be his last day, but he doesn't think about it like that, because he doesn't think it will be - he sees himself in the final and he thinks Sralan does too. And at this point, four-and-a-half minutes into the episode, I knew Howard was going home this week. Thanks, editors!

Ally Pally, north London. It is windy. Everyone stands on ceremony as Sralan pulls up un AMS1. This is where the first live television broadcast came from, and so we segue into this week's live TV challenge - home shopping, hooray! Sralan has arranged with "a TV company" for the teams to go and see products on live TV - the team who sells the most will win, and the team that does not will lose, and one member of the losing team will be fired.

In AMS1, Sralan interviews that this is one of his favourite tasks (yay, me too!) - it's about choosing the right products for the right target audience. He is not, repeat NOT, looking for TV presenters. "And don't we know it," mumble Miriam Staley and Naomi Lay from wherever they are these days. The teams head off to Peterborough on their way to Britain's "second biggest TV shopping channel". Only second? Was the biggest one too busy, or something? Anyway, I assume it's Ideal World they're off to. In the Ignitaxi, Howard volunteers to PM. (Also, seriously? Isn't this meant to be the credit crunch Apprentice? Make them take the fucking train!) Lorraine thinks they should choose products that reflect their personalities. Howard corrects her that they need to pick products which reflect their target market. They arrive, and it is indeed Ideal World. Empire, meanwhile, still haven't decided who will be PM. It's between Yasmina and Debrabarr - Debrabarr wants to be PM every week, but also doesn't really give a rat's ass. Yasmina really does want to be PM, so Yasmina is PM. "Happy?" asks Yasmina. "No, not really, but it's the best of a bad bunch," replies Debrabarr. Yasmina asks if Debrabarr might be a little more enthusiastic, and the answer is basically "fuck off", although said in as unaggressive a way as it's possible to say that. Seriously, Debrabarr is weird. She VTs that Yasmina can sometimes stifle the other strong members of her team.

The teams have two primetime slots which would normally shift tens of thousands of pounds of crappy craft accessories. Before choosing their products, the teams watch a lady selling Bridget Jones-style slimming pants. Each candidate will have to take their turn at directing from the gallery and presenting in the studio.

To begin with for Empire, Yasmina calls a meeting and tells everyone to go with their gut instinct. She advises her team not to go for anything too expensive. The team splits up - Yasmina accompanies James, while Debrabarr goes off on her own. Jasmina examine a Water Pik, which James shoves in his mouth and remarks "that's really quite painful" - possibly, I'm guessing, because there wasn't any water in it, fool. Debrabarr plays with a nifty remote controlled car for £14.99, down from £29.99. More products: a hair grip for Debra, a "grabosaurus" for Jasmina (essentially a large set of claws for picking up leaves and stuff in the garden). James thinks it's an excellent thing for his father. Jasmina are also shown a window-cleaning kit, of which two parts appear to be magnetic and leap together in Yasmina's hands, causing her to go "wargh!". Ah, if only I knew how to make gifs, I would be making one of that moment for sure. Next is the Polo Pancho - 100% man-made materials, ladies and gentlemen! "You can get polyester that's man-made?" James clarifies, hilariously. Nick facepalms in the background. Jasmina try on the Polo Pancho, which looks hideous, but is only £9.99. Yasmina thinks it's a good product.

Meanwhile, Ignite are rehearsing, and it is going badly. Lorraine is attempting to flog a sat nav, and keeps encouraging the viewers to exceed the speed limit and crash their cars. Kate gives Lorraine handy selling points over the talkback, and Lorraine replies to her out loud. A member of the gallery crew turns and looks at Margaret, all "is she for real? SERIOUSLY?" Lorraine talks about accidents again. "She can't talk about accidents!" frets the professional director. Lorraine goes to pieces, and then the rehearsal is over. "That is what you call car crash television," giggles Lorraine afterwards. "I don't even know why I'm laughing, because I'm not going to be able to sleep a wink tonight worrying about this."

It's up to Howard as PM to decide who has to do a solo slot when they go live. Kate has a go at flogging the sat nav in rehearsal, pulls a lot of "I don't know what the fuck I'm doing" faces and leaves a lot of dead air. The director gently coaxes Howard to get her to speak, and Howard just sits there looking a bit lost. The director gives him some options, and Kate manages to get to the end, somehow.

It's Howard's turn in front of the camera, and it's only at this point that I realise he looks just like he ought to be working for anyway. Lorraine tells him he looks handsome on camera, and Howard giggles. Howard is actually surprisingly good in his rehearsal.

Time to decide who flies solo. Howard asks his team for any feedback they might want to give: Kate is pleased her slot didn't go smoothly because it's good practice. Lorraine tells Howard that he looked and sounded great on TV, which would've been fine if she'd stopped there, but she sticks a shoehorn into her mouth just to make sure her footwear slips in nice and easily, and adds "no offence Kate, we all know you're very good". Kate, apparently, does not take this well and starts pouting, prompting Lorraine to claim that Kate's giving her "dagger-eyes". "I will give you dagger-eyes if you keep saying that," snips Kate. Lorraine attempts to stop digging by telling Howard that the camera likes him, and shuts up. Kate tells Lorraine that comments like that are disruptive to a team, and sometimes you need to just not say anything at all. And really, I'm no Lorraine fan, but when asked for feedback on the team's performance, is "I thought you were the best of the three of us" really that offensive? Perhaps a lot ended up on the cutting room floor here, but it does rather seem like Kate was quick to take umbrage at an insult that wasn't really there. Howard decides to put Kate on her own, and he will go with Lorraine - which is a fair enough decision, based on the evidence he has to hand, because he thinks that Lorraine needs to be supervised, and clearly if he leaves her in the same room as Kate there'll be nothing left but a pile of hair and claws after half an hour.

On Empire, Yasmina has chosen Debrabarr to present solo - presumably before they've even rehearsed. Debrabarr demonstrates an onion slicer while Yasmina VTs that she'd totally employ Debrabarr to work for her, but she'd put her desk in a soundproofed box and make her sit by herself at lunchtime, or something. Jasmina rehearse their double act, and I do mean double act, because they take it upon themselves to start acting like a couple, calling each other "darling" and referring to non-existent times where they got lost on their way to a restaurant because they didn't have a satnav. Well, they've got more chemistry than Alex and Claire, at least. The only problem is that they spent so much time on their skit, that they don't actually say anything about the product. Debrabarr tells them to smile, and Yasmina pulls out a terrifyingly stilted grin that is likely to give me nightmares for weeks. Hmm, maybe I don't want US-style opening titles after all.

It's 5.15pm, and Ignite are picking their products. Howard and Lorraine look at a product that takes care of the hard skin on your feet. "Instinctively, I like it," says Lorraine, who's really taking the Cassandra thing too far now. Next they look at a set of polystyrene cats, which you stick sequinned pins in to make them look slightly less terrifying. Only slightly, mind. Howard interviews that none of them watch shopping channels, so their personal feelings are irrelevant. Lorraine and Howard play with an air-guitar with an infra-red beam, which looks quite fun. Kate examines a low-fat chip fryer, and a hideous leather jacket with leaves stuck all over it, which comes in bronze, silver and gold tones. It's not quite as hideous as the Wolf Spirit jacket, but it's not all that far off. Only this jacket isn't even funny, it just leaves you with a deep sadness inside you where your soul once was.

Howard and Lorraine play with a £229.99 toy dinosaur, that develops a personality the more you play with it. Lorraine's first Irish line of the episode comes in when she attempts to stop the dinosaur from being spoiled by holding it by its tail: "Now, you see, you don't like that, do you?" It is ridiculously cute, but Howard points out that you could buy a Nintendo Wii and several games for the same price. Lorraine thinks that it's different, and that parents do spend that sort of money on children. Probably not outside of Christmas, I shouldn't think.

Lorraine VTs that Howard doesn't take risks, and she thinks the next apprentice has to be a risk-taker.

The teams return to their hotels, and look at the products they'll be selling - but the twist (in as much as it's the same thing that happened the last time they did this task) is that each section of the team will be shilling the products that the other one picked. So, Howard and Lorraine must sell Kate's hideous jackets and chip pan, both of which are over £100. On Empire, Debrabarr is selling the "dinopick", as Yasmina puts it ("Grabasaurus, you muppet!" - James), at £24.99 - their most expensive item - and the £9.99 polo poncho. Jasmina will be selling the remote control car and the three pack of elasticated hairgrips at £17.99. Yasmina thinks they haven't got any high-risk products, because everything is a sellable price, so they can go for volume. Back at Ignite, Howard and Lorraine show Kate what they've picked - the sequin-pin cats, and the air guitar, which is £14.99.

The next day, the teams have some time to get to grips with their products, so Debrabarr tries out ways of wearing the polo poncho, while Howard declares Lorraine to be the queen of all things chip-pan related (which Lorraine disputes, because she's not actually used it yet). Presumably it's quite a lot of time, because the next thing we know it's "prime-time" (which in my experience starts at 7pm, back in my TV scheduling days) and they're about to go on. Sralan, of course, is watching at home. The clock in the studio, by the way, says 5pm. That totally isn't primetime by any stretch of the imagination. Jasmina begin the evening's entertainment by demonstrating the remote control car, and Yasmina gets an unfortunate case of verbal diarrhoea: "Look at that! It's so easy to use, isn't it? Such a great gift. Look at the lights on it! It's just absolutely gorgeous. I mean, I love it, don't you love it, James?" In the gallery, Debrabarr tells Yasmina to stop talking and for James to talk about the price. She has to say this three times before anyone actually listens. In doing so, James looks wildly from left to right trying to determine which camera he's on. Ouch. They move on to the hair grips, and start out well enough with a bit of a skit along the "is there something different about you?" lines, but it all goes wrong rather quickly when Yasmina says the price is £9.99, despite the price on screen (which is the correct one) showing £17.99. They give out the wrong price at least four more times before Debrabarr corrects them, and there's another awkward moment as Jasmina give out the correct price. Then they demonstrate on a model, and Yasmina makes a bit of a pig's ear of it as the real director pulls a face in the gallery. Time for James to turn on the patter: "If you're not fast with this, you're going to be last with this, so stop spying, and start buying." I can't imagine Noel Edmonds is having any sleepless nights after this.

Time to switch: Jasmina run up to the gallery while Debrabarr takes the floor. And here's the biggest surprise of the episode: Debrabarr is actually rather good at this. While still not actually sounding like a human being in any way, she softens her voice a bit and sounds about as ingratiating as Debrabarr is likely to get. She demonstrates the polo pancho, and on James's instruction to tell the audience how lovely model Sheila looks, starts giving Sheila the flirt eye and going "how stylish do you look?" Seriously, I can only apologise for the fact that my command of language cannot do justice to the amazing weird brilliance of Debrabarr on Idealworld. She even calls her "regal", it's amazing. Next, Debrabarr moves on to the grabosaurus, and seems to be really getting the hang of this - very calm, very informative, and even friendly, in an aloof sort of way. And they're done - coming off the air, Debrabarr cringes "that was terrible!" even though we all know it wasn't.

Ignite prepare to go live. Howard is worried that Lorraine will panic and deviate from the script. First of all, they're shilling the jackets. "What a lot of bling," remarks Sralan in his office. Lorraine does seem to be doing rather better this time around, quite possibly because it's a lot easier to be natural when you have someone there to interact with. She tries on the jacket, and works up a bit of pattern with Howard about how she'll definitely wear this to her next party, but she might not invite Howard to join her because she's got a long list to get through. It's charmingly insincere in the way that people on shopping channels inevitably are. Before we know it, they're on to the kitchen to sell the low fat chip fryer, where Lorraine takes the lead and does quite a good job. Seriously, if the basis for winning this task were how much you improve between rehearsal and performance, Lorraine would've walked it. Kate's direction, quite good during the first segment, rather falls off here, amounting to little more than "who likes chips? We like chips! Chips chips chips!" Lorraine tastes some chips, and Sralan complains that they're talking about the product without giving out the web address or the phone number. Howard offers Lorraine another chip, causing Sralan to groan. Lorraine starts talking about how she doesn't normally let her daughters have chips, in her second Irish line of the episode, and still no info is given about the phone number.

They're off, and Kate takes over. She speaks in a very odd, overpronounced way while selling the sequinned cats, and desperately tries to convince the viewers at home that the cat has a personality because it wears a bell. Up in the gallery, Margaret cracks up. She seems to be having an awful lot of fun this year. Kate moves on to selling the infrared air guitar, which sounds awfully tuneless because she doesn't strum it very much. "I'm just having such a fantastic time!" lies Kate. "This is so much! I'm releasing my inner rock goddess!" She even does some headbanging. This is the most embarrassing thing I've seen on TV all week, and I saw Susan Boyle try to flash her knickers during her concession speech on Britain's Got Talent. Finally, it's all over. Mercifully. I've almost turned myself out with all the cringing at this point.

The teams return to Sralan's boardroom, and NotFrances sends them all through. Howard cops to being PM for Ignite, and Kate and Lorraine say that he was a good team leader. Sralan tells them off for taking too long to explain the low fat fryer and not spending enough time talking about the price and how to get it. He also tells them that the animal craft kit was a tough sell, and Kate says it wasn't exciting to demonstrate. However, Sralan says that the jacket and the fat fryer were good product selections because they were of high value. Note how they were the two products Kate picked. I'm just sayin'.

And with that, we move over to Empire, who banked on much cheaper products. Sralan says that in his opinion the higher-ticket items like the fryer were better bets, and that their product selection showed an excess of caution. He addresses James's stumbling in front of the camera, and reads out a viewer feedback e-mail thanking Ideal World for their new comedy hour. Hee.

And so it's time to find out how much was sold. Nick gives the results for Empire - total sales of £1,541.88. Margaret gives the results for Ignite - total sales of £1,376.73. Which means that, volume-wise, Team Yasmina must've really schooled the others. Sralan congratulates Debrabarr, in particular, who sold lots of ponchos, apparently not far off how many the channel said they would sell during a normal slot. Nick says that Debrabarr was very good, and the channel staff said she took to it like a duck to water. Redemption edit! The reward is going off with an aerobatic flying team for a private flight. Team Yasmina zoom out into the antechamber and hug each other with glee. Back in the boardroom, Sralan tells Ignite that compared to the channel's forecasts, the sales of the hideous jackets were abysmal - they may have picked the best products, but they didn't execute it well. He dismisses them. After they've gone, Nick says they should, by rights, have stormed this, and it shows bad salesmanship.

Is it can be reward tiem nao? Team Yasmina strut out in their flying gear and take to the skies. This does look like a pretty kickass reward, in all fairness. I'm not saying I wouldn't have vomited, but it looks awesome.

The Crumbling Remains Of Loser Café. Kate is disappointed to have lost by about £200, and that they could've won if they'd only shifted two more fryers. Howard VTs that he's ready to fight his corner, and he thinks Lorraine should go. Coincidentally, Lorraine VTs that Howard should go because he's not a risk-taker. Back in Loser Café, Lorraine says she'll go in there defending herself rather than attacking Howard or Kate, because if she bows out, it'll be with integrity and grace. Well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose.

Boardroom 2: Electric Boogaloo. Sralan says that as it's week ten, there's a lot from the past weeks for him to take into consideration, though he'll be focusing on this task first of all. First of all, Sralan raises the sales figures - only one animal craft kit was sold. Howard says that he and Lorraine know nothing about the craft market, but picked it because they thought it would be easy to demonstrate. They'd hoped it would be an impulse purchase. Sralan counters that he's looking for a business flair - people who can spot something that's worth something, even if they don't like it themselves. Howard sticks to his guns that he thought it was a good product, leading Sralan to be all "aha, so you think Kate did a bad presenting job, then?" It's totally like the three-pronged calling attack in Mean Girls, with Howard as Cady, Kate as Gretchen and Sralan as Regina. Meanwhile, Lorraine sits next to them, writing "Philip is the nastiest effing skank I have ever seen" in the burn book. Howard protests that Kate was a good seller, but they wanted to focus on the air guitar - wrong move, because according to Sralan, they sold less than 10% of what they should've sold with that too. Asked for her opinion, Kate claims they weren't easy products to demonstrate, adding that she gave her all on the guitar and doesn't know what else she could've done. Sound like you weren't preoccupied wondering if there were any Toffee Crisps left in the vending machine, maybe?

Margaret wants to know why they didn't go with the dinosaur. Lorraine says that she wanted that one and should've pushed it through on her instincts (drink!). Howard is asked if he was nervous about the price, Howard says he was, but he considers Lorraine's idea of pushing that product to have been weak. Margaret points out that it was a good product, and a different product, but Howard says that he wasn't sure if people would spend that much on a novelty item, and that he ultimately "wasn't comfortable with the dinosaur product". It's okay, Howard. Show us on the doll where the dinosaur product touched you.

Kate chose the fryer and the leather jacket, lest we forget. Sralan points out that they are the top-selling items in their categories, but Howard and Lorraine only sold 5% of what they'd expect with the jackets - if only they'd sold two more, they would've won. Howard explains how he was concerned Lorraine didn't understand the fryer product - that she did well on the night, but that the presentation beforehand was lacking. Sralan turns to Kate and says that he's complimented her on her presentation skills in the past (though let's not forget "I've heard of bellinis" too quickly, shall we?), but he wonders if it all went to her head, because he thought she was robotic on the TV. Kate doesn't think she was terrible, especially not compared to those losers Lorraine and Howard. Wow, she really does not like having her telegenicness challenged, does she? Kate sold a total of £277 worth of goods, compared to Debrabarr who sold £940 worth of goods by herself. Wow, that is one hell of a blowout right there. Kate blinks.

Who's responsible for the failure of this task? Kate thinks they should've pushed the fryer more, and that Lorraine didn't even know the instructions were in the recipe book. "Well, it's very straightforward," counters Lorraine. "You just put the fat in, put the chips in and turn it on, Sralan." HA! I loved that. Howard asks if it was that straightforward, why was she not more prepared? Lorraine asks if she's being set up as the blame here? Kate says that if they'd sold two more fryers, they wouldn't be here right now, not that she's pointing fingers or anything. Also, Kate's left eye looks kind of lazy here. Lorraine thinks Kate's passing the buck, and isn't taking responsibility for the failure. "When the chips were down, I stood up to the mark." Hee. Sralan asks Lorraine who should go - she thinks Howard, because the whole thing was too structured from the outset.

The dramatic music kicks in, and Sralan is ready to take into account everything that's happened in the moments leading up to this, so he sends them all outside while he ruminates, as well he might. Margaret says that Howard would have things running like clockwork. Sralan thinks that Lorraine is always too steps behind, but Nick thinks he's underestimating her, because her gut instinct is so often right. Kate maybe thinks she's better than she really is.

NotFrances sends them all back in. Sralan tells Howard that he considers him to be a bit of a cautious man. Howard asks why that is. Sralan says that the sort of person he's looking for can't just do the same thing all the time. Howard says that he's a good communicator and works well in teams, but also works well as a leader. Nick thinks Howard isn't a warrior. Howard refutes this, saying that he's very ambitious, but Nick thinks Howard's actions belie his alleged ambition.

Over to Lorraine - she thinks that she's been at the forefront on every task, and believes she has natural business acumen. Sralan asks why she wants to work for him, and Lorraine says that she's spent ten years out of business raising her children, and this is a fantastic opportunity for her.

Kate's turn. She says she's been a strong team player, hence this is only her second time "in the bottom three" (this is not American Idol, Kate), she's put herself up for the big jobs, she's not a one-trick pony, she's really ambitious and she really wants to work for Sralan. Sralan says that nothing great has been achieved by enthusiasm only. Try telling that to Anneka Rice. Sralan thinks Kate's slipped back in his estimations: while she says she's not a one-trick pony, he feels she might be. Howard is a "steady Eddie" - we're going through tough times at the moment, and the winner of this contest needs to be "something special". So...we don't want someone calm and risk-aware looking after things in the months following a near collapse of the banking system? O-kay, then. Lorraine talks a good game, and Sralan doesn't think her age is a problem, but her "slow burner" comments worry him because sometimes she makes her mind up too late in the game.

So who goes? Howard, duh. We all saw that in the first five minutes. Howard shudders, thanks Sralan and leaves. Sralan tells Lorraine and Kate that it was a very tough decision, that he hasn't got time for "ordinary people". They're dismissed. Howard hugs them both goodbye, and it seems fairly friendly. Coatwatch: difficult to tell because it's blurry, but it appears long and dark. I've been really let down by the coats this series, quite frankly. Howard taxinterviews that he's gutted, because he wanted to make it to the end. If Sralan thinks he's risk-averse, he'll try to be more maverick in the future.

Back at Crackden Apts, everyone's sitting in near silence. Kate and Lorraine's return is met with squeals. "Four girls and one boy!" chirrups Debrabarr. "I feel like Hugh Hefner," remarks James. Ew.

Now just five candidates remain. Next week: interviews! Shock horror: Debrabarr is asked if she's ever told someone to "eff off" at work! The only thing surprising me there is that she didn't reply "no, I told them to fuck off". James claims he "puts a leash on people who spunk money up the wall" for a living! And "a number" of people are fired. Please God let it be a two-person finale this year. The four-way last year was beyond ridiculous.


Becky A said...

I love reading your write ups, they're much better than the rubbish on 'You're Fired'

Thanks for giving me a laugh every week!

Steve said...

Aw, thanks! Glad you enjoy them!

Merseytart said...

"Show us on the doll where the dinosaur product touched you."


KMack said...

Heh. Looking forward to your write up of the interviews. What was going on with Lorraine's accent?!

Also, word verification: nazinsit. Fun!