Thursday, 7 October 2010

A total sausage-fest

Week One

6 October 2010

Having a year and-a-half off has meant the news series of The Apprentice is very welcome. Junior Apprentice earlier this year was a good replacement (and gave us time to get used to Karren, rather than Margaret *SOB*) but there ain't nothing like the real thing, err, baby.

As usual, the pre-credits VTs tell us nothing about which contestant is which, but by the power of the internet I am able to put names to faces. We're reminded that it's the job interview from hell as we learn about the contestants from themselves. These, folks are your candidates:

  • Chris Bates: nothing mediocre about him, supremely intelligent, ambitious, an all-round gifted individual - like Katie Waissel/Vogel/Lola Fontaine, perhaps?
  • Melissa Cohen: Charismatic, intelligent, a damn good businesswoman, at the top of her game, unbeatable.
  • Stuart Baggs: an absolutely fantastic salesman, everything he touches turns to sold.
  • Alex Epstein: a bit of a maverick, believes you absolutely have to stand out these days, you've got to be different, not just another corporate clone.
  • Liz Locke: Looks like Chanelle from Big Brother 8, pressure brings out the best in her, young, adaptable, agile, will be the last woman standing.
  • Shibby Robati: The token Asian wideboy (see Tre, Syed etc), success and money motivate him, his first word wasn't mummy, it was money (he almost completely cracks up at this. Heh).
  • Some other losers who don't get to say anything yet.
Is it just me, or do this lot seem like parodies of Apprentice contestants? [All I know is I was watching through my fingers from 30 seconds in - Fiona]

Apparently later in the series we get 'something special: zero sales' which is very exciting. We're told that Sralan (whoops, sorry, Ludsuga) [It just doesn't roll off the tongue, does it? - Steve] has gone from a council estate in Hackney to the House of Lords, and we see footage of him entering the House in his ceremonial gear, which looks utterly bizarre. I'm trying not to look at who's in the future clips as I don't want too many spoilers - and the clips are full of them. [My boyfriend looked, and immediately worked out who was going home this week. Nice work, editors! - Steve]

We open on the boardroom at midnight (it's not October 31st yet is it?) NotFrances ushers them through. The boardroom still has that ridiculously bright blue lighting.

Ludsuga says he's read all their CVs and on paper they all look good, but then so does fish'n'chips. The contestants all give the obligatory half-laugh. We're reminded that we are in TOUGH! ECONOMIC! TIMES! (drrrrrrink!) and in THIS CLIMATE they need to stand out from the crowd. He wants someone dynamic and ambitious who is prepared to take a risk. He's not interested in any 'Steady Eddies' or 'Cautious Carols' (the phrase Cautious Carols trended on Twitter last night. Hee.) despite several previous series that have proved that risk takers are expressly what he doesn't want and steady types are.

Everyone's blue eyes look crazy as usual in the boardroom.

Ludsuga (anyone mind if I go back to calling him Sralan now? Other than the man himself, I mean) tells them they're going to be working through the night at Smithfield Meat Market to manufacture and sell sausages, which are one of the nation's favourites and sell in 'bucketloads' apparently. Very precise.

Nick will be following the ladies, and Karren the men. We're reminded that Karren was the youngest ever director of a public limited company. Sralan says these are TOUGH TIMES (if you're playing a drinking game you'll be bladdered already by now) and people will either sink or swim, but he don't do life jackets. In our first 24-hour task ever, they have to make the sausages through the night and then sell them in the morning. Oooh, cruel!

Stuart Baggs tells his fellow team-mates he's from the Isle of Mann and owns a telecommunications company. To ram home the point about him being a 'character', we get another VT of him telling us that people aspire to own a flash sports car, maybe a house in the country, he's got all that already. He asks, where is his glass ceiling? (answer: he hasn't got one - though as a man the term 'glass ceiling' isn't really applied to him anyway, is it?). In what is surely going to be the most referenced quote of the series, we learn that he is Stuart Baggs: The Brand. He's also confident, unique, successful, yadda yadda. Shibby says he's a surgeon (in which case, what the HELL is he doing wanting to work in a broom cupboard selling boxes or whatever the job will be for 100K a year?). Then, so as to look like a srs bznssman, he says 'but I also run my own company... er companIES'.

The lowdown on some of your other contenders:
  • Raleigh Addington: just come out of university, been hit by the recession a bit, hasn't been finding a job that easily, really wants this.
  • Stella English: worked in banking for thirteen years (and her team mates boo her at this, which would be funny where they not all in business anyway and probably also part of organisations CULPABLE FOR THIS CRISIS etc), left school at fifteen with no qualifications (TICK!), works for a top-notch investment bank (but presumably has no maths skills going on her previous statement? BLAME THE WITCH for the FINANCIAL MELTDOWN), nothing is out of bounds for her.
Stella tells the women they've got to win this task. Err, no shit, Sherlock. Alex says he's not a sausage expert (the first of many glorious puns tonight) but he is a foodie. He says if they're British sausages they can emphasise the Buy British angle. Yeah, very creative. Alex VTs that he was made redundant recently so he could actually do with this job. Apparently people like him don't come along very often, with that unique blend of creativity and commercial nous. His creative suggestion? 'Britain's Best Bangers'.

Team name choosing in a nearby pub. Stella says they need a team name that alludes to success and victory. Michelle says they should call themselves 'winning women', in all seriousness, which is the most hilarious and useless team name suggestion in many a series. The others point out that the teams will get mixed soon enough, which would be the reason to keep it in my book, just for the comedy lulz. Laura Moore suggests Apollo because it was successful and they had the slogan 'failure is no option'. Everyone likes it. That was quick.

The men's team. Stuart suggests Fusion, which is the name of a lovely cafe opposite my work building, so I'd rather they didn't. Chris suggests Synergy because the teams are going to keep changing but have to work together. [Cheat! That was already used by one of the teams on season five of the original Apprentice in America. - Steve] Stuart keeps saying 'it's got to be Fusion'. Someone else says that sounds a bit cliche (and Synergy doesn't?) and Stuart replies 'it's where we're at, cheap and disposable'. HA! Chris says they won't always be selling cheap and disposable stuff. They vote, and Synergy wins. Well that was all a bit straightforward. Don't tell me this year's lot are actually going to get things done.

Team leader time. Liz asks if anyone's got any management experience. Melissa says she has, and she's doing a module on food distribution, but there's no way she's taking on the poisoned chalice of being the first task PM as they always get fired. [First task losing PMs who got fired for that loss: Ben Stanberry, Andy Jackson. First task losing PMs who did NOT get fired for that loss: Saira Khan, Alex Wotherspoon, Mona Lewis. I'm on to you and your lies, Melissa. - Steve] Two of the quiet ones volunteer, and Joanna takes it on. None of the men want to do it, but Dan eventually says he will. He tells them he'll lead and they'll do all the work. No-one except Karren seems to have clocked that he's serious.
  • Joanna Riley: most people will underestimate her, doesn't have the fancy qualifications, has gotten by on common sense, which most people in business don't have (burn!).
  • Dan Harris: believes that in business there's no place for skirkers or passengers, insists the people that work for him deliver, can intimidate people, is all about getting results, doesn't care.
Foodie Alex suggests they have pork and 'ham' sausages. FAIL. Joanna suggests lamb and peas. Almost as bad. Dan suggests lamb and stout, the sort of thing you would see in a pub (I don't eat meat but is lamb the best choice to go with stout?). Alex says, Boozy Bangers (yeah, if you want to hit the Iceland 'Boozy Brownies' demographic), Fruity Bangers and Fiery Bangers, three very distinctive flavours. Jamie tries to interject and Alex retorts that these are the names families would love. Jamie says, 'what, boozy', and Alex replies 'that's for the dads. Dads would love a boozy banger'. Tonight, the jokes just write themselves. Jamie: 'So we're just going to eliminate the mums?' Alex: 'Yes'. Oh so much weird homoeroticism.

Karren tells us it was like being back in the dressing room and I really hope we don't get too many more football allusions. I don't really mind Karren, but I miss Margaret's references to random Greek myths and suchlike. She says Dan is really aggressive. [Which is like telling us bears shit in the woods, I remain unconvinced by Karen - Fiona]

Stuart looks at their information and says a sausage with 70-95% meat can be called a gourmet sausage, whilst anything with less than 42% meat can't be called a sausage 'so there's no point in giving people extra meat they're not going to appreciate'. [I'm sure I read that on a gaydar profile once. - Steve] Somewhere, Jamie Oliver is weeping. He says they should go for 42% and 'stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap'. Well, it worked for Yasmina last year.

Joanna feels strongly that they need to sort the sausages out. Melissa says she's coming from a different perspective, which would be what, exactly? Ignore the task? She says the costs need to make sense. Joanna says they need to decide what the sausages are first and then they get into an argument over nothing.

Meat porn. *Vomits*.

The men try and go for the cheapest meat on sale, and Stuart tells someone their meat is 'well too cheap'. Both teams prove to be pretty rubbish negotiators. Joanna and her half talk to a butcher about the meat content. The butcher reckons you need at least 60-70% because people "want a better sausage" (hee). They decide to go for the gourmet sausages. Liz says they're too far down the line to change things and Melissa says that they just got an expert's opinion so they shouldn't ignore it, which might be the first time a candidate on this show has ever said anything vaguely useful. Joy, who hasn't given us a VT yet, skips up to a man and says 'please sir can we buy some more'. I suppose it's better than offering to kiss him for favours, like some years' women teams, but blech.

Nick VTs that it's risky to spend more but they will be able to charge more.

Stuart asks a butcher about a cut and is told it's brisket, at which he goes 'it's WHAT?' Dude, I'm a vegetarian, and I've heard of brisket. They do more rubbish negotiating and the traders totally whoop them. Stuart then says in the cab that they're pushing crap and the sausages are going to taste rancid. It was your idea, fella.

Each team has their own 'sausage factory'. The men are told that if they use a lot of rusk, they need to use a lot of water. Is anyone writing this down? [Those sausages are going to be about a millimetre wide by the time they've been cooked. Bleurgh. - Steve] Dan asks if they're all giving him his full attention, then he barks orders at them and tells them not to fuck up. He then asks, and I quote 'who's doing the mincing?' [Immediately I looked for Nick, then realised he's following the other team. Such a missed opportunity. - Steve] He then swears at them again.

Joanna gives out jobs to her team. They're making pork and cider, chicken and chilli and lamb and mint sausages. Paloma is 'getting to grips with the end result'. Cue shots of machines being sheathed and premature ejaculations. The editors are most clearly not above these things (and nor am I). Apparently, 'it's a bit of an art form getting the perfect sausage'.

Lots of shots of rusk as we see the boys' budget bangers in production. Blee! Karren tells us that Dan's management style is just to stand around shouting orders at people and not doing much himself. The sausages aren't mixing well, but Stuart says he just wants to 'pack something' and would rather sell a dodgy sausage than no sausage. There's a lot of shouting and faffing as no-one seems to know what they're doing. Voiceover: 'So far, not a sausage'. Shibby shouts that they 'need it moist'.

The girls are finding it hard to pack their sausages because they're so big, and their costs seem to be too high. The men's sausages look revolting (badumtish). Stuart asks what flavour they are, and no-one seems to know. He shouts 'it's your funeral' if it goes wrong at someone, which, not necessarily. And also? Great teamwork. Dan is confident they'll turn it around. [I just wanted it publically noted that I have added then deleted several comments in the last 2 paragraphs on the grounds of taste. I think we are being very restrained here guys - Fiona]

Alex says it's 'Sausage Saturday'. One of the anonymous men says they should promote them as being handmade, with 'no nasties'. Erm, trades description act, anyone? They go to Portobello Market. They're wearing dreadful straw hats, but they grill some up and get some interest. Alex says they're the freshest sausages, made from local, er, regional (how big a region?) meat. Stuart stands in front of an old man pushing sausages in his face and tells him to buy them. When the guy refuses, he shouts 'but they're gonna go off!' He tells someone that supermarket sausages have "lots and lots of food colouring in" (whereas these just have lots and lots of rusk). He sends someone away with 'if you have any problems, please feel free to keep them to yourself'. I do wish they'd introduce an element where dissatisfied customers can get their money back. Jamie tries to tell him to calm down but Stuart snits that he's sold the most, so Jamie can cram it.

The girls are targeting 'well-heeled' businessman. Liz's technique is to ask a man 'do you think your wife would like a different sausage at all?' [That's a blatant fish for camera time if ever I heard one. I'm on to you too, Liz. - Steve] A customer asks Stella if she's tried one cooked. She hasn't, so they stick the griddle on. Nick comments that they should have done that earlier.

The boys are selling well, and Dan takes half the team off to doorknock on houses and asks if they want some sausages. Funnily enough, no-one does. Dan tries to bully a camp landlord into buying them and he doesn't. Nobody inserts a slightly homophobic sausage-related joke here. They leave and Dan swears at his team. Nice. Chris says they can't go to Sloane Square because their hotels are too swanky to buy their shit produce, but Shibby suggests they can sell them to hostels 'for the tramps'. Nice target market there, Shibby.

The girls' sales are picking up, and we see someone really hating the taste. Whoops. They target businesses and go to a local restaurant. The chef comes out and asks what breed the chicken is. The response? 'Free range'. Bless. Joanna introduces herself and Melissa tries to then introduce Joanna again. Melissa starts to bitch fight with Joanna because she wants to close 'her' sale. They bitch fight in front of the client. Melissa's argument is that you have to close every deal you start because it's 'pro-fesh-un-al-isum'. Nick pulls his disapproving face in the background.

Alex is trying to palm off their sausages as 'the finest deli sausages in London'. We see close-ups of the sausages grilling. They look rank. Dan has a brilliant idea: 'Let's do a stocktake!' His half of the team whine about it being a stupid idea but do it anyway. The girls sell more to a pub and fail at negotiating, but then say they 'absoultely knocked one out of the park' anyway. The girls sell out. Shibby sells to a cafe but fails to negotiate. The cafe owner retorts 'it's your sausages, I don't need 'em'. I'm sure there was one of the men saying '100% meat' the first time I watched this but I missed it this time around so maybe I'm just imagining they said that.

NotFrances sends them through to the boardroom. Nick tells Sralan that Melissa was asked to be project manager, declined, and was a snippy little bitch to Joanna all day. Sralan asks Joanna if she's unable to control a team. Joanna replies that no-one else put themselves forward and then all of a sudden the egos came out, and acquits herself rather well, I think.

Sralan makes a terrible 'who was the hot dog and who was the banger' joke to the men. Dan is slouching back in his seat and Sralan tells him to sit up straight. Excellent boardroom burn, there, Sralan. Figures. Apollo took £860 but spent £538.84. Profit £321.16. Synergy took £593.33, spent £247.43. Profit £305.90. Not much in it, though were quality control and the honesty of their marketing taken into account, the girls would have walked it. [Although by the same measure, Yasmina wouldn't have got anywhere near the final last year, let alone won. - Steve] Nick comments that Stella and 'Elizabeth' are hot on their figures. ZOMG! SEXUAL HARASSMENT! Oh, he means their maths. The women get the "prize" of being the first to see the house, and a champagne barbecue. [Shit prize though the banger bbq was a nice touch - Fiona]

Sralan decides he's not staying up any longer (even though he could have been in bed all day for all we know) and they can come back the next afternoon for the boardroom. Wow, Sralan likes his lie-ins.

Late night loser cafe. Which is a 'sister cafe' to The Bridge Cafe according to their Twitter feed. Dan says he didn't take a hands-off approach because he didn't want to get his hands dirty, but because he chose to manage it. He said they can criticise him for it but they're *BLEEP*ing glad he did it. Yes, because they know you're more likely to get fired, numpty.

The girls are at the new home, which looks very nice indeed, with a grand piano, a pristine kitchen, a pool (or hot tub)... and a barbecue grilling sausages. Some treat.

Boardroom time (again). Stuart Baggs The Brand says he'll take an empty suitcase in because he won't be going home. [I am hoping he pulls the same trick everytime he is in the firing line. I want to see him stride out to the taxi and ask if he can swing by the house- Fiona] Alex says Dan has a big mouth and people with bug mouths can get away with murder. Especially on this show, if the last few years are anything to go by - except at the interviews stage, anyway. Dan thinks he was a great project manager.

The men all snip. Dan says the door-to-door selling didn't work. Stuart said it worked for the girls. Sralan asks if Alex was responsible for the mixing fail, Alex says it was Raleigh (pronounced Rawley apparently). Alex says it takes a sausage maker years to get it right, Sralan points out that the girls managed. Shibby says Dan was out of his depth, Dan rubbishes this and says he was a manager. He said he didn't sell, despite being a sales director, because he was a manager, and he was working with a YOUNG group who needed patronising. Whoops, "managing". Jamie said he had to rein Stuart in. Stuart says you have to be like that. Karren tells him he's too aggressive. Jamie calls him 'cringeable'. Is that even a word? [I think it's Dairylea's latest lunchtime snack. - Steve]

Dan brings Alex and Stuart back with no hesitation.

Sralan says they're a load of old washerwomen. Karren says Dan just pointed the finger and did nothing, Alex just stood behind the griddle and Stuart is too agressive. Stuart babbles that if there IS a problem he'll address it, and he sold, if not THE most, at which Sralan butts in that he didn't sell the most, and Karren points out he only sold fourteen packs. Stuart looks like he's wearing pink lipstick and seems put out by this because he feels he sold a lot of sausages and he tried his hardest. Sralan points out there's a difference between trying hard and bludgeoning your way through life, and Stuart shouts 'I'M NOT AN AGGRESSIVE PERSON'. Sralan asks him what his brand is. Being TWENTY ONE (not twenty-four as that's Alex Wotherspoon's brand) and being unique, apparently. He says 'sat across the boardroom table is one of THE most successful people Britain, if not the world' in a kissass way, but it totally sounds like he is saying 'as' one of, i.e. meaning himself. I had to rewind it a couple of times to realise he meant Sralan. Apparently Sralan's allowed to criticise him but the other candidates aren't. Riiight, that's going to go well. [Plus he looks like a chipmunk - Fiona]

Dan whines that he managed the team over and over. He and Stuart have a big argument about nothing. Alex says Dan was a bully, not a manager. Dan eyerolls. Rude sod. Dan says Alex was responsible for the sausage making issue. Stuart says Dan produced nothing. Dan whines 'I was a manager' again. Dan says he shouldn't be fired because he's an entrepreneur. Sralan says you don't call yourself an entrepreneur, other people call you that - though I'm sure most contestants on this series have referred to themselves as such. Apparently he made and lost two and a half million at some point, which presumably means we can blame him FOR THIS CURRENT CRISIS.

Stuart says 'I'm passionate, I'm a grafter are terms thrown about in this boardroom, and I'm all of those things, but I'm not a cliche', must to Sralan's amusement. Seriously, did Stuart Baggs: The Brand just come out of a random Apprentice character generator? I refuse to believe he's real. He says if Sralan gives him 100K, he'll make it back tenfold or give the money back. Sralan says he had an offer like that from Nigeria once, which is actually quite funny for him.

Alex has been working for 'one of Britain's top entrepreneurs'. Sralan points out he was let go. Alex talks about all the good people who are struggling in THESE TERRIBLE TIMES. Sralan says the task was to test them under pressure. Dan gets the blame and Dan's fired. He doesn't even have the grace to say 'thank you for the opportunity'. Sralan lies he was halfway to getting rid of Stuart as well and won't be putting up with him for much longer. Anyone like to bet he'll be around until the rottweiler mauling?

Coatwatch: long, black, severe.

The other apprentices want Alex back but neither of the others. Alex said he feels like he battled Mount Everest and it felt so good to be in the boardroom. Except at the end where you nearly cried, eh? There's a weird pewter aeroplane statue in the house.

Dan says he's not happy, but he knew that as PM he was likely to go.

Next week: They sell beach holidays, and maybe we'll discover who the other half of the contestants are. Join Fiona then!

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