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!

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