Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 8

After episodes entitled things like 'Selling to trade', this week's offering is called 'Crisps'.  We begin with the review of Sandeesh & Co and the Great Downhill Skiing Disaster-fest, complete with Stuart being an irritating twerp.  Jamie answers the phone and is told they're to pack for a 2-day foreign trip, with clothes for all weathers.  Stuart reckons Lord Shugah is sending them to a war zone.  Ah, yes, the famous 'Illegal Arms Trade' task.  Having said that, even if it's not a war zone to begin with, it will be once Laura-the-moan-pants, Jamie-the-whinger and Joanna-the-foghorn get there.

It turns out to be Germany.  "I 'ate the Geemins" says Christopher, to kick off the casual racism.  They have to flog them crisps, coming up with some decent flavours, making them, and then shipping over to Hamburg to flog them.  On team Baggs-MoanPants-Stella-Joanna, it seems they're fighting to be in charge, apart from Baggs, who's knackered from last week.  Baggs thinks Stella should be in charge so that if they lose she'll get sacked, showing a reckless disregard for both self-awareness and common sense.  On Chris-Christopher-Liz-Jamie, Chris gets put in charge, confident he'll do a good, if monotone, job.

So they need to come up with crisp flavours.  Chris & Co are going for traditional German, such as sausage, bratwurst and goulash, in a 'bringing the mountain to Mohammed and also bringing the Hungarian mountain while you're at it' move.  Stuart's lot (for he is talking non-stop) realise that there's no point in pretending not to be British, and are going for pot roast flavour, sausage and eggs, and CURRY CURRY CURRY honks Joanna over everyone else.

Joanna, Stuart, Christopher and Jamie go to Hamburg, while the rest stay behind to make crisps.  They practice some German on the way: Baggs can count to 20 (which is approximately the number of seconds I give it until Joanna punches him in the face), while Christopher practices chat-up lines on Jamie.  Once they get there, it's all 'Guten Tag' and 'Danke schon' from Jamie and Christopher (who ditch each other to fall in love with curry wurst), while Baggs is doing a lot of 'Das ist Wunderbar', 'Cheeps cheeps' and 'Ja, ja'.

Joanna is pleased to find the Germans love curry chips, and then that a survey of one proves they love shepherds' pie and fish & chips, even if, when she says 'would you like to see them flavours in crisps?' he says 'no'.  She and Baggs decide sausage is the way forward, so they go to look at some sausages in a sausage place.  The man is telling them what the sausages are.  'White sausage' he says, pointing.  "I've got one of those" says Baggs, and the nation delicately heaves.  Then she phones Stella and honks CURRY CURRY CURRY again.  Unfortunately, Stella and Laura have already started making crisps, and are using flavours I don't quite catch.  I'm fairly sure one of them is cheese and paprika, and the others sounded like variations on toothpaste and orange juice.

They make a shed-load of these things, so now they have to set up meetings with people who might want to buy them.  Christopher and Stuart phone around and speak a lot of English with German accents.   It's all very Fallen Madonna Wiz Ze Big Boobies.  Stuart decides to call himself 'Herr Baggs', and thinks he must sound stupid to the Germans.  Not just the Germans, Hairbags, not just the Germans.

Christopher phones a hotel to make an appointment, and is offered 9am or 1pm; he choses 9am and then gets sidelined by Jamie, who fancies a night on the rip, and changes it to 1pm, allowing Joanna and Hairbags to steal the 9am.  Dun-dun-DUN.  Having ditched the Baggs, Joanna takes Stella to the appoinment, and some bags of crisps.  The beef and something one is liked; the cheese and paprika one 'will increase bar sales'.  At this point, Joanna does some kind of magic.  She wants him to place an order for 6 months. The guy wants to place an order for 3 months.  Joanna splits the difference and suggests 12 months.  The guy opts for 6 months.  It's like that thing last year when your woman sold all those people-shaped sleeping bags, and the country could only do a collective head-tilt, and slightly frown.

Hairbags and Laura are meeting a chap called Mike Sandwich.  Heh.  Hairbags has told Laura not to speak too fast; they go in and he says something like 'Ich heise Stuart und das ist mein colleague Laura (*Laura: Gut Tag*)'.  Herr Sandwich (there's an image) looks blank and then clicks. "You're speaking in German?".  Then Laura says "asimsureyoureawarethemarkethaschangedandweknowthatthehandcookedgourmetnaturalcrispmarketisthenextbigthing" and some other things, and Herr sandwich looks blank again.  He's not fond of the crisps, either.  Hairbags tells her off afterwards, and she huffs.  She doesn't know what else she could have done.  Hint: talk at a normal person speed.

Christopher and Jamie hawk door-to-door for a bit, unsuccessfully.  For some reason, one guy thinks they're called 'Funny Chips', and also that they're stinkin'.  Then they try to flog them to a girl who has no authority to do anything more than butter bagels, and probably can't even buy a bar of soap for the toilets with company money, never mind a truckload of currywurst potato snacks.

Hairbags and Laura are meant to go to a big meeting, but Stella (who's their project manager) gets there before them, and Laura throws the strop of the decade.  We're not talking a bit of a huff.  We're talking yak yak yak poor me load of bollocks yak yak yak *falls out of the cab and loses a shoe* (ha ha ha ha ha!).  She hopes they lose the task, so they can SLAP IT UP STELLA.

Chris and Liz go to the meeting that would have been at 9am except that Christopher changed it, and the guy can't buy anything because he bought so much from Joanna and Stella earlier, but they try grovelling, and that earns them a telling off.  To rub salt into the wound, Stella and Joanna then go to the place with the bagel butter girl, speak to the manager instead, and get a big order.

Back to Blighty, and the board room.  In they go, and Nick immediately grasses on Hairbags and tells Lord Shugagh that he declared himself knackered.  Everyone snickers.  Laura gets a telling off for speaking like a rapid-fire machine gun.  Jamie's all proud that bagel girl liked the crisps.  The orders are in, and Stella's lot have made €19327, while Chris and co have made €17995.  Stella, Laura and Joanna get to go shopping with Baggs in tow, which is surely a fate worse than just losing and being booted out; the others can relax in the Cafe Auf Loserness, safe in the knowledge that they're not in the same room as Baggs and Laura.

Back in the boardroom, and the whole 9am-1pm appointment thing rears its head, causing Chris to do his 'glaring' face, and Jamie to try to 'recall it in his brain', and eventually recollecting that 'the early word catches the birm'.  Chris introduces us to his 'shocked' monotone.  He's bringing Christopher and Jamie back in, because of the appointment fiasco.  A bit more monotone from Chris - "I'm not a loser, at the end of the day... Well, obviously I am in terms of the numbers which you have".  Christopher is accused of being too nice and working too hard and getting on too well with people, but points out that he went to Germany even though he doesn't particularly like going to Germany.  Jamie says how great he is, so Lord Shugagh asks him what his sparks of brilliance have been, and he does some waffling about how skilled he has been in going from being 24 to being 28.

Long and short, they're all a bit wick at this business lark, and Chris has now lost about 28 tasks in a row, and Jamie is getting worse by the week, but Christopher's too nice, so HE'S FIRED.

Next week is the flogging random tat to whoever will buy it task, which is always fabulous.

Monday, 29 November 2010

A Delay In Processing

This week's Apprentice round-up has been delayed, due to unforeseen circumstances, including (but not limited to) me having too much work to do, me having to many other things to do and the snow.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The WhyNotSmile Guide To Explaining Santa To Small Children

It has come to my attention that parents out there are struggling with one of the basic tasks of parenthood: explaining Santa to children.  Now, WhyNotSmile is not a parent, but this need not get in the way of dishing out advice, for I hear that there is nothing parents like more than non-parents explaining how to bring up their offspring.

The first important thing about Santa is to decide on your basic approach.  Are you going to go along with it, in which case you will need to get your story straight?  Or are you going to be straight with the kiddies and tell them up front that it's all a fantastical tale, albeit built upon the legend of an actual person, dreamt up generations ago to add a sparkle of magic and wonder to childhood, but which has now been consumed almost entirely by the corporate machine with the aim of bleeding parents dry because they have a misplaced sense of guilt at not spending enough time with their children?  The latter is the favoured approach of many who do not wish their children to confuse Santa with religion, for reasons which just got a little fuzzier.

If you decide to opt for the latter approach, it's all quite simple: you tell your child there is no Santa, and you get to take credit for all the presents on Christmas morning.  However, it is important to beware of the pitfalls: namely, that there is a hefty risk of turning your child into the smug little twerp who tells all the other kids that Santa's not real, and then punches them all in the face.  Try to sidestep that if you can.   Also, there will still be a lot of Santa in your child's life, and you have to figure out how to explain that, without your child feeling that you're depriving them of the glorious truth and then converting to some kind of fat-red-guy cult as an act of teenage rebellion in 10 years' time.

The former approach, of course, is the road more travelled, and we shall devote the rest of our time to it this evening.  There are 2 things you need to get straightened out in your own head: the basic, widely-accepted facts, and the lies you're going to tell to answer the questions your child will dream up.

First, the facts.  For those whose memory of what Santa is all about is a little fuzzy, he is a jovial chap who lives in a wooden hut at the North Pole, or Lapland (in all honesty, I'm still not completely clear on whether Lapland is an actual real place.  It's a bit like the way I still have to pause for thought when someone asks whether unicorns exist).  Anyway, Santa is married to Mrs Claus, although she appears to serve no purpose suitable for small children (can I make a suggestion?  I think she should cover the administration of the lists.  Can we start that?).  Santa has 12 reindeer, who can fly and pull a sled.  He is assisted by numerous elves.

For most of the year, Santa and the elves make toys; on Christmas eve, the toys are loaded into his sled, which is then flown around the world by the reindeer, to the homes of children who have been good all year.  At each home, Santa climbs down the chimney (although exceptions can be made for homes with no chimney, apartment blocks and the like, as Santa has a magic key which allows him to open front doors all around the world).  Once he gets inside, he leaves presents of choice for the children, in stockings which have been carefully placed, generally at the foot of the beds or along the mantlepiece.  It is accepted that a small snack will have been left for Santa; this usually consists of a mince pie or shortbread, and a glass of milk or mulled wine, possibly with a carrot for the reindeer.

So much for the basic facts of the matter.

This works well as far as it goes, but once a child reaches the age of around 4, they begin to question the perceived wisdom of the tale, and start to ask awkward questions (or at least, most of them do.  I fell for it, hook, line and sinker, until dangerously close to puberty).  The trick is to answer these questions confidently.  Herein, I provide a range of sample answers; of course, every child is different, and your own may come up with further difficulties - please feel free to leave additional questions in the comments, and I will endeavour to reply.

1. What about the Santa in the shopping centre?  Is he the real Santa?  Well, yes, if you only ever take your child to one shopping centre.  Children do not have a terribly good sense of continuity, so Santas at craft fairs, community groups and so on can be explained away as Santa on an outing.  However, if they see him permanently ensconced in several shopping centres, they will become suspicious, at which point you may have to admit that that's not actually the real Santa.

2. Who is he if he's not Santa?  He's Santa's helper.  Santa employs a range of helpers to go out and about to meet boys and girls in the run up to Christmas, because he's very busy making toys.  That's why you have to give him a list of what you want for Christmas - Santa will remember, but his helpers may not be quite so good, and in any case, they need the list to pass on to the elves, who are notoriously forgetful, and would make all the wrong toys otherwise.

3. Will I only get toys if I've been good all year?  What about the lizard incident?  Santa may be willing to overlook misdemeanours if they happened pre-Halloween.  The processing takes a while though, so if you misbehave any time after mid-December, expect a sack of coal on Christmas morning.

4. How do they make enough toys for all the children in the world?  Most children do not have the manic consumerist attitude of those in the West, and will be happy with an orange.  Think about that, child.

5. How does Santa get round everywhere in the world?  There's no point in trying to be over-scientific.  It's magic.  Also, the time zones mean he actually has 2 days to cover the globe.

6. Why does Santa use the same wrapping paper as Mummy?  Because Mummy fecked up.  Seriously, don't do this.

7. Why, when you spend most of the year telling me to be wary of strangers, do you force me to be led by 2 elves to sit on the lap of a large scary man, even against my clearly strong objections?  Because I've paid £7.50 for this, and they don't do refunds, and I promised Granny a copy of the photo.

8. Isn't mid-December a little late to submit the list?  If they've been making toys all year, surely a last-minute rush on Gordon The Gophers could tip the system into chaos.   Ummm.... yes.  That's why there are so many adverts on TV in the autumn; it is an attempt to brainwash children into wanting whatever the elves have a surfeit of.

9. Why does Santa give the neighbours new bikes every year, when I only get chocolate coins and a packet of colouring pencils? He's annoyed with you for asking stupid questions.  Life is unfair.  Live with it.

I trust this helps.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Week 7

So this week is the DVD task The what? The DVD task. I don't remember that one. Yes, I think it might be new. Oh.  We begin with the usual bum bum BUM bum - bum bum BUMbum - bum-bum-be-dum-dum bum-bum-be-dum-dum, 'tough economic times', 'job interview from hell', 'brightest business prospects', 'steady Eddies', 'cautious Carols' etc etc etc., quick overview of the fiasco thus far, 'bunch of bladdy amateurs', and then a reminder of last week's slow, painful, car crash.

This week, it's Laura who answers the phone and starts the frenzy.  They've to go to Pinewood Studios, which Sandeesh thinks is a furniture store, making Laura go all wide-eyed and gasp 'do you think we're making furniture?'.  Even I know Pinewood Studios is a place where they make films.  Meanwhile Stella asks Chris how many tasks he's won.  "Two".  Bit mean there, Stella, but we quite like it.

Standing in front of the biggest blue screen in Europe (oooOOOOOOOOooooh), they're told they need to sell the 'big screen experience' to the general public.  Basically, what this is, they get a 'background film', and then they go to shopping centres and film people acting like they're in the film, and then mash the two together and flog the people a DVD of themselves in the film.  Trust me, it'll become clearer as we continue.  Sandeesh and Chris swap places with Joanna and Stella; Stuart is in charge of his team (Laura, Joanna and Stella), and Sandeesh is in charge of her lot (Chris, Christopher, Jamie and Liz).  It's hard to see how it could go wrong.

Step 1: decide what the movie will be about.  They have 3 movies each - 2 are chosen from an archive, and then they need to make one themselves.  Stuart is immediately obnoxious.
  Stuart: "We'll take a vote on it.  Hands up for waterskiing.  Hands up for waterski - LAURA! - HANDS UP FOR WATERSKIING!! - yes or no? - THAT'S HALF UP!"
  Laura: "I think police chase".
  Stuart: "You think police chase?  Well SAY THAT THEN".
  Laura: "Ok, police chase".

Over Chez Sandeesh, it's a lot quieter, as they stare at films of people underwater, but without the people.

Having chosen their films from the archive, they now have to each add one of their own.  Jamie thinks they should make one of skiing, because that means he gets to go skiing for a while.  Never mind that there's a limit to how good a film you're going to be able to make in an indoor ski centre.  Also, they're targetting kids, because kids love pretending to ski.

Stuart is targetting the adults, though, because that way he gets to decide they want motor racing, and go to Brands Hatch.  Joanna likes the fair.  Stella thinks they should think things through, but Stuart can't be arsed, and has to be true to himself.  Nick is 'trembling with irritation', but Stuart is pleased that 'every decision has panned out to be right'.

From each team, one lot go off to learn how to make the DVDs and practice belly dancing very, very uncomfortably.

Stuart and Laura go to Brands Hatch, where Laura is immediately sidelined while Stuart tells the nation he has a fancy car - I miss the details, because it's all letters and numbers like C78 and MLP24.  Stuart is having to rein in his 'extreme masculinity', but thankfully is only on the planet for 'a certain number of years'.  Laura is filming, and Stuart is driving.  And driving.  And driving.  He does about 600 laps, while Laura stands at the side of the track with a camera and chequered flag, and looks very very slightly more narked with each passing hour.

Christopher and Jamie, meanwhile, go skiing in Milton Keynes.  To make it more fun for kids, they then dress as penguins, so the film now consists of a bit of normal skiing, and then more normal skiing, but this time with a large velour penguin weaving in and out, and then the penguin falling over and his head coming off.

Laura finally manages to bring Stuart to a halt, whereupon he announces that they really need to aim this experience at kids, rather than adults, which is probably a good thing (because there's a limit to the number of adults who will stand in a shopping centre and pretend to drive a car, and that limit is zero), but a little late in the day.

Liz and Sandeesh do some careful working out of how many DVDs they'll need (eventually going for 110, despite the fact that, even at maximum capacity, they can only burn 88 of them); Stuart says random numbers and then winges about having to make a decision.

For reasons presumably clear in her own head, Sandeesh now decides that all the people who learned how to make the DVDs should teach the others (Jamie and Christopher, who were away skiing at the time) how to make the DVDs, and then the people who originally knew how to make the DVDs should go and sell.

Joanna asks whether £15 is a bit much to pay for a film of your kid pretending to drive a car, but Stuart knows it's just because he's so great and she doesn't share his vision.  Any other questions?  No?  Good.

And so, the doors of the shopping center (where they're selling this experience) are flung open, and Joanna is wearing butterfly wings.  Their stand is quite good, though - they have a toy car, so the kids can be filmed driving in the car, pretending to race against the cars in the background, they win, and then they get a chocolate medal.  In the back room, Stuart and Stella are in charge of producing videos.   Technically, Stella is producing them, and Stuart is in charge of 'quality control'.  Stuart is astounded by Stella's organisation (i.e. writing things down), as he keeps everything in his head, presumably where it is safely padded by all his ego.

Back to Sandeesh, who's still explaining to Jamie and Christopher how to make the DVDs, even though it's taking up an hour of what might otherwise be selling time.  Jamie whinges a bit.  Anyway, it turns out that even when they do open, no one is all that bothered, so maybe it didn't matter.  Jamie whinges a bit more.

Stuart, however, is selling so much that he decides to put the price up - the old law of 'supply and demand' has not passed him by.  This would be fine, except that they also put the price up for people who have already filmed their DVD, and are just waiting for it to be made.  So, they came to the stall, were told it was £10, let their kid film it, got a receipt for £10, came back half an hour later to pick it up, and were told they had to pay £15.  I'm fairly sure this is not legal.

Anyhoo, they've made an even more monumental feck-up than that, having managed to produce the DVDs in such a way that several children appear on each one.  So you get your DVD of your kid in his little racing car, and then you get home to show it to Granny, and as she watches, some other kid appears, out of the blue.  This will not be good for Granny.  Thankfully, Stuart solves it by knocking half off the price.  I'd be reasonably sure that you can't sell people DVDs of other people's children, even if you sell them cheaper.

At Sandeesh's place, it's all very quiet, even after she's knocked prices down, so Liz takes a sneaky peek at the other team's stand and immediately steals all their ideas.  One thing in their favour is that people are actually picking up their DVDs, whereas over with Stuart and Co, there's a large pile of unclaimed ones.  Stuart is pretty sure that, if the actual owners don't turn up, 'no one else is going to buy them'.  Yes, Stuart, I'd say that's about right.  Maybe you should have asked for a deposit?  Just saying.  Because otherwise you've basically just entertained someone else's kids for free for 10 minutes.

Anyway, trading over, and into the boardroom.  How was Stuart as a team leader? *silence* We relive Stuart's driving experience, and then he boasts about his goodwill in charging people the agreed price,  rather than forcing them to hand over an arbitrary amount plucked out of the vast, ego-filled space that is Stuart's head.  Stella gets all passive-agressive while Stuart basically provides her with the ammunition.

Sandeesh's team think she was quite good, but then there's some wittering about how they didn't get started until an hour after the place opened.  Jamie is pleased at how well he fulfilled 'the most crucial role', and with being able to give 'excellent feedback'.

Stuart's lot have made £262.50; Sandeesh and co have made £222.97, and are declared losers.  Now, I think this is unfair, since Stuart has just sold films of children to other children's parents, but rules is rules, and off they go to taste champagne.  Stuart thinks it tastes like anti-freeze, tacky boy.

In the Cafe De Doom, Jamie reminds everyone how perfect he was, even if everyone else thinks he was a whingy get; Liz is so gutted 'it actually hurts', which seems a bit over the top.  Anyway, they all agree that someone has to go home, so at least they've demonstrated a basic comprehension of the rules.

Back to the boardroom to snipe about who was or was not in charge of costing, why they bought too many DVDs, why they dropped their prices instead of just making better DVDs, and whether Jamie was really the most amazing fabulous team member ever ('yes', according to him), and why he had done so much whingeing and depressing everyone else.  He overdoes it a bit, and if Sandeesh brings him in, there's a good chance he'll go, but... no.  She's bringing in Chris and Liz, which is like entering a marathon and choosing Paula Radcliffe as your opponent, when you could have had WhynotSmile.  Well, maybe not quite, but, you know, choosing someone who can clearly run better than you.  You enter a marathon, you want the WhyNotSmiles of this world up against you; you go into the Apprentice boardroom, of the presently available options, you want Jamie.

Needless to say, there's the obligatory cursory questioning of what Chris and Liz did wrong, which is basically 'not a whole lot', and then Sandeesh gets fired.

Back in the house, Stella points out that it was a good thing Sandeesh's team made so many mistakes, because otherwise her own team would've been sunk, and then sneaks a little sneer at Stuart.

Next week, we're off to Germany, for sprechen sie Deutsch, sauerkraut, and a bit of casual racism.  Can't wait.

15 Songs

Virtual Methodist has thrown down the gauntlet and requested us all to declare the first 15 songs that come up on our iPods when we play on shuffle.

Here are mine:
1. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
2. How Great Is Our God - Worship Ireland
3. Love is Free - Sheryl Crow
4. When I Was Lost - New Irish Choir & Orchestra
5. Town Called malice - The Jam
6. Girls In Their Summer Clothes - Bruce Springsteen
7. My Troubled Soul - from some Christian CD
8. Oh For A Thousand Tongues - New Irish Choir & Orchestra
9. Love is Noise - The Verve
10. Don't Stop Me Now - Queen
11. Ireland's Call
12. Galway Girl - Steve Earle & Sharon Shannon
13. American Pie - Don McLean
14. It Is Well - New Irish Choir & Orchestra
15. Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley

So there we have it.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.

There is another gauntlet, which has been thrown down on The Facebook, and is something to do with authors.  I shall return to it presently.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Episode 6

We have to assume that Stuart Baggs The Brand was not lying when he said that everything he touches turns to 'sold', as the phone which he answered not 2 weeks ago appears to have vanished, ensuring that Lord Shugah has to turn up at the house himself.  Half seven, and they're all in their jammies, apart from Stella, who's fully dressed.

There's a good deal of panic as word spreads, and probably for good reason, as Lord Shugagh is in the sitting room playing Cut The Rope on his iPhone, and looking a bit impatient. Stuart Baggs The Brand remains calm, but turns up in socks and shorts.

So, they've to make a marketing campaign for a cleaning project, and they've to appoint team leaders who haven't been in charge yet.  Now, Jo owns a cleaning company, so that's going to come back to haunt her; the other team is mercilessly without merit, and therefore might just be ok.  Or not.  Because Alex has a background in advertising.

If Alex was an apple pie, the apples inside would be orange, apparently.

So Alex gets put in charge of Chris, Sandeesh, Laura and Stuart Baggs The Brand, a team so doomed to fail that I might as well be up front and tell you right now that they lose.  But with style, so stay with me.

On the other team, Christopher is put in charge and is bringing the killer instinct of a Royal Marine into his business.  Gulp.

They have to think up some colours for the bottle, an advertising campaign, and a general marketing approach.

At Christopher & Co., Stella thinks cleaning makes you all happy and passionate, which sounds naff, but in retrospect might have had more legs than what they ultimately come up with, rather ironically.

Alex & Co come up with 'Swipe' which is ok, and then Chris comes up with 'Germinate', which Alex (rather wisely) hates.  Laura and Alex come up with 'Helping Hand', which is so mediocre even Chris laughs at it.

Christopher and Stella head off to the poshest Mother & Toddler group in the country.  It's all cupcakes and metallic balloons and nice clean children in co-ordinating outfits.  One of the mums comes up with the idea of 'octopus', as she needs more arms.  They love it.  They absolutely love it.  It's The One.  It's The Idea.  Never mind that it's a bit rubbish.

Stuart Baggs, Sandeesh and Chris are off to a more normal parent and toddler group, although it only appears to have about 3 toys, which is a bit sad.  Chris asks what they think of 'Germinator', and they hate it.  They love 'Helping Hand' though.  Weirdos.  They also think the bottle should be yellow.

Alex and Laura are in the supermarket, looking at bottles of cleaning stuff.  Laura suggests they could call it 'Blitz', which I think is quite good, but Alex thinks old people might not like it, but are all dead anyway, or something. They end up back on Germinator, because Chris has thought up an advert and Stuart can do a good Terminator impression.

And so to the designers.  'Octo-Kleen' looks quite good, like an actual thing you'd buy.  'Germ-o-nator' looks like something you'd kill rats with, which is weird because it has a picture of a child on the bottle.  And also it has to be kept out of reach of children.  Which is particularly unfortunate, since their advert involves a child using it.

And so to the recording studio, where Stuart is doing impressions of germs ('influenza is cockney'), while Laura whines that she hasn't been utilised enough, and the sound guy contemplates beating Stuart to death with his headphones.

Meanwhile, Christopher's team are creating the most appalling, creepy, hideous piece of footage ever to come out of the television age.  It's so bad, I'm not even going to describe it.  This is one of those episodes you just have to watch.  To summarize, wife is dismayed at mess of house, husband sits on sofa, she dresses as an octopus and uses Octo-Kleen to clean faster (because she now has so many hands), before joining him on the sofa, for a night of what can only be imagined as pure agony.  Nick is appalled.

Chris is directing the Germinator advert.  Does anyone know what the adverb for 'mediocre' is?  Because it would a useful term to have in one's vocabulary to describe the way Chris does things.  Anyway, small boy with toxic chemicals does well, and otherwise it's all quite mediocre.

Finally, they have to pitch to industry experts.  Laura knows what she's talking about, and comes up with a decent pitch, which Alex then hands to Sandeesh to do, because yet again, she hasn't really done anything.  Laura thinks it's a bit rubbish, because it is, to be honest.  She whines some more.

At the agency, there are actual people who actually really know what they're talking about.  This should be fun.  Sandeesh goes first, with Germ-o-nator.  She pitches quite well, in the end.  Then they watch the advert.  One of the industry people asks how funny they think the ad is, and Chris says he's watched it, like, 20 times, and has peed his pants every time.  Stop, Chris.  Stop. Now.

Next, Octi-Kleen, where 8 hands are better than 2.  Jamie says men don't want a night of fun in a dirty house.  Women find it hard to keep up with these demands.  So Octi-Kleen is great.  They watch the ad and cringe in unison.

Feedback to Lord Shugagh; basically, they all hated them both.  They say things like 'travesty' and 'distasteful'.

In the boardroom, we're forced to watch the adverts again.  Lord Shugagh points out that they're both basically rubbish.  And the advertising people thought they were both basically rubbish.  Christopher's team are told that 'technically, they haven't lost', because Lord Shugagh quite likes the octopus.  They don't get much of a treat, though, as they're shipped off to a dodgy looking karaoke den to sing 'We Are The Champions' really badly while wearing cowboy hats.

In the losers' cafe, Alex asks for feedback, and they all stare at him and sip more tea (from, and I hadn't noticed this before, polystyrene cups.  What kind of cafe is this?).  In the boardroom, Alex is all up for 'discussing this further with Lord Sugar', which is good, since Lord Sugar is well up for discussing how crap they were.  There's an argument about whether the mums said the bottle should be yellow (they did, but whether the information was passed on is lost to the cutting room floor).

They snipe some more, Sandeesh looks fed up and Laura whines a bit.  Alex waffles.  Then he says Sandeesh was great, and he's bringing her and Chris back into the boardroom.

Out they go and in they come.  Alex is told he didn't manage well, and points out that he manages people all the time, which doesn't help.  Chris and Alex yell at each other for a while.  It's a weird combination of mediocre and mental.

Sandeesh gets sent back to the house by Lord Sugar, because Alex was stupid to bring her back in.  Then Alex gets fired, but 'with regret'.  Anyway, Alex doesn't need Lord Shugagh, he says in the taxi home.

Back in the house, Laura is saying "I know everyone's shocked I'm here, which is really obvious, so thanks, but anyway...".  It's all very passive agressive.

Time to start making predictions, I think.  Currently, my hypothetical money's on Stella or Liz to win, with Jamie and Christopher as outsiders.

Next week they have to sell big screen experiences to the general public; I do not know why, possibly because they haven't sold it to me yet.  Someone meticulous gets fired, so I'm thinking Christopher.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Apprentice 2010: Episode 5

I very much apologise for the lateness of this Apprentice update.  I've been busy.  Working.  And tidying.  And so on.  I will try not to do it again, but to be honest, I wouldn't hold your breath.  I'm on my own at home this week, as The Sister is staying at The Boyfriend's Parents' house to mind the animals and provide general security services while they're away.  This could speed up the blogging, slow it down, or have no measurable effect - we shall find out soon enough.  Also, I'm toying with writing a post on Matters Spiritual, and would like a brief consensus on whether this is allowed.  I may ignore the consensus, if I don't like it, of course.  Just saying.

Anyway, this week it's Stella who picks up the phone, fully dressed in business suit at 6.30am, or whatever time we're supposed to believe it is.  They're to meet Lord Shugagh someplace I don't catch, and bring their overnight bags.  They all get excited that maybe the overnight bags mean they're going to Paris or Milan, as they all do every time they're told to bring overnight bags, even though it turns out every time that they're going to Bristol. Or, in this case, Manchester.

Long story short: they have to visit some fashion designers, choose 2 to represent, take the clothes to Manchester, and spend a day there selling them.  Stuart Baggs The Brand thinks fashion is like magic beans, but pointless, so since it would clearly be ridiculous, if amusing, to put all the boys on one team, they get mixed up again, so we now have: Synergy (yes, we're still on that, apparently), led by Liz, featuring Joanna, Stella, Jamie and Christopher; and Appollo, led by the terrifying Paloma, and featuring Laura, plus all the people you wouldn't want on your team for the fashion task: Alex, Stuart Baggs The Brand, Sandeesh and Chris.  There's a better than average chance of bloodshed this week, I think we can agree.

Paloma wants to suss out the fashionistas on her team, and identifies Laura and Sandeesh.  The chaps are more circumspect, but thankfully Alex is a 'retail guru', so we know he's going to be part of a monumental feck-up at least.  He was taught retailing by a 'very famous professor of retail'.

On the other team, Jamie admits that his wife buys his clothes, and Nick sneers at him.

As well as being a retail guru, Alex used to work in the Trafford Centre, so is able to pick out the prime promotional area.  So now we know what the monumental feck-up will be.

Off to the fashion designers.  On the way, Jamie sagely points out that Manchester is a good couple of years behind London, as you can't get into a club there without shoes.

Paloma is talking to a girl with crazy hair and big glasses.  She looks like Penny Crayon, and describes her clothes as 'future primitive'.  Both teams go to speak with 'Liquorice', but take different approaches: Liz's lot are all big eyes and gasps and 'oh I can't believe how affordable it is'; Paloma, Sandeesh and Chris opt to stare like corpses.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the designer wants the first team to sell her things, since they appear to have a pulse.  Never mind though; Paloma and co head off to see a place where they sell recycled clothing, consisting of such garments as a dress made of ties, hooded suits, and an outfit which appears to be made entirely from cuffs.

So Liz and co have a vintage line and the sparkly Liquorice stuff; Paloma has some cheap stuff and the recycled gear.  Concern is growing over Alex's prime promotional spot, which Paloma has realised is millions of miles from their shop.  Stuart thinks the recycled range is more for tramps.

No sense worrying though, as it's Day 2, and the shops need to be set up.  Alex dispenses a lot of advice, being a retail guru and all.  Paloma gets really narked with him, and they squabble a bit.  Particularly irritating is the fact that he points out you can't see the clothes from outside the shop, so it looks empty, and you have to admit he has a point.

Meanwhile, Liz is prancing around in a dress, instead of opening her store.

Chris is sleezing over a woman who tried on the tie dress.

Liz, who has finally raised the shutters, is running around barefoot, but not selling much, so she sticks Stella in the window, where she stands looking awkward and waving.  Nick disapproves.  Although he thinks it would be ok in Amsterdam.

Alex is leaning in the doorway, being useless at bringing people in to the shop.  Every now and then, he whips out a dress and yells 'Do. You. Like. This. Dress?' at passers by.  He comes up with a cunning plan of saying Aleesha Dixon's inside, which is vetoed by Sandeesh, because it's a lie.  Then he comes up with an actual cunning plan, and they make an advert to be shown in the cafe in the shopping centre.  Which is quite clever, and, in my opinion, makes up for the prime promotional spot being 10 minutes' walk away.  Cleverer than Paloma, who tells guys in hooded suits that they look 'smokin'.  Unbelievably, Chris flogs the tie dress.

At 5 o'clock, Joanna's brain clicks into gear: "Is there anything like a marketing strategy we could put into place?".  So they knock off 20%, and Joanna goes outside the shop and starts yelling at people about 'ow nice the cloves all is.

It's hard to tell how it's gone, so off we go to the boardroom to find out.  It's all quite tame: a rehashing of the Stella-in-the-window thing, and more on Alex being a retail guru and having worked in the Trafford Centre (doing what?  We never find out).  Liz's lot have won by £500, and are off to the races.

The other lot head off to the cafe, where it quickly becomes clear that Paloma has Alex in her sights.  This is despite the main problem being that they had the wrong product in the recycled clothing, because Paloma and co failed to get the sparkly stuff, because Paloma and co looked like zombies when they went to see it.

Back in the boardroom, and Sandeesh says a full sentence for the first time.  That must be her quota of words for the episode used up, as she then reverts to the big eyes.  Paloma is bringing Alex back into the boardroom, but everyone else was great, so she decides to short-circuit the entire premise of the show and bring Sandeesh back in too, as she's not a good candidate generally.  Which is kind of Lord Shugagh's job, as he points out.

So you think Paloma's safe: Lord Shugagh doesn't seem to like Sandeesh anyway, and Alex is a bit of a muppet, but on the You're Fired show afterwards, they provide an excellent summary of where Paloma went wrong.  She has basically taken the two candidates with Bambi eyes, and now proceeds to start clubbing them to death.  To summarise, Paloma gets fired for being obnoxious, despite being seated between the two people who can most reasonably be labelled incompetent.  Being placed third out of those three is reason enough to be sacked, in my book.

I've kind of gone off Alex a bit again.  He has a bit of a creepy laugh.