Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Apprentice, Series 7: Week 4

If there's one thing we've learned from previous series, it is surely this: do not, under any circumstances, ever, utter the words "Oh, I know all about this!".  Do not claim any kind of expertise in anything that you are about to have to do.  You may claim as much expertise as you want in any activity you can dream up that you're not doing at the time, but Do Not Ever relate it In Any Way to the Task In Hand.  Or do, but know that you are dooming yourself.

And so to week 4, which is hawking beauty products and services to random people in Birmingham.  Susan's face lights up, and she squeals "I work in the beauty industry!".  We could forgive this as a slip of the tongue, except that she repeats it approximately 748 times in the next 40 minutes.

But I get ahead of myself.  They get the Phone Call at some kind of stupid o'clock, telling them to go to the British Museum.  A brief shot of Tom in his pants (which would be lovely, but they're blue and pink), and then lots of idle speculation about what's at the British Museum.  After some deliberation they come up with "dinosaurs and stuff".  In any case, this week's link between location and task is so unbelievably tenuous that it'd be more worrying if they DID guess it.  The point is that there's a statue there of Aphrodite, and she's the goddess of beauty, and the task is to do with beauty, or something.

Because of Zoe doing feck all so far, she gets put in charge of one of the teams, and Felicity gets put in charge of the other one.  I have no idea who's in which team any more, by the way.  I have, however, established that Zoe is the one with the most boring voice in the world, and Natasha is not.  But the point is that Susan "actually worked in the beauty industry and OMG this is just the most perfect thing, like EVER, and did you know I actually had a skincare business?! This is what I am so actually fabulous at!" DOOM.  DOOM. DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM DOOM.

The first thing they have to do is figure out where they should have their little stalls.  Natasha lived in Birmingham for 2 years, and Melody is also 'very familiar' with it, so maybe the weight of doom has shifted away from Susan and onto team Flick.  They opt for the shopping centre, even though the treatment room is miles away from where the stall would be; Tom the Lovely Inventor points this out, and Felicity tells him to shut up and stop being awkward.  Zoe's lot opt for the out-of-town option.

Now they get to meet people who have invented new ways of parting fools from their money, and they get to choose which ones they'll try to flog to the unsuspecting folk of Birmingham. There's a fake tan thing, a chocolate face mask, and some sea shells that you rub all over your victim's back.  Susan is almost off her seat with excitement, because she gets to tell EVEN MORE PEOPLE that "OMG I actually worked in the beauty industry and I actually had a skincare company!!!!1!!".

Leon, meanwhile, is taking the more sensible approach.  "I can't do this.  I have a girlfriend".

Over Chez Flick, no one is being listened to, most of all Lovely Tom, who has worked out profit-per-second for all the thingies (and let's face it, the numbers side of things is probably more in Lovely Tom's domain than any other part of the beauty task, no offence to him, I still think he's lovely), and Felicity basically slaps him down for too much thinking.  I think this makes Lovely Tom a little bit sad, but at least he got to do things with numbers, so it wasn't a complete waste.

Felicity's team end up with the shell massage thing, and fake fringes.  Team Hysteria get the spray tan and some sort of foot / nail varnish thing.  They do some rehearsing, during which Leon only agrees to spray tan Gavin after Susan and Helen have assured him that "It doesn't make you gay".  Susan's going a bit mental and yelling "OMG we could actually sell, like millions of products, because I know ALL ABOUT the beauty industry and I am an expert and I could sell a million in, like, 30 seconds." and they buy a truckload of little bottles of gak.

Off to Birmingham, with some practicing of fake accents, and Tom working out all kinds of numbers, just for the heck of it.  Felicity and co set up in the shopping centre, where Natasha tries to press-gang a woman into buying a £25 fake fringe by saying "It's kind of like a pet hamster, innit?".  Leon offers to get a girl naked and spray her.

Ellie, Lovely Tom and Melody are at a bit of a loose end, because the rest of their team are failing to generate any interest in having any of their treatments.  They're flogging a cartload of bottles of stuff, like, not that they make any money on that.  So Felicity does the obvious thing and brings Lovely Tom onto the sales floor.  If anyone could look more unlikely to convince anyone to buy a fake fringe, I have not seen them.

Meanwhile, Susan is horrified. "Everyone here is so poor!" she moans, poor wee thing.  They're not buying anywhere near as much stuff as she, who you may recollect is a Beauty Expert, commanded that they would.  Unreasonable peasants.

Leon, however, has come out of his "I can't do this, I have a girlfriend" shell, and developed a thing whereby he grabs passing girls by their fingers and whirls them round till they buy his fake tan.  It seems to be working.  Even Karren is on the verge of stripping down to paper underwear and letting him Do His Thing.

Zoe yells at Susan, but in the most boring, whiny way possible, because Susan said they'd sell truckloads of stuff, and they've sold, like 8.  Susan yells back that she sells skincare for a living.  Eh?  Still, at least we know more about Susan's background.  Because we were wondering, like.

Felicity's team come up with a strategy whereby they end up giving people free massages; furthermore, we see the Count Dracula side of Lovely Jim as he approaches a young chap in a hood and leers "4 hands are better than 2.  I'll do the massage.".  Creepy.

Anyway, time to pack up and get back to London, where the nice rich people are.

Lord Shugagh reveals that Susan is in the beauty business, and the nation fall off their seats with shock.  Susan gets all defensive, mainly because they all turn on her, like sharks circling their prey.  DOOM DOOM DOOM.

So Team ZoeSusan made £203.01, which is a bit wick.  DOOM.  Team Flick managed to lose £246.28, however, which is really quite spectacular, and Susan is off the hook, and they're off to play with people from Strictly Come Dancing.  How did that happen?

In Cafe Del Losers, Tom's fed up, because he's now lost every single task.  So has Vincent, who has determined that he needs to be Project Manager, in order to haul the whole thing back from the brink.  Good luck with that one, Vince.  Felicity is all for sharing the blame equally, which I think might not be the best strategy.

Back in the boardroom, and Lovely Tom puts his hand up every time he wants to say something, which is even more endearing.

Felicity has a hard time finding 2 people to bring back into the boardroom.  She chooses Ellie and then there's a loooooooong pause, during which you can see her thinking (2?! I have to bring 2 of them in?  When did they change THAT rule?) and then opts for Natasha.  Back in, Lord Shugagh asks Ellie why she's there. "Because I wanna be your business partner" she says, before realising that he means why is she back in the boardroom.  Awkward.

Anyway, after a lot of moaning and whinging and general bickering, Felicity gets fired, for not being able to make a decision without taking a lie down afterwards.

Ellie and Natasha don't say goodbye to her, which seems a bit mean.  I'm not sure I like them much.  Still, it's not like they ever claimed to be nice.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 3

Week 3 brings one of my favourite tasks from every series: Discount Buying for Idiots.  This year, the unlucky recipient of whatever toot the teams trawl home is The Savoy, which has recently been redecorated and needed an excuse to tell the nation.

We start off with a reminder of last week's car crash, followed by the usual phone call and the clearly-not-10-minutes-like-they-say-it-is gallop around the house to get ready.  One of the girls can't find her underwear.

With 2 boys gone, the teams have to be rearranged, and the team names come into play.  I shall ignore them, though, because they're stupid.  Leon, Lovely Jim and Glenn swap places with Natasha, Ellie, Melody and Zoe. Who?  Where did Natasha and Zoe come from?  I have no idea which of them is which, and shall henceforth refer to them both as Zotasha, for the sake of clarity, and because I don't really care.

So The Savoy have spent £200 million on the repaint, but can only spare, like, 20 quid for the rest of the stuff they need.  The list includes ice, top hats, a cloche (a what? A cloche. What's that? You're about to find out), signage and tea.

Susan (easily amused) is in charge of her team, because she negotiates all the time, and paid off her mum's mortgage while doing her A-Levels and also a degree, or something.  On the other team, Gavin literally wants to put his name forward, literally straight away.  Vincent would also be up for it if it wasn't for Gavin being such an obvious choice.  So they opt for Gavin.

It's important to note that the tools available to the teams are business directories, and a map.  Apparently they can't just use common sense and Google it, because What Would The World Be Coming To if they did that?

Susan's team start by figuring out what all the things are, phoning round a few places, and finding out how much they cost.  Then they split into 2 teams, one headed by Susan and one by Lovely Jim, and head off to buy them.  You know, like you would do if you had ever watched the program before, or had any idea about how to go about buying things, or had any ounce of wit AT ALL.  Even Nick's impressed.

Meanwhile, Chez Gav, Vincent is phoning a fishmonger to ask about their fillet steak.  A FISHmonger.  The clue is in the name.  They do not mong steaks, you twit, they mong FISH.  Otherwise they would be, like, a STEAKmonger or something.  And I know you don't see a lot of those, so maybe that's where the problem happened.  He also asks the fishmonger where he can buy steak in London.  Twit.

Zotasha has a more cunning plan.  Rather than figuring out where to buy any of the things, just phone some other hotel and ask them where they buy their stuff.  So she phones the Ritz.  Which at least gives the rest of the team a giggle, because it's all getting a little serious, what with them not having a clue what half the things on the list are.

Back at Team Slightly Sane, Susan, Leon and Felicity are trying to buy a top hat.  The guy tells them it costs £385, and they start trying to negotiate, mainly by sounding all shocked at how expensive it is, and then doing Bambi eyes.  Felicity is all for going to a fancy dress shop, and Nick tells a great anecdote about shopping for hats with the King of Tonga.

Lovely Jim, Glenn, Scary Edna and Scary Helen are off to Mayfair to buy fillet steak.  I do not know why they go to Mayfair, as that is the final square on the Monopoly board, and we all know that that means it's really expensive.  Fortunately, they have Lovely Jim, who talks the guy down to £180 (I don't know what it started at, maybe £5875 or something), and the rest stand in awe.  Somehow he then ends up only paying £170.

Team Chaos are still trying to figure out how to say 'cloche', never mind figure out what it is.  They decide they've spent enough time in their room with their phone directories, and head to the cars.  They've no idea where they're going or what they're trying to get (they seem to have definitions only for ice, fillet steak, and top hats), but they're driving each other nuts and need to be kept apart.  Vincent is put in charge of the sub team, which includes both Zotashas and Ellie.  Melody, Tom the Lovely Inventor and Gavin are heading off to Mongolia or somewhere to buy 3 light bulbs; Zotasha is trying to negotiate a deal on a sign, and does it like this: "the highest I can offer is £20 (sign man: no way), £40 (sign man: no way), £50, £60" (sign man: no way).  Vincent steps in and offers £80, which is finally accepted.  That's not negotiating, that's just playing a guessing game to see how much it costs.  Zotasha is cross because Vincent didn't let her drive the price down further.  It is unclear which bit of 'down' she's not grasped yet.

Susan, Leon and Felicity are looking for top hats in a different posh shop, and doing very badly at even getting the man to negotiate.  The shop does not do discounts.  The price is the price.  They do not discount the price.  There is no negotiation on price. After a tense stand off, he gives them a penny off, to the most rapturous celebrations we've seen to date.  If ever there was a petty victory, this, surely, is it.

Gavin and co have decided that a cloche is a bell, which it is not.  Glenn has found one, and it's one of those metal dome things you put over food when you serve it to someone posh, and it costs £8.50.  Gavin and co then move on from the bell idea, and become certain it's a mini greenhouse.  Now their only challenge is to figure out why the description describes it as 12" in diameter, and made of stainless steel.  This winsome scene is interrupted by Gavin spotting a dry cleaners, and having a whole new brainwave.  The dry cleaners is called 'Top Hat Cleaners', and yes, yes he does, he goes in and asks if they do top hats.  The scene concludes with Karren standing alone, shaking her head sadly.

Back to the cloche, and there is now a real, and very exciting, possibility that they are about to turn up in the entrance hall of The Savoy with a small metal greenhouse under their arms.

Susan's off to buy some organza silk, and is quoted £109.50 by a woman so scary that she makes Edna look like she paints rainbows and fluffy clouds in the sky for a living.  Susan tells her that it's for a very very important client.

"How would that make a difference to me?", asks scary shopkeeper.


Eventually they get it for £100 by paying cash.  Susan realises they've ended up in Posh World, where there are no discounts to be had.  Bit late, like.

Gavin, however, has picked up the silk for £75, which is about the first good thing that has happened to him all day.

Vincent and the girls are seeking out loo roll.  They seem to be having trouble getting 500 rolls, which does not sound like something that would be hard to do.  Try a big Tesco.  Ellie is negotiating, until Vincent rips the phone out of her hand and achieves nothing extra.

Lovely Jim continues to work his magic, and gets a load of bulbs and A HUG, for £60.  We have, of course, no idea whether this is good value for a load of bulbs or not, but he bargained her down from something higher, which is the right way to do it, Zotasha, if you're reading.

The final item is 10kg of chamomile tea.  Felicity is so excited that they've found something on the list that they can actually buy, that she fails to get any kind of price until they get there.  The woman (who, incidentally, is standing in the middle of the street with the box of tea, not in a shop or anything) quotes them £990.  Well.  I nearly fell over.  Has it been hand-picked by unicorns or something?  Seriously. Tesco.  Buy a box of Twinings and empty the bags out.  Eventually, they get it for £450 or something, from the woman, who is now drinking tea in the middle of the street.

Back to The Savoy, and Susan's lot have 9 out of 10 items, while Gavin's shower of turkeys only have 6 out of 10, and get fined.  Somehow they haven't even managed to buy ice. Hint: try some eskimos.  They've tons of the stuff, apparently.

And so to the boardroom, where we analyse Susan's team first.  They all loved Susan, and she loved how well she organised it all, and how she got a penny off, at which point they realise that that was actually a bit crap. They get hauled over the coals for going to posh places to buy things, instead of the local Cheepy Cheep Stuff.  The £990 tea thing comes up, and Lord Shugah is Not Pleased.

Over to Gavin, where they thought he wasn't bad, but they all seemed to think it was a bit disorganised, that bit where they spent 3 hours running round in circles and phoning the Ritz.  We laugh at the Top Hat Cleaners thing, and then run through the options for what a cloche might be.

Now for the totals.  Susan etc. have 1 fine, and including that have spent £1381.69.  Gavin and co have 4 fines, but on cheaper items, so when that gets added in, their total is £1389.20.  There's a pause while the nation works out who has won; I shall calculate it for you and can report that Susan's lot have stolen victory by £8, which is not a lot, considering how much better they were at being organised, but which I suppose is more when you consider how rubbish they were at negotiating (tip: don't start with the most expensive shops on the planet).  They get sent off to a weird cabaret/porn thing, while the losers go to Cafe Los Disaster and all yell a bit.

I feel sorry for Tom the Lovely Inventor, who hasn't won a task yet.  Neither have Gavin or Vincent, but I don't care so much about them.

Boardroom Part II, and they all turn on Vincent for being a smarmy get and not letting anyone else do anything.  Zotasha brings up her negotiation on the sign, and how she called the Ritz, both of which would be best never being spoken of again.

Back for Boardroom Part Final, we have Gavin, Vincent and Zotasha (not the sign/Ritz one, the other one, who didn't really do anything much at all).  It's a bit tedious, and eventually Gavin gets the Pointy Finger of Doom.

Ah well.  Never mind.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Episode 2

A weird thing is happening.  I must be hormonal or something, but there are quite a few Apprentice candidates this year who I really think are quite lovely.  Lovely Jim and Tom The Lovely Inventor have been previously mentioned.  I also have a bit of a thing (although on a vastly-reduced scale) for Leon, Gavin, and possibly Glenn.  Anyone with me?  Anyone else think this year's boys are a notch up on last year's crew?  Or is it just Post-Baggs Relief Syndrome?

Anyway, on to Episode 2, and someone arrives at the door of the snazzy house with a laptop.  Tom The Lovely Inventor is dressed (sort of) and ready to receive; he summons everyone to the table, and they fire it up.  Lord Shugagh appears on the screen, because this week's task is all about technology, so he's delivering the task explainy thing via technology, see?  Technology, incidentally, is something he "knows a bit about", as all 7 owners of the Amstrad E-m@iler will affirm.  They have to make new apps, which will be launched on the internet tomorrow.  The apps will be free (obviously, like, let's face it), and the team with the most downloads wins.

Girls vs Boys again; in the boys' car, they're making 'app' puns. "APProximately 12 hours to get the app done" says Leon; "Are we fast APProaching where we need to be?" asks Jim; "This is APPsolutely fabulous" quips Leon, to a carful of hysteria.  "Did you have an APPle?" says Vincent.


So they need project managers.  Leon once used an app, and also wants to show off; Vincent is also up for it, but everyone remembers the APPle thing; Jim wouldn't mind doing it; Alex thinks "there are other people who'd be less crap than me".  Edna takes charge of the girls, and starts stomping Susan (easily amused) into the ground.

They each send a few people off to do market research, which we need say nothing more about, as it is of no further relevance to proceedings.  Back at the ranch, the boys are coming up with ideas: bubblewrap that you can squeeze and it crackles; temperature in London one year ago today; a traffic light; and then, finally, Glenn comes up with the gem of an idea that they instantly fall in love with: an app that lets you insult your friends in various forms of local slang.  Because what the internet needs is more casual racism.  Anyway, Lovely Jim comes up with the name 'Slang-a-tang'.  They quickly dismiss fears that it's a bit offensive and that it's not very global, because those things won't matter and aren't very interesting to think about.

Over Chez Girls, they're struggling more.  Apart from Susan (easily amused), who has a "brilliant idea":
So you've got 2 people next to each other, and you're you and I'm me, and I say, like I ask you a question like "where do you think we are" and I ask my phone, like where we are right now..."
Edna nearly stabs her, and Susan (easily amused) goes into a sulk.  Eventually they come up with an app that has no useful purpose, but which makes irritating noises and annoys other people.  Any similarity to any team member, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.  They suggest some stupid names and then settle on "Ampi App".

The boys are in the recording studio, and seem to have ditched the almost acceptable regional insults in favour of much more blatantly offensive stereotypes, such as the Welsh farmer asking "Has anyone seen my sheep?".  They seem to be having fun, though, and are baffling Nick, whose eyebrows are somewhere around the stratosphere.

The girls are in a padded room, arguing, but for the purposes of creating an app which consists of them arguing.  They also make some animal noises, and Susan (easily amused) gets all worried.

Tomorrow they have to meet some computery people to try to get them to love their apps.  Edna has given extensive thought to who should pitch to the local nerd-fest, and decides it should be her, and not Melody, who has experience of actually doing this kind of thing.

Off they go to meet computer website people, who almost universally lack enthusiasm for both apps. The girls make twits of themselves, and the computer website people wonder a bit why the app makes the sound of a dog while showing a picture of an elephant.  The boys take their turn, and Leon puts Vincent in charge of the pitch; Vincent gets about 3 nervous sentences out, falls over, and has to pull in Lovely Jim to salvage it all.

There's some kind of gadget shown on in Earls' Court, and half of each team are there.  Thankfully it's not an audience that's easily offended, as the boys are in full costume and touting their racial stereotypes as far as they can.  Meanwhile, at a pitch, Lovely Jim is trying to convince some computer people that having an Australian guy in a hat with corks is not stereotyping.  Still, they come out convinced it went really really well, so Lovely Jim is still smiling.

Back at Earls' Court, they check up on how the pitches went.  In summary, 2 sites recommend the boys' slang, and 1 recommends the elephant dog.  You have to assume they were paid a lot of money to ensure they featured any at all, of course.

Still, there's one remaining opportunity, as a gigabyte of software geeks have gathered in a room to learn more.  Edna has appointed herself to pitch the girls' app, and makes a complete hash of it, strutting on the stage in elbow-length black lacy gloves, and trying to be all sexy and mysterious.  The boys, meanwhile, realise that it you want to tell people how to get your app, being mysterious is not the way to do it; they sledgehammer the audience into downloading the app then and there, in exchange for a doughnut.

Back to the boardroom they go, and Lord Shugagh asks what they all thought of their apps. The boys thought Leon was a good leader, and Slang-a-tang was wow fab groovy; the girls almost universally despised Ampi Apps.  And so to download figures.  After 6 hours, the boys had about 3000 downloads, and the girls had just under 1000.  Not looking good for Edna & Co. But then Nick and Karren weigh in with the final totals; the boys have 3951 downloads, but the girls have rocketed up to 10,667, and dance out the door to perform their group-hug-and-whisper-scream and then to go for dinner at a posh restaurant; all of which goes to prove that if you're going to sell crap, at least do it on a global scale.

At the Cafe Del Doom, with the girls' laughter echoing cruely, the boys sit and look at each other, and it suddenly clicks that maybe it was a bit offensive.

Boardroom Part Deux, and Lord Shugagh points out that, in addition to the casual racism, an app that tells you how to insult your friends in a Geordie accent might not be that relevant in, say, Brazil, or China, or anywhere that doesn't speak English.  They blame Lovely Jim for the description being a bit wick (which, and Lovely Jim, if you're reading this, I'm sorry, is true); then they turn on Leon for making a bad decision.  Lovely Jim says that Alex didn't do a lot; Alex sneers a bit, and frowns, and blames Lovely Jim for lots of things, but Lovely Jim shouts him down and says Alex has done nothing at all.

And now it gets fabulous.  Leon is asked who he's bringing back in.  It goes like this:

Leon: Based on sort of the feedback I've been hearing today, I'd like to bring back Alex, and Jim
Lord Shugagh: Alex and Jim
Lovely Jim: Well, it's interesting that he chose myself and Alex.  There's actually a few fall guys: Vincent fluffed his speech, and I had to save the day, and I don't fluff speeches; Glenn designed the app, that turned out to be crap. Two tasks in and I've give 100% effort.
Leon: Jim has done a sterling job throughout
Lovely Jim: well then I'm not the person you should be bringing in, if you agree that I've done a sterling job throughout, so you need to change your decision
Leon: So on the basis of maybe Jim's dealing here; I mean, do you want me to change, is that..
Lovely Jim: Change!  It's obvious.  It's obvious!
Leon: Yeah, right, it's obvious, yeah. Ok.  There's a potential here that it could be down to the concept, so.. OK... I'm going to bring in Glenn
Glenn: You want to bring me back?  I don't think you should
Leon: Listen, Glenn, I know...
Lovely Jim: I strongly agree
Glenn: I don't think you should.  What do you think Jim?
Lovely Jim: The PM's made a decision, I highlighted who I thought made flaws and made mistakes, and he's chosen you Glenn
Glenn: I think it should be Tom

Way to go Jim!  I love you more by the minute!

Long story short, Leon brings Alex and Glenn back in.  Leon faffs about and doesn't really say a lot, while Glenn hammers him into the ground.  Alex wakes up and tries to get a few kicks in, but basically manages to stick his foot straight in his mouth.  It looks like Leon is doomed, but at the last minute it's Alex who gets the chop, for not doing anything of any substance, and because last week he spent the whole time cutting bread.  And I say "Yay!" because he's a bit of a slimer and nods his head too much.

Incidentally, neither Slang-a-tang nor Ampi Apps is still available on iTunes.  I checked.

Next week is the "Buying tons of tat as cheap as possible task".

The Apprentice Series 7: Episode 1

Week 1, and they're at it again: talking the talk, 'best of breed', 'one of a kind', 'Lord Shugagh won't ever find anyone as awesome as me', as they drag their little suitcases around the streets of London.  This year, we're reminded, they're not going to land a job at the end of it; instead Lord Shugagh intends to use the process to whittle them down to the least incompetent, and then give that person a quarter of a million quid to start a business with him.

Step 1: pep talk with Lord Shugagh, where Tom The Inventor actually TAKES NOTES in a little notebook.  As if he's not going to remember "Get out onto the streets and make twits of yourselves while ostensibly attempting to prove your business acumen." *sigh*  Although we do learn that Lord Shugagh is not "The Patron Saint of Bladdy Losers", and I admit that that may have been worth jotting down.

Anyway, the point is, they're being given £250 to buy fruit, make it worth more, and then flog it.  Boys vs girls, as ever, and (after the bit where they shriek about how nice the house is) we have to endure the team naming. "I thought 'Galvanised'", says Scary Helen, "for obvious reasons... And, um... 'Platinum'".  They end up going with 'Venture'.  Over with the boys, what we need is for Mr Realistic Guy (Alex) to come up with "Shower of Loons", but instead they come up with the opposite: "Ability" and "Logic".  "Logic" wins, and it's on to choosing Project Managers.

Scary Melody appoints herself, after a bit of a scrap with Scary Helen.  Melody has been taught by a number of well-known business minds, such as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  Over with the boys, Edward is well up for leading it, and seems to be determined to use the day to prove he's not an accountant.

The girls (who all kind of look the same, to be honest, so forgive me if I get the names wrong) decide the best approach is to not spend all the money.  They quickly choose to make fruit salads and vegetable pasta.The boys decide to make soup, on the basis that it can't kill anybody.  There's a lot of cheering and back-slapping, and then an awkward silence when one of them (Glenn?) asks whether anyone knows how to make soup.  No.  Nobody knows how to make soup.  Nobody appears to have the sense to use their iPhones to phone their mum and ask, either, or to Google "How to make soup", or to go to a freaking charity shop and buy a freaking cookbook with one of their 250 FREAKING POUNDS; fortunately, Edward The Non-Accountant stills the panic with an approach which may work - "just spend our 250 quid on produce, mash it up as quick as possible and sell it all".  Not for him the working out of margins or the costing of ingredients; the boys will "roll with the punches".

Into the market to buy fruit and veg (Edward: "Is that an orange?" Vincent: "I dunno"), and a lot of talk about how they have to get moving.  The boys buy millions of oranges to make orange juice, and leave Jim with £40 to spend on the ingredients for soup.  He does a blinding bit of negotiation with a woman who doesn't have anything to sell him; he is also a little bit lovely, and you may hear me speak of him again.  Anyway, this is better than the girls' approach to negotiation, which is to smile a lot and be irritatingly cheerful.

Now they have their ingredients, they have to start cooking.  Edward is refusing to plan anything at all, which bodes well for entertainment purposes.  The girls are fairly mundane; they don't really have enough stuff, but they manage to distribute it without incident into little pots that they'll flog for some rip-off price to the general public.  The boys are, again, "rolling with the punches"; Leon starts juicing the million oranges, argues with Edward, breaks the machines, argues with Edward again, and ends up ensuring that they have to squeeze 1,400 oranges by hand.  Karren Brady has a little smirk at them, and Edward gets a bit confused about why they're not selling anything yet.

Meanwhile, back at Team Venture, Scary Edna, Scary Ellie and one of the other girls are making vegetable pasta which looks like it's been dredged up from the bottom of a river.  They're not making it with any kind of urgency or haste, and end up missing the lunchtime rush and trying to flog it as something for people to take home for dinner.

Tom The Lovely Inventor is juggling oranges to advertise the boys' tomato soup, and Lovely Jim is looking lovely in an orange apron.  Some of the boys go off to sleeze round office workers and convince them to buy orange juice; much to Karren's disappointment, it seems to work.

The girls have finally got round to turning up at their stall, where Ellie makes a sign advertising "vegatable pasta", and then danders round trying to encourage people to do her a favour and buy a tub of the stuff.  Helen is at the opposite end of the enthusiasm scale ("Hello!  Would you like to buy some pasta?!", in a voice normally reserved for student evangelists at the CU mission week), but has no success either.

Selling is over, and it's back to the boardroom, with the boys congratulating themselves on how well they rolled with the punches.  I sense impending doom, because I have the insight of a very insightful person who has a crystal ball and is feeling especially insightful that day.  They do the sum-up thing with Lord Shugagh: the boys didn't really like Edward, and the girls thought Melody was lovely and wonderful.  Edward has a weird way of talking.  He apparently 'hand-picked' Jim, because Jim was clearly a 'soup man'.  Other quotes include:
"My strategy, different.  Very different.  Bottom up not top down, because I didn't know how many I was gonna sell.  Didn't wanna speculate.  Didn't know what I was gonna sell it for.  Didn't wanna speculate."
"When I was producing, that was production."
Lord Shugagh: "You were trained at one of the top accountancy firms, I believe"
Edward: "Don't fit the mould"
Lord Shugah is in serious danger of erupting, but unfortunately we move on to the girls.  Melody is all pleased with herself because she came up with the team name, and also she was team leader.

On to the figures, and the boys made £432.13 with the soup and juice.  The girls only made £37.28 on the river sludge, but made £555.05 from the fruit salad, and are off to a champagne reception in the fancy house, where they all get patronised by Melody, and Susan "easily amused" Ma does a bit of snarking behind her back.

Over at Cafe Loser, the cups have been upgraded to those big posh ones, with saucers and teaspoons, and the boys sit around sadly and wonder how they could have made more orange juice.

Back in the boardroom, we return to Edward's strategy of not really having a plan, and it is generally agreed that having a plan would have been good, and that maybe if Edward had done something other than try to prove he's not an accountant, it might all have been ok.  Edward says it would have been better if he had made more money, which is also generally agreed upon.  They all blame Leon for breaking the juicers; Karren seems particularly put out by this, and accuses him of "mishandling the equipment", which makes me snigger slightly.

We establish that Alex spent all day cutting bread and cleaning things, and he develops a kind of scowl and nervous tic.  Anyway, Edward's bringing Leon and Gavin back in, and the others are sent back to the house.  Tom The Lovely Inventor apologises to Lord Shugah on his way out, which I find rather endearing.

Back in, it's obvious that Gavin's only there because Edward doesn't like him; Leon appears to be on shaky ground, but ultimately has committed no crime other than being incapable of using an orange juicer, and Edward's gone.  Which is good, because he's kind of weird and also he tries to keep himself in by saying "Not only am I the youngest in the team, I'm also the shortest".

Heh.  Stuart Baggs was younger and shorter.  That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 1, part a

Please note that WhyNotSmile is currently very busy, and therefore last night's Apprentice review will not appear today, even though there is another episode tonight.  I may review them both together.  I may not.  It depends.

However, last night was a worthwhile episode, and there is much to say about it.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Thing I Like A Lot

When I first met transfarmer, she was, like, 19 or something,  and didn't know how to get the bus to Dublin, and got her mum to phone me to help her.

Now she's all grown up and writing awesome stuff like this:

I like it a lot.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Meet The Candidates

You know if you have a business, and it's going quite well, right?  So you need to hire a new person, yeah?  How would you go about that?  Recruitment agency? Ask around a few friends to see if they know anyone? Scrutinise the CVs of several dozen hopefuls, and choose the one with the most appropriate skills for the job?  Or throw open the doors to any dingbat who seeks fame and fortune, and bring in the cameras to watch?

Yeah.  So apparently this year, the winner doesn't get a job with Lord Shugagh; they get £250,000 to sod off and leave him alone.  Well, at least someone's learned something from the first 6 series.  Thankfully, just the one person, though.  It appears that the candidates haven't wasted their precious time in any kind of introspection, learning from the mistakes of Baggs & co, or developing basic social skills; instead they've been brushing up on their business jargon, giving 200% to buying cheap suits, and waking themselves up every morning with the mantra 'you are a success.  Today, you will do great things.  Even more wonderful than the things you did yesterday.  You can only go up.  The sky is, truly, your limit'.

And so, without further ado, we introduce the 16 Wonders of the Business World, who will be gracing our screens with their brilliance for the next couple of months.

Alex Bitrez Cabrel
Describes himself as 'Mr Realistic Guy', a previously unseen character in the unfolding drama in Shugagh Towers, and does not make mistakes.  He says he loves being unpopular, and he says it in a voice that sounds like the little kid lying under the swing saying "I meant to fall off".
Prognosis: Meh.  Massive feck up in week 3, and he's gone.

Jim Eastwood
The Northern Irish one.  And yet, surprisingly, quite watchable.  He claims to be "too good to be true", "more than anyone will ever need" and "too sweet to be wholesome".  I'm thinking James from 2 series' ago; the one who peed himself in the boardroom and was so astounded to reach the interview stage that he basically sat there and gawped.
Prognosis: The kind of affable chap who'll fly under the radar for a good bit, before a spectacular attempt at project management proves him to be as capable of running a business as a frog is of performing a saxaphone recital of Beethoven's Fifth.

Melody Hossaini
Melody describes herself as "more than average", much like approximately 50% of us.  She was once kidnapped, and has worked with the Dalai Lama.
Prognosis: Too competent to be interesting.

Edna Agbarha
Edna is a psychologist, who likes to 'unravel things' and speaks with weird hand gestures.
Prognosis: Smacked round the head with a banana in week 1, by Helen (of whom more presently), limps along for a few more weeks, until we all get bored of mocking the hand gestures, and is then sacrificed to keep someone more entertaining in.

Susan Ma
Describes herself as easily amused.
Prognosis: none.

Ellie Reed
A girl who describes herself as 'nice', and knows quite a lot about the things she doesn't like (dole dossers, people who don't give a million percent, etc.), Ellie is the one you don't want to get stuck next to at a dinner party.  She says she admits to mistakes, though, which is a new thing for The Apprentice.
Prognosis: One of those ones who goes out around week 4, and no one really notices.

Leon Doyle
Kind of looks like an oil painting, and once fell out of a tree; Leon is a fast food marketing entrepeneur, which doesnt sound to me like an actual Thing. Seems to be a mixture of Rupert Everett and someone that you can't quite put your finger on.  He hates 'gimicky salesmen who believe they can sell ice to Eskimos', because "they probably can't", and also, "why would Eskimos buy ice?"  Because, like, they've got ice all around them, so they could just go and get that for free, and not have to buy it.  Also, he COULD beat everyone else to a pulp if he wanted to, but he doesn't really want to.
Prognosis: I'm either going to love him or hate him.  I cannot yet tell.

Felicity Jackson
A soap fan and actress who looks a little like Lorraine from two series' ago.  Felicity likes to turn negatives into positives, and gives 110%, which is more than 100% and not as much as 200%, because she reserves 200% for things that make all the money for her.
Prognosis: Coming soon to a Channel 5 talk show near you.  Most likely to cry in the boardroom.

Helen Louise Milligan
Absolutely terrifying woman, who changed career from 'law' to 'waitress' and will make you believe that that was an excellent thing to do.  I cannot emphasise enough how scary she is.  Money is the most important thing to her, and she hates people who don't work 24/7.  At least Debra Barr was sometimes funny.
Prognosis:  May force the quarter of a million quid from the wounded, dying Lord Shugagh's clenched fist, take out Nick and Karren with a couple of swift stilletto swipes, and run, screaming, across the table and into the first stage of her plan for world domination.

Natasha Scribbins
Describes herself as being like a switch.  She knows when to turn it up, and when to turn it down. When she's not modelling her life on a Bucks Fizz song, she manipulates people.
Prognosis: The one who lasts waaaaaaay longer than she should.

Vincent Disneur
A fine example of what professional make up artists can do.  In the interview, sports a beige moustache that a 14-year-old boy would be proud of; in the official photo he's upgraded to flicked-out hair, a valiant-but-not-quite-there try at (presumably) a sexy sneer, and darkened facial hair.  He descibes himself as 'best of breed' and claims he's been "shortlisted as sales personality of the year".  Which breed, and by whom, we are, respectively, not told.
"I'm not easily intimidated," he claims, before pausing slightly, going a bit quieter, looking at the floor, and repeating "um... not easily intimidated".
Prognosis: An early scapegoat, we won't get to see as much of him as we might like.  Ultimately, this is probably a good thing.

Edward Hunter
A definite candidate for the new Pantsman, I can almost guarantee you that Edward Hunter will, if he gets that far, make a massive, hilarious error of judgement in The One Where They Have To Make An Advert, causing a diplomatic crisis and forcing the BBC to broadcast an apology.  Aged 14, he subcontracted his paper round to the local 10-year-olds; he claims his first job was as a gardener, aged 12.  Presumably this means he earned his pocket money by mowing the lawn.  He accidentally fell into finance, and now wants out.
Prognosis: The irritating one who's not cringeable enough to care about keeping him in, but not incompetent enough to be fired.

Tom Pellereau
A geek who loves starting companies, Tom says that if a team goes bad, it's the leader's fault.
Prognosis: the team will go bad, and he'll be gone.  Probably in week 1.

Zoe Beresford
The most interesting thing about her is that when she was 12, she fell off a horse.
Prognosis: Another early sacrifice.

Gavin Winstanley
You know those motivational books that tell you that you need to build your self-confidence by standing in front of a mirror and reciting "I am an intelligent person, with interesting things to say" for 5 minutes every morning? Gavin Winstanley talks like that.  He may be this year's Alex Epstein.
Prognosis: May self-combust in week 1, or, by a twist of fluke, be on the winning team for several weeks, until he dies a glorious, monumental Apprentice death.

Glenn Ward
Despite looking like a jellied eel seller, got a 1st at uni.  Took apart a computer, and rebuilt it, aged 8. "Pretty great".
Prognosis: Will go down in a blaze of unglory.


And there you have it, folks.  The Apprentice returns to our screens next Tuesday & Wednesday at 9pm, on BBC1.  If I don't speak to you before then, see you some time next week, once I've had a chance to watch both episodes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


Ok, apparently The Apprentice doesn't start till next week.  Still, this give me more time to get excited, and also possibly to share my thoughts on the candidates.

Dum de dum de dum de dum de, dum de dum de DUM!

As you may or may not know, but you do now, The Apprentice is back.  Tonight AND tomorrow night.  I can barely contain my excitement.  Be assured that I will attempt to provide commentary, but be warned that it may not be as verbose as last year.  I'm busy this year, see.

In the meantime, your homework for this evening is to brush up on the candidates.  Me, I'm already scared of Zoe.