Sunday, 15 May 2011

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.

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