Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: The Final

Never in the field of human history has it been so clear from so early on who was so going to win The Apprentice.  Or so we thought, until that week when Helen screwed up the whole 'flogging tat' thing, and blew the field wide open.  I feel I have inappropriately mixed some metaphors there, so let's move on.

Well, we've come so far, and we've reached so high, we've looked each day and task in the eye, and now... well, now it's the final.  The remaining candidates, for those who have saved the space in their brains for actual useful information, are Jim, Helen, Lovely Tom, and Susan.  Of course, here at WhyNotSmile, we're rooting for Lovely Tom, although we would like to marry him, so we don't want him to be too busy.  We are not fond of Susan.  Other than this, we do not mind.

Not 2 minutes after we left them at the end of last week, the phone rings in the house, and Lovely Tom answers, and is told they have 48 hours to get their business plans together.  Now, you and I would have put the phone down, pretended it was a wrong number, and then sneaked off to get the upper hand, but Lovely Tom is not the mercenary type, so he tells the others, and they all start scribbling numbers in little charts, and saying how great their business ideas are.

48 hours later, they're all snazzed up and off to some hotel/posh place somewhere with their little folders under their arms.  Ridiculously, they still seem to be acting as if they're in teams, with Lovely Tom and Helen in one car, and Jim and Susan in the other.  They hand the folders over to Nick and Karrrren, and then go and sit in the foyer.  Susan is talking like mad, and I imagine they all want to hit her.  Helen is cool, calm and collected, so equally irritating.  Jim and Lovely Tom seem to be sweating like mad, and trying not to throw up.  We like them.

We meet the 4 people who're going to interrogate them about their business plans.  There's Nasty Claude, who, as one commentator pointed out, is so evil that if you cut him, he'd bleed spiders.  There's lovely Margaret Mountford, she of the raised eyebrow.  There's someone called Mike, who has something to do with "the free magazine industry", and someone called Matthew, who looks about 12.  I'll probably get those two mixed up.

So, how do they all get on?

Margaret is astounded at the length of Jim's application form, and at the percentage of it that's almost entirely crap, which is quite high.  Jim talks entirely in cliches, which annoys Margaret a lot.  She asks him to describe himself without using cliches, and he says he's "exactly what it says on the tin". *facepalm*
Jim's business idea is a bit weird.  It's all got something to do with going into schools and encouraging children to be entrepenurial.  He thinks it's amazing, brilliant, impactful and unique.  He hasn't actually asked anyone else for an opinion yet, because that would take too much time and effort; but he thinks it's class, which is the main thing.
Nasty Claude thinks Jim is making stuff up, because he's not earning as much as Nasty Claude thinks he should be, which is a strange argument.

When asked to summarise her business plan succinctly, Susan jabbers out that she wants to scale up her market stall to global levels and make lots and lots of money and sell skincare to all manner of people and have a really nice time making all this money and making people all happy because they have nice skin and they love that they bought her products.  It is the very opposite of succint.  It seems that she thinks 'succinct' means 'really really fast'.
Margaret gets all interrogatory about how Susan paid her workers in cash, and therefore didn't pay any tax.  Oooooohhh, sneaky.
The essential problem with Susan's business plan is that she seems to think that if one market stall can sell £1000 of stuff in a day, then by having 7 market stalls she could sell £7000 of stuff in a day, or with 178 market stalls, she could sell £178,000 of stuff in a day.
Matthew asks Susan about whether it's ok to just lump a load of chemicals into a bottle and then flog it to unsuspecting passers by.  Did the man not see the fast food task?

Helen's business plan is largely to have a nationwide chain of people to book your dental appointments and wait for your Tesco delivery to arrive.  She somehow gets into a row with Matthew over whether a dentist does or does not text one to remind one that one is due a checkup; then she admits that she doesn't really know anyone who could book you a dental appointment anyway.
Mike takes a different approach, and asks Helen to tell him a joke.  Man, they are testing ALL the key business skills in this one.  Eventually she comes up with "A fish swims into a wall, and says 'dam'", and makes it sound even less funny than it actually is, which is pretty darn unfunny.

Lovely Tom

Tom's first interviewer is Nasty Claude, who opens with "Would it be fair to say that your career is floundering at the moment?".  "Umm" says Lovely Tom.  Nasty Claude also points out that every number in Lovely Tom's business plan is wrong, and that he hasn't said anything about his costs.  I think this is unfair.  You hit one wrong button in Excel, and it fecks up the rest of the document.  We all know that.  Shut up, Nasty Claude.
Lovely Tom's business plan is to do with chairs.  He's going to visit employers and check whether their employees need to use his chair, and if they do, then he will sell it to them.  The chair stops you from getting a sore back; Lovely Tom has a way of knowing who will get a sore back, and he can sell them the chair in advance.  Mike complains that 100% of the business plan doesn't use the word 'chair'.  I don't care, Mike, and your grammar in that sentence was appalling.  Leave Lovely Tom alone.
He has a very awkward conversation with Matthew, during which he utters the phrase "I'm not surprised at all that you have a very nice wife".  We hear more about Lovely Tom's previous invention, which is a curved nail file, and I want one.  Lovely Tom is accused of not being a 'starter-finisher', because he got bored of nail files and started to think up other ideas.  On the way out, Lovely Tom falls over a chair.
Lovely Tom is also the first person EVER to break the First Rule Of The Interviews, and to not come out crowing about how well it went and how they loved him.

The next day, the 4 interviewy people go back to the board room and sneer about the contestants, while said contestants wait outside, all convinced they're going to win.  Snigger.

They're not keen on Helen; they'd all employ her tomorrow, but it is generally agreed that she cannot be left to her own devices for more than several seconds at a time.  They also agree that trying to get Jim to be specific is like trying to "nail custard to the ceiling", a harder task than Nick's "nailing jelly to a wall" from a few weeks ago; Nick describes Jim's business plan as "one long seduction letter" to Lord Sugar, an image which makes the nation feel a little nauseous.

Everyone loves Lovely Tom, of course, but there's a worry that he lost interest in nail files before he had fully exhausted the (presumbaly) extensive (and, to my mind, unimaginable) possibilities offered thereby.  And they all think Susan's ridiculous.

So the four candidates get hauled back in to the boardroom.  We begin by questioning Susan's ridiculous figures, because they are absolutely ridiculous.  We turn to Helen, and look disappointed at how pants her idea is, and that it's not to do with bakeries, since she works in a bakery.  Over to Lovely Tom, and Lord Sugar is virtually apoplectic at the very idea that he should give a flying fiddle about the health and safety of his employees.  This does not demonstrate that Lovely Tom's idea is bad; it merely demonstrates that Lord Sugar is not very nice.  I'm not sure I want Lovely Tom to work with him.  And onto Jim and his letter of seduction; Jim admits that initially he was going to set up the business as a non-profit, and when pressed, calls Lord Sugar "Sugar".  Seductive.

Time to start firing people, and Jim gets the boot first, for being a smarmy, cliched, annoying git.  Then there's a bit of teasing of Helen, before the Finger is pointed at Susan, for being a bit dim.

OOOOOHHHHH, Lovely Tom is still there!  Lovely Tom might win!  Go Lovely Tom!

At this point, however, Helen chucks in a grenade in the form of a SECOND business plan.  oooh.  She wants to set up a chain of bakeries.  It's not a stunning plan, because let's be honest, there are a few bakeries out there already.  Lovely Tom points out that if she's had all these great ideas, she should have done them already; Helen lobs back that if she'd had a business for 5 years, she wouldn't have to be in the boardroom asking Lord Sugar for money, because she'd have made a success of it.  It's a bit of a low punch, but Lovely Tom takes it in his stride, and Helen is suddenly standing on thin ice.  Then Lord Sugar asks Lovely Tom how he got Walmart to sell his nail files, and Lovely Tom tells a story about creating a little parcel and hand delivering it to the buyer, and Helen's face is falling and falling, and I'm getting more excited, and Lord Sugar waffles a bit more, and then he announces that LOVELY TOM HAS WON and I rejoice and my mobile starts going nuts with congratulations texts, and I am very happy indeed.

But also, you have to wonder how it happened that the person who has lost more tasks than everyone else in the history of the programme EVER has managed to actually win the series, and you have to think that maybe they need to look at the tasks they set next time.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 11

Normally, this being the penultimate week, we'd be watching the interviews, and that seems to be what the candidates expect too, because when they're summoned by The Telephone Voice to the City, they rush off to snazz themselves up and put on suits and stuff.  Jim even has a waistcoat for the occasion.  All of which is of no use, because what they're actually doing is setting up fast food chains.

They have some ridiculous time limit, like 2 days, to invent, brand and set up a fast food restaurant.  The teams are left alone, for once, so Helen is in charge of Tom (they barely even debate who should be PM), and Jim is refereeing Natasher and Susan.  You'd think the team with 3 would have quite an advantage, but then Natasher reveals that she has a "BA Onz" degree in this sort of thing, so technically they're at a disadvantage.

Helen (who seems extremely tense and worried throughout the task) and Tom actually make quite a good team; mainly because they're both fairly competent and organised.  They decide to go with a British-themed 'Pie and Mash' as their menu; they make it all feminine by having mini pies.  We'll summarise their efforts now, because they're so good that nothing really goes wrong at all; in fact, the only thing the editors had to work with was when they decided to name their pies after famous British people, and include Christopher Columbas (he's Italian, I think, but I couldn't honestly swear to it).  We see this relatively minor error from all angles, repeatedly, and I think we can tell from an early stage who's going to win.  Anyway, they call their place 'My Py' after Lovely Tom mis-reads something, and it's all red, white and blue.  At one point they debate whether Byron wrote at the same time as Shakespeare and was a vegetarian.

Mercifully, what Helen and Lovely Tom have in competence, the other three lack in every conceivable aspect of business acumen.  They decide to have a Mexican restaurant, because that way Susan gets to perpetuate some racial stereotypes, and have cheery sombreros everywhere.  Jim thinks Natasher's degree will come in handy, because her BA Onz was in hospitality; unfortunately she didn't ever really like the cooky bit of it, and refuses to have anything to do with that side of it.  Since they have a cook, it's hard to see exactly what the problem is, but in and case, she and Susan get sent off to think about branding.  They wander the streets of London going 'ariba, ariba' and pretending they're wearing sombreros.

Jim is doing market research, by going to a Mexican restaurant and asking what they don't sell, so he can do something different.  It's an intersting strategy.  Figure out what no one else will touch with a barge pole, and embrace it wholeheartedly.

Still, it's more useful than Susan and Natasher, who hate each other and everything each other says.  They're trying to come up with a name:
"Lots of them have names that start with el.  What's el?"
"I dunno".
They phone Jim, who suggests 'Caracas', after "those wee Mexican shaky things".  Or the capital of Venzuela, alternatively.  Your choice.  They love it, add an apostrophe, and "Caraca's" is born.  Which is much like calling your Hungarian restaurant "Pari's", but also thinking that a "paris" is some kind of Hungarian folk dance.  And then branding it using strawberries, or, to fit in with the Mexican theme, peppers.  That was Natasher's idea, which Susan hates (quite reasonably, and also because she hates everything Natasher says).  Susan is the Mexican food expert, so they go with her idea of sombreros instead.  Her expert credentials, incidentally, are that she eats more Mexican food than the other two.

The next morning, they see their restaurants for the first time, and meet their chefs and waiters and so on.  They have a few hours to practice.  Helen's lot do all manner of rehearsals of pies, customer service, removing foil trays and so on.  Over at Caraca's, the chef is having a wobbly, because no one has a clue what's going on.  Jim comes in and says that what they need to do is to heat up all the food and then serve it to customers.  When the doors are thrown open, My Py greet them with a cheery "Hi!  Have you eaten 100% British before?"; at Caraca's, there are nails and a hammer on the floor.  Jim is creating a box of nachos which looks like someone sneezed on it, while Susan whirls around yelling that there aren't enough chairs.

The queue grows and grows, and people are giving up and leaving.  This is probably for the best, because the food, when it comes, is stone cold and vile.  Say what you want about Lovely Tom, but the man can heat a pie and put it in a box.  And look quite fetching in a red hat.

After the test run, Susan is hysterical.  She goes to Jim and says he needs to stop serving cold food.  Jim asks for the solution.  "Heat it up" she says.  They've got a pile of customer feedback forms, which are making for depressing reading: "Food was cold", "Friendly but slow", "crazy waitress".

At My Py, it's like reading the report card of the school swot: "Loved the food", "Great idea".  The only thing that went wrong was that the cardboard box was a bit hard to eat out of, so they swap it for a plastic one, and that solves that.

Susan has a solution to Caraca's woes, which involves a diagram and some arrows, and keeping the food in the oven for a bit longer.

Lunchtime, and Lord Shugagh swings by with some industry experts.  I really, really want Ronald McDonald and Colonel Saunders to walk in, but unfortunately it's a crowd of people in suits who know all there is to know about vegetable oil.  Natasher successfully convinces Lord Shugagh to add nachos to his order of "fah-heee-taaas" (can he not pronounce any non-English word?); they are still taking a year and a day to fulfil orders, though, but at least the food seems to be edible, and with the sombreros and all, they all agree that it's obvious that the place sells Mexican.  The team are grilled on their business plan, which (as quickly becomes painfully apparent) did not exist until that moment.  Jim says that if he has 60 customers in 2 hours, spending £7 each, then he's making £4800 in a lunchtime, which is impressive.  He gets out of it by accusing Lord Shugagh of not paying his bill, and everyone laughs awkwardly.

Over at My Py, it's going quite well, although the wee plastic boxes are a bit too small to fit the pies in.  Still, they serve it all quickly, and hot, and without incident, and when it comes to the business plan, the only problem is that Lovely Tom keeps distracting Helen as she's explaining profit margins and percentages.

They go back to the boardroom, and we talk about the Caracas = capital of Venezuela thing; Karren dobs them in and points out that they all thought it was a made up word.  Lovely Tom talks about how they had a 'dummy dummy run' before the dummy run before the actual run, and all of them had gone really well.

The industry experts were rating them on all manner of things, and then they got the score by working out the average.  Caraca's had an average of 4 out of 10, which is a bit wick; My Py got 7 out of 10, and LOVELY TOM IS IN THE FINAL!  They don't get a treat, because that would be Just Too Much, but they go back to the house with Lovely Tom looking stunned.

In Cafe Ooops, Jim says he was like Mother Theresa trying to keep control of Natasher and Susan; they all defiantly state that they're not going home, and then it's back to the boardroom.

It's not an epic boardroom battle; they start by looking sadly at Helen and Tom's Business Plan, and then try to pretend that they had all those figures in their heads, and anyway IT WAS ALL JIM'S FAULT!!!!  Karren sticks the boot in and says that they were just generally not very good.  Natasher's contribution seemed to have been to try to distract customers so that they wouldn't notice how long they'd had to wait; while we're talking to her, we turn to the matter of her degree, and I kind of wish we'd shut up about it. Unfortunately, it seems to be some kind of fixation.

They go out, they come in.

Susan and Natasher both think Jim should be fired because he has a scary dark side; they may have a point, but Natasher plays it up a bit too much and comes over like someone who's just read Dan Brown and felt he had a case worth hearing.  Back to Natasher's degree, and she says again that she didn't really like the cooky part of it, and it shouldn't be all contextualised, and she didn't "claim" (she does the little finger wavy things) to have any expertise at all.  Lord Shugagh goes on about his degree in First Aid, a skill which may have been handy a little earlier in the day, for the patrons of Caraca's.  I think he's making up the First Aid degree, because it's not on Wikipedia, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, Natasher get fired, innit, and Jim and Susan join Helen and Lovely Tom for the final.

The final, incidentally, is this Sunday, and sees the return of Mount Margaretford for the interviewy bit.

Stay tuned, because it looks hysterical.

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 10

Right, we have to ratchet the reporting up a gear, because we're now 2 weeks behind and the final's on Sunday.

Last week we spent a lot of time disliking Melody, and that's where we pick up again today.  They're all hauled off to a big warehouse, where Lord Shugagh, with a tear in his eye, talks about how he started out in business by buying a truckload of toot and flogging it to unsuspecting passers-by; and lo! that's this week's task.  Each team gets a pallet-load containing £250 worth of the kind of plastic tack you find on market stalls up and down the country, and they have to sell it, and then come back and buy more.  It's all about selling what smells, or something.  I may have got that wrong.

The teams are Helen, Lovely Tom and Melody (boooooo), against Natasher (innit?), Susan and Jim.  Susan is appalled by the quality of the goods.  Snob.  She also thinks this is right up her street, as she does every week; Natasher (yeah?) slaps her down for the millionth week in a row, and wins the right to lead.  Melody appoints herself in charge of Helen and Lovely Tom.

Jim has a great morning touting umbrellas to people who don't really need them, on the basis that it might rain, some time in the distant future, and until then you can use the umbrella to point at things.  Natasher is selling nodding dogs to small unsuspecting children ('of appalling taste' says Nick).  Susan, for some reason, is stuck in traffic outside Buckingham Palace (whining and moaning about why can't the horses go faster); eventually she arrives in Knightsbridge or somewhere, where she attempts and fails to sell a pile of duvets door-to-door.  She gets very upset that no one's home.  It's so unfair.

Melody and Helen, meanwhile, decide that they're going to sell their stuff to shops, because why wouldn't you add in a middle man wherever you can?  Especially if you go into a pound shop and try to sell him £25 watches.  Idiots.  They also go into a hardware shop and try to sell duvets and towels.  It's so ridiculous, it's not even funny.

Thankfully, they have previously dumped Lovely Tom and a box of nodding bulldogs off at a tourist spot, where he gets outwitted by 5 year-olds and continues to be extremely lovely.  He sells all the dogs very quickly, and I'm quite proud.

Natasher and Jim have a fight about what they should re-invest in; they phone Susan to ask, but she's out for the count in the back of a cab.

Melody and Helen, for some reason, have become even more fixated on selling their stuff to shops, and finally find a guy who'll resell the duvets for them; if they can get another 30 by tomorrow, he'll buy those as well.  Despite the fact that they're now making about 20p on each one, they think this is great.

Now, the point of the task, you will recall, is to figure out what sells, and buy a ton more to sell tomorrow.  Susan, however, lives on another planet, and spends half the team's takings on random tacky-looking bracelets.  They would be doomed, except that Melody is also on another planet, and is buying random electrical tat.  Lovely Tom is in despair; all he wanted were some more nodding bulldogs, and he would've been happy, but no: he's being given travel kettles and alarm-clock-photo-frames.  Clearly the notion of figuring out what sells and buying more of that seems to have been entirely abandoned.  Heh.  Never mind, I'm sure Lord Shugagh won't be too fussed.

The next morning, and a shock on Team Melody, as Helen stages a coup and offers to take over as project manager.  They snark a bit, with Lovely Tom sitting in the middle thinking 'feck', and in the end nothing changes.  Off to a shopping centre, and the random electrical stuff is not popular.  It's a shame they didn't get a day to try out their stalls and see what would sell.  Helen's in a random square trying to press gang passers-by into buying bike lights.

At Shepherd's Bush, Jim is already flogging nodding dogs like there's no tomorrow; he's also offering hugs and kisses, and Nick's coming round to him.  While this goes on, Susan and Natasher are fighting it out at Portabello Road market.  The two of them seem incapable of coming within earshot of each other (and with these two, earshot is quite a distance) without screaming at each other, exchanging snide glances, and slagging each other off to the camera.  Natasher is being particularly obnoxious, but somehow I find Susan more irritating.

In all of this, it's tempting to forget that Helen has promised to sell 30 duvet covers to a random bloke for about 20p each.  She phones a duvet cover wholesaler, but it's closed for the day, so she heads off to another one which is 2 hours' drive away.  After a 4 hour round trip, she phones the duvet-sellerman, who has already gone home for the day.  Bummer, huh?

Jim is trying to get Natasher to re-invest, since that's the point of the task; she refuses because they already have plenty of stuff to sell (please note that their end-of-the-day-total includes any stock they still have, so it doesn't matter if they have stuff left over).  Also, Jim is now running out of things to sell.  Eventually, Natasher agrees to let him buy some more umbrellas.  He does this, but not in time to sell them, which kind of sucks.

They all head back to the boardroom, and it's a bit hard to be sure who has done better.  Helen spent a lot of time trying to acquire duvets; whereas Susan and Natasher spent much of the day trying to strangle each other.  In the boardroom, Helen says Melody was an awful team leader, and had no strategy.  Lord Shugagh says the strategy should have been to flog the crap they were given, which makes it sound less complex.  Natasher gets in bother for not re-investing in new stock; she says something about 'going heavy' on day 1, and Lord Shugagh nearly rips her head off, and then fines her £100 for being so impudent.

Melody & Co have assets of £728, which is ok; Natasher's lot have (after fines) £751.  Feck.  They still won.  But, Lord Shugagh is not happy, and they are NOT getting a treat because they were useless.  What with a coup earlier, and now this, it may be the most dramatic episode EVER.  Back in the house, Natasher tells Susan that she was really annoying all day.  I imagine she was, somehow.

Helen is in Cafe Dreadful for the first time, but it's ok, because Lovely Tom's a regular and can show her where to get napkins and stuff.  Melody brings up the coup incident, and says how much it demoralised her.  She's almost sobbing.  I still don't feel at all sorry for her.  I'm beginning to like myself less, and I blame Melody.

Back in the boardroom, and we can only hope that somehow Lovely Tom stays and Melody gets the boot.  This is most likely to be accomplished by Lovely Tom not saying a lot.  We start with Helen's attempted coup; she says she wanted to take over so they could go to retailers and get big orders.  Melody is all like "ha ha, you're so stupid, that's not what we were meant to do", and then Karren points out that Melody wanted to do it as well.  Lovely Tom says he asked for more nodding dogs, and Melody says she didn't want him to have more nodding dogs, and he says he felt all let down.  He calls the duvet thing a "fool's errand".  Oooooh, Tom, I love you.

Lovely Tom is doing ok until he somehow ends up taking responsibility for the duvet fiasco, which had nothing at all to do with him.  STOP TALKING, LOVELY TOM!  Helen and Melody do some yelling about the closing times of wholesale duvet cover suppliers; Melody then declares that she should be fired herself, and I can only agree.

They go out; they come back in.  I'm all nervous for Lovely Tom, but Karren seems to be standing up for him, so I like her a lot.  Melody gets all intense, and shouty, and full of herself, and I wish she'd shut up.  She looks all huffy when she shuts up, though.  I think I just wish she'd go away.  She says that when she was 13, she set up "one of the most successful democratic bodies in the world".  What, she founded America?  Also, she was on the Queen's speech one year.  Yippee skip.

Helen pretty much sits there being very cool and calm and a little bit scary.  She reels off some actual experience, which is actually relevant and might be useful.  She's safe.  I suspect she's been put up to the duvet thing by the producers, to try to throw us off the scent, because surely she has to win.

We turn to Lovely Tom, who's right up Lord Shugagh's alley, apparently.  I desperately hope Lovely Tom doesn't say much.  He does, though.  But he also points out that Melody runs a business which is all about talking, and I like that.  Melody is outraged, of course, which is even better.

Finally, and to the rapturous applause of the nation, Melody gets fired.  And I rejoice.

Lovely Tom almost faints with relief, and Helen's in a bit of a sulk with him because he was mean about her in the boardroom.  I don't think Helen really 'gets' the boardroom.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 9

So, after last week's trip to Paris, we're back in Blighty, and still really hoping to get rid of Melody (well, I am.  Hoping to get rid of Melody.  Not back from Paris.  Never was in Paris.  Well I WAS, but not since you've known me. Do you see?).  It's a Sunday afternoon, and they're all lounging around in the house when Lord Shugagh turns up on the doorstep.  Mean Melody is wrapped in a towel.

The task is thus: they are to create a new biscuit and then flog it to supermarkets.  It's a bit like the dog food thing, but without the relief of the advertising part.  So, teams:  Helen, Natasher (yeah?) and Jim in one; Susan, Zoe, Mean Melody and Lovely Tom in the other.  They appoint leaders: Helen sells food, so that's quite relevant, so she gets chosen.  Susan thinks this is right up her street, because SHE ALWAYS DOES.  Every week.  Every. single. freaking. week.  But Zoe works in the food industry, and slaps her down to take the lead.  "That's SO unfair, Zoe" says Susan, for about the millionth time this series.

Anyway, they start drawing pictures of biscuits.  Melody wants to do Valentine's Day biscuits, which is a bit crap when it's not Valentine's Day.  She gets sent off to the biscuit factory with Lovely Tom, mainly, I suspect, to get rid of her.  Jim has also been packed off from his team.

Lovely Tom wants to make an emergency biscuit, called an Emercrunchie.  The best that can be said about this is that he's very cute the way he says it.  They spend a while at the factory, watching a Welsh guy making biscuits and playing with ingredients.

Helen's lot are making a biscuit for children; Jim puts fizzy poppy stuff on a his and nearly chokes Karren.  Lovely Tom comes up with the idea of having a biscuit inside a biscuit; Mean Melody thinks that's a bit complex.  Meanwhile, she is trying to make popcorn out of a pile of squished Corn Flakes, marshmallows and biscuit mixture.

Cut to London, and ooooooh, Susan says she can't stand Zoe.  This should be good.

Jim takes a tray of biscuits to some children, and then steals all their ideas.  They suggest that he makes star-shaped flapjacks called Special Stars, so that's what they do.  In fairness, these are the best ideas we've seen all series, and since the kids are only small, nicking their suggestions is probably quite an astute move.  He phones Helen and Natasher, who are drinking coffee and doing feck all, and tells them about the star thing.  They like it, but they need a tag line.  The biscuits are going to be for after school.  So they need a tag line that suggests that these are biscuits which you would give your child after school, like in the afternoon, between the hours of 2-4pm, roughly.  That sort of time.  "Any time is treat time!" they yell, and, despite some resistance from Natasher (who, rather sensibly, points out that "after school" is quite a specific time), that's what they go with. *sigh*  Now Jim just has to make a truckload of the things.

Lovely Tom and Mean Melody go into their focus group with more plates of biscuits.  They hate the emergency biscuit, but - and here's the critical bit - Lovely Tom REALISES this, and moves on.  To something else. He actually listens to a focus group.  They love his biscuit-in-a-biscuit thing, though.  Mean Melody tries out her popcorn biscuits, and calls them 'popsquits', which is just as dreadful a name as one could imagine.  On the other hand, they like her heart biscuit.  Probably because they're so relieved that it doesn't sound like something you'd catch on holiday.  Of course, by the time she phones Zoe, Melody is claiming "They didn't like any other biscuit shape, apart from the heart".  That's because the ONLY OTHER SHAPE you showed them was 'crumbling landmine'.  Lovely Tom explains his biscuit-in-a-biscuit idea, and Melody stands there going "I don't like that", as if anyone cares what she thinks.

Helen and Natasher are at the designer, trying to explain how "Any time is treat time" goes with "After school".  Natasher is "opening up time".

Susan and Zoe are thinking up names, and come up with Bix-Mix, which is actually not too bad.  The biscuit looks quite good too - it's a digestive with a buttercream bit in the middle, and half is covered in chocolate.  The idea is that you can snap it in half.  The designer comes up with a box that looks quite nice and classy, I think.

The ones who were at the factory are now on their way home, and Melody is spending the journey coming up with what may be the worst idea of the series so far.  They're discussing tomorrow's pitch, see. "I think we should do a role play.  We'd be silly not to".  She forces Lovely Tom to rehearse it.  He takes the piss A LOT, and we hope he is humouring her.

The next morning, the biscuits arrive.  Bix Mix looks quite good, although it snaps in half so that one person gets all the chocolate, and the other person gets no chocolate at all.  Foolish would be the person who tried to give me the non-chocolate half.  The star things look quite good too.

Into the pitches.  Mean Melody thinks Bix Mix needs to be aimed at someone, but Zoe thinks anyone should be allowed to eat them.  We barely get time to ponder this, however, before being hauled into the pitch and being made to sit through the Role Play.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, they actually do it, and it is the most cringe-inducing piece of television I think I have ever seen.  Seriously, go and Google it.  We'll be here (I tried to get it on YouTube, but the only version I could find had added swearing, so I decided it was Inappropriate).  It ends with Melody saying "Where was this made?  In Heaven?", which leads into Zoe saying "No, actually, it was made here in the UK".  It is dreadful.  It is mind-bogglingly awful.

Special Stars, in comparison, seems lovely and clean and wonderful, even though they're basically saying that children can have treats at any time.  Natasher tries to explain the time-bending thing again.  And fails, again.

Lovely Tom is stuck in a car with Melody, going to Asda.  Melody decides they need a target market.  When they get to Asda, she tells Zoe this.  Zoe disagrees, and they have a screaming row in the midde of the supermarket.  The role play happens again, this time with Zoe and Melody in the main roles, as best friends.  We know they are more likely to stuff the Bix Mix down each other's throats or clobber each other with the boxes than they are to 'snap and share'.  The Asda people think the biscuit is a bit gross, so Susan tells them about its unique selling point, which is that it can be snapped.  Kit Kat, anyone?

Jim and co go in with their Special Stars, and get asked about how they would launch them.  Jim starts waffling about TV advertising, and how it'll be endorsed by Harry Potter and all sorts of other things, and he promises that they'll spend millions on advertising.  I think this is quite clever - if it's all fictional anyway, you may as well pretend whatever you want - but Karren is nervous.

To the boardroom, but not before Zoe moans about Melody a bit more.

In front of Lord Shugagh, Melody actually tries to defend the role play thing.  It does not work.  We all have a laugh about Jim's advertising promise; we can only hope that that's next week's task.

The results are in.  Bix Mix has bombed; no orders at all.  Special Stars, on the other hand, received an order for 800,000 units, which is worth about £1,500,000.  I rather feel they should deduct the £30 million they were planning to spend on advertising, but they don't.

Jim, Helen and Natasher get sent off for afternoon tea, which is a bit of a crap treat at this stage of the game.  The others go to Cafe StareAtEachOtherAndSnarkABit, where they all stare at each other and snark a bit.  Lovely Tom seems to be in bother, because nobody liked the biscuit he made.  I think this is unfair on Lovely Tom, because he tried very hard, and because I love Lovely Tom.  Back in the boardroom, Lovely Tom says that he didn't know that he was making a luxury biscuit.

Anyway, we quickly descend into Zoe and Melody yelling at each other.  Zoe has the most boring voice in the world, and Melody (who, as someone fabulously pointed out, looks like Jimmy Carr) over-enunciates everything, so it's a very weird argument.  They both just yell whatever comes into their heads, which doesn't help, as the stuff that comes into their heads is not of that high a quality to begin with.

Zoe brings Lovely Tom and Mean Melody back in.  I want Mean Melody to go.  Please please please.  Lovely Tom is accused of not knowing that £1.99 is a premium biscuit price.  I do not think that knowing how much biscuits cost is a key part of being a successful business person.  Zoe yells a bit, and Lovely Tom says "umm, err, umm" in reply.  Melody finally decides she's had enough of no one talking about how great she is, and butts in with how great she is.  Lovely Tom points out that the focus group didn't like her ideas, and she says that 10 people do not represent the biscuit-buying public.  She was not saying this last week, when 4 people in a Metro station represented all of France.

Eventually, Zoe gets fired for not going to the factory, even though Helen didn't go to the factory either.  Outside, Melody stalks off with her nose in the air, and Lovely Tom gives Zoe a very awkward-looking, but extremely endearing hug.  In the taxi back to the house, Melody goes on about how awful Zoe was, and Lovely Tom looks like he wants to chuck her out the window.

Over on You're Fired, we learn that Zoe has had Cancer twice, and then she gets presented with a copy of 'Coffin Dodger' as her firing present.  Which is a little unfortunate.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 8

I know, I know, I'm now 2 weeks behind, and you're all hanging in there, waiting, patiently, but getting a little bit less patient.  Don't think it's because I don't love you all (I do), or that I've gone off The Apprentice (I haven't) or even that it's not been worth mentioning (very much the opposite). No, I've just been quite busy, and then yesterday I got sick, and now it's Monday again and we'll have to do at least one episode or it'll be so far gone that you've never speak to me again.

Now, I have to point out that I've been in bed for most of today, with a Tummy Thing which also made me very very sleepy.  Concentration levels are low, and if I nod off in the middle of this, well, it's just because of how sick I am.  I will also have to take frequent breaks; best not to ask.

So, a fortnight ago, we had the Foreign Task.  You know, the one where they go over to Europe and yell at foreigners in funny accents?  Yes, that one.  The premise behind this one was that they were selling the 'Best of British' to les magasins de Paris.  And, apparently, the Best of British is a teapot on a string and a tangle of pipe cleaners that holds your mobile onto your car vent.  Now, given that Lord Shugagh tells us at the start of every episode that he's "not looking for bladdy salespeople", I'm not quite sure what we're meant to make of this task, but let's run with it anyway, because it's a good one.

Melody is immediately obnoxious, because she used to speak 6 languages, and has worked at the highest level, and other things we REALLY DON'T CARE ABOUT.  Also 'used to'?  But then what happened? Oh, you taught yourself Italian and brought it up to 7?  I see.  I still don't care.

Everyone else speaks no French, or comedy French (petits pois, says Jim), so this should be good.  Team 1 is Lovely Tom, in charge of Leon, Natasher (yeah?) and Melody; Team 2 is Zoe, Helen, Jim and Susan, and they can choose their own leader.  Susan, as always, thinks this is right up her street, because sometimes she buys things; she does not, however know ANYTHING about France, at all.  Never been there, never spoken to French people, couldn't find the place on a map.  So they put her in charge, of course.

I'm scared for Lovely Tom.

Leon and Melody, and Jim and Helen are off on the recce to La France (Leon hoping someone, somewhere in the country will speak English, but mostly looking forward to breakfast).  The rest of them stay behind to decide what they're going to take to France to sell.  They key here is to know something about France, so Susan starts asking inane questions. "Do the French like their children?  Do a lot of people drive in France? Do the French breathe air?".

Susan and Zoe want to sell a booster seat / backback thing, and a beanbag / bed thing (I'd describe these, but you'd be none the wiser).  Lovely Tom also likes the booster seat, and a pop-up postcard with cress seeds in it, and the teapot light.  They phone ahead to the others in France, to get them to do market research.  Melody hates the booster seat, and sneers at lovely Tom, and says they're going to Paris, and not like, Manchester or some dirty place up north, and I REALLY CANNOT STAND HER.

I really do not want Lovely Tom to choose the postcards, because they're going to sell at about 10p each, and they're going to have to sell MILLIONS of them.  I want him to choose the booster seat, which has won "over 36 awards" (that'd be 37 then, I'm guessing).  He phones Leon and Melody to find out more about La Redoute, which they're pitching to tomorrow, and Melody looks all sceptical.  She then takes Leon into a train station and bulldozes about, asking people whether they'd rather buy a lovely teapot-shaped light, or a stupid booster seat.  Leon draws pictures of teapots, because he doesn't speak French.  Thankfully, when people say they'd much prefer the booster seat, she's able to tell Leon that they think it's a rubbish idea, because he has no clue at all.  So she phones Lovely Tom, and says that they all take trains in France, and no one drives there, so they won't buy the booster seat.  Jim and Susan, meanwhile, are doing actual market research, and everyone LOVES the booster seat.

Next step: phone around and try to get people to let them across their doorstep with this tat tomorrow.  Jim's calling a French woman:
Jim: "Hallo, 'Allo, parlez vous Anglais?"
French lady: "I can try"
Jim (in French accent): "Ah, excellant.  We 'ave two products, they are very populair in United Kingdom.  We could call tomorrow, demain, at 12 noon."
I mean, I know from experience that the Northern Irish accent doesn't always travel well, but really?  populair?

Meanwhile, Melody is using all her French-speaking skills: "Bonjour.  Parlez vous Anglais?", and then, when they say 'yes', talks in normal English, like a sane person (but I still don't like her).  Leon cannot join in, because he can't speak French, so Melody is doing all the work.

At the end of the day, the ones who stayed in Angleterre arrive with the products in tow.  On Team Susie, they see the products, like the products, and then go through the appointments which have been set up for tomorrow, and decide who will do what.  Much as I'm not a big fan of Susie, I have to concede that this is sensible.

Team Lovely Tom laugh at the teapot light, because it looks like a plastic teapot on a string.  Yeah, Melody, and YOU made them choose it.  They don't show the reaction to the cress postcards.  They also don't show them organising their pitches, because they're leaving that till the morning.  At which point they discover that Melody is keeping ALL the appointments she made.  She's not giving her appontments to ANYONE else.  Even though they were all busy doing other things, and she had been sent to Paris to make appointments for everybody.  For so many reasons, I want Lovely Tom to punch her in the face, but he doesn't.

There are a few clips of people going to high-end shops to sell pipecleaner mobile supports, and then we see Leon and Melody stuck in traffic.  Melody is whining because all the people yesterday said no one drives in France.  OH THE IRONY.  They go into a shop and sell some teapot lights.  Well, Melody does.  Leon does not, because he can't speak French.  Which is odd, because Melody is speaking English.

Natasher and Lovely Tom are playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide who will pitch at La Redoute.  Please, for the love of Lovely Tom, never let this be mentioned again.  Natasher is wearing low-rise jeans, and we can see her tummy button.  This is La Redoute I have heard of them!  Natasher, spruce yourself up!  Seriously... oh... what's that?  Lovely Tom just offered to sell them 10 teapot lights?  La Redoute?  Isn't that like going to Asda and offering to sell them 3 apples?  Yes, yes it is.  Awkward.  Natasha ups it to 50 units, which is like an entire packet of apples.

Anyway, here come Helen and Susan.  Helen has done her research, and has bought from La Redoute before.  She does an impressive pitch, slapping down their objections in style, while Susan whitters about and sits on the childs' booster seat to show how comfy it is.  I like Helen.

I do not like Melody, who has taught Leon to say 'un... deux... trois' before he lifts the teapot out of the box.  So he can't speak French?  Well THAT is letting the funky music do the talking.  Lovely Tom is having less success, after Mean Melody refused to help him AT ALL and was mean to him, and now he has to make appointments all by himself.  He phones up a place, and, when they don't speak English, he gets in a panic and asks to speak to the Postcard Manager.  But at least he says it in French.  Really, really, poor French, but French, nonetheless.  Natasher (innit) tries next, and is no better.  This is not good.

Good news, though: Leon and Melody are stuck in another traffic jam (irony upon irony!), and decide that since they're going to be late for their appointment, they'll pretend they made it for Lovely Tom and Natasher, so they phone them up and tell them to get on with it.  I really dislike Melody.  Then they get there, and Natasher (innit, still wearing jeans), tells the guy to take a seat (in his own office), and then the guy growls at them because the teapot is an idea, not a concept.  In other news, Melody lets Leon have a go at selling lights, because she's nice like that.

And so to the boardroom.  We revisit Susan's stupid questions, and Helen sniggers at her.  Then we move to Team Lovely Tom, and Melody is horrible and irritating again.  She brings up the market research that she lied about.  Lord Shugagh calls the Champs Elysees the 'Champs Elysees'.  Like, literally.  We skirt past the Rock, Paper, Scissors incident, thankfully.

On sales, Team Lovely Tom have sold about £11,000 worth, while Team Susie have sold about £14,000.  Or maybe that was in Euro.  I'm not sure. La Redoute, however, bought about a million booster seats, which is over £200,000.  Let's hope they REALLY, REALLY liked the postcards.  Um, no.  Nor did they like the teapots.  Ooops.  So Lovely Tom has lost by, like, £200,000, and has at least achieved a boardroom record.

Team Susie get sent off to learn to fly.  I think Lovely Tom would have liked to learn to fly, and I am a little bit sad.  But mostly I'm kind of worried, for Lovely Tom.  What we need is some way to turn this all into Melody's fault, since it was, really.  But Melody is not having that.  She points to her market research, but she does not mention that she lied.  Lovely Tom has also not sold anything, so at least it is clear that he's not a bladdy salesperson.  He has that in his favour.

Back in the boardroom, Lovely Tom points out that Melody and Leon were feck useless at market research, and Nick backs him up that they didn't do what they were told.  Melody yacks a bit.  With every word, I like her less and less.  We are well into negative numbers with how much I like Melody.  Leon tries to defend his uselessness by saying he couldn't help at all because he couldn't speak French, and Melody was speaking in French the whole time, and he didn't notice that actually she was speaking in English.

Melody spends some more time subtracting from how much I like her.

Lovely Tom brings Leon and Melody back in.  Please let it be Melody who goes.  Please please please please please.  Or Leon. Or Nick.  Or Lord Shugagh or the lady who answers the phone or Karren, but please not Lovely Tom.  But also if someone could punch Melody in the face, I would also be quite happy.  I dislike how she makes me want to punch her.  We go through her awards, which include "Woman of the Future".  Oh help, oh please, oh for the love of Lovely Tom and all that is lovely, let this not be the future of women.

Unfortunately, Lord Shugagh seems to like Melody for being all obnoxious.  I hate this.  I really really hate this.  I don't want Lovely Tom to work with Lord Shugagh.  I do not want Lovely Tom to go over to the dark side, I want him all for myself.  I want Lord Shugagh to take Melody and go and be evil somewhere far away from me and Lovely Tom, who will frolick through meadows with the sun on our backs.

Then the Rock, Paper, Scissors comes up again, and I imagine my dream may be realised.  But then, curveball from Lord Shugagh, and Leon gets the boot for doing nothing at all, which is both reasonable and a relief.  This is a little bit sad, but at least we have a bit more of Lovely Tom to look forward to before he comes to find me.

At the house, Melody boasts about how Lord Shugagh read out all of her awards, and said how great they were, at which point they all start talking about how great Helen is.