Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Apprentice 2012: Week 2

They say that when being chased by a lion, the important thing is not to be the fastest runner, but to make sure you're not the slowest. As in life, so in The Apprentice, where this week we had the inventy task. We have enough experience by now to know that the winner is not the team who produce the best invention, but the team who produce the less feck-awful invention. It's a fine, but important, distinction.

So with Bilyana, the giant pink bagpipe, out of the equation, the girls are one person down. Surely this can only be an advantage, right? Wrong.

Off to the V&A, and Shugagh and the Babes are there to introduce the task: to design an 'ousehold gadget wot 'as not bin designed before. He warns them that it's all a waste of time if the product sucks. Or, to paraphrase, it's all a waste of time.

Chez Sterling, Irish misery Jane and "blonde assassin" Katie are both dying to lead. Then Jane says 'strategic', so they vote for her, because that's a big technical word. And off she sets, to suck every ounce of happy out of every single frickin thing they do, see, or think.

On Pheonix, Azhar is put in charge, and claims he's "the killer whale of the sea world". As opposed to the well-known killer whale of all the other kinds of worlds, we presume. The boys want to make a kitchen gadget; the girls are going to solve "bathroom problems". Snigger.

None of the girls have any ideas whatever, whereas the boys decide to come up with a thing that you put rubbish in and squish it down, because "that's what's fashionable at the moment". While one half of them go off to interrogate a woman in a shop about her bin range, the other half are driving about coming up with a different idea. Specifically, Adam (a chap marvellously described by one commentator as looking like a Creature Comforts tortoise) has this notion of cutting up a scouring pad and sticking the bits to rubber gloves to make it easier to do the washing up. Actually, not horrendous. I'm not saying I'd buy it, I'm just saying I can see some logic behind it, which is unusual at this stage in the process. Anyway, Azhar hates it and never lets anyone speak of it again.

The girls still have no ideas, until one of them (the Scottish one) says she hates when her kid is in the bath and splashes the floor, because heaven forbid that anyone actually have any fun in her bathroom, and maybe they should invent some kind of screen thing to stop the water going everywhere. Katie suggests a 'tap cozy', which you put over your taps so you can put your feet up in the bath. Personally, I reckon that if I tried to put my feet up in the bath, my bum would lose traction on the surface and I'd slide right under, but maybe my bath is unusually slippery or something. In any case, the girls immediately get bogged down in HOW ON EARTH you would attach this to taps, because they are all different sizes and different distances away and stuff. Not features unique to taps, I wouldn't have thought, and in any case I feel they're underestimating what can be achieved with a few inches of Velcro, but this seems to be the seal of doom for the Tap Cozy, at least in Joysuck Jane's mind.

Some of them go off to a parent and toddler group to see what they think of the ideas. To summarise: they hate the splash screen and love the tap cozy. Now, I'm sure you're a step ahead of me here, but of course they decide to make the shower screen, because of the impossibility of making a cozy to fit different sizes of taps.

Meanwhile, half of the boys are talking to some chefs, and they have actually managed to make prototype "Magic Hands", by, well, putting rubber gloves on Adam and handing him a scourer. The chefs' opinions are varied, but Adam seems to think they unanimously love the gloves. Ah well. Azhar is Not Making Gloves Today.

In the girls' car, Maria has nodded off. Which is not apparently something you want to do when sat next to Joysuck Jane. She tries to defend herself by saying "I'm finkin". In fairness, keeping her eyes open under the weight of all that eyeshadow must take quite some effort, and you can see why she couldn't do that and fink at the same time.

So, to summarise what we have so far:
The girls are making a screen which prevents your child from splashing the floor when they have a bath. What's that you say? A shower what? A shower CURTAIN you say? Why yes, yes, that would be a good name for it. Do you think that's patented?
The boys are making a box in which you put rubbish. What? A BIN? What is this crazy name you speak of? Get out of here.

Now, since both those things already exist, the only thing to be done is make them less useful than they already are. The girls have made a solid screen which not only stops your child from splashing, but also clutters up your bath, makes it impossible to actually get to your child if they slide under the water, and comes with a handy set of waterproof crayons so that the kids can redecorate the bathroom while you watch, forlornly, through a plastic square. The boys have made a bin which you are encouraged to keep on your desk and squish your rubbish into, thus stinking out the office for at least 6 weeks until it's full and you tip it all into the bin in the office kitchen, thus stinking out the kitchen until the next time the cleaners are in.

Weirdly, half the girls are choosing fabric for a tap cozy, while Joysuck Jane is building a splash screen, so she has to shout them down. The boys are squabbling about whether the sub-team got listened to enough. It's like a counselling session, but weirder.

The prototypes arrive. The compost thingy is basically a giant coffee percolator thing. The shower screen is basically a shower screen, but one that's too small to actually stop the water from going over the edge of the bath.

They're all off to Amazon. The girls are planning to try to sell them 1 million splash screens. 1 million. That's enough for about every child in England, surely? Even assuming every child actually wanted one, which is not entirely convincing. In any case, Amazon Man points out that they've mangled their margins; Joysuck refers them to "the financial team", which consists of Gabrielle, Jenna, and a lot of shrieking. No reliable maths, unfortunately.

The boys go in to flog the bin, and ban Duane from speaking at all, even though he invented the thing, and is probably more articulate than the rest of them combined. Stephen does the pitch, with big wide eyes and no chin. We also learn that the bin has a hole at the bottom, so that the smell can leak out all over your desk

Now it's off to Lakeland, a company who, let us remember, sell little banana-shaped boxes to store bananas in. This should be a better audience for our teams, no? Weeeellll, no. The girls have spent most of the journey fighting about maths, and come to the conclusion that nobody cares, and the main thing is to let the buyers see the thing and then make their decision. Probably mainly because any price at all is too much. The boys go in and sit there like a jury in a particularly dull case involving TV Licence avoiders. Apart from Duane, who smiles a lot, because he's happy they made his machine.

Back to the boardroom with them and their suitcases, and Maria is fully bedecked in a flouncy purple blouse and matching eyeshadow. The girls all pretend they thought Jane was a good team leader. Katie dobs them in about the focus group Tap Cozy debacle, and Joysuck mentions how all taps are different sizes again. The boys mostly hated Azhar as Project Manager. They move swiftly on to the 'multifunctional' composter, which does not, as far as I can tell, have any function beyond making a mess.

Unfortunately, the boys have somehow won, with orders for 13,000 bins, compared to a 7,500 for the girls. So they get sent off to The Ivy, where they will be confined to a private room, which is probably for the best.

Over in Cafe Of Shattered Dreams, Maria is furiously spooning sugar into her tea and claiming to be gutted. Jane looks miserable, much as she has done throughout.

Back in the boardroom, there's a lengthy discussion about how they managed to come up with such a crap product. Basically, because they didn't have any decent ideas, according to Karen. There are some hysterics about numbers, and then Jane is bringing Jenna and Maria back in.

The fabulous thing about Maria (apart from her eyeshadow) is that she has the very opposite of a poker face. Every emotion, thought and sensation is etched right on there, for all the world to see. It's a glorious thing. But she gets fired anyway, so let's not get too attached.

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