Sunday 26 June 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Episode 7

I'm a bit behind, I know.  I can only apologise.  It's been a good (i.e. bad) couple of weeks with our friends the apprentices though, so do stay tuned.

So, week 7, and they're off to Fleet Street, but not before a shot of Leon putting on his socks, which are The Same As Mine!  How exciting.  They're from Next, in case you're interested.

Apparently The Big Thing at the moment is free premium magazines ('Freemiums'); personally I have never encountered these (you tend not to, when you never really leave the house), but it seems they're big in London and other Important Places.  The idea is that you produce a magazine and then people pay you to advertise in it.  So that's what they have to do this week.

Jim is put in charge of his lot (Zoe, Glenn and Susan), and Natasher (yeah?) is put in charge of her lot (Leon, Lovely Tom, Melody, and Helen).  They go to see a bloke who tells them that it's a good idea to have stuff in on time and to produce stuff people will actually read.  Glorious.

They have to start by identifying target markets.  Natasher (yeah?) is quick to decide that (yeah) a lads' mag is the way forward, innit, although the rest of them don't really like it, and the team consists of Lovely Tom, Leon, Melody and Helen.  I've seen more laddish WI flower arranging demonstrations.  They have a brainstorming session, with Lovely Tom on whiteboard duty.  He writes down their ideas: "fashion", "boobs", "women" and "nacked girls" [sic].  Bless.  They're all a bit worried that classy advertisers might not want to tout their wares opposite pictures of nacked girls, apart from Natasher (yeah, innit?) who screams that "porn sells".  Heh.  Yeah.  Sells more porn mags; and I heard that Mercedes-Benz are thinking of edging into that market.

Lovely Tom hauls the tone out of the gutter, suggesting that they focus on business and entrepeneurs.  "Does that translate into boring?" says Natasher.  No.  No, Natasher, it does not.

Team Jim opt for the over-60s market, which they know absolutely nothing about, at all, in any way.  Fortunately, they find a focus group they can ignore.  They go to a bowling club, and patronise a roomful of people who hate every single one of their ideas.  Mainly this is because their ideas are crap.  One guy says he reads The Economist; Susan asks if it would be good to have puzzles in there to aid his memory.  Susan annoys me.  Their ideas for names are also universally dreadful: they seem to be confusing the magazine with a cheap margarine. Vitalife. Joy. Radiance. Eternal.  The old people suggest 'Zimmer'.

Lovely Tom and Helen go to see a rugby team, who want their mag to be tasteful, and businessy, and classy, and to not involve boobs or nacked women at all.  Natasher's having none of it.  Helen suggests calling it 'Covered', and Lovely Tom agrees, and it's actually not at all bad.

Susan and Glenn are stunned at how their ideas for names are all very cliched, so they phone Jim and come up with some even worse ones.  Pension Mention. The Old Boot. Golden Oldie.  For The Old-Looking Young-Hearted.  Zoe saves the day with 'Hip Replacement'.  Susan hates it, not because it's hideous, but because it's a bit sensitive.  They're going to be all satirical, is the thing.

Leon and Natasher (innit) are doing all they can to drag Covered back into the gutter, with an article called "Blow your load", and cover photos of a woman in a bikini, carrying a surf board, and wearing a hard hat and Lovely Tom's glasses and jacket.  Over at Hip Replacement, some over-60s are giving each other piggy backs and doing star jumps, because it is clearly so ludicrous that anyone of that age can still stand up.  That's where the satire comes from, see.  Glenn choses the final image, which is of a lady in a cardigan and a man in a sensible jumper holding on to each other and smiling. Meanwhile, Jim is sucking every last ounce of satire and irony out of the thing, and they end up producing a booklet which would not be out of place in the leaflet rack of a GP Surgery.

Now the mags need some content.  'Cos otherwise they'd just be crap.

Melody and Natasher (yeah?) are out on the streets asking random strangers "How do you blow your load?", and not really getting any answers, because it's not 1991.  Jim's lot have come up with a ton of patronising drivel, including an article on how to make a phone call.  Do these people really not know anyone over the age of sixty?  Given that they are largely in their late 20's or early 30's, one assumes they have parents, or aunts and uncles, or friends of parents, or neighbours in the over-60's bracket.  Give my mum a magazine on how to make a phone call, and she'll beat you round the head with it and put the photos on Facebook.

Anyway, now that they've made their mags, they have to sell the advertising space.  Covered doesn't look too bad, but Hip Replacement is truly dreadful.  Still, Jim's not backing down on the price; he loves his mag, and the advertisers ain't getting in there for free.  Or cheap.  Or at any kind of reasonable price.  This is probably ok, though, since they all hate it anyway.  They don't so much despise the idea, as the actual execution.  But even the idea is probably ok only when placed next to the execution.

We do get to see some quality negotiation though.  Natasher (yeah?) wants to charge £2000 per page.  The advertising woman only wants to pay £1500.  So they agree that she'll pay £1500.  Then Jim goes in, and for some reason she's now prepared to pay £2000 per page, which he accepts without discussion.  In the final pitch, he does go for a bit of wheeler-dealer; the guy wants 50% off the price; Jim thinks this is 'bold'; the woman says they should give it to them free; we go back to the 50% idea.

Off to the boardroom for the results, which are largely that neither magazine was great, but that the nacked girls were less terrible than the threat of age-related orthopaedic surgery, so Team Natasher get sent off to go fencing, which I'm not sure is that much of a treat, and Lovely Tom nearly gets killed.

The concensus on Team Crapski is that it was all Jim's fault for not reducing the price, although Susan points out that it was ridiculous to aim for a market as foreign and unknown as senior citizens, and Jim blames Zoe for coming up with a rubbish name.  Which is not an argument he was using a couple of weeks ago, after the Every Dog farce.

The back-to-the-boardroom bit is a bit dull, with a lot of shouting at Susan for not being against their terrible idea loudly enough, and Lord Shugagh being all offended at the article about making a phone call, because even Nick the Dinosaur knows how to do that, and look how old he is.  Jim describes Susan as Bambi and 'a meek little mouse', and then proceeds to club her round the head with a baseball bat.  Not literally, although that would have been worth watching.

Nick seems to hate Jim,and  Karren's not that fond of him either. Susan thinks it's all very unfair because she said all sorts of wonderful things and no one seems to remember.  So Glenn gets fired for being an engineer, because that's always a good principle to use.

Thursday 16 June 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 6

Apologies for the delay in transmission; I have been doing Important Things like working and going on Outings.  But The Apprentice has been rumbling on, and it's time to get up to speed. After last week's dog's dinner, this week's task is a load of rubbish.  Heh.  Literally.  Or should that be litterally?  Ha! Aha ha ha ha ha!

Ahem.  *stands up and puts on serious voice*

It's a shame we've gone off Jim, because the episode opened with a pants shot; a fortnight ago we would have swooned, but we're past that now.  Anyway, it's off to a scrapyard (or 'waste transfer station', as we appear to be calling it these days), because this week's task is to get a ton of junk and then flog it.

Since there's hardly anyone left on Team Logic, we do another shuffle; Helen (has never lost a task) moves to Logic (has never won a task), so it now consists of Jim, Lovely Tom, Melody, Natasha (yeah, innit?) and Helen.  Team Mental, or whatever it's called, is made up of Leon, Glenn, Susan, Zoe and Scary Edna.  Helen and Zoe take charge, and they all wear hi-vis jackets and big boots, which looks ridiculous.

Now, it has to be said that this is not a straightforward task; you have to look at a pile of junk and figure out if someone might buy any of it. Do you charge the person because you're providing a service and taking it away?  Or are you really buying it off them, so you should pay them?  Anyway, such questions are beyond the scope of the programme, because otherwise mayhem might not ensue.  Suffice to say, it's one of those tasks which is so contrived as to be ludicrous, and any actual resemblance to anything you might ever do in real life is purely accidental, and slightly despised.

First we have to pick team leaders.  Chez Mental, Glenn and Leon seem to think they'd be best suited to lifting piles of rubble; Susan is all up for being project manager, then Zoe appoints herself and tells them all to shut up.  A La Tragic, Helen's the obvious choice, as she's the only one with any competence at all (apart from Lovely Tom, but no one listens to him, so he can't be in charge).

Glenn and Leon decide to target cafes, because they're well-known as being places which produce a lot of valuable re-sellable waste.  Jim and Lovely Tom, meanwhile, drive around the suburbs in a lorry with a megaphone, yelling at people to give them junk.  When this, surprisingly, fails, Lovely Tom tries to nick barbecues from people's front gardens.

Natasha, Helen and Melody are at a place that's been refurbished, and there's a ton of crap and some metal.  They have to decide how much they're going to charge the guys to take it all away; Helen comes up with the idea of not charging them, which is either very very stupid, or very very clever.  Of course, it all sounds good until afterwards, when they think about it.  As Natasha says, via interpretive dance, "The horse has left the station"; Melody responds "And now we're going to the next station", as if that explains it.  Zoe's lot go in, and fight over how much the stuff weighs, and whether they can sell it, and everything, basically.  They quote £150 to take it all away.  So Helen gets that job.

Jim and Leon wander round houses asking people if they have any spare radiators lying around, and generally, they don't.  They start raiding skips.

Helen and co are at an office, and again they're not charging, because they're getting a load of desks and chairs and stuff that they could probably actually sell.  Their strategy is risky, but at least when your quote is £0 you know where you stand.  Zoe, Melody and Susan are not so clued in.  They debate what to charge, and it becomes apparent that Susie thinks £150 is a better offer than £100, at which point they realise that she thinks they're giving him money for the stuff, and laugh at her.  Until, that is, he phones them up later, and says that he doesn't really want to pay them money to give them stuff.  And so, Susan is happy again.

Back at the house, Zoe cries, Edna huffs and puffs, and Susan just... is.  Glenn and Leon come back, and are all encouraging and promise to fix it, and I fancy them both a little bit, despite them not being Lovely Tom and me not really liking either of them that much before.

And so to the next morning.  Team Zoe are in a bit of a panic, but decide to focus on getting as much metal as they can, which is at least an Actual Plan.  Helen's lot are sorting through all the stuff they agreed to take yesterday, and have realised that one of the places is up two flights of stairs, which means much running about with heavy things.  There's  a lot of Chuckle Brothers-esque 'to me, to you', some shots of things falling off lorries, a bit of shouting, and a lot of people looking at a lot of piles of rubble.

Susan strikes some kind of deal for some copper cylinders, which seems quite good, but what would I know?  Jim negotiates with a builder to clear a garden; when he goes back to pick it up, the builder has (quite brilliantly) added a couple more skip loads of bricks, and they have a bit of a row.  Zoe's team do a great job of clearing a yard, and then try to get the guy to agree to pay them more than they originally stated, which I suppose is a nice try.

Back to the boardroom, and it's a tough one to call, mainly because nobody has the faintest idea what they're trying to do or how they should be doing it.  In the interview things they show before the boardroom actually starts, Melody (who is really starting to irritate me) says she was very excited that she got dirty yesterday, while Susan moans about how much she doesn't want to work with Zoe EVER AGAIN.

Everyone in the boardroom is in top form, and there's lots of banter.  They all tease Lovely Tom a bit because he hasn't won anything yet, and he smiles very endearingly.  Helen admits that not charging for taking stuff away might have been a mistake.  Then Zoe says she messed up the contract things and she's very sorry.  It's all getting a bit self-flagellating, until Scary Edna steps in and bigs up how great she was at phoning people.

The results are in: Zoe's lot made a profit of £706; Helen and Co made £712.  And Lovely Tom has won a task, and we all rejoice.  He's so excited, his glasses steam up a little bit.  I love lovely Tom.  They're all off to a spa, which is actually not an appalling treat.  As they float around, Lovely Tom asks endearingly "Is this what all the treats are like?".  Bless.

Over at Cafe Disaster, it's all "I gave 110%, I shouldn't be fired, he did nothing, it's not my fault".  Etc.

Back to the boardroom, and Zoe gets a pat on the back for having a go and for admitting she fecked it up.  Susan thinks it's all very unfair, and Edna claims credit for everything.  So the two of them get brought back in, and Glenn and Leon go back to the house. Nick seems to have some kind of grandfatherly affection for Susan, and points out that she actually seems to sometimes have a clue what's going on.  She and Zoe start a fight about who closed a deal or set up a phone call, or something.  Edna pitches in with how well she did.  She also points out how she took over on day two and made really good decisions and set up really good appointments.  It's a shame they didn't show us any of that.

So we move on to Edna's CV (we do not appear to be calling it a ray-zoo-may this year), and how great she is at everything.  She points out that she has an MBA.  This goes down so badly that she panics, and can do nothing but keep repeating it.

After the obligatory run-down of everyone's bad points, the finger is pointed, and Edna is the one who goes.  In the taxi, we hear a bit more about the MBA.

Meanwhile, in the other taxi, Susan is lecturing Zoe about how she should have done everything.  I imagine Susan goes on a bit.  I think I'd want to slap her.

Next time, we're making magazines.  Stay tuned, because it's Quite Good.  Not the magazines, they're crap, but the episode is good.

Sunday 5 June 2011

The Apprentice Series 7: Week 5

I have a love-hate relationship with the advertising task.  On the one hand, it's the task that gave us Pants Man and Octi-Clean, and it has to be respected for that.  On the other hand, though, it's probably the most insanely pointless of all the tasks they do.  If, after all, there was a genuine market for some new kind of pet food, and no one has noticed it by now, what's to make us believe that this shower of loons will discover it in the course of an hour long brainstorming session?  For that is this week's task, as we learn after another listen to Lord Shugagh and his 'you have to have the balls to smell the opportunity' (or whatever it is he says), another view of Tom's blue and pink pants (does he only have one pair, or does he have lots of pairs all the same?), and a shot of Glenn saying "This is gonna be creative, this is my kind of thing"  *sigh*  It's like they haven't even read last week's WhyNotSmile review, these people.

Vincent is put in charge of Logic (Ellie, Natasher, Jim, Lovely Tom and Melody), and Glenn in charge of Venture (Leon, Helen, Scary Edna, Zoe and Susan).  Ellie has a dog, so she's the team expert, with Lovely Tom as deputy because his parents used to have a dog.  Vincent wants to call their dog food 'Pal', which is so good it's already been done, on a fairly epic scale.  Natasher likes 'Pet-eat', primarily because she thought of it.

Glenn's lot have a weird brainstorming session, which seems to involve people shouting random pet puns and Glenn talking cliches like "no guts, no glory".  His lot are making cat food, by the way.

Vincent doesn't like the idea of niche; he wants this dog food to be available to the masses, and if it can also work for your goldfish and lizard, then even better.  Because what dog owners want to feed their pooches is a good generic mush.  They call it 'Every Dog', which is Lovely Jim's idea, and of which more presently.

Vincent, Natasher and Lovely Jim go to a dog walker group, where the dogs go mental and try to eat them.  There's also a vet there, who says that the worst thing you can do is to create a dog food that tries to cater to every dog on the planet.  When they call Lovely Tom, he doesn't like the 'Every Dog' thing, because it's crap, but he gets shouted down because that's what happens to Lovely Tom.

Leon is naming cat food, and goes for 'Lucky Fish', which sounds like a bad Japanese translation of something (I think the point is that the fish is lucky because the cat food is so nice that the cat won't eat the fish, but I may be wrong).  He goes to a cat lovers' place (with Natasher and Helen) and they explain the idea, and everyone loves it (I've no idea why, presumably because they're mental).  Meanwhile, the other half of the team are in a car, and Glenn glances out the window.  For a second he goes all creative, like this: Cat's Eyes... Cat Size... Catsize, and so the slimming cat food is born.  He wants the tag line to be "See their light", because that can be read as "See their light" or as "See, they are light (after eating our cat food)", and since that contains the most grammatically dreadful error I can imagine, I have to despise it.

Natasher, Jim and Vincent are interviewing dogs.  One of them was in Midsommer Murders, but is quite humble about it.  His main talent is jumping up and down, so they hire him for their advert.  Jim, incidentally, has long since entirely taken over the task.

There's a brief scene in which they're all making dog and cat food, which is both gross and irrelevant to the rest of the task.

Leon and co phone Glenn and co to explain the "Lucky Fish" idea, and Glenn says it's stupid but thankfully he has "Catsize" for them to fall back on, which they universally hate, but they go with it anyway because he forces them to. Leon, Helen and Zoe interview cats; one lady comes in with a sphinx cat, which is bald.  Leon says it looks like a chicken, and Zoe starts giggling hysterically.  Then Helen starts.  The woman takes up her cat and leaves in disgust.  Glenn calls to let them know about the "See their Light" thing, and they are almost paralysed with laughter.  If Glenn ever had any dignity as Project Manager, it has vamoosed quicker than you can say "Well that's a dumbwit plurp of an attempt at a slogan".  It is not, in summary, the most professional way to behave, but it's always funny to watch other people laughing.

Tomorrow they have to do the pitches.  The pitchers are Melody (confident, serious, almost too earnest) and Leon (can't really be arsed, spends most of his prep time drawing pictures of cats, and then gets paranoid that Glenn has put him in charge "for strategic reasons").  But before that they have to make their ads.  The cat one involves Ruby the cat coming into the room, eating food, and enduring some bad acting.  They've hired a voiceover guy to do the talky bit, which is odd, as they want it in a female voice.  Natasher is in charge of the dogs, and is talking more, moving more, and generally expending more energy in each minute than she has thus far in the entire series.  She also says 'yeah' a lot, especially when she disagrees with helpful things other people say.

And so to the pitches.  Melody is confident, serious and almost too earnest, much as we expected.  She talks about how they are pushing boundaries and then they show the ad.  At one point in the ad, a little dog jumps up and down a bit.  The audience almost have convulsions at how funny this is.  This is the funniest thing they have ever seen.  They cannot imagine ever seeing anything funnier than a little dog jumping up and down.  Weirdos.  They also point out that dog owners don't like buying generic dog food, because they actually tend to quite like their dogs.

On to Leon, who says: "Heh heh heh.  Um yeah, so heh, we came up with this idea, um we put it in pouches, he he he, it's about cats staying on the right side of obesity heh um you will see their light so they will glow afterwards here's the ad".

And to the boardroom.  For this task, there's no profit or loss or anything like that, so the winner is decided by Lord Shugagh after talking to the advertising people.  They watch the ads again, and again everyone laughs their heads off at the little dog jumping up and down.  Glenn describes "Catsize" as a double entendre, which means he's either not very good at the finer points of the English language, or he's very very weird.

So, to sum up, Glenn's lot did quite well with actually having an idea and a theme, but their ad was a bit wick.  Vincent and co had a funny advert (what with the hilarious dog jumping and all) but everything else was pants.  So Vincent loses again, for the 5th week out of 5.  So does Lovely Tom, which is sad.  Glenn's lot head off to play tennis with Pat Cash, which is nice but might have been better, say, 20 years ago; while Vince and co head to the Cafe Los Losers, where one imagines both himself and Lovely Tom no longer need to order, but just nod to the bloke behind the counter and mutter "the usual" as they sit themselves sadly down.  Again.  The concensus seems to be that the problem was the name, which, as we recollect, Jim came up with.  That's the one thing they all agree on: it was all Jim's doing.  Personally, I think it's a little unfair, but then who am I to muscle in, having done nothing but point and laugh?

Back to the boardroom, and it's all down to Jim again, and everyone agrees, and Lord Shugagh is clearly turning on Jim, because actually Jim is getting a bit smug and annoying, and I don't think he's so lovely any more.  Lord Shugagh asks how much of Jim is brains and how much is bollocks; you can see Lovely Tom drawing a pie chart in his head.  So now that we've decided that it's all Jim's fault, Vincent brings Ellie and Natasha back in for boardroom part 3.

Natasha's appearance is a little unexpected, as she made an advert that had the nation enthralled, so we know she's safe.  She does, however, provide some entertainment by saying things like "Vincent was so far up Jim's arse that he couldn't see the wood for the trees", which makes us all feel a little uneasy.  Ellie has been brought in, apparently, solely because she owns a dog.  So it's got to be Vincent who goes, no?

Well, no, because Ellie gets fired for not really doing anything.  I know of at least one person who yelled at the television at this point, because surely, surely Vince cannot have survived?

But then Vincent gets fired too, which is a double bummer, because not only has he been fired, but Ellie's already away in the taxi, so now he's going to have to walk.