Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Lord Sugar returns to savage another set of business mavericks

The Apprentice has burst back onto TV again at its normal time of year – with none of this conflict of interest because Lord Sugar is in the government kerfuffle- and welcomes another shower of business bastards onto our screens; all blustering and purring about how they are unstoppable selling machines and that they will declare war on low profit margins. Things are the same as ever.

This year amongst the contestants: we have an automaton who works 24/7 without switching off and I am sure will kill us all once Skynet orders the termination of humanity, a nutty inventor, a sexual harassment prosecution waiting to happen, as well as a woman who claims to have been taught to achieve a higher purpose personally by the Dali Lama. There were also the usual droves of interchangeable, deluded middle managers with career achievements as realistic sounding as a child telling you he will be a ninja astronaut when he grows up.

This year there is a bit of a twist in the format of the game show. Instead of winning the dubious honour of being Lord Grump’s business pet, the eventual winner will be showered with £250,000 of the mighty Lord’s money. The catch however is that the winner will have to start a business with the cash and will be forced to share control of it with His Lordness. Whilst this is probably better than winning the chance to be Lord Amstrad's lackey, this still strikes me as a bum deal. Especially as you can win this kind of money with far less effort, and with no strings attached, by picking the correct numbered box on Deal or No Deal.

As usual the process began with the contestants gathered in the boardroom, until Lord Premium Bonds descended from atop the mythical Mount Business and through the frosted glass doors of doom to greet them. He then barked at them to go out and sell some fruit with his £250 investment and be sure to make a profit lest they be flogged, or worse fired.

The two teams then set about picking their names, with the girls opting for Venture and the boys for Logic. What logic has to do with The Apprentice I don’t know, but that is their name anyway and I was left disappointed once again that no one had chosen a more sinister name such as Strike-Force or Knuckleduster. The boys then fumbled around in the task's early stages trying to work out if an orange was an orange, while the girls turned on their feminine charms to get a discount on fruit from the wholesaler and then hit the streets with their products.

During the task the boys attempted to sell orange juice - once they’d established they had actually bought oranges and not some kind of reddy coloured lemons - and tomato soup, whilst the girls prepared fruit salad and vegetable pasta. The fruit salad sold well although the girls seemed to be flinging them frantically at unwitting passers-by until they gave in and bought them, whilst the veggie pasta went down as well as Lord Sugar taking part in the Vagina Monologues. The boys on the other hand sold steadily, that is when they finally got round to selling. It took them nearly half the day to squeeze all the oranges and never really recovered. Naturally they lost.

Much of the loss was blamed on the enthusiastic but gormless manager Edward, who made insane statements such as: “When I was producing, that was production” and wouldn’t stop insisting how he could “roll with the punches”. He also then committed business suicide by admitting he had purposely underused his accountancy skills because he was ashamed of the negative stigma the accounting industry has. Lord Frown had heard enough and pulled out his firing finger, sent Edward on his way and that was that.

The first show wasn’t too bad overall but you do have to wonder if the show is still the great reality TV event that it was two or three years ago. There’s no denying that Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ took exaggerated confidence to new highs (or lows depending on your opinion) and one has ponder if that was the exact moment that the format jumped the shark. Still, whether the inevitable decline has begun or not, the show is still mightily entertaining and if today wasn’t enough to satisfy your appetite for watching big-headed salespeople blundering up business tasks, then you’ve got another episode to look forward to tonight.

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