Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit
Lord Sugar’s carnival of corporate caricatures rolled into town last night for a seventh series. This time around, the glittering carrot at the end of the stick is a £250k investment from Lord Sugar and the promise that he’ll be lurking in the shadows as an equal partner to remedy any rookie mistakes, like some Death Star incubator. Lord Sugar is not looking for a silent partner – and he’s in luck. There’s nothing silent about this bunch.
The ego-fest started with the impeccably made up Melody, a sort of terrifying fembot with two settings: shameless self-promotion and compulsive name dropping. “I worked with twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners in over a hundred countries. Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit if there are footprints on the moon.”
After we got over the mind-blowing power of Melody’s insightful metaphor, we were introduced to the rest of the wannabes. Safe to say Melody had set the bar pretty high in the instantly “dislikeable” stakes, but there was still enough useless bile to go around. Vincent informed viewers that he was “not bad looking” within a millisecond of appearing on screen, Helen declared that her personal life means nothing to her and Alex bragged that he “takes cutthroat and ruthless to a completely new level” and that “the only focus for me is myself.” And there I was hoping for an hour-long rendition of Kumbaya.
Incredibly, the contestants managed to hear Lord Sugar’s muffled instructions through the inconvenience of having their heads permanently stuck in their own backsides, and ascertained that the first task would be buying fruit and veg, making a product and selling at a profit – all for £250. The team with the biggest return on Lord Sugar’s investment would win. Simples. Appropriately, the teams were divided into “boys” and “girls”, consolidating the pre-existing playground dynamics – let the pigtail pulling begin!
I was personally taught by the Dalai Lama
No-mates Helen was the first to dive in with suggestions for team name. She proudly presented the names “Galvanised” and “Platinum” with all the pride of a three year old after a particularly successful finger painting session. After Helen’s suggestions were met with smug smirks and upturned noses, Melody trumped her in the awful cliché arena with “Team Venture”, which was voted in. Shot down, Helen. Meanwhile, the boys named themselves “Team Logic” – an eerie foreshadowing of the disaster that was to follow, particularly as the suggestion was met with blank stares and Glenn’s explanation “you know, a logical approach to things”. Thanks for clearing that one up, Glenn.
Next came time to choose a leader. Motor-mouth Melody was the clear front-runner, particularly as she was up against self-confessed loner Helen. Bless her, somehow “I’m experienced with managing large teams” couldn’t quite compete with Melody’s “I manage projects for global organisations across 110 countries”. Melody: 2, Helen: 0. “I was personally taught by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama” Melody drawled on camera. Perhaps there’s time for that Kumbaya singalong after all? No?
Alpha-idiot, Edward the accountant, charged forward for the challenge of leading the boys’ team, reluctantly contested by Gavin-I’m-not-saying-I-want-to-do-it-but-really-I-do. Despite putting forward this compelling case, Edward was elected leader of the lads and off they went.
Let them eat soup
The boys decided that the best way to sell fruit and veg was to liquidise it, and ended up deciding on tomato soup and orange juice. Meanwhile the girls went for fruit salad and veg pasta. Both teams had did their fair share of negotiating stock prices with bemused and rightfully patronising fruit and veg sellers, and different leadership styles became evident. While others on the boys’ team demonstrated far more organisational skills than Edward’s broken “roll with the punches” record, Edward sniffled his way through managing the task like a usurped best man at a stag do, pausing occasionally to tearfully bark unhelpful suggestions at his production line, resulting in broken orange squeezing machinery. Whoops.
Under what I can only assume was the threat of Melody chopping up her own team members and selling them, the girls actually pulled together quite well overall. They outdid the boys immediately by actually having a plan of action, even if that plan inexplicably involved only investing half of their money.
I don’t fit the mould
So, the girls won. Time for the boys’ team leader, Edward, to face a grilling from the Lord himself – suffice it to say he didn’t fare too well. When asked about his business plan, he answered that he “didn’t want to speculate” on how much he was going to sell. As Lord Sugar cut through the bullshit like a stern headmaster unravelling a “the dog ate my homework” tale, Edward became ever more defensive and his answers increasingly bizarre.
“When I was producing, that was production,” he sniffed. I can see why they called themselves Team Logic. Who needs real answers when there’s mindless tautology to fall back on? But why didn’t Edward use his accountancy skills in the task? “I don’t fit the mould,” he whined. When all else failed, he tried his luck with “I’m the shortest and the youngest!” Cue the violins.
After trying to blame his failure on his original challenger and possibly most competent team member, Gavin, it became clear that Edward was a goner. Guess what, Edward? You’re fired!
Tune in to the Apprentice at 9pm tonight, BBC2