The Apprentice 2011, Week One: Short Shrift

They're back, dressed to impress and spouting nonsense from the off. Problem is, they're just not very good, are they? One of these goons is going to win £250,000...
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They're back, dressed to impress and spouting nonsense from the off. Problem is, they're just not very good, are they? One of these goons is going to win £250,000...

You’ve got to feel for Stella – last year’s Apprentice winner – a woman who pulled the modern day equivalent of turning up to Woodstock with a furry front bottom and flowers on her nipples, only to find that it’s 1968. She’s a year early. Now sitting somewhere deep in one of Sugar’s vast warehouses haphazardly sellotaping television screens to old mobile phones, it will be through a waterfall of bewildered tears that she acknowledges the new prize on offer – a £250,000 investment and a chance to run a business hand-in-hand with Lord Sugar. That’s a proper prize.

So it began - Intro, the Gherkin, an elevator, high heels, Sugar standing on a rooftop like he’s a vagrant Batman waiting for a helicopter which will never turn up. It was going to be a busy night, with sixteen people to vaguely remember. And there they were, all sitting in Alan Sugar’s luxury waiting suite, dressed in suits all the colours of the rainbow. There were dark blues, black ones, a few charcoals, a light grey. This was going to be one wild technicolour ride. Phones off the hook.

Sugar kicked things off with a short story about starting out in business during The Summer of Love. Just next to him, Nick Hewer nodded to himself as he too remembered 1967 - the psychedelic freak-outs, the magnificent “anything goes” business meeting orgies set to Jimi Hendrix.  The funny hair and the moustaches. Crazy times, man.

On the other side was Karen Brady - her own funny hair straight at the top and curly at the bottom. A metaphor for her life’s work as the breathing embodiment of “a mind for business and a body for sin”.

“This is two hundred and fifty quid!” shouted Sugar, holding up a fistful of five pound notes. “I want you to buy fruit and vegetables with it!”

Thus, the gauntlet was thrown down. No business lunch on Lord Sugar for these suckers – he doesn’t do that kind of bullshit

Everyone cheered, their stomachs hungry. It was 4pm - finally, they can have lunch! But, hold your horses, there was a catch.

“I then want you to make it into food for OTHER PEOPLE and SELL IT!”

Thus, the gauntlet was thrown down. No business lunch on Lord Sugar for these suckers – he doesn’t do that kind of bullshit. Instead, two teams – one a sausage factory full of guys with cocks – the other a breasts manufacturer, because all of the girls had tits. It was getting real, almost too real. And as the sixteen hopefuls travelled to their handsome new home in the back of matching Renault Espaces, they each took the opportunity to explain how wildly successful they have already been in life. The one who looks like the Scarlet Pimpernel if he was a hair stylist informed his gripped audience that he was more of a sales director than a simple sales manager. They all looked totally impressed.

THE TEAMS

It was time for the teams to adopt their names, choose a leader, then put improbable business suits on to negotiate the price of carrots with a simple meat and potatoes guy who couldn’t give a shit about their stupid television programme and just wants to go home, catch up with the wife, have a pie, get drunk, drop a little bit of acid, then talk about politics to lampposts.

The girls chose to ignore the business cow shouting things like “platinum”, “galvanise”, “and “caviar”, and went for Melody’s idea to call themselves “Venture” – which is a great name, because they’re actually doing a venture. It’s got a double meaning. Melody was trained to close business deals by Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama. That makes her one to watch. She also has her beautiful name hilariously offset with the most peculiar voice yet.

Over in the boy’s camp, they plumped for the name “Logic”, and voted for Edward as their team leader. Brady hovered in the background, as they lurched from one idea to another – the Inventor suggesting at one point that they fuse toffee with apples to create some kind of groundbreaking fairground treat – until eventually they decided to squeeze the juice from oranges and tomatoes and see what happened.

“Is this an orange?” wondered Vincent (hair stylist Pimpernel), holding a massive orange up to the sky and inspecting it. No one was entirely sure. It might have been a grapefruit.

A handful of the guys went around trendy East London offices to sell fresh orange juice to bearded men in Converse All stars, whilst Vincent hung back and fingered receptionists

THE MAKING AND SELLING OF THINGS

After negotiations, which concluded with Melody buying a pineapple, and Irish Bloke talking about how excited he was to be making Heinz tomato soup FROM SCRATCH, it was time to get things done. Everyone put on hilarious blue rinse wigs, the boy’s team further accessorising with plastic aprons. Someone called Natasha appeared, then vanished, never to be seen again. Then “Logic” managed to break their futuristic orange squash machine, causing team leader Ed to quietly retire to the sink to tearfully rinse cups away from all of the commotion.

To summarise how the task went: the girls fruit sold like hot cakes, which momentarily made one of them wonder how actual hot cakes might have fared. A handful of the guys went around trendy East London offices to sell fresh orange juice to bearded men in Converse All stars, whilst Vincent hung back and fingered receptionists. Northern Girl had trouble spelling vegtabels (sic). And some guy called Alex opened his heart to camera about how he was once so poor that he was forced to sell ice cream at university to pay for lectures.

Pretty soon, everything was sold out.

THE BOARDROOM ROUND ONE

“Lord Sugar will see you now,” whispered a timid voice from beneath a desk in reception.

Dry ice swept through the door of Alan’s hired office, as he entered the room like a gargoyle in a suit and sat in a massive chair, his feet dangling many inches from the floor.

“Good leaders?” he asked, pointing at Ed and then Melody. And then back to Ed. And back to Melody. Then back to Ed. Then Melody. Ed. Melody. Ed. Melody. Ed. Melody. Ed. Ed. Ha! Gotcha!

They were all in the firing line. Ed for committing the old chestnut business gaff of THINKING things and forgetting to SAY them

The boys grunted, the girls cooed. “I’m amazing!” shrieked Melody, who, everyone agreed, was pretty good.

“I don’t fit the mould!” shouted Ed from nowhere, suddenly waking up.

After some maths was done, it was decreed that Melody’s team had won. Desmond Tutu high fived the Dalai Lama, and the girls were sent back to their amazing new home to enjoy a champagne reception followed by a pillow fight and some kissing practice. The boys were sent to Heartbreak Café to get seven espressos and a Sex on the Beach for Vincent.

THE BOARDROOM ROUND TWO

Haunting strings, Sugar, each hopeful was provided with exactly half a tumbler of water.

They were all in the firing line. Ed for committing the old chestnut business gaff of THINKING things and forgetting to SAY them. Alex the Estate Agent for “helping to close deals” on tomato soup, but doing bugger all else. Leon – who is posh – for breaking the orange squash machines. And the one from Brookside for having his plea to lead the team mistaken for the sounds of a man desperately trying to clear his throat. As it was, Ed decided to lead the symphony of “I haven’t finisheds” and “will you please let me speaks” with Brookie and Leon. Both of whom did little wrong, and with Ed’s only completely comprehendible case for survival resting on his shortness compared to the other members of his team, his days were quite clearly numbered.

“Get out Ed!” boomed Alan Sugar.

And lo, Ed trundled off to get a cab, whilst Nick Hewer attempted to make a joke about how he hadn’t “accounted” for something… because, you know, his normal job is as an accountant.

Nice one Nick. That one pretty much writes itself.

NEXT TIME: Shouting!