The Apprentice 2014: The Idiots Are Back

Here's a few things we learnt about business from the first round of shows...
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Ahead of the tenth series of The Apprentice, which kicked off this week with an overpopulated double bill, the BBC ran a cleverly edited compilation, designed to bring the uninitiated up-to-date, as well as celebrate some of the show’s former glories. Less than five minutes in, it became clear that there was a clear editorial agenda at work. What had started out innocently enough as a mildly irritating celebration of 21st century entrepreneurialism, quickly descended into a farcical soup of hair-gel, mangled metaphors and hubris.

With every passing year, the contestants became more and more outrageously self-satisfied. Prompted into uttering ever more banal declarations of accomplishment, the would-be Apprentii were never really in contention for a job. They were just bright-eyed village idiots, tricked into the stocks with the promise of a six figure salary and an Amstrad Email Phone. Anyone tuning in for genuine insights into the fast-moving world of big business was shit out of luck. Instead, this was a pinstriped sitcom, with helicopter shots of the Square Mile to replace the canned laughter. And if you think I’m over-stating things, let’s take a look at what I learned about the cut-throat world of business from the first two episodes of Series 10.

Volume and repetition trumps comprehension

You only needed to watch the girls blinking incredulously as Nick helpfully popped on his Countdown mortarboard and offered the synonym “Moral turpitude,” to know that they never had a clue what their own team name ‘Decadence’ meant. Over on the boys’ team, they spent 48 hours constantly imploring each other to “let me finish,” without any of them ever making a point. Stephen, Canary Wharf’s answer to Hollywood Montrose, was a particularly audible proponent of the “I’m sorry, can I finish speaking” school of conversation.

It’s all about sounding business, not doing business.

Whether they were talking about buying “two kay-gee” of products, unaware that it had just as many syllables as ‘kilos,’ or bemoaning the fact that “We forgot the capital,” when they’d left their purse back at the house, the girls did a great job of sounding like five year olds playing at being business women. I’d like to think that, had they failed either of this week’s tasks, they’d have headed off to La Cabana café in search of Romy and Michelle’s “businesswomen’s special.”


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Wearable technology may be the future but it’s still a way off

The brief in this week’s second show, was to create a piece of ‘wearable technology’ which, according to the voiceover, is a market that’s “worth millions of pounds.” Way to go, researchers. Unfortunately, both teams completely missed the brief, and tried to stitch random bits of kit into the most generic garments they could find. The boys contravened every privacy law ever drafted, by plugging a webcam into the kind of shapeless grey sweater that Susan Boyle would watch Take The High Road in. The girls realised that every woman craves a black jacket with solar panels as epaulettes, and a USB phone charger in the pocket. Plus, flashing red LED stitched into the lining, so she can go to parties dressed as a traffic hazard.

If you want to get ahead, stand out

The early shows of The Apprentice are always a logistics nightmare, as clusters of anonymous suits run frantically down alleyways and talk into their mobiles as if they’ve never used a phone. The key, therefore, is to get yourself noticed, and two candidates achieved this with aplomb. First project manager Sarah shared her valuable business insights; advising her team members to use loads of lippy, short skirts and high heels. Since they weren’t selling their bucket of cleaning supplies (£250, thank you very much) to Stringfellows, this advice went unheeded. Over on the boys’ team, Robert was head and shoulders above his colleagues. Literally. So elongated that he could trigger Napoleon Complex in a giraffe, he relished his lanky frame, and chose to dress it like he was renting out deckchairs on the Margate seafront. Sadly, when Lord Sugar advised the boys to pull up their socks,” it was clear that Robert’s time was up, since he never wears any.

Always pass the buck

With responsibilities being handed back and forth like a gift-wrapped turd, this week’s double-bill showcased countless examples of blame-shifting. This lot didn’t even wait until they were in the boardroom to start stabbing each other in the back. While Robert ignored Lord Sugar’s suggestion that he PM the boys for the wearable tech project, the girls took it in turns to push responsibility onto each other: “I sell scarves, I don’t do styling.” And if your ideas end up being terrible, you can always pin it on that passerby you asked for their opinion, blaming it “on our customer research.” Top tip – never ask a woman in a lemon yellow twin-set for fashion advice. Or Nick, for that matter, who confidently stated that the shapeless grey sweater could “have a chance in the market.” Doncaster, maybe.

And finally, never let the penguins get hold of the rubber gloves.