Originally written for The Huffington Post
The Apprentice returned to our screens last night, and as usual the first thing out of the collective mouths of the candidates were odd metaphors: usually about animals.
Purple bloused Maria started the trend with her claim that she was ‘literally’ going to roar her way to the top. Because that’s how extended job interviews work: it’s a volume thing.
Also, the amusingly named Ricky Martin is a shark, apparently. He claims he’s ‘right at the top of the food chain’. But unfortunately for him, humans actually hold the top spot. Someone should probably warn him he’s a) endangered and b) likely to have his body parts turned into some kind of soup.
What’s interesting is how they all compare themselves to predators: even Lord Sugar, who’s on ‘the hunt’ for his next business partner. But why do they all pick carnivores? Personally, I’d like to be known as the gazelle of profit: I’m incredibly good at running away from poor business decisions.
There’s also Stephen in his shiny suit, who believes enthusiasm is ‘caught, rather than taught’, like some kind of infectious disease: “I’d love to feel excited about this, but I’ll have to wait until I’m exposed to some enthusiasm. I’ll probably go and hang around some fairground DJs later”.
But to be fair, the candidates are all just a whirl of boasting, suits, haircuts, teeth and excessive eye make up at this stage, so let’s move on to the task at hand: designing something, printing that design onto blank items and then selling the results to the very few London residents who aren’t yet genetically conditioned to run away at the first glimpse of a red-faced twenty-something in full business dress holding a tray of tacky items.
Fully briefed, the contestants trotted off to pick team names. Lancastrian Jenna came up with ‘Sterling’ for the girls. It came to her in a dream, apparently. They’re lucky they didn’t end up called Team Suddenly Realising You Have An Exam Tomorrow You Haven’t Revised For. Or possibly Team Naked At A Family Event.
The boys- sticking with their animal obsession- chosePhoenix, although it’s not entirely clear what they’re rising from the ashes of. Their previous careers, possibly.
They then chose their products: Phoenix went for teddy bears and canvas bags, Sterling chose baby gros, bibs and jigsaws. The teddies got a Union Jack motif while the bags were adorned with a terrible red stain that was supposed to be a London bus. In case people didn’t get that, they also helpfully added in the words THIS IS A BUS.
Finest British business minds, etc.
The girls went for an animal design. Well, I say ‘animal’, they actually looked more like a three year old’s attempt to depict an abstract concept on Drawsomething. The penguin was particularly disturbing: it looked like a haunted duck in a yellow cape.
But Lord Sugar wasn’t looking for artistic skills, he was looking for sales. Sadly, the girls failed to deliver on that score either. Team leader Gabriella sent a sub team to London Zoo to sell their animal themed children’s gear to susceptible tourists, with Bulgarian-born Bilyana leading the charge in a pink tartan outfit that made her look like a gay bagpipe.
Unluckily for them, no one was buying, leading to a traditional ending that saw the sub team running away from Regent’s Park as if the lions had escaped in an attempt to find a shop- any shop- that would buy an assortment of baby-gros.
Over in Team Phoenix they had more success selling their patriotic bears to tourists (despite the fact the bears looked a) cheap and b) like angry BNP members who’d just got back from deporting Paddington to Darkest Peru), but were recalled to a shop they’d sold canvas bags to earlier because they were all flawed. And by flawed, please read ‘covered in so many red stains that they looked as if they’d been used to transport harvested organs’.
Despite having to refund the shopkeeper, Phoenix won out with £616 worth of sales to Sterling’s paltry £214. Gay bagpipe Bilyana was fired: possibly unfairly, and almost certainly for talking over Sir Alan too much in the boardroom. Did you know she was head girl? And that she’d got herself from a communist block of flats toLondon…etc.
Was it a typical first episode of The Apprentice? Yes, to the extent that we’d seen it all far too many times before: particularly the panicked run aroundLondonat the end. It might be an idea to refresh the format now we’re eight series in, but as Sir Alan would (probably) say: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And also, would you like to buy some discounted consumer electronics?’
The Apprentice is on BBC1, Wednesdays at 9pm. You can catch up on iPlayer here
Follow Hilary on Twitter: @Hilary_W