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The Apprentice

Nicola Mostyn has her doubts about the tycoons of tomorrow

Published on April 8th 2008.

The Apprentice

Was there a point where The Apprentice was actually about finding Britain’s brightest business people?

Because the game’s up. We can’t pretend any more that watching two teams of blethering, bitching egomaniacs attempting to sell fish and hawk laundry has anything to do with finding the next Alan Sugar. Finding the next Alan Partridge, maybe…

The girls lost people’s washing as well as the plot, largely due to their atrocious team leader Jenny Celerier (aka the new Katie Hopkins), a frightening cross between Bree from Desperate Housewives and a shark.

Like Big Brother with power suits, The Apprenticeis all about the characters, which is why we tune in to spend an hour with people who, if we met them on a company training course, we’d fake our own deaths to avoid.

It is very compulsive TV. It’s only week three and already the candidates are as familiar and nauseating as our own colleagues. Sir Alan is reprising his suffer-no-fools barrowboy role and adding to the pantomime are his hilariously deadpan advisors Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer, who look like they’ve been lifted straight off a Bond film. Or the balcony of The Muppet Show.

I’d love to know the details of the selection process for Apprentice candidates - I’m assuming a slappable face and an ability to talk fluent business-bollocks is a must. Listening to the candidates’ self-aggrandising soundbites was enough to make you want to prise off your ears with a teaspoon but it was even more excruciating hearing them squirm out of their claims when it came to deciding who would be Project Manager, a role which could put them in line for the chop.

In week one - the fish-market challenge – it was Bolton’s Alex Wotherspoon who finally “stepped up” to become leader of boys’ team Renaissance whilst Claire Young (aka this year’s Badger) became the girls’ Project Manager. Then the teams put their best business brains to the task of flogging fish, vastly under-pricing and wrongly labelling their stock and generally ballsing the whole thing up.

The boys lost and the first candidate to be sacked was Nicholas de Lacey-Brown, the man responsible for pricing lobster at £5 a pop. An amateur dramatics fan whose interests includes sunbathing and reading in the bath surrounded by candles, the trainee barrister added the ‘de Lacey’ to his name to sound more sophisticated. It’s a shame Brown was fired since I’m sure he and Alan would have become firm soul mates.

In the second week the teams had to turn a profit doing people’s laundry. While the men somehow gathered themselves into a workable team and got on with some homoerotic male bonding in the steamy laundry, the girls lost people’s washing as well as the plot, largely due to their atrocious team leader Jenny Celerier (aka the new Katie Hopkins), a frightening cross between Bree from Desperate Housewives and a shark.

Celerier, by her own account, is an amazing salesperson, which makes it all the more amusing that she decided to charge £4.99 per washed item, making their potential client’s usual £200 bill tot up to five grand. His face was a picture. Shame he didn’t think to call the 24-hour hotline the girls had ingeniously devised to encourage sales. “So someone is going to call up and say, “Hello girls, how’s my pants doing?” asked a disbelieving Sir Alan. Actually, I think they may have found a niche there, as long as they charge a premium rate and advertise in phone boxes.

Like the ridiculously posh and pompous Raef Bjayou who was almost sacked the week before, Celerier is gold to a programme like The Apprentice. Bullying, stupid and with no sense of her own ridiculousness, her finest moment was in the boardroom when, faced with a potential sacking, she started making up crimes to pin on her fellow team mates. If she’d been on The Titanic, she’d have thrown you overboard. And nicked your scarf while she was at it.

Celerier also came out with quite the worst business simile I’ve ever heard, telling fellow potential sackees Shazia Wahab and Lucinda Ledgerwood: “I felt like I had to breastfeed you.” Another way of maximising profit for that 24 hour hotline?

Jenny, let’s make no bones about it, is evil. Anyone with half a brain cell can see that and Sir Alan is a savvy sort, what with that Amstrad business and all. So how come - shock horror! – Jenny was kept on and Shazia was fired? It’s a travesty! The wrong decision was made! We demand a recount!

Well, actually, we don’t. Because this isn’t a job interview, remember? It’s an entertainment programme. And who is going to provide more gripping viewing - mild mannered, rational Shazia whose worst crime was to leave a few piles of laundry unlabelled or dead-eyed, sociopath Jenny who may very well push twittering, fragile Lucinda into suicide before Week five?

There’s no contest. I’m with Jenny. 110% percent.

The Apprentice, Wednesdays, 9pm, BBC One. You’re Fired, Wednesdays, 10pm, BBC Two.

Nicola Mostyn writes a weekly column at dearkittycolumns.blogspot.com/

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