Grace Dent on TV: What about locking all the candidates in The Apprentice in a container and filming them trying to escape?
This week Grace watched The Apprentice, on BBC1
"In a HARSH ECONOMIC LANDSCAPE, start-ups are STRUGGLING!', shouts voiceover man in a small Soho soundbooth, narrating the opening episode of The Apprentice series nine. Sixteen risible dickheads clip-clop along a London street. I can call them this without guilt as episode one is by tradition the "risible dickhead" round. It's 50 per cent hyperbolic soundbites ("I am a motoric business panther! I am blessed by all seven gods of Ancient Westeros! I piss pure mercury from my sonic urethra!"), mixed with 50 per cent "wangs in off-the-peg suits running about Smithfield snivelling and trying to flog apples". I wish they'd score this with "Old Ned", the Steptoe and Son theme tune.
Gosh I'm weary. I've been thinking about this show since 2004 and it has not changed an iota, aside from the prize now being "Alan gives you the money and you go away and spend it somewhere nowhere near him", rather than "Alan has to work with you and you might take him to a very awkward industrial tribunal".
"I've got a pile of CVs here, with the usual BS," says Sir Alan. His chunterings slosh wonderfully with unintentional Alan Partridge – "y' know, I'm the greatest entrepreneur since sliced bread, that sort of thing". Alan is disgusted by management speech and cocky young upstarts, which is a shame as BBC researchers have worked tirelessly to find him the biggest nimrods in the Western world.
I wonder if voiceover man feels a bit weary too. Karren Brady looks weary. Brady, if allowed, would kill some of these business twinks with her bare hands without ruffling her Whistles two-piece. Sadly, Nick Hewer's face was frozen in "perma-weary" countenance sometime in 2006 when he was forced to sit on a suburban garden wall in Penge watching numbskulls sell teatowels door-to-door.
During the opening rounds, I'm increasingly amazed the production crew can prod the newbies into giving such hellish soundbites. "I'm a 'Great' of my generation. I'm an innovator and leader in business. I take inspiration from Napoleon; I am here to conquer,' says Zeeshaan Shah, a short, pigeon chested man, brimming with hubris. Stop it Zeeshaan. Too easy.
"I'm half machine. I can process things at a speed that is out of this world!" says Jaz Ampaw-Farr. Jaz didn't specify which machine – Breville toastie-maker? Dustbuster? – and we didn't find out as she was turfed out within the hour for identifying the best place to sell a load of cheap plastic cats with wobbly paws to be London's Chinatown at 7am.
Jaz was an educational entrepreneur. "I'm only bossy when I'm right!" she said, before setting about pep-talking the girls team exactly as a teacher taking six-year-olds to a petting zoo, stopping short of making them all hold hands and wear neon tabards.
Contestant Jason Leech might win the prize for "man most definitely chosen by producers for wholesale public torment". Jason, 29, has never been "formally employed", instead remaining self-employed and a student throughout his career. But what Jason doesn't have in P60s he does have in solid gold confidence. "Some people might come to this process with a game plan. I just feel my effortless superiority will take me all the way." Well this is what he said. What I heard was, "I have spent over 10 years lurking around a university reserve book room, eating a lot of packet noodles and watching The Chase with Bradley Walsh on ITV1".
Another contestant, Alex Mills, he'll have you know, had a business in his garage when he was a child. I used to try and sell perfume (tap water dyed pink from rose petals in a Kia-ora bottle) out of my mam's vestibule, but I don't think I can run the Arcadia Group. Alex's unique selling point as a budding Apprentice is he resembles The Count off Sesame Street. It's not much, but at this stage appearances count. No-one is aware of this as much as Luisa Zissman, who owns a cupcake shop. "I have the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit and a brain like Einstein," she says.
This is all very well and good. A little bit of sex sells and she's fine with that. Oh hang on she's not. "People look at me and assume I'm a bimbo as I have false nails, false hair, false boobs," she complains. Oh great, I could watch this woman making a big deal about her sex appeal and then being on the back foot about her sex appeal all day. In the opening episode, when two shipping containers full of assorted tat were left in the port of Tilbury, it struck me that a much better show would be waiting until the Apprentices were inside the boxes, then quickly shutting the doors and then filming a day of their frantic banging and swearing with a single camera trained on the container. On Big Brother 5 they once put all the contestants in cardboard boxes and it was the greatest task ever. Well, I say it was good, I only watched it on live feed for five or six hours. I'm not a complete idiot.
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