Tim Walker: 'If the bear got the job, I bet he'd still do it better than Kimberly would'

The Couch Surfer: The Apprentice isn't setting my world alight this year

I've made plans the past few Wednesday evenings. I've been out to see friends, to eat, drink, and make conversation with actual, real people.

Which is a bad sign, because it means The Apprentice isn't setting my world alight this year. As proof of its lack of permeation, I've regularly managed to make it to Thursday evening (sometimes even Friday!) before watching it on iPlayer, without ever overhearing who's been fired in advance.

This ought to be more of a struggle in my office, where chewing over last night's TV is in the job description.

We were promised a "credit-crunch Apprentice", which I'd hoped would mean something simple, cheap and compelling. Like, say, a bunch of recently laid-off bankers wrestling bears for 14 weeks.

Last man standing gets the gig. If it's the bear, I bet he'd still do a better job than Kimberly. But "credit-crunch" actually meant that the contestants' penthouse cost only £10.5m, down from £12m. And that instead of sending the teams abroad to inflict their business balls on unsuspecting foreigners, they sent them to a hardware store in Liverpool.

That's streamlining, I guess. The prospective apprentices are a bit bargain-basement, too. Even the trainee stockbroker is remarkably tame. Ben was originally set up as 2009's preening panto villain.

In week two, he threatened to bite people's teeth out if they dared to invite him back to the boardroom. Bite their teeth out? It's a vivid image (thanks, Ben), but I'm not even sure it's possible. Yet despite his notional Sandhurst scholarship and that innately aggressive West-Belfast-meets-West-Brompton accent, Ben turned out to be a total shandy as soon as Sir Alan's finger hovered in his direction.

He looked like he needed a hug from his mammy and a cup of orange squash. Last week's instalment explored synergies with other business shows, as any sensible outfit ought to in a downturn. Instead of paying someone to come up with a new idea for a task, they stole the premise of Dragon's Den. And instead of getting his own guests for The Apprentice: You're Fired, Adrian Chiles borrowed one from The Secret Millionaire.

I expect it's just format fatigue; every reality show suffers a lull. There may a formidable businessperson in there somewhere (Howard?), but I'm still waiting for them to make great television. Philip got consolidated this time, just as I'd nailed my impression of him. It's easy. You lower your voice an octave, put on your best makeshift Geordie, and repeat the word "Lorraine" over and over again until everyone glares at you. Then you carry on doing it.

TED is coming to Britain. TED, by the way, is not some tedious American relative, but "Technology, Entertainment, Design", an annual four-day conference, where punters pay $6,000 for the privilege of hearing short lectures from some of the world's great minds.

It's where Al Gore first gave his Inconvenient Truth talk, and where Bill Gates released mosquitoes into the crowd after a speech on malaria in Africa. Ah, Bill; he does have a very interesting sense of humour. TED's home is Long Beach, California, but this year the first TEDGlobal conference will be held in Oxford. Exclusivity is a valuable commodity; the tickets have already sold out, and attendees have to complete a lengthy application to prove they're cutting-edge enough to attend.

Alternatively, however, you could wait a few months and watch the lectures online for free, at ted.com. Perhaps you think the difference between watching Malcolm Gladwell live and watching him on YouTube is the same as the difference between seeing Springsteen play live or online. I happen to disagree. But the fact that people are willing to fork out $4,000 to hear Malcolm Gladwell illuminate the concept of choice, via the metaphor of spaghetti, proves right whoever first thought to bottle water: name your price, and people will pay for things, even if they could have them for nothing.

That's good news for newspapers, as it looks like some may soon be asking people to pay for web content again; Rupert Murdoch has signalled his intent to start charging readers of his online titles.

It ought to be good news for "freemium" business models such as Spotify, too, whose success rests on the hope that enough people will pay a little to receive a premium version of an otherwise free service. Everyone's been racing to free, but maybe we were running in the wrong direction, after all.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home