First Night, The Apprentice, BBC1
Yasmina's Cocoa Electric is just the job for Sir Alan
Monday 08 June 2009
It was Sir Alan himself who heard the words "You're hired" last Thursday – strolling along to 10 Downing Street for what one assumes probably wasn't a "job interview from hell".
In The Apprentice final last night, it was Yasmina Siadatan's turn, the new Enterprise guru's gut instinct having finally tipped the scales in her favour after a decision he was at pains to describe as much trickier than usual.
"You are the best that I've ever had in the final in this boardroom, that I promise you", he'd told both finalists shortly before the stubby finger of fate jabbed in Yasmina's direction. Which will presumably be consoling news for Kate Walsh – and mildly disheartening for earlier graduates of the Alan Sugar Academy of Business Excellence.
The final task – broadly irrelevant to Sir Alan's decision by this stage but important as a last little treat for the viewers – was to develop and pitch a new brand of chocolates. With the help of a handful of their former rivals, each finalist had three days to come up with a concept, shoot an advert and then present the resulting product to industry specialists. Kate, rather pointedly, didn't pick Phil (with whom she'd been romantically linked during the programme) – possibly because she wanted to demonstrate her boardroom ruthlessness but more probably because she can still remember Phil's last foray into product development: "Pantsman", a fatally ambitious attempt to muscle into the crowded breakfast cereal market with a Y-front themed surrealism.
That experience didn't seem to have dulled Phil's assurance in his powers of invention. "We want something fun and different and quirky," he told Yasmina, pitching the idea of chocolates specifically targeted to be purchased by women as a gift for men. A focus-group of male City types expressed their lack of confidence in this reversal of the traditional chocolate-to-recipient flow chart. But Phil was undismayed: "We're trying to do something that hasn't been done," he said. "It's like with Pantsman. People didn't get it at the time, but I tell you something ... they will eventually."
Only after another group of specialists had squashed the idea did the team wake up and smell the cocoa butter, making a late swerve to develop chocolates with shocking flavours.
Meanwhile, Kate had been seduced by the idea of his 'n' hers chocolates. "I don't think I've seen anything like that on the market at the moment," she said excitedly. You could say the same thing about paperbacks for dogs or halal pork scratchings but, convinced that the £3.5bn confectionary industry had overlooked an open goal, Kate developed "Intimate", a pastel-shaded box of chocolates for lovers to bicker over.
"It looks like a box of Tampax," said Debra Barr bluntly, getting her first sight of the pack design – the kind of remark that would have started a war in earlier episodes but was also incontrovertibly true. After a 10-minute brainstorm, the team came up with Choc D'Amour instead. "Is that a bit tacky?" asked Kate uncertainly. Not just a bit, Kate, but unfortunately it was too late to come up with anything better.
Honours were pretty evenly shared. Yasmina's concept – "Cocoa Electric" – made real business sense, by introducing the adventurous flavours of couture chocolates to a mass market. She also had the best pack design, even if her poster (a fuschia lightning bolt against a black background) looked a bit like a recruitment poster for a gay unit of the SS.
Unfortunately her chocolates were a little too successfully shocking. "One's enough, thank you," said Margaret Mountford, pointedly, after being invited to get to know the basil and strawberry ganache a little better.
Yasmina had also unwisely built her advert around the idea of getting static electric shocks – not traditionally a metaphor for sensual pleasure.
Kate's chocolates, by contrast, were delicious but she'd priced them too high and her design and advertising was enough to make you queasy before you'd even opened the box.
In both cases, the pitches were so embarrassing you could only watch them between your fingers but were immediately followed by wild praise for their professionalism.
In the boardroom too, team-members were falling over each other to praise the qualities of their respective leaders. But in the end, the candidate who'd already started her own business edged it over the one who dreamed of working in someone else's.
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