Junior Apprentice, BBC1
Derren Brown Investigates, Channel 4
Teenage entrepreneurs show you're never too young to get swept away in cocky self-delusion
Sunday 16 May 2010
Of all the devices we use to get through the day, there are few simpler and more effective than the little lies we tell ourselves. Take the act of watching TV.
We tune into shows such as Britain's Got Talent or The X Factor auditions telling ourselves we want to witness the moment the next Susan Boyle appears, when the truth is the bits we enjoy most are the scenes of sweet self-delusion as another hopeful for the slipped crown of Whitney Houston turns out to have a singing voice that sounds like rutting foxes.
They were all at it in the first episode of Junior Apprentice. It's in the nature of the show to talk yourself up as being able to "literally" give 110 per cent to achieve your goals moving forward etc, but while blind belief and misplaced confidence form the backbone of many a successful businessperson, this lot are 16 and 17 years old. Remember those years? Don't know about you, but I spent them sitting in my black bedroom listening to the Doors.
Not to be deterred by any association with ugly reality, this lot took to their first task with aplomb. But while the cheesemakers may very well be blessed, it was clear from the off that the teenaged cheese-sellers – who had to shift 500 quid's worth of the stuff at a London market of their choice – were not. The girls' team, led by the reluctant Hibah Ansary, 16, headed for Covent Garden where it soon became clear who was really in charge. Zoe Plummer, also 16, had already told us about her "commanding presence", and as soon as Team Revolution hit the stall she put words into action, charming passers-by with her "You look like a cheesy kind of fella" patter.
The boys' team, on the other hand, was struggling. Led by the hapless Jordan De Courcy, this was not so much a ship without a rudder as a ship without a hull. Largely missing the window of opportunity to sell to City workers on their lunch break at Whitecross Street Market, the team turned on each other before blaming the wind.
De Courcy had already caught the eye, telling us, without a hint of doubt: "I think I'll definitely win this; after meeting the competition, a lot of them seem to have experience that, to be honest, wouldn't match mine." Quite what that experience might be is less clear. He told the other candidates that he was already CEO of his own company specialising in consumer electronics, while the BBC website has him down as running a juice bar in Dublin while working on a range of skincare products.
A softer, more caring Alan Sugar gave De Courcy his marching orders. Not to be deterred, the Bacofoil-suited one was driven away, saying: "Give it five years and I can be just as successful, if not more successful, than Lord Sugar." And given that level of self-belief/delusion, he probably will.
After the show, a friend quickly and astutely pointed out on Facebook that what Junior Apprentice most resembles is Bugsy Malone. As the contestants battle it out over the coming weeks, you can choose your own Dandy Dan, Bugsy, Baby Face and Blousey Brown. But one thing's for sure: Zoe's got the Tallulah in the bag. Watch out for that hug with the gaze straight to camera. It's the look that says: "See, I'm a caring, nice person." The truth will, no doubt, be revealed.
Not that the truth is always clear-cut. In another new series worthy of attention, the "psychological illusionist" Derren Brown set out to discover if the claims made by people with "supernatural" powers can be shown to be real on camera. But for all the talk of open minds and its title of Derren Brown Investigates, we know what our man is really after: to expose the frauds and hucksters who prey on the vulnerable and susceptible.
First up was Liverpool's Joe Power, "The Man Who Sees Dead People". Power scored a few "hits" on a woman who turned out to be his sister's neighbour, before failing dismally to contact any deceased relatives of a woman chosen by the production company. At both "readings", he escaped suspiciously to the upstairs toilet before uttering a word, a fact the programme-makers failed to capitalise on.
When Brown revealed some techniques of "cold reading", things got a little chilly. "Are you a fake?" he asked Power. "No, I'm 100 per cent not a fake," Power replied, adding, "I look you 100 per cent in the eyes and tell you what I do is 100 per cent real."
Does Power really believe he talks to dead people? Perhaps he (100 per cent) does. His website this week says: "I do not ask you to believe what I do is true. My gift provides a lot of people with a certain amount of comfort and happiness."
Comfort, happiness and a little bit of self-delusion. Whatever gets you through the day.
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