Last Night's TV: The Apprentice/BBC1; Buried Alive: Chilean Miners/Channel 4
Thursday 28 October 2010
The science museum," mused Jamie in The Apprentice, trying to work out what the location of their briefing might tell them about the task ahead. "It's either going to be something to do with science... or museums." He'll go a long way with a mind like that – though in the event it was neither, the venue having been chosen because it was crammed with inventions "which have made millions for those brave enough to back them". (Does the Science Museum contain an Amstrad E-m@iler? And if not, isn't it time this significant gap in their holdings was put right by some anonymous donor?) This week, both teams were being given the opportunity to play at Dragons' Den, auditioning eager inventors and selecting two products to try and sell on to retailers. They passed on the laser-light wrinkle reducer (which looked like a wearable microwave oven) and the electronic slouch preventer (it nags at you every time you slump, like a miniaturised mother) in favour of – among other things – a T-shirt with built in six-pack and a baby-grow that changed colour if the child wearing it got too hot.
Early on I would have bet on Stuart "The Brand" Baggs to be the star of the episode. He's now channelling David Brent in a positively eerie manner, exactly capturing his combination of bumptious self-regard, unwitting offence and role-playing argumentative style. But although he successfully managed to dish his team's chance of representing the baby-grow – universally identified as a likely best-seller – he faded in the later sections. To win in the Apprentice edit-suite, if not in the boardroom, you need to give it 110 per cent on the bad-behaviour front and in that regard this was surely Melissa's week. From the moment that her team unanimously voted for Jamie as project manager (despite being told yet again about Melissa's "very strong skill set", the fools) she had a curl in her lip and a bad crimp in her attitude.
Things didn't start well when her team arrived at Debenhams to pitch eco shower heads ("We don't sell showers," said the buyer flatly) and a weird double-handled garden fork ("We don't sell garden tools," he added, somehow managing to sound even less interested). Melissa, who is all transmit and no receive, wasn't listening. "It's not completely obtuse," she insisted, "and I feel it would bring buyers in to your store." The Debenhams team seemed to feel it was Melissa that was obtuse, rather than the forkamajig, and passed anyway.
Not everything was going perfectly on the other team either, where most of the negotiating skills were being applied to a bickering row over how they should split up the credit for the meagre sales successes they had actually achieved. Laura, one of those people who dislike a swift and sincere apology because it deprives them of the pleasure of a self-righteous whine, finally managed to carry her sense of grievance into an open hissy fit on the streets of Soho. Chris – reasonably proficient at pitching – is unfortunately hampered by a less than charismatic speaking style: "To me it sounded like a low-flying heavy bomber coming home," said Nick. But in the end Chris's bomber delivered a payload, after a big order from an online baby store got them a record-breaking sales figure.
Melissa, hauled into the boardroom by the exasperated Jamie, wasn't going to go down without a fight – or without giving the English language another good pummelling. "There was no room for manouvrement!" she protested, after being fingered for ignoring the suppliers restrictions on pricing. Astonishingly, she then rounded on her team leader for failing to give her helpful feedback – a complaint which was hard to square with the instruction she'd snapped at him earlier in the task: "Don't question what I do. Simple." Melissa got the black cab home and departed from the programme with the same easy charm and grace she's displayed throughout. "Well done for ganging up on me you horrible people," she hissed, before stomping out and refusing to shake Jamie's hand as he passed. "Karmicly they will be retributed," she said furiously. "The universe speaks louder than I do."
Buried Alive: Chilean Miners was about a very different endurance show, a rapid-response retrospective on a story that helped the 24-hour news channels fill their schedules for over two months. And if, like me, you hadn't had the grit and determination to follow every twist and turn of the drama as it unfolded, it was quite handy, a sort of highlights compilation which cut out the achingly long stretches where everyone was just sitting in the dark waiting for something to happen. It also had a lot of computer graphics which helped to explain the extraordinary difficulty of drilling down to the lower levels of the mine – which seems to be have been a bit like trying to thread a needle by dangling three feet of cotton towards the needle's eye. But it wasn't a film that was interested in questioning the popular narrative of human spirit triumphant (not a false story, I grant you, but not the only story either). If you wanted to know where they went to the lavatory while they were down there, or whether they bickered or how it was that the Chilean mining minister always seemed to be at the forefront of every single positive photo-opportunity, you will have to wait for the "Secret History: Buried Alive" programme which Channel 4 will probably make sometime in the future.
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