Last Night's TV: The Apprentice/BBC1
Kirstie and Phil's Perfect Christmas/Channel 4
Thursday 09 December 2010
I don't know exactly when last night's episode of The Apprentice was filmed but, as pleasant as the weather appeared to be, it wasn't a good day to be a London tourist. The remaining contestants – just six of them now – had been invited to set up rival bus tours, thus exposing the less wary foreign visitor to the full range of their incompetence, ignorance and financial rapacity. "It's like walking into a room full of knives blindfolded, not knowing how badly you're going to get cut," Stuart had said on the way to the briefing, a characterisation of his own haplessness that applied with equal force to his unsuspecting customers.
Joanna's team decided to go with a ghosts and ghouls theme, while Stuart's opted for a cockney tour, after passionate advocacy from Stella, who was keen to prove that she isn't as corporate and wooden as Lord Sugar thinks. She might not have been quite as eager if she'd had foresight of Stuart's sales pitch, which combined his trademark indifference to trade descriptions law with a faint simmer of suggestiveness. "It's as cockney as I am!" he bellowed at startled foreigners. "Come to Lahndan and 'ave a taste of my eels... jellied!"
While Jamie was boning up on Sweeney Todd, for his tour guide, Stuart was adopting the Demon Barber as an entrepreneurial role model. "Tourists are essentially just juicy money bags, aren't they," he said, "and I'm going to dip my hands into their pockets." The man from the London Visitor Centre – whose advocacy the teams were competing to attract – seemed a little startled by how deep he planned to dip. "Thirty-five pounds?" he said. "Do they get to keep the bus afterwards?" Fortunately, Chris then arrived from the other side to make him an offer he really couldn't refuse – 20 per cent of the team's entire day's take, rather than merely a percentage of the tickets they sold.
Early indications suggested that Jamie's tour was not greatly going to add to his customers' knowledge of the capital city. "On the left is the River Thames," he told them as the bus started off down the Embankment. "It's the second largest river in London." God knows what he would have done if some smart alec had demanded to see the largest one, but by now Jamie was on to Big Ben: "The face of the clock is 20 diameters wide," he announced authoritatively. Westminster Abbey proved a little more challenging. Historically very important, Jamie assured his clients, before the stock of background knowledge dried up. "So... you can go there and... it's a church," he concluded.
On the other team, nobody was getting to taste Stuart's jellied eels, or anyone else's for that matter. On the walking tour, Stella had got completely lost, and was trailing a small and disconsolate group of tourists through one of the less fetching bits of Spitalfields. She pointed hopefully at a nearby bit of graffiti, explaining that it might be a Banksy but she couldn't be sure, and then abandoned the eels altogether. Back on the bus she adopted the novel tour technique of introducing the city's major landmarks only as they were disappearing in the driver's rear-view mirror. Despite the fact that the ghouls and ghosts team found no takers at all for their last run of the day it wasn't a great surprise when they won, at which point Chris's achievement in boosting the London Visitor Centre's profits was instantly reconfigured from catastrophe to masterstroke.
Happily, this result also put Baggs back in the boardroom, where he could beg for his survival with all the restrained decorum we've come to associate with the Brand. "I'll work for you 24:7," he told Britain's "most belligerent boss". "I don't need a night watchman," Lord Sugar replied. So Stuart changed tack: "I'm not a one-trick pony, I'm not a 10-trick pony.... I'm a whole field full of ponies," he said earnestly. If he'd worked a bit harder on his rhyming slang for the cockney tour he might have realised that "pony" wasn't the best word to put into Lord Sugar's mind. Invited to harness Stuart's potential Sugar replied – fatally you might have thought – that "you can't harness childishness and immaturity." But then he sacked Liz, a development that left Stuart's housemates slack-jawed with surprise.
Kirstie and Phil's Perfect Christmas is nightmarish, a guide to Christmas preparations that seems to be aimed at viewers with no job and a private income. My own recipe for a perfect Christmas would be not to try and have a perfect Christmas, given that striving for perfection in the field of seasonal celebration is what causes most of the anxiety and stress. Kirstie's recipe involves home-made floral swags, using specially grown hop vines, a Christmas cake wthat you can bake on Christmas Eve (that'll help with the last-minute rush) and recycled presents. If Kirstie's sister is reading this, stop now, because there's a spoiler coming. You're getting a wrist-rosette this year, made out of old bits of tweed. Then again it might be helpful for her to get a head start on concealing her disappointment, so if you see her warn her. Kirstie the Brand (a Home Counties version of Martha Stewart) was thrilled by how everything had gone: "It's been really good fun but it feels remarkably calm," she said to Phil at the end. That's because it was still August when you were filming, Kirstie, and the whole thing was FAKE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM. Scrooge got a bad press.
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