Hit & Run: Reality check for Suralan

Wednesday 18 March 2009 01:00

Along with other TV critics, I have been receiving emails with the message, "Someone is going to get fired". It turned out to be an invitation to the launch of the new series of The Apprentice, which begins on BBC1 next Wednesday, but you'd think that in the current blood-soaked media climate PRs would be a bit more sensitive to the traumatised hacks they were attempting to contact. Either way, it begs the question – how appropriate is The Apprentice, with its sackings, to a Britain where nearly two million are jobless?

To go by the sneak preview of episode one screened at the launch yesterday, which had Sir Alan in attendance along with minders Nick and Margaret, it's business as usual. Eight women and eight men (well, seven actually, as one contestant wisely "bottled it", to use Sir Alan's words, on the eve of filming) stride towards the camera in their designer suits and skirts; the laughable braggadocio is par for the course, from "I'm outstanding; it's a given" to "I don't have to make friends on the way up because I'm not coming down again." "Making money is better than sex", says another; when asked (by a scribe from Nuts magazine) whether he agreed, Sir Alan executed a graceful sidestep with "you should have asked me that 30 years ago".

The winner will still earn a "six-figure salary" (not a penny over a hundred grand, you suspect) – although the new series is coy about Sir Alan's own net worth. We used to be told at the start each episode that it was "more than £800m" – but some estimates reckon that Sugar has been hit for £100m by falling property prices and the recession. Does he own the "11,000 square feet of luxury penthouse" that the contestants call home for 12 weeks? If so, it must be worth a fair bit less by the minute. But then, the show's money-macho swank is starting to look a bit hollow – a bit 2007. As a helicopter again sweeps over the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf to "The Dance of the Knights" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, you start to wonder if Wagner's Götterdämmerung might not have been more appropriate. Oh, look, there's Citigroup. Haven't the US government just had to part-nationalise that mob? Oh, and there's Lehman's former HQ. Moving on.... We still get a shot of Canary Wharf just before we cut to Sugar's HQ, suggesting this is the eyrie from which Sir Alan surveys his empire, instead of his real HQ in Brentwood, Essex.

But never mind, for as Sir Alan was happy to reassure his audience, it's just a television show – one he claims will be more sensitive to our more straitened circumstances. In next week's opener the wannabe plutocrats are sent out to wash something ("can we wash people?" wonders Paula, a "human resources consultant" from Walsall, bless her). "Senior financial manager" Mona and "senior sales consultant" Debra is already shaping up to be a tasty feud, while "retail business manager" Howard looks a likely contender for obnoxious prat. And in the end isn't this what it's all about? Come good economic times or bad, The Apprentice is reality entertainment gold. Gerard Gilbert

Any colour you like (as long as it's black)

Fashion chain Uniqlo might be synonymous with brightly-coloured jeans and cheap cashmere, but it's about to get an injection of minimalism: cult German designer Jil Sander has signed up with the Japanese giant, it was announced yesterday.

Unlike, say, Stella McCartney's deal with H&M, Sander's contribution won't be a one-off. While Sander doesn't have an official title (although "Head of Sleek, Teutonic Tailoring" would suit) the chain will offer a collection, it says, "inspired by the cooperation with Ms Sander" as of this autumn.

Sander, 65, made her name in the 1990s with a pared-down look that combined high quality – and very expensive – fabrics with severe tailoring; her form of power-dressing was loved by successful women.

In 2004, following the sale of her label to the Prada Group, she disappeared from the public eye; she's rumoured to have been styling the Chancellor Angela Merkel. Uniqlo's hipster customers are unlikely to embrace the politician's brand of boxy red suits. Instead, they'll hope the deal opens the way for a new era of mass-market minimalism. Carola Long

Dr Weil: a real fun guy

With his twinkly eyes, beatific smile, and a beard that makes you think Christmas has come early, Dr Andrew Weil is the kind of skincare guru you either embrace with open arms or run away from as fast as your legs will carry you.

Until three weeks ago, I would have placed myself firmly in the latter category. But that was before I tried my wife's new face cream.

I've never been much of a cleanse-tone-and-moisturise kind of guy, but I fear there may be no going back. For the first time in ages, I'm comfy in my own skin.

Dr Weil's Mega-Mushroom range, produced by Origins, uses a number of potent fungi to "optimise the skin's energy" and "restore firmness and buoyancy."

Well it works for me, Doc. Adam Leigh

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