Monday, 8 June 2009

Life's like a box of chocolates

Well, they saved the best to, thankfully, a not-very-entertaining series of The Apprentice ended on a high.
And not only was it the last episode; it was also the final glimpse of so many much-loved aspects of the show.
No more Margaret. No more Sr'Alan (he'll be Lord Sugar...will they remember to call him that in the boardroom?) No more classic James one-liners. And no more montages of Philip dancing. Thank the Lord.
The final task was based on chocolates, designing and selling.
"I've invited some of the key people from chocolates to your presentations," said Sr'Alan. You could tell James was dying to ask if Willy Wonka would be among them.
Then past candidates returned to be put into either Team Yasmina or Team Kate.
The big question was, would Team Kate pick boyfriend Philip? In the end, Team Kate did not. She allowed Philip, Philip's invaluable advice and Philip's dancing ability to leap off to Team Yasmina where he spent much of her time muttering about how people still don't get Pantsman.
"People don’t get it at the time. They will eventually." We await the day.
Yasmina set him to work choreographing a "nice and snappeee" dance routine while everyone else got on with the much more trivial stuff, such as actually inventing the chocolates. After some wrangling about a "chocolates for men" campaign, which all the men interviewed said they wouldn't buy, Yasmina dreamed up the name Cocoa Electric...the idea being electrifying chocolates...and a box with a zig of lightening on it.
"It lukes like a crarkurr," Lorraine blarneyed, still in her mysteriously acquired Irish accent.
Over on Team Kate, Ben was proving equally helpful. His little mind was rattling around chocolates and threesomes, not to mention somehow using the number 69 as a selling point.
"Ben, there's no way in the world..." Kate said.
She did, however, let him talk her into using the brand-name Intimate...until the rest of the team caught wind of it.
"Frankly it sounds more like something to do with feminine freshness rather than chocolates," said Nick.
"It looks like it's a box of Tampax," said Debra.
"Something you'd find in vending machines in gents' loos," was Sr'Alan's reaction.
The name was swiftly changed to Choc D'Amour and Kate stepped in to oversee the transformation of their ad campaign. Until this point we haven't been big Kate fans but she seemed the deserving winner. Ominously, though, the deserving winner never actually wins The Apprentice.
Meanwhile, Yasmina was back to her Week Two strategy of sprinkling basil on everything and hoping for the best. During the filming of her ad, even the poor actors were begging: "Can we spit it out?" as they tried Yasmina's "electrifying" strawberry and basil chocolate.
Come the presentations Kate, again, outclassed Yasmina's sergeant major style.
"IT'S SEXY! IT'S FUN!" Yasmina barked at her crowd, before trying to whoop up a bit of atmosphere. "Orange and coriander. What do you have?"
"An ingestive nightmare?" we wondered.
Nevertheless, come the boardroom bit, Sr'Alan's hiring finger pointed at Yasmina. Even though her chocolates were inedible, Sr'Alan wasn't bothered about the taste. The price was right. Poor old Kate was left feeling as robbed as someone who'd forked out a fiver for a box of orange and coriander chocolates. It's not as bad as the Dewberry versus Badger travesty of 2007, but it's still not an inspiring decision.
Anyway, after 12 weeks of crazy, blood-shedding rivalries, it's Yasmina off to work in Sr'Alan's digital signage department. What a fantastic prize! We give her six months.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Apprentice - the final five

Apart from Shopping Channel Task and Annual Advertising Balls-Up, Interview Week has to be one of our favourite Apprentice episodes.
Just think of the great moments it’s produced in past seasons: Pterodactyl Lee and his c.v. truth-economising, Posh Boy Simon fielding complaints from his tenants. And those two went on to win the thing!
All the familiar faces on the Sr’Alan’s interview panel of “trusted associates” were back with one exception – bristling-chopped Cockney geezer who has maybe been scared off by Claire’s attempts to flirt with him last year. We missed him. The bloke they got in instead wasn’t half as cutting.
Regardless, we were all poised to see Perfect Kate squirm and stutter or Shouty Deb-rah get frogmarched out by a couple of coppers for threatening behaviour. Sadly, none of the above took place. Perfect Kate rattled off perfect answer after answer in deadpan Brummie. Debra managed to rein in her scarier tendencies.
In fact, the biggest casualty of Interview Week was the one we always suspected was going to come a cropper at this stage – poor old James.
Every time there was a short silence and somebody said something like: “James – why should Sr’Alan hire you?”
He proceeded to drop clanger after clanger, with statements like: “I want him to be like Willy Wonka” or, to the man himself, “Sr’Alan - you and I could be a good match” or "You don't need to reinvent the wheel with me... just fix a few spokes."
By the end, viewers were on the edge of their seats shouting: “JUST! DON’T! SAY! ANYTHING!”
James’ one aim was to get through the programme without Sr’Alan kicking him “so hard up the a**e I’ve got his toes for teeth”. Sadly, it didn’t happen. James was fired.
Also fired was Lorraine, who mysteriously lapsed into Irish during her interviews, then back to West London the minute she left the room. Twirly-haired Karen Brady tried to make a big deal about Lorraine lying on her c.v. because the dates were a year out on one of her jobs but, to be honest, it didn’t have the same impact of somebody trying to make a whole education for themselves, like Lee did. Anyway, even though Lorraine had had a hard life Sr’Alan didn’t want to hear her “blathering on” about it – and neither did we, if we’re honest. Yer fiyud!
So that left it between Debra – who had spent the episode being weirdly touchy-feely, even CRYING when James got the chop – Yasmina and Perfect Kate. Yasmina had messed up her interview a bit because she didn’t seem to know how much profit her business made – or indeed, what profit was – but squeaked through. Perfect Kate was in the final, of course, although Sr’Alan told her he thought she was robotic (“I’m not robotic” said Kate, robotically) and very serious (“I’m not serious,” she said, trying to prove it with a giggle).
So that meant it was Slab-Faced Debra who was fired.

Which leaves us with probably the dullest final line-up in the history of the show. We can’t help thinking what it needs – what it really needs – is a pterodactyl impression.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Car Crash Telly - The Apprentice, Week Ten

Was it a big shock to you that nice steady Howard got the boot after last night’s marvellous shopping channel task?
To be honest, the way this series has been going, you could see it coming a mile off.
The dull ones are going and all the absolute nutters are getting to stay in the show for as long as possible. Hooray.
Indeed, it was probably more of a shock that Howard’s team (can’t remember if it’s Ignite or Empire any more, sorry) lost in the first place. It was all being edited to look as though they would race away with it - with their expensive chip pan and, er, gorgeous gold and silver leather jackets. Vom.
But “TV natural” Debra and the best new comedy double act of the year James and Yasmina sold what must have been about 40,000 cheap hair nets and weird head scarves to pip their rivals to the post.
Right from the start, it looked as if Debra’s lot would be a disaster - with their hilarious bickering about who was going to be leader.
“I need you to be happy!” Yasmina wailed at Debra after she eventually got the prestigious role.
“What do you want me to do? Fall down at your feet and worship you?” hissed her furious sparring partner.
Yet when the cameras started rolling, hard faced Debra (OMG she’s only 24!!!) was a star. Chatty, friendly, approachable, nice.
Everything that she hasn’t been for most of this series really.
Still, the stars of the episode were undoubtedly James and Yasmina.
“£9.99 for three - you’re pulling my chain!” enthused James as Yasmina explained her fantastic deal on those hair combs.
What a pity they were actually £17.99. And who would pay that for such a load of rubbish?
This slight mishap didn’t put James off his track for long though.
“If you’re not fast with this, you’re gonna be last with this,” he stuttered. “Stop spying and start buying!”
Honestly, he’s turning into the one of the best Apprentice characters of all time is James. We adore him.
And so it was off to the boardroom, where the losing team of Howard, Lorraine and Kate awaited their fate.
S’ralan wanted to know why they hadn’t made as much money as Debra and co - even though their products were much more expensive.
“When the chips were down, I stood up to the mark,” said Lorraine. D’ya geddit? She was selling chip pans on the show.
We thought that bit was really funny, but nobody else seemed to laugh.
S’ralan decided he didn’t need another Steady Eddie like Howard in his company.
“I haven’t got time for ordinary people,” he said as he gave the blue-eyed boy his marching orders.
Well, let’s face it, there aren’t any ordinary people left in the running now.
Just James and four barmy females.
“I feel like Hugh Heffner!” he grinned back at the house.
Oh how we’re looking forward to next week’s interview task.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Apprentice - off their rockers

We knew Ben was doomed.
Not because he’s spent this entire series of The Apprentice behaving like a complete and utter plank, or because he made the fatal mistake of proclaiming, “There’s no way I’m going today – I’m making it to the final”, but because he sat in the wrong seat.

We remembered, from last week’s preview, you see, which way Sr’Alan’s fearsome finger was pointing when he said “You’re fired!” and it was definitely off to his left. So we knew whoever sat in that seat was for the chop.
Even when Sr’Alan was chuntering on about James being a “nice guy… and did he need a nice guy” and James was getting all sweaty and bulgy-eyed, we knew there was likely to be a last minute twist in the tale.
And sure enough it was Ben (Barney Rubble in braces) and his “raw business talent” who got his marching orders – very appropriate, what with his almost-Sandhurst background.

As for Sandhurst… well, Sr’Alan had the final say on that proud boast. “I was in the Jewish Lads’ Brigade. Stamford Hill Division. Trainee Buglar. It didn’t help me sell computers.”
Still, like Margaret, we did feel sorry for odious little Ben on one count. “He had to spend the whole day with Debra,” she observed.
Yes Debra, for the second week in a row, was entirely culpable for the failure of the task. Both teams had to select products to flog at the Earl’s Court baby show. Empire team leader James, showing an eerie understanding of female body parts (except for breast-feeding, which he seems to think is tap-operated), selected a birthing pool. Empire’s other product was a rocking horse (minimum price £1,500) chosen by Debra.
This, in itself, was not a mistake. Normally, without fail on The Apprentice, the team that selects the most extortionately expensive product wins. But you’ve got to actually sell one first. And that was what defeated Debra. She’d failed to negotiate any kind of discount on the pony and seemed to strike mortal fear into the heart of every potential customer.
“I’ll come and work for you… for a week… FOR FREE!” she barked at one bloke seeking a £200 discount.
If that didn’t put him off, nothing would.

The rest of the episode was memorable for the fact that Ignite leader Lorraine’s instincts actually worked.
Ever since Margaret gave Lorraine (known henceforth, after last night’s You’re Fired, as “Olive off On The Buses”) the tagline Cassandra, Lorraine’s “gut feelings” have gone hilariously skew-whiff.

But last night she chose sellable products… albeit stuff we’d never have bought in a million years. Still, the baby bicycle helmets went down a bomb as did the “easy to dismantle” pushchair, once Lorraine had spent about five hours collapsing it.
“… in one simple manoeuvre,” she said, whacking the thing on the floor. “Something’s stuck. One second… it’s completely jarred…”

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Ooh, Mona!

Yes, yes we all agree.
Dire Debra should really have gone last night.
But come on, Mona was always going to get the boot at some point. I mean, she can’t even pronounce her own first name properly. How on earth was S’ralan supposed to trust her in a pivotal role at his company?
The rather pointless task last night was to “rebrand Margate” - and Mona couldn’t even get that bit right.
She kept telling local people Team Empire was going to “regenerate” the town.
Still, with her enormous local knowledge of the area, surely they couldn’t go wrong.
“It’s a seaside resort,” she reliably informed Debra, Howard and James in their initial brainstorming session.
Later, they hit upon the idea of relaunching Margate as the next UK gay destination.
Not a bad thought at all really - and certainly more exciting than Ignite’s snoozeworthy family theme.
James and Mona immediately hit the streets to do some in depth research - and came across a friendly transsexual in a local bar.
Mona seemed a trifle confused when s/he tried to explain her/his... condition.
“Are you a man or a woman now?” she blundered.
Even James, a man not averse to putting his foot in it, admitted he was embarrassed.
Mona and James proved a formidable double act, setting up a photo shoot on the beach where two models attempted to convey the gay message.
James got the chaps (and himself) a couple of 99 ice creams at one point.
“Not too much licking guys, it’s not a porno,” he warned his subjects.
But even all this ludicrousness wasn’t the thing that did for Empire.
It was all down to obnoxious team leader Debra and her apparent ability to do absolutely nothing all day - so that she had to put together an entire poster and leaflet campaign in about half an hour.
“Your visuals are dreadful,” said one personally offended looking woman at the main pitch.
Debra certainly seems to have done something to impress S’ralan though.
It was almost as if she knew she was invincible, so didn’t care one way or the other that most of her fancy leaflet was just blank space.
Even after Mona’s firing, it wasn’t Debra but James who got the “I’ll be watching you” warning from the boss.
Yes, the dead wood is slowly but surely being cast aside this series.
The question is - who’ll be next?

Oonagh Robinson

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Bye bye Pants Man

Well, the almost unanimous opinion in our office this morning seems to be: “Good riddance to bad rubbish!”
But I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a bit subdued now that Pants Man himself - the arrogant Philip Taylor - is no more.
S’ralan finally got rid of the cocky estate agent after his lacklustre performance in a thoroughly entertaining selling task “oop north” last night.
And while I know Phil deserved to go and all that - gosh but he was an entertaining little git.
The “official” reason for the troublesome tosser’s departure might have been his failure to get any orders for what ostensibly were (a) a glorified carrier bag and (b) a decorated box.
But we all know the real reason why Phil wasn’t performing at his best.
How did they put it in King Kong again?
“T’was beauty killed the beast...”
Gorgeous Kate certainly showed herself in a whole new light as she fought for her position in the boardroom showdown, amidst PM Lorraine’s controversial “relationship” claims.
“I can assure you I have no loyalties here - Philip or otherwise,” the blonde bombshell purred. Ouch. You could almost see Phil give up the ghost on the spot.
Still it was a nail biter at the end there - surely S’ralan would fire argumentative Lorraine for being such a, well, plonker.
“That was my worst presentation in 20 years,” she commented after she tried to sell a cat playbox with the motif “Suck UK” to a DIY shop and upmarket homes store Heals.
Her team ended up trawling the length and breadth of northern England with their loot only to be met with looks of derision from every shopkeeper they met.
“It’s a cardboard box,” observed one rather astute bloke.
The other team’s chosen products weren’t much better either - a dog lead for two people and a sleeping bag “with individual leg items and arm items.”
Mind you, they had the surprisingly fabulous Mona on their side - negotiating within an inch of her life to secure some lucrative orders. Who knew she could be so good?
But the undeniable star of last night’s show was that mysterious and fabled place known as “London Gateway” - the spot where S’ralan had chosen to meet his hopefuls.
As they packed their bags for what they all assumed would be a glamorous stay in Africa or Dubai, the apprentices speculated about their rendezvous.
“Gateway suggests it’s a gate to somewhere,” guessed Irish Ben.
Imagine their disappointment, then, when the glorious destination turned out to be.... a service station on the M1.
God, that S’ralan is so cruel...

Oonagh Robinson

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Why aging Playboy Ray was a step too far

COMPULSION (ITV1, Mon) was based on Jacobean tragedy The Changeling – one of our A-level set texts in days of yore – which is riddled with the gory and the unbelievable. There’s a virginity test. A bedroom-based woman-swap. And a last-act blood bath.
However, none of them come close to topping the most flabbergastingly inconceivable conceit of Compulsion – namely that the beauteous young Parminder Nagra would fancy Ray Winstone. At least when Ray was Henry VIII, he was, he was, there was a title and a bit of status up for grabs to attract the requisite six wives. Here, there was just belly.
Belly and creepiness, anyway. Ray played Flowers (an updated version of the Jacobean disfigured manservant De Flores) who is obsessed with spoiled little princess Anjika (Nagra). When she gets into bovver over an arranged marriage, Flowers helps her out by bumping off the suitor in exchange for her spending the night with him. Yeuch.
It all got decidedly more yeuch when Princess Anjika decided she’d rather enjoyed her night with Ray and wanted rather more of it. Portly middle-aged men with a stack of top-shelf mags by their beds may have warmed to the blue movie dialogue but, for the rest of us, it pinballed from the risible to the offensive.
It’s not such a terrible idea to update classic works for a modern audience, provided there are feasible modern parallels. But, the fantastical murders and social misogyny in Jacobean tragedies require a very thoughtful approach if they are to fast-forward successfully through the centuries. This was so lacking in that kind of care that when we saw it was directed by Sarah Harding, we seriously wondered if it was her from Girls Aloud. On second thoughts, she’d have made a much better fist of it.

GEORGE GENTLY (Sun, BBC1) is the kind of name that fits into Sunday nights like toes into Totes Toasties. He might as well be called Harvey Horlicks, Nigel Nightcap or any other name that could just as easily belong to a Classic FM presenter.
George is, of course, a detective (what else?) He’s set in the ‘60s. He’s played by a TV treasure (Martin Shaw).
And he has a bumbling sidekick. So far, so Sunday night cliche.
Where George Gently tries to veer away from Heartbeat territory is in its plotting, which is relentlessly dark. This week, George happened upon a child abuse ring, with Jill Halfpenny in a beehive reflecting on her traumatic past in a children’s home.
Sadly it was all cack-handedly scripted, with ‘60s life viewed through a determinedly patronising 21st century lens ("Have you ever heard of the word paedophile?" a character asked at one point.)
The dialogue stuck rigidly to the Agatha Christie format ("More tea vicar?" "How can I help you, inspector?") which the plot’s aspirations of grittiness seem trite.
And despite the array of bad Geordie accents before us, it was clearly filmed in Ireland.
ITV’s Foyle’s War makes a much better job of investing in a period. As for Martin Shaw – Judge John Deed was a far better character. And not a name you’d find on Classic FM.

They said it
It’s bad enough Kirk getting Roy’s History Today. We don’t want Roy with Kirk’s Nuts on his doorstep, do we?
Norris goes all Carry On Kabin on Corrie.

– What did you say about Vietnam?
– I dreamed I were there, fighting for the King Kong
Another Corrie classic shared between Eileen and dim son Jason.

I judge everything on whether it’s worth the calories. This is not – Pru Leith shares her top tips on how to stay shapely as a Great British Menu judge.