Saturday, August 04, 2012

Review: Colonel Moseley reviews "The Apprentice " from 13.5.2008

This piece is taken from my reviewblog in 2008

Now that the Curse of Comedy season has finished, I have fewer must-see TV programmes. They include the compelling Mad Men and the addictive Benidorm. My only other regular appointment is with The Apprentice.  
   
I do have a taste for reality TV and confess to watching most of Big Brother each summer and its winter celebrity incarnation as well as the Jungle version with Ant and Dec. This weakness extended to oddities like Coach Party and each previous series of The Apprentice with larger than life characters such as Tre and the Badger.   
 
If you visit the programme’s web-site it seems the current series should flag-up some interesting and able candidates. Twenty thousand CVs were received and the sixteen contestants included a barrister, bank manager, ex-Army engineer and car trader.  
  
Well, you could have fooled me! The staggering thing about this series has been the way that the contestants have been presented pretty much as a rather loud bunch of half-wits. For the most part they have appeared disorganised, ill-informed and barely capable of stringing together a coherent sentence. This lack of ability has been made more laughable by outrageous expressions of self-worth typified by a confident claim to be the best sales person in Europe.   
  
Viewers have watched a progression of shambolic tasks, each achieving its own weirdly chaotic level from selling fish to running a themed night in a pub to marketing a new line of greetings cards. Each task seemed to have been marked by a special degree of misjudgement ranging from underestimating the market price of seafood to devising cards that no-one would want to buy. The incompetence displayed in each project was accompanied by much in-fighting and a wholly unjustified self confidence. Self–help courses teach that self-belief is one of the keys to enduring success, but surely it must have some foundation in reality.   
  
Up to the most recent episode, each task seems to have been lost by the most incompetent team rather than won through clever tactics or applied skill. The shopping task in Marrakesh however showed some sign that Lee’s winning team had got its act together and won on merit by co-operating and applying simple virtues such as forethought, hard work and shrewd bargaining. The losers lost the contest spectacularly and managed to compound magnificent ignorance over the meaning of kosher and careless buying with an attempt to bribe shopkeepers not to provide a service to their competitors. Anyone who has watched previous series would have known that S’rAlan appreciates ingenuity, but will not countenance the underhand or unprofessional.   
  
Despite some irritation at the shortcomings of some of the contestants, no-one could deny that the programmes have been entertaining with some interesting twists and turns. The odd serial incompetent has been saved to live and fail another day and perceived back-biters received their surprise come-uppance when not one but two member of the losing team were fired this week.   
   
Grimly fascinating though the self-proclaimed good Jewish boy Michael might be – he who seemed to confuse halal with kosher - for me the real stars are S’rAlan’s lieutenants, the dry and laconic Nick Hewer and the shrewd and twinkle–eyed Margaret Mountford.    
   
My highlight of the series so far took place when Nick expressed surprise at Michael’s ignorance of Jewish lore, since he was allegedly bright and had read Classics at Edinburgh University. Deadpan, Margaret replied artlessly “I think Edinburgh isn’t what it used to be.”  
   
Gems like that, and much else besides, make it worthwhile to endure the more gormless contestants and to watch the rest of the battle to be the Apprentice. Even so, based on what I have seen so far, I still don’t really envy S’rAlan the choice that lies before him.

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