WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!
Bake Off’s over. Wipe away your crème pat tears and forget the concept of gracious, talented TV contestants. For the frenzied violins and coruscating Burton suits of The Apprentice are here to replace it. And it’s the same this year as it always is. Reason enough to join me on my journey of futile incredulity as I bring you this year’s Apprentice episode blog.
Like last year, I’ll provide weekly despairing recaps after each episode airs. But careful if you miss an episode – I might spoil it for you faster than a secret “fish-orientated” sous-chef will a fishcake. See.
Anyway, onwards to episode 1!
There are 18 contestants. That’s 150 per cent of how many disciples Jesus had. A good margin. But they’ll probably only be giving it 110 per cent, as always. Nothing changes in Alan Sugar’s Canary Wharf-shaped mind palace, because – in his words – “the bottom line is: this process works”.
The chair to his left is empty as he welcomes the contestants into the boardroom. The ghost at the feast. Who is replacing Nick Hewer, the tired old sidekick who has been shipped off to a scrapyard in Chigwell to gather dust alongside all the Amstrad CPC 464s?
Enter stage left: an aggrieved boiled egg.
Claude Littner, the aggressive interrogator from the past few years of the interview stages of The Apprentice, will be Sugar’s latest accomplice. And Karren Brady, who Sugar was “honoured to introduce to the House a’ Lawds”, is still on board. These unhappy two will be forced for the next 12 weeks to wander around stressful London locations from dawn till dusk, raising their eyebrows to camera.
For the first time ever in the opening Apprentice task, the contestants are split into MIXED teams. At bloody last, eh. The feminist struggle is finally over.
The annual abstract noun shouting game begins as they try to name their teams. But this year, we have an adjective: Versatile! Well done, guys. Even worse, the other team comes up with Connectus, which just sounds like something that would only ever be printed on a free corporate biro. Or a Latin term for a sex act.
The task is to go to Billingsgate fish market at 2am and create fishy lunch products for confused passersby. Of course. So who will navigate their teams through this first labour? Selina, an events agency owner and former podium dancer, leads team Versatile, because “I cook and I’m intolerant to loads of food.” Equally relevant is boutique owner April’s experience to lead team Connectus – she writes a food blog.
Sub-teams called team Calamari and team Fish Finger emerge during the episode, which muddy the proceedings, but at least boast more inspiring names than Connectus.
Each team has to prepare its fish products for lunchtime. Good business is all about confidence, hard work, and fingering seafood, after all. “We’re not squid purveyors . . . I don’t think it’s going to harm us,” says someone, confidently gazing at a tangle of melancholy tentacles.
April’s team misses the lunch hour when trying to flog £9 tuna niçoise salads to city workers who have already eaten. “The footfall here is going to start rapidly decreasing,” one of her team members yelps, in the direst euphemism for “where is everybody?” ever to be uttered.
“I didn’t enter this process in order to sell salad on the street,” sighs Dan, who, it is safe to say, must never have seen an episode of The Apprentice before in his life.
Everything falls apart – all to a majestic Marriage of Figaro soundtrack. The calamari curdles in the sun. There aren’t enough ingredients for the fishcakes – which former Navy man Brett makes “tower-thick”. Sales manager Mergim attempts to sell a tupperware of eight fish fingers for £6 to a vegan restaurant, calling it a “once in a lifetime opportunity”. Which, to be fair, it probably is to a vegan.
Eventually they all crawl back to the boardroom, gills aquiver. Sugar, who is evidently losing interest in this whole charade, informs them: “This was the first task, which has something to do with fish.”
It turns out team Connectus made a profit of £1.87, which, even by Apprentice standards, is terrible – so April brings Dan and Brett back into the boardroom with her to face their fishy fate.
What follows is an epic revelation. Brett – who messed up the fishcakes – had been hiding from his team that he’s actually a professional fish chef. He was a sous-chef in a Plymouth restaurant, which was – in a devastating admission – “fish-orientated”. With intense sincerity, he explains: “I’m a fully qualified, certified catering assistant . . . You have to understand, I was a young adult at the time.” Tell it to the judge, Brett.
“You’ve gone bang bang straight into fishcakes,” responds Sugar, quoting the little-known alternative Nancy Sinatra lyric.
Then the mild-mannered Dan gets fired, presumably because he doesn’t make as good telly as the other two, and our 12-week festival of incompetence is underway.
Candidates to watch:
Let’s see how far her “slightly creepy” (according to Karren) sales technique takes her.
Is that Mark Ronson?
A posh private tutor and self-professed “wordsmith”. We’re all ears, Sam.
I’ll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here to follow it. The next episode is tomorrow evening, so check back on Friday morning for the next instalment.