WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!
Read up on episode 5 here.
It’s early morning for the candidates, but viewers will wish the sun had never risen on today the worst day of all days in the entire history of popular pseudo-reality business gameshow The Apprentice.
For as they bounce out of bed, the candidates are instructed to don high-vis jackets and steel-capped boots and to meet Alan Sugar in a builders’ yard. Yep. He went there. It was only a matter of time. Each team has to start up and run its own odd jobs business. And the team members have to carry out the odd jobs themselves. These people, who would need a toolkit to erect their own skill-sets, will have to do manual labour in return for real British pounds.
Our lord and legislator Sugar justifies this utterly pointless task by explaining: “What’s this got to do with business? I’d never ask anyone to do something that I can’t do myself.”
Fair enough. I only go to the dentist to test the veracity of their CV – I can actually source/build a specialised reclining chair, anaesthetise my face, wrench my own teeth out and prescribe myself antibiotics to prevent infection, of course. Also, thinking about it, the reason I use the Tube is simply to ascertain TFL’s standards. I could easily bore a hole 80 feet below England’s capital, electrify 250 miles of rail and ride myself around at the whim of a punishing shift pattern that I have personally implemented.
Anyway, in many ways this is the perfect Apprentice task. Because it is fertile ground for the kind of casual, easy-breezy, cool-as-a-cucumber sexism integral to the creeping horror of this programme. The contestants (with Brett leading Connexus and Elle leading Versatile) are challenged to start a “handyman business”, they try and come up with a slogan – “Don’t be shy, call your handy guys!” – and when someone on Elle’s team tentatively suggests “handyman or handywoman”, they are immediately told they’ve missed the deadline for their leaflets. The first hint of egalitarian language is lost forever.
But to work!
“I’m really, like, an expertise,” Brett (who is a builder) tells the manager of some football stands that need cleaning, and somehow wins the contract. “Are we going to have to do the job ourselves?” asks Sam, before they set to work. A question that strikes at the heart of this episode’s futility.
Vana does some sullen pruning, after her cutting-edge market research in Dulwich (which consisted of asking bewildered locals: “Do you think this neighbourhood is all about gardening?”)
Mergim unsurprisingly has trouble colouring inside the lines when painting a shop front, losing his team money. He also bashes a hole into the wall of a shop when trying to fix their shelves. “Are they meant to lean to one side or are they meant to stay straight?” he asks the shop owner.
Elle, who runs a construction company, realises that putting people with no experience of handywork in charge isn’t a good idea, and so instructs plumber Joseph to run a construction job they land with an East End theatre.
But such sensible delegation is apparently a sackable offence, so Elle is the first to go when the candidates return to the boardroom and Versatile loses – even before the stage when three people are in the firing line.
This means that, following the ancient, binding constitution of The Apprentice zealously upheld by bored television producers, sub-team leader Mergim is interim project manager. The Harriet Harman of the piece. He has to choose who to bring back into the boardroom.
But it’s a dramatic twist that makes no difference whatsoever, because refugee from Kosovo Mergim is swiftly fired, as is Jamaican boutique owner April who also made some irrelevant DIY-based mistakes. Which means the one white male in the line-up, David, is saved. Order is restored.
Candidates to watch:
An expert in expectations management.
The master of management gobbledygook.
I’ll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here for the previous episode blog. The Apprentice airs weekly at 9pm, Wednesday night on BBC One.