WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!
Read up on episode 11 here.
Crank up the aggressive Prokofiev and give us your 110 per cent attention. It’s The Apprentice final. Another year, another suited automaton released into the world from marketing middle-management is given special access to a desktop in some office space in Romford. Lord Sugar’s hunt for his business partner has come to an end.
So who will receive our munificent dictator’s £250,000 investment? Young plumbing tycoon Joseph Valente, he of the disappearing pencil moustache? Or online dating mogul Vana, she of sullen stares and selling discount tat in five different languages?
For their final task, the two remaining victims have to launch their businesses. “I’ve arranged some help,” smiles Sugar in a tone that might suggest he’s hired an assassin. Joseph and Vana look on with fixed smiles, sweating with horror, as failed candidates from the previous episodes file in.
They choose their losers, and then set to work getting their business ideas off the ground.
Joseph receives some top advice from his loyal appointees for what his expanded plumbing business should be named. “A sweeter future – playing on the Lord Sugar element,” moots Brett, who clearly has a very rosy view of piping. “Enerplutuer,” declares Mergim, before faithfully spelling the word out. “Future plumbing energy – just mix the words up.”
Vana’s dating app is called ‘Date Play’. It involves “scientifically-formulated games to match you”. Ooh, don’t tease.
Charleine directs a photoshoot to advertise the app. “A girl lonely at home, then you’ve got the lonely old man… Get down on one knee and show how they’ve taken this lonely moment together.” I’m sold.
During some market research, Richard is warned not to make the dating app’s branding too cheesy. He tells Vana to “get rid of the cheesy boy and girl staring into each other’s eyes”.
“Telling us not to do male and females!” laughs Vana. “It’s like, what do you want us to do? New age? It’s dating.” Bloody hell, those new age gays with their avant-garde ideas of smartphone gaming, eh? Keep them out of it, I say.
Joseph’s team is having trouble branding Prime Time Plumbers. “Obviously sometimes flames move naturally,” explains Brett, during a photoshoot of some fire. “Do you think it all looks a bit shit?” asks Elle. “In the nicest way possible.”
They go on to devise an advertisement, which Elle admits is “starting to look like a 1970s porno”. It involves some terrible acting from her and Mergim as they discover various things in their house have stopped working. Brett turns up in a boiler suit. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, they’ve shoehorned a last-minute reference to smart tech into the end scene.
Vana has jugglers throwing neon sticks in her dating video. “It’s representative of them passing data,” she says, which is not even as romantic as it sounds.
Meanwhile, Joseph is meeting the long-anticipated and much-revered collective known to us all as the “company bigwigs”. These are middle-aged men in jackets and spectacles who dwell in an oak-panelled room, talking solely about growth and margins.
Vana is told that a £250,000 investment is nowhere near enough to make a dating app successful. “This is a higher-risk investment than a gas or plumbing company,” she accepts. “But this will give you higher returns.” Indeed. For what higher return is there in this world than being matched online with a disappointing date whose only redeeming quality is that he/she is quite good at playing games on their phone?
Brett and Elle don boiler suits and go to Liverpool Street Station to conduct some market research – ie. have a man in a ‘Let’s Get Smashed’ tshirt on his way to a night out tell them “I think you need to think about your name.” Job done.
Joseph and Vana prepare for their pitches. Joseph is particularly nervous. He says of Sugar: “I want him to look inside me and see that I’m the right man.” I know just the app for that!
Sugar sits in the centre of a horseshoe of the biggest of the bigwigs set in City Hall, where the candidates will be launching their businesses. Vana gives a polished performance, making the audience chuckle – and ordinary humans shudder – with a reference to an Oxford PhD she has consulted about her app, who is known as the “Doctor of Desire”.
Joseph’s performance is a little more haphazard, apart from his sharp analysis of the historical significance of plumbing. “Plumbing and heating has been around for thousands of years,” he says. “It started basic in the Roman times and it’s progressed throughout the years and I think it’s going to move on throughout the future, into the space age of our human race.” So true. And when the machines take over, the only thing they’ll need us for is to bleed their radiators.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar is frustrated with how long Joseph’s team took over Prime Time Plumbers’ rather lacklustre branding. “What’s in a name? What’s important is to understand the business,” he remarks, picking up where Shakespeare dropped the ball.
Joseph begs to be chosen, falling back yet again on his knowledge of Alan Sugar’s autobiography. “I once read a book that changed my life – it was called What You See Is What You Get.” Even Sugar cringes.
But was this sycophancy enough to beat Vana, or was the allure of another mediocre technology venture too much for our Sugary Lord..?
I’ve been blogging series 11 of The Apprentice every week. Click here for the previous episode blog.