The Apprentice blog: Episode 1

Posted on by Nell Frizzell

“It’s the job interview from hell,” intones our narrator. And so the new series of The Apprentice begins. As the competitors descend on London, dragging their little wheelie suitcases behind them like a particularly aggressive union of navy-suited air stewards, we the audience are treated to a number of Total Wipeout-style to-camera sound bites.

“Everything I touch turns to sold,” quips Stuart Baggs, who seems to have had his childlike face cruelly inflated by a bicycle pump hidden down his PC World uniform. “I’m a maverick,” claims Alex, determined to “stand out” from the crowd. “I’m going to be the last woman standing” proclaims the Bambi-faced Liz Locke, who seems to have mistaken The Apprentice for a drinking competition.

The introduction then rings out with the cry “From a council block in Hackney to the House of Lords…” which means that Alan Sugar has travelled literally eight miles in his entire career.  Take that Sir Cliff Richard.

Once this overture of overstatement is complete, we move to the boardroom at midnight. We know this because the narrator states, with earth-shattering imagination, “Midnight. The boardroom.” Competitors stand around what looks like the drabbest airport security lounge in all of Heathrow, giving each other the evil side eye before Sugar’s sotto voce secretary sends them in to get board.

“On paper you all look very good, but then again, so does fish and chips,” quips the rascal Sugar. He needs someone who’s dynamic and stands out, not a Steady Eddie or Cautious Carol.  So he’s sending his troupe of Wild Williams and Reckless Ritas down to Smithfield market to get meaty. Specifically, to make sausages, which according to Lord Sugar, “sell in bucketloads”. This must be something of a surprise to any major supermarket, who usually sell them in packets, and is linguistically about as appealing as the idea of ‘a bin load of steaks’.

“Buy the meat. Make the sausages,” foghorns the narrator, who really is quite the poet. If the idea of staying up all night handling lumpy meat and tubs of rusk as strangers bark out meaningless buzz words around you sounds like hell, then welcome to Hades.

For the task, the competitors are split in to two teams; ladies on one side, gents on the other. Just like portaloos. The men are led by Karren Brady – the youngest ever managing director of a public limited company, the women by Nick Hewer, who apparently needs no introduction, so I won’t even try.

So, first stop; the names. The women’s team decide to call themselves Apollo, because ‘failure is no option’, which is news to the teams behind failed Apollo missions one to ten. As the son of Zeus and Leto, Apollo is also known as the god of the plague, but probably the less said about that the better.

Meanwhile the boys are in the pub, giving themselves a big round of applause for deciding between the names Synergy and Fusion, both of which sound remarkably like taurine-based-energy-drinks-cum-mid-90s-dance-acts.  They are led by the Mr Potato Head made flesh Dan Harris, who “is all about getting results”. Dan also wins the prize for saying, just twelve minutes in, that he is putting his “balls on the line”. Taste aside, this is a fairly flagrant failure of food hygiene standards, even for sausages.

Once the meat is bought and the rubber gloves are pulled on, the actual sausage making doesn’t go too well. In the boys’ team no-one wants to do the mincing, while Paloma on the girls’ team is frantically trying to deal with ejaculating pork. Never mind, at least they can make up for it in the selling; the girls in a posh market in the City manage to sell to two restaurants, while the boys drag individual packets of sausages door-to-door in West London.

Once the pork du force is over, both teams head back to Alan Sugar HQ, which seems to be, according to the stock footage, simultaneously in both Canary Wharf and the Gherkin. Final figures are read out: the ladies took £321.16 profit, the gents just £305.90, making them the banger bums and liable to the loss of one member (ahem.)

Mr Potato Head Dan Harris takes the fall, for his quite staggering lack of skill and propensity to shout expletives at people in his team. During this fiasco, the girls are sent home for a, irony of ironies, champagne and sausage barbecue in their Georgian townhouse, no doubt to munch on Dan Harris’ so recently de-lined balls.

Conclusion: The Square Mile used to be full of barrow boys who had got lucky. The Apprentice is full of managing sales supervisor directing heads of chairmen who can’t sell sausages to a street market.

Quotes of the episode:

“I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty.”

“”My balls are on the line”

“It’s time to get down to business”

“You sell the sizzle, not the sausage.”

“I don’t want to talk in clichés”

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