Team Titan vs. Team Nebula... Like Marvel characters dressed in Next, Lord Sugar’s financial masterminds were here to save the nation or destroy it, in The Apprentice, by Jim Shelley
The Apprentice was back, arriving for its first series in these chaotic post-Brexit times, to remind us that it was not just great television but a public service. Either here to save the nation or finish us off.
Lord Sugar and his latest crop of thrusting financial masterminds landed in the usual blaze of glory, like modern-day Marvel characters - with a business plan.
Think the X-Men if they worked in ‘digital marketing’ or the figures from Avengers: Age of Ultron dressed in suits from Next.
Here we go again: The female Apprentice contestants - later named Team Nebula - found themselves in the firing line when the BBC series kicked off on Thursday night
The problem was telling the superheroes from the villains.
‘In times of economic turmoil, one man stands firm !’ boomed the narrator.
No not David Beckham, although he did too obviously. Not George Soros either.
Lord Sugar was clearly the Sir Ian McKellen of The Apprentice only even more brilliant and noble.
Fighting fit: Meanwhile, the boys' side Team Titan fared better in the boardroom
King of all he surveyed (the Shard, the Gherkin, and the East End), he flew in on his private plan to save the nation. Again. So far during the show’s history he told his new acolytes in the boardroom, he had invested £1.25million in five businesses.
‘The reason they haven’t failed is because they’ve been mentored by me !’ he declared modestly.
Our future was safe. Until you saw/heard his Apprentices...
‘I’m the business equivalent of a diamond,’ preened Dillon St. Paul, the Robert Downey Junior/Tony Stark of the piece. ‘I can sparkle and light up the room. But if you’re not careful I could cut you.’
Thrashing it out: When the teams were divided into Boys and Girls, there was an inevitable squabble over the team names
British industry at its finest.
‘I’m king of the truth bomb,’ he continued. ‘That means I’m going to tell you how it is whether you like it or not.’
Personally I didn’t, if only because I thought that was my title.
Karthik Nagesan meanwhile detailed his plans for global domination.
‘To friends and fans, I’m known as The Big K. I’m an emperor, a true leader ! I’m going to be the Prime Minister of the UK one day but before then I’m going to be a billionaire !’ he roared, making Doctor Ock look like a shrinking violet. ‘A country is not enough ! A continent is not enough. I’m after the world !’
Aren’t we all? Putting the ‘thick’ in Karthik, the Big K continued: ‘I don’t walk the path that others walk. My way is a separate super highway.’
Taking notes: Karren was back to keep a check on proceedings
If you say so...
Some of the female candidates were even more demented.
‘All I’ve ever been interested in is having as much money and power as I can,’ insisted Alana, which seemed rather greedy.
‘The sheer energy that I’m going to bring is going to mimic that of a nuclear explosion,’ hissed Aleksandra King. ‘Once I lock myself in on the target they do not stand a chance.’
Ouch. By comparison, the others’ claims to fame looked decidedly mundane. Oliver Nohl-Oser was merely ‘a sausage supremo’ – something Marvel would probably never consider.
As for Courtney Wood, Sir Alan sighed: ‘You model yourself on Leonardo Di Caprio. It didn’t end well for him in Titanic’ did it?’
To be fair, this was not strictly Leo’s fault.
Zany online fashion entrepreneur Jessica Cunningham hadn’t got the hang of it at all either.
‘People say I’m like the female version of Jim Carrey !’ she trilled (which really did sound scary) while Rebecca Jeffrey breezed: ‘my business acumen would be like a bouncing poppy. I’ve got loads of infectious, giddy enthusiasm and I’m going to make loads of money.’
She didn’t seem to realise this was not very like a poppy at all, bouncing or otherwise.
No wonder Sir Alan wanted to get down to business.
‘This is not just about the £250,000. This is about the company that we form together,’ he told them, although it was mostly about the £ 250k.
The first task involved sifting through a stash of bric-a-brac and ‘collectibles’ to sell at car-boot sales and antiques markets.
As usual, he divided them, dismissively, into ‘Boys versus Girls.’
The section where the candidates named the teams proved as priceless as ever.
Dillon’s suggestion ‘Team Assassin’ wasn’t exactly holistic or customer-friendly while Karthik’s ‘Team Alphas’ was at least upfront.
In the end they settled for ‘Team Titan’ on the grounds that they were, as JD put it, ‘titans of industry, leaders of men, and mythological Greek badasses.’
The girls’ ideas ‘Team Limitless’ and ‘Team Click’ sounded more like deodorants.
Aleksandra sold them ‘Team Nebula’ on the grounds that ‘it’s where stars like us are born.’ Lord Sugar wasn’t the only one to see it, more accurately, as a reference to a toxic mass of gas.
Michelle Niziol put herself forward for the traditional poisoned chalice of being the first Project Manager as the grounds ‘I’ve had a mortgage company for 10 years’ - the obvious criteria for selling bric-a-brac.
‘By me ending up being Project Manager that just shows they think that I’m a threat,’ she declared. Or an idiot, you thought...
Paul Sullivan meanwhile became PM for Team Titan after revealing ‘I have spent quite a bit of time watching Bargain Hunt.’
In terms of strategy, he stated: ‘We’re just going to have to wing it. I have no plan.’
British business at its finest.
Having said that, he led Team Titan to an easy victory, making £1, 428.10p to Team Nebula’s £ 959 and confirming Bargain Hunt was even more vital to the nation’s future and fortunes than we had realised.
Michelle’s ‘strategy’ seemed to consist of selling everything as cheaply as possible – a plan that unsurprisingly – ironically – cost her dear with the likes of Frances Bishop selling a £300 leather chair for £17.50 and even boasting about her negotiating skills.
‘She was like £ 15? I was like No Way. You’ve got to pay a little bit more for this. £17.50 ! Cash in the bank !’
Cash out the window more like.
So Michelle made the dreaded trip back into the boardroom, electing to take sub-team leader Alana Spencer and her lowest seller, Rebecca Jeffery, with her.
Back to the boardroom: Michelle made the dreaded trip back into the boardroom when her team flopped
‘The boardroom is straight down to business,’ Michelle spelt out her tactics, making Rosa Klebb or Nurse Ratched look like Little Miss Sunshine. ‘I’m not there to make friends. I’m not here to babysit anyone.’
This was probably just as well. It was unlikely any of them (or anyone) would want to friends with her and with a face as joyless as hers, she would frighten any baby half to death.
‘I do not feel that I should be fired !’ she menaced.
She was the only one. Claude Littner, who had been following Team Nebula’s frantic, inept, efforts, was particularly scathing.
‘It’s an absolutely abysmal performance,’ he seethed. ‘The girls haven’t got a clue about value ! The first number that comes into their heads, that’s what they sell it at. They’ve completely by-passed looking at what could be valuable.’
For reasons best known to herself, having taken time to consult an expert, Michelle had even chosen to ignore his advice to sell the goods in Portobello Market and ‘go with my gut’ and head for Camden.
Fighting it out: Michelle brought Alana Spencer and her lowest seller, Rebecca Jeffery, with her
‘He didn’t say that we COULDN’T go to Camden !’ she bridled, rather missing the point.
‘No common sense, no business sense, no brain work!’ Littner summarised. Not great...
In her defence, there wasn’t much Michelle could say but she tried, complaining Alana had shown ‘a lack of organisation and a lack of leadership,’ which was a bit rich coming from her.
‘Rebecca you are floating, as dead wood does,’ growled Lord Sugar, hinting momentarily that doing nothing would prove worse than being a disaster (as it sometimes does in The Apprentice), before telling Michelle ‘you’re fired!’
‘Lord Sugar fired the wrong person !’ Michelle hissed, taking it graciously, in the taxi home. ‘I think Rebecca should have gone instead of me. I don’t think it will be too long before she does get fired.’
The look on her face implied what she really meant was ‘or meets with a nasty accident.’
Rebecca and Lord Sugar might want to think about moving abroad.
And if this is the standard of our entrepreneurs we all should.
Making his decision: In the end, Michelle was given her marching orders
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