Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Review: The Apprentice returns as Lord Sugar says 'I'm sick of clichés'

Toilet paper, bottled water and waving Chinese cats

Leah Totton from Northern Ireland
Leah Totton from Northern Ireland
Leah Totton
Leah Totton
The Apprentice contestants for 2013
The Apprentice contestants for 2013

Summoning the latest assortment of 16 to the boardroom at midnight – a tactic which smacked more of the Mafia than modern business practice – Lord Sugar announced that he was “sick of the clichés”, before duly unleashing one of The Apprentice’s favourite clichés - the roll-call of insanely delusional braggadocio.

Luisa’s “I have the body of Jessica Rabbit and the brain of Einstein” and Jaz’s “I’m half-machine” were probably topped by somebody’s (sorry, but the blokes all looked the same, like estate agents who believed they were CEOs or Calvin Klein models) “I took my inspiration from Napoleon”. Presumably that was the Napoleon of Austerlitz and not of Waterloo.

His lordship was having none of it. “Actions speak louder than words”, he continued, as if he’d just coined the phrase, but unintentionally bringing to mind his recent employment tribunal victory over 2010 winner Stella English, after she’d complained about being “an overpaid lackey”. Better overpaid than underpaid, Stella, and anyway you can’t say she wasn’t warned about the lackey part.

Take this latest bunch of Stella-wannabes – they were sent to the Essex port of Tilbury at the crack of dawn to take delivery of container loads of toilet paper, bottled water and novelty waving Chinese cats (if I’d been a customs officer, I’d have taken a saw to a random sample of those cats). Then they had to flog the lot by tea-time and drag themselves to Sugar’s lair for a verbal monstering.

Divided along gender lines into teams Evolve (the women) and Endeavour (the men – make of the sexual semiotics what you will), Jason (“I feel my effortless superiority will take me all the way”) and Jaz (“half machine” – see above) pushed themselves forward as team-leaders – Jason’s effortless superiority struggling to assert itself and Jaz’s half-machine quickly going on the blink. “She’s a teacher and it shows”, snarked restaurateur Sophie, before being dragged back into the boardroom as a potential human sacrifice for Jez’s losing and rapidly devolving Evolve.

Other contestants to watch are Neil, a John Simm lookalike who stands in the boardroom because it’s easier to knife his seated teammates in the back, and Leah, a young doctor from Northern Ireland, with the hair, lips and glassy expression of a Barbie doll. Anyway, Jaz it was who got Sugar’s stubby forefinger and a black cab back to Milton Keynes and her day job as a Literary and Education Company Director. Good luck with that.

So it was very much business as usual at The Apprentice, a global franchise that probably has no option but to stick to its winning formula. Nick Hewer certainly had no intention of changing his repertoire of grimaces and scowls, while the boys and girls still have that odd, chin-height way of talking into their mobiles.

More worryingly for the long-term prospects of the show is that the contestants are beginning to be indistinguishable from earlier series, and frankly I give the whole thing two more years.

Any alterations were cosmetic, including a posh new receptionist (sounding oddly like Katie Hopkins from series three – perhaps she needed the temping work) and a new ‘luxury house’, styled like an oligarch’s pier-a-terre, in Holborn. “Which is where all the lawyers and barristers hang out”, explained Sugar. If that’s a recommendation, then I’m Napoleon. Or half machine.

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