Belfast Telegraph

Let the blame games begin... Apprentice is firing on all cylinders as Northern Ireland's Grainne McCoy and team fail first task challenge

By Eilis O'Hanlon

One describes himself as a diamond, because it sparkles but can also cut you. Er, OK. Another wants to be Prime Minister, but not before becoming a billionaire.

Then there's the woman who compares herself to a nuclear explosion, apparently unaware that this is not generally considered to be a Good Thing.

There can be only one explanation - The Apprentice is back.

Contestants on The Great British Bake Off wouldn't dream of bigging themselves up in this ridiculous way; it wouldn't work if they did. But equally, The Apprentice wouldn't work if they didn't. We love seeing the hopefuls boast about how brilliant they are, because it makes the moment when they crash and burn all the more entertaining.

The 18 contestants in this, the 12th series of the BBC One reality TV show, know that modesty isn't going to win them a £250,000 investment from tycoon Alan Sugar… sorry, Sir Alan… no, Lord Sugar.

(Heaven knows what he'll be called in a few years time. His Majesty King Alan the Great, perhaps).

This year there's also a Northern Irish contestant to cheer on - or boo, depending on your mood. Grainne McCoy, a 31-year-old make-up studio owner from Newry, has some of the most striking eyebrows ever seen in the famous boardroom. There's a touch of Cruella de Vil about them, though she was quiet in this first week's task. Or else just drowned out by the other loudmouths, it's hard to say.

The job involved selling antiques, which should have been a doddle for the Ulster woman. If there's anyone who knows about being stuck in the past, after all, it's us - ba doom tish. Naturally it didn't go well, but, luckily for Grainne, she wasn't the chump who sold off a pair of vases worth £300 for one twentieth of their real value.

Oops.

The woman who did that wasn't fired either, though the girls did lose - coming second to a boys' team led by a man who announced he had what it takes to make a go of selling antiques because he'd seen Bargain Hunt.

By that reckoning, all those years spent watching JR Ewing on Dallas should have made me an oil baron.

The girls duly found themselves heading to the losers' cafe, drinking nasty looking tea from Styrofoam cups and loudly blaming one another for failing the task, despite priding themselves a wee while earlier on that legendary female ability to work together without falling out.

Double oops.

Three blondes ended up in the boardroom, and dark-haired lady in black Grainne lived to fight another week.

Interestingly, there's a second Irish contestant this year as well. Dillon St Paul - owner of the unlikeliest name in Apprentice history; he sounds more like a fashion label than an actual human being - is from Dublin, and he and Grainne look set to be walking, talking embodiments of their particular halves of the island. He was in the swing of it from the start, talking fast, making friends, smooth as silk, charming the socks off everyone he met.

She had more of a Northern Irish reticence, holding back and giving everyone the look that says "just hold on there a few years while I make up my mind about ye." The next 11 weeks will prove who has the best plan.

Grainne certainly has a tough act to follow. Derry native Leah Totton won the ninth series of the show in 2013, and her cosmetic treatment clinic has been booming since.

Other memorable contestants to hail from here include trainee stockbroker Ben Clarke from Belfast, who, some viewers of Series Five back in 2009 may remember, won a scholarship to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst - not that he went on about it or anything.

Then there was James McCullagh, who was runner up on Junior Apprentice in 2011, winning over everyone with his bright and breezy outlook on life. Only kidding. Confirming every stereotype about Ulstermen, James made grumpy Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh stories look like the life and soul of the party.

Sadly, if Grainne does go all the way, it's not known yet what she intends to do with the cash; but one clue may be that she's worked as a make up artist on zombie films.

Helping the living dead look their best, eh? A career behind the scenes at Stormont surely beckons.

Either way, the new series should be a blast as always.

As Doctor Johnson might've said if he'd stuck around long enough, he who is tired of The Apprentice is tired of life.

Belfast Telegraph

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