Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Sir Alan finally gives our Ben his marching orders

Alas, that’s the end of our favourite wannabe entrepreneur Ben Clarke, who has walked the plank on the good ship The Apprentice (BBC1, Wednesday, 9pm) as it enters the homeward stretch on its annual voyage to find a living, breathing, cabin boy/girl to endure the ever-present threat of weekly humiliations on TV from Sir Alan Sugar — and all for a potential six-figure salary.

Somehow Campbell old boy (and Sandhurst future boy?) Ben managed to spend nine weeks taking up space in the luxury penthouse housing this year’s intake of people so deluded that they probably still think that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

To be fair, Clarke has provided most of the memorable moments of this series. Even the very cut of the chap’s jib jarred. He started badly with his uniform of a captain of industry that the captain of the Marie Celeste would have blanched at.

The suit was pinstripe, the shirts were those vile stripes with plain collars, disasters that should not be worn by anyone looking to keep his teeth, while even Stevie Wonder would have guessed the shirts don’t go with the ties. And the braces; dear sweet Lord, the braces.

The role model was obviously Michael Douglas in Wall Street, the execution was Del Boy falling through the open bar with exotic cocktail in his hand, crossed with a burning effigy of a banker. A wee lad playing at dressing up in the clothes of the most-hated people currently not working at the Houses of Parliament.

Like a security blanket, that suit went everywhere with him: in his special business suit, SuperBen went digging in the sand while rebranding Margate, demonstrating the “hoom multi-gym” to potential buyers.

He played at making movies in his suit, forming his fingers into a viewfinder. The only time it was off was when he was posing for pictures with the multi-gym. Thankfully on Wednesday we had proof that he didn’t wear it in bed.

Then there was the attitude. “Making money is better than sex,” he confidently declared at the outset, leading to the brilliant Harry Hill remarking, “You’re not doing it right”.

Then there was the arrogance. Not since Comical Ali, rather bravely as it happens, stood confidently predicting the annihilation of Yankee troops even as Uncle Sam drove the first of his tanks into the street behind him looking for the nearest Baghdad brothel, public convenience and chippie in that order, has such arrogance been misplaced.

He did have quite a nice turn of phrase. I particularly liked his defiance every time he was brought into the boardroom, where he once threatened to “bite the bloody teeth out” of an opponent. And then there was his immortal dismissal of Rocky, who hit the canvas in episode two: “The boy couldn’t pour sh*t from a shoe if the instructions were on the heel.”

But then there was the “I’d like to go down the sex route with this one,” while designing his home multi-gym/sex aid. His concept appeared to be heading towards a mix of JG Ballard’s Crash and a Japanese manga comic. Thankfully the rest of the team stopped him at the word ‘springloaded’.

He could handle himself in the boardroom, taking no nonsense from the likes of Deborah, but, at times, this has looked like bullying. Like a pride of lions coming across a baby gnu, Ben and Yasmina rounded on Paula in the boardroom for the legendary cock-up over the ingredients for the ‘soop’. It was uncomfortable viewing. His own project managing task was the making of him. Failing miserably to sell a mixed box of rubbish for more than the other team, he thankfully had Noorul to take the rap.

He seemed to relax more and for the last couple of tasks, almost coming across as likable at some points.

In the end, youth probably told against him. Like most 22-year-olds, he’s in love with the idea of being a millionaire, but unlike the likes of Sir Alan, has no real idea of how to achieve it.

But the Apprentice offers redemption each week in the BBC spin-off programme, You’re Fired. It’s odd how the contestants come across as really nice people on the show, with moving lines in self-deprecation.

Smiling and polite, he seemed a credit to his family, and far removed from the foaming at the mouth mad dog he has appeared to be in the previous nine weeks.

He also, perhaps unwittingly, spoke his epitaph for his Apprentice adventure: “I made a bit of a kn*b out of myself.”

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