TV Review: The Apprentice 9.1 – Container

The Apprentice 2013

The death of Margaret Thatcher on April 8th allowed the BBC to visit the vault and blow the dust off a few pre-prepared tributes, commissioned years ago when Lady T’s health did what she wouldn’t and turned. In some instances the lag between production and transmission had a few unfortunate consequences. Andrew Marr, for example, the victim of a stroke, the very thing that finally did it for Maggie, narrated one documentary, while talking heads, conspicuously younger than they are today, slipped up and referred to the dear departed in the present tense.

The one tribute to her legacy that mattered, however, didn’t include her at all. A new series of The Apprentice is a little like 21 Up focused squarely on Thatcher’s children. What became of the babies of the entrepreneurial society? Young Neil, who used to bully the weaker boys in the playground and demand protection money from their equally meek parents; that tyke Zeeshaan, the kid with a Napoleon complex, who listened intently as his history teacher spoke of military conquest and the death of millions, and dreamt that one day, he too may be responsible for suffering on that scale; little Leah, who agreed to study medicine when she grew up to satisfy her socially conscientious parents’ demand that she help others, while nurturing dreams of stockpiling banknotes and not having any contact with those from the lower socio-economic groups…

What became of them? They went on a show that promised to bridge the gap between their self-image and reality; a crossing paved with gold. But as Stella English recently discovered, their true function was to dance for a mob that craved validation for its own failure; an audience reared on cruelty. 200 years ago we’d have been turning up to watch public executions. Yesterday we gathered in virtual forums like Twitter and Facefuck, and threw out barbs instead of rotten fruit.

Still, this troupe of failed humans reminded us that Thatcher’s womb farts created a world in which happiness was only possible if you were a functioning sociopath. Everyone else would find these peons to monetarism and hubris mystifying; their values alien; and it was this tension, between narrow, self-interested bullshitter and non-industrious, dreaming audience member that the show once again ruthlessly exploited.

Lord Sucre, brilliantly cast as the self-made man from the East End who could embody the contestant’s lust for power and cash while eschewing their hauteur so that we may revere him also, was once again on hand to give one feckless, besuited chimpanzee a whopping £250,000: water for their magic beans. He was, according to the opening voiceover, “a man with the bottle to start a business from scratch”, and what bravery! With a paltry £800m in the bank, Sucre was betting the house on the winner’s venture becoming the next iPhone, and when one considered he was appearing for free, the financial risk seemed overwhelming. If he chose poorly he might have to give up part of his property portfolio, which we knew from the man in the cutting room, included The Shard and the entire Canary Wharf complex.

The same opening narration didn’t explain why the show’s series of business tasks were still necessary when the emphasis had shifted from being one of Sucre’s minions to a Dragon’s Den style would-be self-starter. Jaz, a boisterous, smiley, suffocating fuckend, who long ago made the decision to overcompensate for her lack of self-worth with a so-called larger than life personality; a woman who struggled to understand why she lacked close friends, despite exuding so much positive energy; wanted to help those with low levels of literacy. It was a hard proposition to accept from a person who couldn’t spell “Jazz”, but it was a noble idea, albeit one designed to catch the eye of a rich investor with philanthropic pretensions.

How would selling absorbent granules for cat shit or any of the other nonsense she may be asked to do over 15 weeks demonstrate she had the nous to make her idea work? No one knew. Lord Sucre certainly didn’t have a clue, nor her teammates in “Evolve”, who found her to be the unholy trinity of trying, obnoxious and useless. That she was the least effectual in a team comprised of Dr Leah, who pronounced “you’re in” as “urine” and Luisa who thought that a shop called ‘The Mutt’s Nuts’ would be in the market for a feline product, only served to make her look more ridiculous. Later, in the boardroom, Sucre, aghast at her inability to sell worthless tat to shrewd retailers, noted that her motivational schick amounted to “jack shit”. The tragedy is that Jack would have made a better project manager.

The penis set, named Endeavour after project manager Jason’s favourite television series, mirrored the ladies with terrifying precision. Both teams had a feckless leader who’d volunteered without thinking, in the hope of impressing the good Lord, only to discover they were betas in a pack of snarling alphas. The ladies had discovered that Rebecca, not Jaz, had the stuff that Sucre craved: aggression, an ability to manipulate idiots and a cold disregard for the feelings of others. Her sub-team had made all the money while poor Jaz drowned in her own tears. Amongst the males, a breakaway faction, lead by Neil, a manager so aggressive that he’d happily beat a team member to death with his dick, did the business. Karen Brady, who watched hair grow on her arms as Neil bamboozled his dumbfounded acolytes into submission, noted he had “half the boys”, neglecting to say that the half he’d gone for included all the testicles.

Ultimately, with both sides equally divided between the ruthless and the hopeless, and following near identical strategies, it was clear that only luck would decide which imbecilic clique would make it to the next episode intact. Jason and Jaz had zero business acumen between them so the revelation that the feminoid had done fractionally worse was a shoulder shrugging moment. Once in the boardroom, she adopted the age old tactic of listening intently as Sucre singled out the team members he’d marked as most culpable before selecting those self-same miscreants to face the music in the final dance to the dole queue. She even had the gall to berate her fellow teamsters for acting as though they were “perfect” and “could do no wrong” when moments earlier, thanks to the miracle that is the cut, she’d told us that she’d lost despite “doing nothing wrong”. Her sacking was therefore a welcome moment of release for an audience that had grown to despise her in a mere 58 minutes.

Sugar, delighted, returned to his lair in The Shard and thanked his portrait of Lady T that he wouldn’t have to bankroll anything as unprofitable as literacy. Perhaps, as he looked into her painted eyes, he’d have seen something like approval. In any event he went to bed secure in the knowledge that both he and several million schadenfreude-narians were locked in for another enjoyable, if spiritually desolate series.

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Published in: on May 8, 2013 at 14:13  Leave a Comment  
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