Well, hell. I missed last Wednesday’s Apprentice, but did I care? No. I was all, hey, I’ve got like a week till the next one, that is like 7 days, what’s the rush, get off my case, did I ASK to be born? You’re RUINING MY LIFE! – ahem, sorry, where were we? Ah yes, there I was, all plenty of time, when it turns out the App was on Sunday, because apparently it was already the final episode! What?? Where was the head-to-head when they bring back all the other losers? No, they really are losers, because they didn’t win. Well, because this series is so different, with Sugarballs appointing a business partner, it’s being done differently. Despite the fact that nothing else has been different. Which all really meant I had no time to check out how Natasha ‘David Brent’ Scribbins got the boot. But no matter! As it happens, I had cause to check out a website a couple of Sundays ago – you may have visited it yourself – of a certain newspaper that no longer exists. And this newspaper’s website informed me that Ms Scribbins BUST UP MARRIAGE WITH LESBIAN LOVE AFFAIR. Reading on, I discovered that she had got pissed one night and ended up sleeping with a married woman. And I thought to myself, surely this august tome would not publish stories of Natty’s private life that are so tangential to her work life and business skills that have thrust her into the public eye? And indeed not, as in fact it turned out the other woman was a colleague of Natty’s and it was a work trip. Totally relevant! Thanks to this fantastic investigatory journalism, I no longer needed to watch the actual programme.
So in the final, instead of the ‘job interviews’ we are finally going to hear what these amazing business plans are. At this point I feel an unusual emotion – slight sympathy for Sugarballs, who is no doubt going to be put in the strange position of having to ‘invest’ (this is licence payers money, surely, why would Alan effectively bankroll the programme like that?) in the world’s most shite idea and poorest business plan. I am prepared to eat my words, but put it this way, I also ate a large dinner in anticipation of not having to leave much room for humble pie. Waiting for their interrogation by Sugarballs’ lackeys, Suze is busting with nervous energy, Tom looks like he is about to puke with nerves, Helen has switched herself to ‘power conservation’ mode and Jim…Jim is stroking non-existent hair behind his ears. Very odd.
First up, Yappy Suze has to give an elevator pitch to Matthew Riley. Given she has clearly never heard of an elevator pitch (do the French have them?) she does a reasonable job, even if she spends floors 2 through penthouse running through synonyms for large. Tom gets even closer to puking as Claude demands to know why he has not mentioned the word ‘chair’ in a business plan that derives most its revenue from…chairs. Claude also wants to know why Tom has failed to include any financials. “If you’ve made an error, Claude will find it,” sighs Tom. Tom, realistically, Humphrey could have found those errors, and he’s my cat. At least these two have made it on to their business plans. Maggie Mountford is busy challenging Jim to describe himself without cliché. ‘I do exactly what it says on the tin,’ says Jim. Maybe he thought she meant without cloche.
After all the waiting, it turns out that a threadbare carpet could have made a good guess as to what the business plans would be about. Susan, who runs an organic skincare market stall, has an organic skincare business plan. Which is brilliant really, because think of all the money they’d save on advertising campaigns! No need to pay expensive models when you’ve got a man as photogenic as Sugartits on board. Helen is an assistant, and she wants to set up a nationwide assistant service. Basically she means a concierge service, but instead of finding five star hotels and Harley Davidsons for rich people, making dentists appointments and receiving deliveries for poor people. Anyone seen the flaw yet? Tom has a potentially interesting idea about reducing back problems caused by poor posture at work, thus reducing sick days due to bad backs. Looks like we’re relying on Jim’s amazing unique idea to rescue Al from this supply of shite. And it’s…an e-learning service for schools teaching employability skills. Come on, Jim, everyone knows that those who can’t, teach, and those who can’t teach set up skills advisory services. Apparently it’s a not-for-profit, which sounds right, but not for the reasons he means it. He keeps going on about e-delivery and e-learning as the big USP. (They do have the internet in Northern Ireland, right? It’s not some big new thing there? Just checking.) Even better, to align it with Al’s other companies, he’s calling it AMSmart. Well, you better invest right now! It’s called the right thing’n'all! Although it does turn out that he spent a bit too much time inventing an arse-licking name and not quite enough – basically, not any – asking his potential customers if this was a service they would value.
At this point in the hour, it’s quite clear that Sugartits would be a prat to invest in any businesses, but if he had a BBC contractual gun against his head, then the only possible option is Tom. None of them is going to have a decent business plan, that’s a given, but at least Tom has a) an idea that is aimed at a genuine problem, and b) something of a track record. Of the others, Susan has at least started the business but the other two are untested, unproven options with what amounts to no ideas.
Next we get to my favourite point in the series, where Claude tells Jim his salary sucks (Jim’s, not Claude’s, that would be a weird interview). Mwah ha ha! I don’t like Jim. Does it show?
And it’s boardroom time, although not before Matthew has pointed out Suze has a) said she will make £1m profit in year 1, and b) has not included any costs for testing. It’s beginning to stretch the imagination to call these documents business plans. Given they don’t tend to include any financials or coherent strategy, what exactly is in them? Apart from Jim’s, which we know includes a big crayon drawing of him personally bringing The Internet to Northern Ireland, and another felt tip illustration, lovingly coloured in, of him performing a sex act on Lord Sugar. (There’s another one of himself wearing a halo, but everyone who sees it thinks, why has he got a gold plate on his head?)
Jim’s pics don’t seem to have the right effect on Alan, who is in full Furious Gnome mode, slating Tom’s idea on the basis that he, Alan, doesn’t give a monkeys if his employees have backache or not, and extrapolating his views on the health & safety of a thousand compliant teenagers in Qing-Xiao, or wherever he makes his famous ‘products’, to be those of every other employer in the country. He likens the backache-saving chairs to putting alcohol gel on everyone’s desks to prevent the spread of flu. “That’s a brilliant idea,” enthuses a viewing doctor. Obviously whatever Lord Suge’s factories make, it can still be done by sweating, sneezing, aching workers. (It occurs to me that I couldn’t name a single product any of Sugarballs’ companies makes. And I can’t even be bothered to Google them.) He’s snappy at Suze for having a plan which clearly needs more than quarter of a million investment, and Jim…well, he hates the customer. And the arse-licking. And the not-for-profitness. And everything else about it.
But now for the real meat. It’s firing finger time. It lands on Tom first – but passes on, saying the chair ‘might work’. It visits Jim – Oh and he’s fired! For being a major suck-up. With no real idea. The finger moves on to Helen, and tells her the business idea is bad – but moves on to Susan, where it says ‘For god’s sake woman, who the hell wants to look or smell like Lord Alan Sugar?’, except sadly it doesn’t, and just says the investment is too pricey. She’s gone and it’s just Helen and Tom – woman with no plan and chair-man – providing investment decision heaven. Helen sensibly uses the waiting time outside the boardroom to plug into the mains and up her battery levels. Unfortunately she tops them up a little too much and short-circuits something. As a consequence, when she is summoned back into the boardroom she attempts to pitch Greggs as a Plan B. God knows what wiring has come loose, but she then follows this up by beehatching that Tom shouldn’t be here if he’s already started a company. That’s right love, anyone with a track record is immediately slung out of every VC office from here to Silicon Valley. That’s just how it works. Tom takes another tack and suddenly produces a story that illustrates his nerve, creativity and originality. Well, if he only had one, now is a better time to tell it than week one, I suppose. With that story, if there were any doubt, he seals the deal that efficient, competent Helen will have to kiss his flakey entrepreneurial ass.
Good luck to them all – I am off to petition Avaaz.org to take my new campaign on board – bring back Margaret Mountford! She is wasted on those papyrus scrolls. She would be an ideal addition to the revamped judging panel for the X Factor, which has a lot of potential now that boring, bitchy, menopausal Cowell has gone. This season’s American Idol, sans Cowell, had a kind of an end-of-term, Teacher’s left the room kind of feel to it. No-one ever invited Cowbell up on stage in order to give him a slightly dubious lapdance-esque performance, like they did with Steven Tyler. So can we look forward to similar teenage-parties-accidentally-advertised-on-Facebook hijinks from the X Factor panel? Let’s take a quick look forward.
Louis Walsh: Strangely, the first judge to be sacked, but still in situ, Louis was cracked out and uncontrollable even in the looming presence of the Dark Lord of A&R, so hopes are high for some Irish insanity.
Prediction: he agrees to mentor a Lidl shopping bag and succeeds in making it ‘the new Jedward’.
Tulisa from N-Dubz: Camden Ghetto Superstar Princess Tulisa did a BBC3 documentary a couple of years ago on her mother’s mental illness. The reviews were hagiographic – one even referred to her as a ‘common Princess Di’, as if there was an opportunity for anyone to be, say, a posh Princess Di. Anyhow, as BA had the documentary on their in-flight entertainment programme I ended up watching it and thinking ‘What a marvellous touch this young woman has! Why, she can talk warmly and meaningfully to anyone! By George, she is verily a common Princess Di!’
Prediction: By Christmas a nation is asking ‘Cheryl who?’ and secretly yearning for Prince Willy Style to dump Cambridge in favour of Camden.
Gary Barlow: Gary from Frodsham is a man whose first instinct is to do the mean thing, second instinct is to do the selfish thing, third instinct is to wonder whether his first two instincts were mean and selfish and fourth instinct is to go ahead anyway. And I got this from reading his AUTOBIOGRAPHY, a document that one might reasonably expect to have been devised to show the subject in a more or less favourable light. He is also going bald.
Prediction: Starts wearing his trousers higher, his t-shirts tighter, moobs bigger and hair more hedgehoggy.
Kelly Rowland: Like Joni Mitchell, I’ve looked at this from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, I don’t know what she’s doing on the judging panel. I have the greatest mix of When Love Takes Over, which I listen to all the time, but I still don’t know what she’s doing on the judging panel. I’ve seen her on Buzzcocks, where she seemed a little confused about what was going on, which didn’t seem to be the greatest audition for the judging panel. Sure, she’s a hot black chick with…OK, that’s cleared it up for me. Fine.
Prediction: Demands, and gets, David Guetta remix of Supremes songs theme week. Has terrible flu during Beyonce theme week but manfully turns up for work, sneezing and coughing through all the performances.