In the opening monologue to the eighth series of The Apprentice, the omnipotent narrator tells us that times are tough in business however not so tough that the BBC can’t afford to put up sixteen business-types in a luxurious four-floor town house, complete with pool and gym, for the duration of the show. Indeed this house had some interesting designs smattered across almost as if it had been a project of a Year 12 art class, which would go towards their final portfolio but at least this residence feels new which perhaps can not always be said for the show itself.
This is the second year with the new prize, a business partnership with Lord Sugar worth £250,000; however everything else remains the same including the themes of the tasks. Another Apprentice moment I look forward to each year, is the one-liners the candidates are given to recite which play over the opening sequence. Azhar describes himself as the master puppeteer, Katie is the blonde assassin and Gabrielle is a lion because she roars herself to the top but I’d say it was more because she has got an inordinate amount of teeth. The winner of the one-liner competition though is part-time professional wrestler Ricky Martin, no not that one, who tells us he is like a shark because he is at the top of the foot chain and in addition he is the reflection of perfection perhaps the latter is his wrestling gimmick. Not to be outdone Lord Sugar had some winning lines including where he told his prospective business partners that he wasn’t looking for a friend by explaining that if he wanted a friend he’d get a dog.
Dog-buying aside, Lord Sugar’s other duty was to inform the teams what their opening task would be and as always it was essentially a sales task. This time the groups, divided up into men vs. women, were asked to buy blank products such as T-Shirts, mugs or plates and add their own prints to them. The boys quickly came up with a team name, Phoenix, but struggled to pick a project manager as nobody was willing to step forward and in the end baby-faced business owner Nick put himself into the mix. The girls managed to succeed in picking possibly one of the worst team names in Apprentice history in Sterling which was an idea given by Jenna whose friend had apparently dreamt it and told her to pick it surprisingly nobody argued with her suggestion so that stuck. Gabrielle put her hand up to project manager because she had just opened up a printing business and it was made clear early on that her primary focus on this was the product rather than the profit.
Team Phoenix, who chose bags and Teddy bears as there two items, were totally focused on costs so the designs came second which was evident when the display on their bags read ‘This is a Bus’ with a picture of a bus on it. Gabrielle and design graduate Jade were busy beavering away creating animal pictures for mini T-Shirts and bibs meaning that the Sterling sub-team headed by Irish hothead Jane were left to sort out the quantities and costing by themselves always an Apprentice signifier for disaster.
Day Two saw costing woes for the boys as Nick’s original price for their Union Jack T-Shirt wearing Teddy Bears was an astronomical £15 something that salesman Stephen wasn’t too happy about so he went about undermining his project manager until the price of the bear sunk to £10. There were also problems with the ‘This is a Bus’ bags as the boys had struggled with the printing machines so the majority of them had paint stains on and there was an awkward moment in which Azhar had to refund the purchase of a less-than-pleased retailer.
Sterling split into two teams with Gabrielle and her design chums adding personalised prints to their kids’ clothing sending off Jane’s sub-team to London Zoo. The problem was that Gabrielle had failed to listening to the warnings of Bulgarian-born risk-assessor Bilyana, who was worried about the time it would take to get to the zoo and indeed this team only had half of the day to sell to the unsuspecting mothers who’d come out for a nice afternoon with the kids. To me it didn’t seem that there was a lot of time between the start of the task and the part where time was beginning to run out and once again it was here Bilyana took it upon herself to find the nearest shopping parade and harass the local venders. I really felt sorry for one particularly fragile shopkeeper, who was bombarded by all four of these women, later referred to by Nick Hewer as a pack of baying hyenas, before being insulted for not giving an on-the-spot decision. Thankfully the girls were bought to task by a random man, possibly the shop owner or possibly just a bystander, who chastised them for their brusque nature.
By the time the teams were back in the boardroom it was evident that the boys had one by a substantial margin because, apart from the refund business, not a lot had gone wrong for them. Team Phoenix were rewarded with some tile-themed canapés and cocktails back at the house while Team Sterling had to have a cat fight at the good old Bridge Café. After the usual mix of recrimination and shouting ‘The Lion’ Gabrielle chose the ‘Blonde Assassin’ Katie and the Bulgarian Bulldozer Bilyana to face the firing line. This is indeed where the lion started to show here teeth, as I already mentioned she has a lot of them, launching an attack on Bilyana for constantly berating her management style. Katie meanwhile had been pointed out by Nick Hewer as a weak link and somebody who just wasn’t pulling her wait or maybe it was just because it wasn’t time for the assassin to strike just yet but as Lord Sugar had forewarned the candidates about lurking in the background it was clear that she was at risk.
So as I said not much has changed I was able to pick the team who lost and those who would ultimately bought into the firing line. Then again nobody said that The Apprentice was an original show and indeed it often survives on the amount of characters on display such as Raef Bjayou or Stuart Baggs. After episode one it was definitely Bilyana who marked herself out as the early star of the show, however restaurant manager Maria also made an impression as a no-nonsense London girl who on day one was draped entirely in purple. The boys didn’t have as much time to shine however I feel that it will be Ricky and Stephen who will mark themselves out as the characters in week to come. The overall message coming out of episode one is that creativity will get you nowhere as the boys won comprehensively with rubbish designs, which Karen Brady gave a must try harder mark to. As for marking this debut episode of series eight I have to say I found it a bit by-the-book and for me at least I think Apprentice fatigue might be setting in. But it is early days and as I said we have to wait for the characters to emerge but for now it all seems a bit boring and clichéd so in fact just like a bag designed by the victorious Team Phoenix.
Check over on Unrealitytv.co.uk at ten pm to find out who was fired!
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