It’s fair to say that since the main prize in The Apprentice changed, from a job with Lord Sugar to an investment in a new business, the amount of larger-than-life characters has decreased. Contestants like Ruth Badger, Katie Hopkins, Raef Bjayou and Stuart Baggs were all people we loved or loved to hate. Thankfully this series has got off to a cracking start as there are plenty of characters ready to be the next Baggs or Hopkins. The majority of the sixteen contestants in this series are incredibly aggressive and are quick to pounce on someone when they spot a weakness.
This opening episode begins at midnight where Lord Sugar welcomes his sixteen new charges into the boardroom. Here he attempts to rile up his contestants almost immediately by asking Neil about his online estate agency business before telling him that Miles hates estate agents. He also highlights that Irish beauty Leah is a Doctor and that posh Jason is a student of Greek mythology. Jason and Lord Sugar even engage in a surreal conversation about the hunt for The Golden Fleece with Jason promising to live up to his mythological namesake. Sugar then set out the task namely that each team would receive a container of goods from the docks and their job would be to try and sell all of the stock in it by the end of the day.
This series’ big twist was that Lord Sugar asked who would be Project Managers while the group were all still in the boardroom. Former teacher Jaz put her hand up almost instantly for the girls while Jason volunteered for the guys and then seemed to regret his decision. Though I thought it would be more interesting if the containers from the docks were full of illegal items, but instead the teams were tasked with selling mundane items such as bottled water, toilet roll and bubble wrap. The only really interesting item that the teams had to flog was a tacky, plastic Chinese lucky cat which is sure to become the iconic image of this first episode. Jaz’s managerial style seemed to be purely motivational as she whipped up her girls into a frenzy before appointing Doctor Leah as the sub-team captain. Meanwhile poor old Jason struggled to be heard over his incredibly macho teammates with the ever-confidant Neil stepping in to undermine his authority. Obviously Jason couldn’t think of anything worse than working with the boisterous Neil so appointed him sub-team leader.
The two subteams seemed to employ very different strategies in order to flog their tat. Jason’s subteam appeared to be running round like headless chickens for the most part especially towards the end of the day. My favourite line from Jason had to be ‘let’s run like hell and sell those ukuleles’ as just felt like a sentence nobody has ever uttered before. Suave Miles also caused Jason’s team some grief when he promised a casino owner that he would provide batteries for the load of lucky cats that he had bought. Instead of simply supplying him with the batteries, Miles was somehow convinced that he had to put the batteries in the cats himself. After Jason’s subteam had spent most of his morning doing this the casino owner revealed that he hadn’t expected them to insert the batteries themselves. While Jason was happy to lead from the back, Neil was very much in charge of his subteam. For me this team contained the bigger characters with Welsh Count Dracula look-a-like Neil acting very aggressively throughout. Neil later got into a shouting match with Zee after he put the phone down on Jason before Zee got a chance to talk to him. But I think Zee’s anger came from an earlier incident when he made a failed attempt at a high five following a sale. Neil’s most likeable team member was definitely Tim, who got all giddy about finally getting to do something after he sold a batch of high vis jackets.
Leah’s team were initially a little frosty towards one another especially after ‘award winning saleswoman’ Rebecca was only able to sell two crates of water to an Irish bar owner. There was also a spat between Leah and Luisa after the latter argued that she should be able to sell the rest of the water to an American diner seeing as she was the owner of three businesses. Indeed Luisa was definitely the most intimidating of the girls as she criticised Jaz’s managerial style and also said that people should take her seriously despite her cosmetically enhanced features. However the girls eventually gelled together as a cohesive unit as Uzma took her role as logistics girl seriously and booked her team into as many appointments as possible. Logistics was something sorely lacking from Jaz’s team as they ran around Oxford Street like headless chickens and at one point tried to strike a deal with a shop assistant who had no authority to buy or sell anything. Things came to a head when they attempted to sell their lucky cats in Chinatown obviously not realising that the majority of the stall holders already could get them a lot cheaper. In the end Jaz’s team sold very little and a dejected Luisa commented that their project manager wouldn’t have any reason to bring one of their subteam back into the boardroom.
When the results were finally totted up, it was revealed that the boys’ team Endeavour had beaten the Girls’ Evolve by a margin of £58. Despite the win, a nervous Tim blurted out that he’d take Lord Sugar’s advice on board which made his Lordship tell him to get out of the boardroom. I think this was a naive mistake by young Tim as now he will be an easy target to take back into the boardroom whenever he’s on a losing team. The boys’ treat was to have a fancy meal back at their new Holborn pad while the girls had the obligatory slanging match at the Bridge Cafe. Jaz’s main defence in the boardroom seemed to be telling Lord Sugar over and over again that she managed the team perfectly. But surely this didn’t hold any water as her team lost the task and in particular her subteam sold very little. Jaz chose Uzma and Sophie to come back into the boardroom as neither had sold anything. While Uzma’s logistical prowess certainly helped offload a lot of stock, Sophie did very little apart from almost sell a few lucky cats. Despite Sophie being in the firing line, it was Jaz who was the first to go as he felt she put her hand up when perhaps she should’ve left it down.
It appears to me as if The Apprentice is back to what it does best – making fools out of salesmen and business folk. As both teams contain a number of strong personalities, there is a lot more potential for major clashes which I’m sure the producers love to capture on film. The boys are full of machismo and ego while the girls are a mass of hair spray, fake tan and cattiness. My favourites at the moment are excitable Tim, scary Alex, suave Miles, glamorous Luisa and prim and proper Rebecca. Obviously it’s great to have Lord Sugar back and this episode seemed to cut through the usual rigmarole of choosing a team name and a project manager. Sugar is back to his best and his collision with Jaz towards the end of the episode was a particular highlight of mine. Karren Brady was also on form here and I loved her weary expression after having spent a whole day listening to the boys’ macho posturing. After last year’s series I felt that we’d had enough of The Apprentice but on the basis of this first episode I definitely think it’s back to its very best.
What did you think to this first episode of The Apprentice? Who are your favourite contestants? Leave Your Comments Below.