Last year’s series of The Apprentice (BBC One) was won by Tom Pellereau, a nerdy inventor and all round nice guy. Has this ushered in a new era of less aggressive, more creative candidates? Has it heck. Judging by the opening episode of the eighth series, this year’s crop are as compellingly vile, over-confident and ego-crazed as ever.
One of the beauties of the business series is its editing. Each episode is cleverly cut to make often tedious tasks seem dramatic and boardroom exchanges thrum with tension. Best of all, it highlights the chasm between the besuited blowhards’ boasts and their actual ability. Or lack thereof. So we saw them bragging: “I’m the blonde assassin”, “I’m the master puppeteer”, “I’m like an animal and will roar my way to the top”, and “I’m like a shark, right at the top of the food chain”. Then, on the task, in which the candidates were asked to take “blank” goods (T-shirts, toys), brand and sell them, these perfect puppeteering lion-shark assassins were soon coming up with the ingenious slogan “This is a bus”, getting lost in London Zoo and failing to sell teddy bears to toddlers.
Team leader Nick Holzherr (that rare breed, a Swiss Brummie) claimed, “I run my life like a spreadsheet,” as if that was somehow a good thing. Maria O’Connor admitted she models herself on that renowned beacon of femininity Gordon Ramsay. She looked like she’d applied her bright blue eyeshadow while driving over a speedbump, had a foghorn voice and could prove amusingly awful.
Then there was Ricky Martin, who not only shares his name with a Puerto Rican pop star but is a professional wrestler. If the producers have any sense they’ll contrive a scene where he grapples with a leotard-clad Lord Sugar to a soundtrack of Livin’ La Vida Loca. My money would be on the wily old Baron of Clapton to win. He’d fight dirty, with Chinese burns and eye gouging.
The girls were a glamorous bunch. I half expected The X Factor judges to appear and form them into two girl bands. Come to think of it, Phoenix and Sterling – the names chosen for the two teams – aren’t any worse names for a pop group than Little Mix. Karren Brady could be their Tulisa-style mentor.