Welcome back to what I’m now considering my weekly Apprentice recap, since I’ve now done two. This week’s episode saw the unfortunate demise of Jenny, who I’ll admit to not having realised existed for the entirety of episode one, in what I can only describe as a mostly-boat-related loss.
This week also saw the return of cheeky thriftiness, courtesy of that guy whose name I can’t remember for the life of me, but he looks a bit like Hugo Weaving except with a face that manages to be simultaneously rounder and more oblong. This lovable quality of all good entrepreneurs, particularly those from the London area, made a notable appearance in the last series when Solomon (bless his heart forever) attempted to pass off a paper skeleton as ‘anatomically accurate’. To be fair to him, it actually was, and much cheaper than the opposing team’s full scientific skeleton to boot. If I’d been in HRH Sugar’s position, I’d probably have rewarded such ingenuity. Emperor Sugar did not take as favourably to it, suffice to say.
Anyway, this season’s first real display of loophole abuse came courtesy of Hugo-adjace, who interpreted the specifications’ (I’m surprised Brett didn’t get involved) request for a certain size of inflatable boat to mean that a toy one would suffice. He was right, to be fair, with his purchase coming in at a handy £245 under the hapless girls’ legit boat.
What we learned this week is that the girls don’t seem to work well together. I don’t want to think that there’s something about the female condition in general that causes what is perhaps best termed ‘cattiness’ when attempting to haggle en masse, but I think there’s something about this particular set of people that just makes it really hard for them to see eye to eye on… anything. It’s likely more to do with the entrepreneurial disposition than the feminine, although it’s almost difficult for me to even continue referring to the contestants of The Apprentice as entrepreneurs or business people. What they are, more than anything else, is reality stars.
It comes down to a general trend in television and its viewership, really. Jenny, while she lasted, was largely unnoticed – I was actually surprised when Vana elected to bring her into the boardroom for her inactivity, as there were certainly people who would have better served the team had they decided to contribute less. In fact, I was sort of coming around to Jenny. She was probably the most normal-looking (by which I mean least excessively expressive) and most well-adjusted-seeming of the girls’ team, if not the contestants outright. She seemed like a real person rather than a dialed-up caricature of what BBC producers deem one of the seven or eight representatives of the ‘entrepreneurial type’. (There’s the slow one, the hard seller, the one who takes all the credit, the difficult one, and so on. It’s sort of like how I assume the characters on The Only Way Is Essex must be, having never seen it: pick a type of person, whether it be businessman or socialite, then derive a few key characteristics and base everyone in your case on one of those taken to its absolute extreme.)
Admittedly, that image of Jenny was somewhat lessened by her bizarre outpouring once she was revealed as the unlucky firee of the week. I was reminded of a previous candidate who, once released, had sort of slowly edged out of the door as if pulled by an invisible force of ineptitude while constantly pleading not to be fired. Jenny was slightly more accepting of her fate, if not that it meant she was any less likely to succeed in the world. Still, I guess you have to be at least slightly egomaniacal to consider appearing on a show that essentially now amounts to selling yourself.
Speaking of which, I have to comment on The X Factor. I’ve not watched it this year, because having tried to get into it in the past I’ve learned that the people I think are ‘good singers’ are not the people who tend to do well, and that’s nothing if not frustrating. But I have been aware of the ‘six chair challenge’, a needlessly cruel addition to the already overly dragged-out audition stages in which each candidate performs, is told whether they have one of the six places in the next (and I would hope, but not assume, final) stage before the live shows, and then might well end up losing that place if somebody after them does better.
That’s already a bit messed up, but it’s the role of the audience that’s really ground my goat when I’ve caught snippets of the show. They seem to have got into a kind of routine: chant ‘Seat! Seat! Seat!’ for every half-decent singer that takes to the stage; enthusiastically call for the
beheading dismissal of one of the people they previously demanded be given a seat (in a really uncomfortably personal display of hatred); rain hailstones made of weirdly self-righteous anger on the judge when they acquiesce and let one of their six go. Then there’s the optional final stage, in which they demand ‘Bring them back!’ and quite often have their demands met. Simon freaking Cowell, ostensibly head honcho of the whole damn thing, was brought to bear by an angry audience; they yelled and screamed that they wanted someone called Joe back until King Cowell finally called producers over. Then someone presumably had to go and find one of the candidates he’d fired (sorry, still in Apprentice mode) about four auditionees ago, before Cowell restored him to a place.
Naturally, someone else had to lose their seat in the process, for which the audience booed lustily.
It’s a dangerous game, reality TV. Particularly when you start to give the audience real power. Show them that they can change the course of the game and they will do all they can to make it happen. I don’t even think they cared about Joe’s singing all that much; it’s a power play, more than anything else. If they can get someone brought back, they will, because then they’re relevant and powerful and they have a say in what goes on.
Thank God The Apprentice isn’t filmed in front of a live studio audience,