Thursday, 16 May 2013

The Apprentice Flat-pack Frenzy (or The One With The Box On Wheels And The Folding Chair)

Think inside the box. Grey sky thinking. Nice.
Week three and we start this episode with a 6pm call.  The candidates, who've had a day off (WHAT?!) are all lounging around, painting their toenails.  Well, Jordan is having his toenails painted.  I'm sure that'll impress Shugs.  Actually, if Jordan wins, we'll know what tipped it, eh?  #tapsnose

Natalie takes the call, and is so excited that they're going to Islington (maybe she thinks that's Islington, Paris) that she hangs up with an excited squeak, rather than any kind of telephone etiquette.  The Design Building it is.  Much getting ready footage, including over-enthusiastic "game on" type talk and a boy bottom in a thong (yes, really), then the lucky cat in the hall waves them off to face their next task.

They all stand in the lobby, whilst Lord Sugar, Karren Brady and Nick Hewer loom over them from a balcony above.  The Design Building is home to the Design Council - and this week's task is to design a piece of flat-pack furniture, to retail at £75.  Since Apprentice candidates are usually incredibly practical, clear-thinking and design focused, this should be a doddle.  What's that?  I can hear the bwahahaha from here!

Lord Sugar sends the teams off with a "Fgs, girls, don't bloody lose again, you useless shower of twats" (I paraphrase) and it's on to choose their team leaders.

Natalie puts herself up for Team Evolve project manager.  Her business idea is focused around designing and manufacturing garments, so that's just like a piece of furniture, isn't it?  I wear wardrobes, bookcases and futons most days.  So, fabulous idea, I'm sure she'll do a sterling job of making a hammock out of knickerbockers or something.

Over to the boys and Jordan's in charge.  They really don't make much of a meal of who's being PM this year, do they?  Kurt, the long-haired health drink guru from Liverpool, has come up with a frankly revolting idea for a chair that doubles as a recycling bin.  Nick Hewer leaves the brainstorm to retch and generally spew bile in the direction of Kurt's suggestion, and then staggers back into the brainstorm, wiping traces of vomit from his lips.

There, he discovers Alex being told to "keep it brief" by Jordan.  Alex the Vampire has designed a flat-pack coffin... Oh, no, hang on, it's a chair that turns into a table with the nifty removal of a pin.  Interesting, that his idea quite literally hinges on what is basically a metal stake...

The boys don't come up with anything better, so it's the folding coffin - sorry, chair - for Endeavour.

The girls, meanwhile, have had Francesca pitching the idea of a cube which flips over to reveal a different function per side (laptop table, seat, er...table).  They all wet themselves with delight about how glorious an idea it is, then Leah starts suggesting that it could have an ice bucket, a bit to rest your drink in, a wine rack (she's a doctor, chaps) - and then it all goes mental, with them suggesting fondue sets, hedgehog rescue centres and helipads on various sides of the cube.

Karren sums it up when she says that there are a lot of talkers on this team and not many listeners.  Perhaps this is best evidenced when Rebecca is ignored totally, about 15 times, whilst Natalie stands next to a flipchart with "CLEVER CUBE" written at the top of the page.  Just writing it doesn't make it so, ladies, heaven help me, I should know that!

Alex calls the chair the "Foldo".  I think this may be his vampire poker name - Count Foldo.  Let's see how they get on when they take it to market research.

Sophie's done a lot of market research for her dissertation, so she's GOT to go and do market research.  Rebecca doesn't like the cube concept.  But she's sent off with Sophie anyway.  Francesca is also doing the market research and she doesn't think much of the cube either.  Er, wasn't it her idea?!  And - surprisingly, given their relentless positivity - in the first shop they go into, the chaps running it aren't keen on a cube - they'd prefer a desk-height table, otherwise you're hunched over when using it.  And they call the cube a "boring shape".

They ring Natalie, Leah, Luisa and Uzma to report back.  Gleefully.  As ever, the design team totally ignore the market research and plough on regardless.  Luisa does her best "Nikki from Big Brother" impression, saying, "A table!  Why wouldn't they just buy...a table?".  Leah looks generally pissed off, but maybe that's just her face at rest, who knows.

Jordan says the idea was very much Alex's concept, as he unveils it to the designers.  Jason looks on, whilst trying to rub his hair into a point, it seems.  He's worried about something - I wonder if he'll dare to speak after being called a stupid shit last week?  My money's on "of course he bloody will".

Myles is out with Zee and Kurt gathering valuable market research insight from the man on the street.  The men on the street are "not convinced about it".  They'd be "puzzled and troubled about it" and would "stand in their sitting room, crying".  The Foldo Chair, sit, fold and hold - there's a memorable strapline, chaps - yes, well done.

Meanwhile, the girls have designed a box with a lid.  The market research team are baffled by the whole concept, which always impresses Shugs - be sure to remember to all argue over who was responsible for the total failure of the task in the boardroom, won't you?

Jason speaks, as I predicted, to express how against upholstering the chair he is.  It's too complicated, it adds cost.  Everyone ignores him, but the boys decide to go with the market research and pad the chair (I think Alex just likes a cushioned satin-lined finish, preferably red).

Myles, Zee and Kurt visit an upholstery shop (much to Jason's horror, I'm sure), and Myles calls Zee the "king of bling".

The girls are designing their loathed-by-half-the-team cube.  Clever.  They suggest a tool-less solution, with the cube slotting together neatly.  They're brought back to the earth with a bump by their designer, who says it needs to overlap to slot together.  Well, OBVIOUSLY.  I think they may be the tools in their solution, don't you?  The beautiful curved form that Natalie had envisaged will apparently not be held together by unicorn wishes and magical butterfly kisses, it'll need sticky-out wood and stuff, which she dismisses as "too like a trolley".  Shame, she could get back on it, rather than try to come up with a storage-cum-chair-cum-table (no sniggering, go and learn bloody Latin, you plebs).  Anyway, with all this flipping you'd need to do, you could hardly store anything in it of any great import - it'd be scrambled egg by the time you'd used your laptop for a bit, eaten your dinner, sat down.  No use for storing your fine china or best biscuits.

Karren's unimpressed.  These girls all say they can manufacture, they can design - but there's no evidence of it yet.  Uzma seems to agree, saying they can't just produce a box with a lid, it needs to be "like, wow".  A bold design vision if ever I heard one.  Like, wow.

The boys all sit on a chair to see how tall a chair needs to be, in order to be a chair.  Good plan.  Alex is delighted to be in charge of seeing the design of his idea through - ahh, a happy little vampire, he was flapping his cape and clapping his lily-white hands with joy!

Jason's input, having not liked the cushioning of the chair, was to implore the rest of the team not to forget that women are smaller than men.  Again, his team-mates are dismissive, saying they're talking about single centimetres here.  C'mon, boys, any woman will tell you that that can make all the difference...  Also, Jason, what woman's going to sit on an un-upholstered chair?  FOOL!

Nick Hewer's worried.  His eyebrows are positively crumpled with distress.  Alex is pushing the boys so hard that they're making mistakes.  Nick's come up with a clever little soundbite, especially for Twitter - "Will this end up like a camel, which is, of course, a horse designed by a committee?".  Well done, Mr Hewer, well done.

The girls are trying to make their box with a lid less like a box with a lid.  Uzma's decided to put lines on the side, which they all like.  And they decide to buy a cushion to stick on the top.  And paint it all grey.  That'll make it less like a box with a lid, DEFINITELY.

The Evolve market research team are shopping for bits and pieces when they're phoned by the design team to ask them to get a cushion.  They're unimpressed, with Sophie asking why they're ignoring the market research so comprehensively.  Are they just listening to Luisa?

Francesca suggests they find a suitable cushion to Velcro to the lid.  They're in a DIY store, with 45 minutes left on the task, looking for a 35x35 cushion for the clever cube which is so brainy, it's changed design totally.

Now they're all on their way back to the house, with the boys all leaving the design studio through a small yellow door they have to climb through very awkwardly.  Irony and design, meeting in a glorious union of banged heads and cricked knees.  Marvellous.

At 8am the next day, their products arrive.  The boys are awed by their chair, which doesn't collapse when Alex sits on it - bonus!  The cushion isn't attached to the girls' cube, now called "Tidy Sidey" ( the plague) - the designers had left a note which said it wouldn't fit, but I think, reading between the lines, they meant something that rhymed with "wouldn't fit" - "it looked shit".  Because it did.

Sophie hates the product.  She wouldn't have it in her living room, she wouldn't pay £75 for it.  So, a roaring success.  Rebecca watches them try to sort a cushion out by pulling lots of the filling out.

Jason very poshly, demonstrates how the chair folds together, saying, "That goes clickety-boo, like that, clickety-boo".  The British public, as one, all sigh, "Ahh, what a total bell-end".

Uzma and Luisa have a ruck over the cushion, which isn't a way of saying that they added some embroidered detail - they really don't see eye to eye, do they?  In loud trilling voices, they all say positive things about the cube thing that is basically a box with a lid, without ever once saying "Oh, dear GOD, we've designed a box with a lid".  Karren doesn't like it.  And she doesn't like that the girls don't like it, however much they trill.  Can good come of this?  They'll have to do a bloody good job of their pitch, for this box on wheels.

They boys are arguing over who's going to pitch.  They're going to be doing a mix of pitching to big retailers and trogging round smaller shops.

On their way north in the back of the car, Neil moots the idea of the "sales orgasm" to Alex, who blushes.  Oh, no, hang on, that's just the blood of some young virgin still round his chops - must have had a crafty snack en route.  Anyway, the sales orgasm is the idea that you get them to say "yes" three times during your pitch and it shows they like your product.  That definitely sounds like some excellent sex there, Neil, well done you.

Zee's first to pitch to a shop.

He begins with saying they've identified a problem, and built a solution.  Well, sort of, Zee - wasn't it more that Lord Sugar told you to win this task?  But OK, crack on.  The man in the shop says they've made it too high (Jason turns into the Cheshire Cat at this point).  The woman in the shop says it's an interesting concept, but the current design is difficult for us.  You SEE, Zee, those couple of centimetres do matter!

The shop don't buy.  They let the rest of the team know, who aren't impressed with Zee's sales "ability".

Leah's excited to be in the shop, pitching to two chaps in dark shiny shirts.  They don't look as excited, to be perfectly honest, to be pitched at.  They like the function of the box on wheels, but not the design - Leah helpfully suggests it could go in another part of the house, but the reply of "one you couldn't see" is maybe not what she was hoping for.  The lines on the side - that el neato design touch from the Wizard of Zhuzh, Uzma - make it look like a garden planter.  Thud.

The overall feedback - the product isn't good or glossy enough.  And it's fucking grey.

Happily, the teams now head to Argos.

Luisa, Natalie and Sophie are pitching to the Argos team.  Luisa is the main voice of the pitch, demonstrating the quality of the wood, how it slots together, that there's storage in it, and not once mentioning that it's a box on wheels.

Unfortunately for them, the Argos team are pretty astute and one of their first questions is "isn't it just a box on wheels?".  Good call, Argos team.

Luisa really believes that this product will be a good fit for Argos and the pitch was rather convincing - the Argos team seem to like the storage it offers.  Maybe, just maybe...  Where's that unicorn when you need it?

And now the boys, with their Foldo.  Kurt, Dracula and Myles are pitching.  Alex spends much of the beginning of the pitch with his arse facing the Argos team, as he screws the chair...together.  I did wonder whether he'd taken the "sales orgasm" direction too literally for a moment.

The Argos team say "It's a bit high".  Jason was right, wasn't he?  Shouldn't they have shaved  a bit off the bottom of each leg before their next pitch?  Tsk.

Nick Hewer is horrified, his eyebrows doing their revolted beetling thing again - this time it's by Alex presenting his rather wide backside to the Argos buying team for the first part of the pitch as he put the chair together.  

Jordan then pitches to a shop in London, and gets an agreement to start with a trial order for 200 units.  Nice.

Francesca's turn to pitch - and she sells four to her first shop.  And then she's on a roll.  She actually starts pitching it as a box on wheels (AT LAST!).  The next shop take 20.  She's now only 176 behind Jordan's first sale...  Another 50 in the next shop - GAWD, this is tortuous, ladies!

The second big trade pitch is to John Lewis and it's Rebecca to front it.  The John Lewis team are - well, I think the word is "meh".

But wait till they see FOLDO and Myles decides to say they're pitching it to 16 to 40 year olds.  Yes, Myles, lots of 16-year-olds have £75 to spend on a folding high chair.  Of course they do.  Good LORD, man, have you not heard of Diamond White?

Jason's turn to pitch to a shop and he goes for a sky-high punt when he asks them to buy two...or maybe three...  Don't give yourself a fucking hernia, optimism man!

Zee's back on the pitching wagon again and Jordan asks him not to get "two ducks in a row".

But the woman in the shop doesn't think it's for her target market.  She thinks it's more "your British Home Stores".  Jordan wants Kurt to do the next pitch, despite Zee's protests, and he sells 12.

Leah rounds off the day by selling 100, bringing their total to 174.  They have an excited hug to finish the task (not like that, Neil).


Smug looks are exchanged between the teams as they wait for Shugs.

Their products are on a table, for Lord Sugar to look at.  He quickly appraises them and asks the girls what they did.  He likes the no-screw assembly concept - probably because Hewer's told him of Alex's arse fiasco during the screwing-in at their Argos pitch.

But did the girls like their product?  Rebecca and Leah say not a lot.  The girls say that Natalie was a wonderful project manager and Natalie says she had a great team.  Shall we hope that this love-fest doesn't continue if they find themselves back in the boardroom later?  I don't think we need to hope - it never has yet!

Lord Sugar points out that he's a short bloke (he is, I've seen him and let's just say if he's small on telly, he's TINY when you see him in 3D real life with your actual eyes) and he's not sure he'd fit on the chair.  Nick Hewer says it looks like an electric chair (not really a surprise, given that it was designed by the Lord of Darkness himself, is it?  Alex has the grace to look shifty at this point).

Lord Sugar asks both project managers why they chose not to pitch to the big retailers.  Were they scared?  They both come up with some fluff-arsed no-answers made of bullshit and glitter which don't impress him much.  And Myles takes a bit of a knocking for trying to sell his chair to children.

Team Evolve:
174 units - shops
No orders - John Lewis

Team Endeavour:
216 units - shops
500 units - John Lewis (subject to a few tweaks - probably a couple of inches off the legs, eh?)

And now, the clincher, Argos...

Team Endeavour:
2,500 units

Team Evolve:
They really liked the pitch.  And they really liked the team.

But they hated the product and didn't place any orders.

So, Endeavour win the task with 3,216 units sold, to Evolve's 174.  And the boys are off to the O2, to walk across the top and take in the panoramic views of London.

Lord Sugar also gives Alex some kind words to take away with him - Foldo is one of the best products he's seen in all the years in the boardroom.  Very, very good indeed.

Back to the morose minnies, who've failed again.  Their product sucked, however good their pitch - like going into war with a peashooter, says Shugs.

The boys head down the river to the O2, spending some time ripping the piss out of the girls for trying to sell a box on wheels, then don blue boiler suits to protect themselves from, er, climbing up a bouncy slope or something, as they head up the O2 (do you remember when it was called the Millennium Dome and was the least cool place in the world?  Wow, amazing to think that remembering that will one day make me old.  Whaddya mean, it just about does now?  Crikey!  Oh, hang on, that was the Diamond White reference earlier, wasn't it?  #shouldasaidHooch).

The girls, meanwhile, are in the greasy spoon, not passing the buck in loud voices, whilst passing the buck.  I think you understand, having seen this programme a couple of times before, how that goes.  Luisa says (to camera, away from the main group) that Sophie is the weakest link.  But Sophie defends herself (again, to camera, by herself), saying that this task wasn't anything she does - she doesn't design, manufacture, sell or pitch.  What the fuck she does do is anyone's guess.

And they're back to the boardroom...

Lord Sugar doesn't hold back.  The Tidy-Sidey, the Wishy-Washy, the Poxy-Boxy - that's what it is.  He asks how the idea came about - wasn't it Francesca's idea?  She steps away from the Crappy-Crate asap, saying she suggested a cube with multi-functional sides.

A debate about the colour, the criss-crossed sides and Uzma's ability to pass the buck ensues, with Natalie and Luisa claiming all the credit for the interlocking system, as soon as it transpires that Shugs is seemingly quite keen on that feature of it.  Uzma, once again, says that she said it should have "wow factor" - and it does, I guess, it's just a shame it's "wow(!) factor".

If Rebecca didn't like the idea, and Leah didn't like the idea, why weren't they strong team members and why didn't they shut the idea down straight away?  Leah says they didn't have anything better.  Thud.  Again.

Karren puts her finger on it when she says that Natalie tried to amalgamate everyone's ideas into one cube - seat, storage, laptop, amphibious landing craft, etc.

Sophie's moment in the sun when Shugs asks what came out of the market research - after all, she did do her dissertation on it.  Unfortunately, Sophie comes unstuck when she says the design needed to be "functional", when Lord Sugar says he supposes it's on wheels, so he can wheel it out to the skip to throw away.

Natalie decides to bring Sophie and Uzma back to the boardroom, and Lord Sugar sends the rest of the girls away with a flea in their ear, saying they should be embarrassed to be in the boardroom for a third time.  Well, they should, downright ashamed of themselves, the underachieving little stoats.

Lord Sugar, Karren and Nick have a quick conflab, during which they decide that Natalie hasn't done a good job of project managing a design and manufacturing task, given that she wants to go into business with a design and manufacturing idea.  And Sophie - Nick Hewer had high hopes of her, but nobody knows who she is.  Uzma - she has had problems with the girls on the last few tasks (er, all of them then?) - cue Carry On-esque moment when Shugs says, "You know what women are like" to Karren Brady.  I suspect she gave him a wedgie for that.

The three girls come back to the boardroom.

The design task was one where they're meant to think outside the box.  And all they thought of was "a bloody box".  What the actual fuck was Natalie thinking exactly?  And why has she brought Sophie and Uzma back?  I have my own theory - Natalie wants to be the only grey-purple eyeshadow wearer in the village, and Sophie and Uzma do it better than she does - but that's just me being relentlessly shallow, so we'll move on to actual reasons that don't involve woad.

Apparently, ironically, it's because they shy away from responsibility.  Sez the woman who didn't go on the main pitches to the retailers and is now saying it wasn't her fault the task failed, despite project managing it.  Hokayyyy...

Lord Sugar takes Uzma through her CV (always a pleasing ramble through the turgid witterings of an over-ambitious prick, as we know).  She's basically responsible for all that's right with the world - and the clincher - she keeps on top of current design.  Not if the grey cross-hatched garden bin is anything to go by...

A robust debate is had by Natalie and Uzma, with the choice phrase (I hesitate to reproduce it here - I can't abide bad language), "That's a whole load of crap" uttered - in the boardroom, ladies, honestly!  Have some fucking respect!

Natalie hits the nail on the head (or, rather, assembles the point neatly, using slotting, without the help of tools), when she says that Uzma is afraid of putting forward a design that's fully her own, in case it goes wrong; she doesn't have to take responsibility then.

Uzma says she's in the business of looking good - and Shugs offers her a shovel, to keep digging, cos "that don't look good" - gesturing towards the Dalek storage unit.  He's not wrong.

Sophie doesn't think she's responsible for the failure of the task.  Of course she doesn't.  She doesn't pitch, sell, yada yada - she doesn't do anything, so how could she be responsible for anything happening?  I think that's what she said anyway - I got bored.

Lord Sugar wraps up:

Natalie - you claim that you managed well.  You didn't.

Uzma - you seem never to be responsible for anything.  Never your fault.  As a design person, you should have been better at this.

Sophie - market research is a way of not being responsible for selling, designing, manufacturing - you're hiding.

But...Natalie...this was an unforgivable disaster.

However, his gut feeling...Sophie, you're fired.

And, I, for one - won't remember her in about three seconds' time.

Soph...who?  See?

Shugs finishes off with a weak pun - my favourite.  He says it may not be fair, but the only fair that happens when his £250,000 is up for grabs is the cab "fare" home!  BOOM-BOOM!

13 candidates...and next time, their task is to open a farm shop.  How very a-moo-sing!  Will they make a pig's ear of it?  Will they chicken out of project managing, kid around, shout themselves "horse" and end up looking sheepish in the baadroom as they duck responsibility?  Oh, I do hope sow.

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