Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The One With Cupid And Herbert (or The Apprentice Candidates Flirt With Disaster)

It's Mr Cupid to you...
The eight remaining candidates get the call at an undetermined time this week.  Leah answers the phone and pelts up the stairs to wake the rest of the candidates and tell them they're on the way to the Old Marylebone Town Hall in half an hour.  The montage of getting ready features Luisa drying her hair (not a brush in sight, obviously) and Myles and Alex and Neil in their pants (Myles looking like he's stashed some broccoli in his tight trunks - down the front, luckily).  Neil and Myles are ribbing Alex about not being project manager yet - will he volunteer (or be forced) this time?  Surely yes.

They're soon suited and booted and on their way.  Discussion en route is about the teams - after last time's double firing, there's three on one team and five on the other.  A bit of elementary mathematics suggests that one candidate will move to the other team, making four each (with number skills like this, I have just ensured I'll never actually feature as a candidate myself...  Still, that's Lord Sugar's loss).  Alex, Prince of Darkness, tells Myles and Leah that he'll be project manager and make sure they'll win the task, no matter what.  Leah looks unimpressed (though I think that's just her natural catsbum mouth).

The task reveal sees the candidates ranged in a function room in the Old Marylebone Town Hall, the busiest register office in London.  Are they there to witness, finally, the marriage of Karren Brady and Nick Hewer?  Or perhaps Lord Sugar and his ego?  Nope.  The task this week is to come up with an online dating concept and create an advertising campaign - a website and a television advertisement.  They'll present it to a team of experts - but it'll be Shugs who makes the final call and decides which team has won.

They've got two days - let's see whether they can make a total hash of this one, just like the English wine sparkling lot did of theirs.

Now comes the team reshuffle, and Lord Sugar moves Jordan the Nondescript across to Endeavour (now comprising Myles (Broccoli Pants Smug Bastard), Leah (Bulldog Licking A Pissy Nettle) and Mr Vampire Himself.  This leaves Evolve with Francesca (Squinty Eyeliner), Neil (Mr Motivator), Jason (Clickety-Boo) and Luisa (Through A Hedge Backwards).

But wait!  Alex wasn't told he had to be PM - so will he get his way this time?  Time will tell...

The teams head off to brainstorm.  Myles reveals that the first time he saw a picture of his wife was online, but he doesn't elaborate any further.  Thai bride?  Come on, we're all thinking it.

Neil hasn't ever done online dating.  He just doesn't think...  He couldn't...  He just doesn't...  Luckily, Francesca's there to put his stammering into words - "you think it's for losers".  Nice.  But she's done it herself, so this could be an interesting dynamic AKA fight.

Alex is busy describing the many variations of sexuality to Leah, saying it's important that they cater for everyone.  Leah's disgusted by the whole idea, wrinkling her nose and saying it needs to be done tastefully.  Perhaps a medieval theme, eh, Leah, very classical.  Alex puts her mind at rest, briefly...saying they won't have any of that 50 Shades Of Grey nonsense - but then again, he is Christian Grey of the Valleys.  Now, if I'd read the tortuous bag o' shite that is 50 Shades, perhaps I could make more jokes here, but since my literary standards won't allow me to read such poorly-written drivel, I can't.  Hey ho.  On with the process.

Both teams are in Farringdon, at creative agency Karmarama (have a look at their website - there's a little lucky cat waving hello).  Hilariously, one of the meeting rooms is entitled "Red" (I haven't read it, OK, I know nothing of the Red Room and what Grey gets up to in there).  And it's on with the traditional first task - picking project managers.  Will Alex be "it"?

Jason has headed a dating website before.  And he's not been PM before.  He goes into more detail, saying that his nickname on the website was "Cupid".  And, just like that, he's project manager.

Alex lays out his credentials (no broccoli, thank goodness) - he's got experience of graphic design, websites and he's used dating websites before.  BUT, what's this?  Jordan has also thrown his hat into the ring.  Alex interrupts Jordan to say that he's going to be good at business strategy too.  What will Leah and Myles think?  Leah says she thinks Jordan will have a better overview and not just focus on the website.  Myles agrees.  Is Alex happy?  "Not really".  But it's a done deal - and they crack on.

What's their target market?  Young professionals.  They're all on board with that.  Jordan's role is obvious to him - make sure he coaxes the best out of everyone and ensure there's a clear theme running through the whole thing, from the website through the advertising materials.  Wisely, he separates Leah and Myles from Alex - he's sent Frosty Face and Broccoli Drawers off to do market research and he'll stay and work with Alex on the website and branding.  They may need to give it rather a lot of thought, given that Alex's first idea is "50 Shades Of Work".

Cupid Clickety-Boo and his team are thrashing out their target market.  Over 50s seems to be going down well (are you in the "everything sounds like an innuendo" zone?  Hmm, thought so), until Luisa suggests young professionals, because they know that market, because they are those.  Except for her - she's a hairdresser's dream.  Anyway, Jason wants to bring passion and vigour to the over 50s (what did he get up to in the back of that folding caravan trailer he sold last week, hmm?), but Luisa thinks it's a risk.  Francesca's eyes narrow at the prospect...oh, no, hang on.  That's just her face.

Myles and Leah are talking to the great unwashed about their online dating experiences in a market research bonanza.  Myles has a camera, with which he takes photos of members of the public for their website.  And one poor sap ends up being Leah's imaginary boyfriend, with Myles making all sorts of "hold hands" "look more wooden(!)" suggestions to the unfortunate blighter.

Luisa is struggling to relate to...well, anything.  But mainly Jason's concept of the over 50s in lurve.  She tries her best, asking him if the website should be "timeless, elegant, classic" (has she been at Leah's vocabulary?) or "cheeky, fun...a little bit on the line"?  They want it very young and vibrant, apparently.  Francesca and Neil are doing the market research, asking a focus group of their target audience what they'd like to see.  Answer - classy.  Not too cheeky.  Market research feedback always gets followed through by Apprentice candidates, so I'm sure this will be no different.

Friendship and flowers is Francesca's suggestion - rather nice.

Back with the other team and Jordan and Alex are trying to get into the head of a woman (not literally - Alex prefers necks anyway).  A professional woman who works long hours and doesn't want to spend her free time in a bar, waiting for men to come and talk to her.  But Alex isn't sure that putting her on a throne and having her pick men is the way forward (sounds ace to me - c'mon, guys!).  Jordan seems on the money - describing women choosing men in this way as strong and sexually liberated.  Karren looks interested, keen even.  But then Alex fucks it all up by saying, "But when men do it, it's like buying a wife from Russia" and Karren holds her head in her hands.

So, given that they're aiming for strong, professional women, they go for a brand name that speaks to modern working women.  "Cufflinks".  Mm, all the women I work with wear cufflinks, course they do.  Fgs.

Neil and Francesca phone their feedback through to the other half of the team.  Luisa, predictably, hates it, but they go with Friendship & Flowers, because they'd be "mad" to go against what their focus group has suggested.  Looks like some lessons have been learned from "the process" thus far (anyone remember the heap of crap that was the Tidy Sidey?  No?  Thought not).  Mind you, Jason doesn't like it much either - not enough vim and vigour for him.  Still, they go with it.  Half-heartedly.  Ooh, goody - Shugs loves "half-hearted".  It's about his favourite thing (after "blaggers" and "bullshitters").

Leah and Myles hear the name "Cufflinks" for the first time.  And they hate it.  Leah, as a woman, says the thing almost all women would say, "I don't wear cufflinks".  But Jordan and Alex are set on it.  The logo looks good, after all.

Jason's dragging his feet finalising the logo.  Perhaps he'd be quicker if Luisa wasn't repeating over and over "make...a...decision", scathingly.  And telling him he's given her a headache.  And then bawling him out for not making a decision.  Mm, maybe she should just let him bloody talk.  Perhaps she could pop out and brush her hair or something?  They attract hilarity from the people of Karmarama as they argue the entire length of the walk from the office (late to the next task, as Luisa's mentioned in passing half a million times already).

Evening, first day

Jordan and Alex are making Cufflinks look even more corporate than it already does (a big ask, but they're managing it), much to the derision of Karren.  This is aimed at people between 20 and 30, they want fun, not sterile business presentations to look at.

And Alex won't let Jordan be an international spy on the mock-up resume on the site either.  Sob.

Jason and Luisa are two hours late for their website developer.  So they have an hour and a half to design three pages.  So Jason puts Luisa in charge of the website design.  And she's also going to ask him if he wants her to take over as PM.  Ooh.  Handbags.

Endeavour are talking about their telly ad.  And deciding who'll play the ugly guy.  Will it be...Alex?  He'd be my first choice, fo sho.  Eek!  Put those fangs away!

Jason and Luisa didn't get the website finished.  Neil's not happy with the coup Luisa's staging to oust Jason as PM.  Will this be the undoing of Team Evolve?  Shugs won't be happy about this tomfoolery...  But Luisa's project manager - and Jason's stepped down (he says for the benefit of the team - and describes that team as "a nest of vipers with blood in their lips").  Happy days!  The beginning of the second day sees Luisa and Jason back with the logo designer, designing a bus stop advert.  Can they do it in under half a day?  Let's hope so.  Jason gives Luisa more of a chance than she did him - he doesn't yell "DO IT NOW, YOU GREASY FUCKER!" at her constantly.

Myles and Jordan are out gathering market research about their website.  It's "corporate".  And not much fun.

Amusingly, Alex the Vampire is with Leah and a camera crew to make the ad.  I say "amusingly", because Alex seems to think he's some sort of film director.  And top actor.  Is that...cheese...I can smell?

Anyway, he's playing the part of "bad date" for the actress they have playing their lead, before she meets her "good date".  And he's dressed in shorts, a T-shirt with a crucifix on the front and most of Francesca's eyeliner, seemingly.  He looks hideous.

Neil and Francesca are filming their advert, in the altogether more sedate and, dare I say, elegant surroundings of a room wallpapered with some sort of flock.  There's chintz.  There's uncomfortable and ornate chairs.  And there are two silver-haired folk, of at least 52 (you know, "the elderly").  Neil wants to say "ACTION".  So he does.  A number of times.  And it all seems to be coming together rather nicely.  Maybe they'll save Jason from the boardroom after all.

Or perhaps the other team will ensure that Jason gets a treat, not taken out the back and shot.  Leah and Alex are doing their absolute best to help Jase out - by making a total cock of the advert shoot.  They're both trying to direct it.  Surely this'll end in tears.  Maybe Karren's - she's looking on in frustration - it's "mayhem".

However, back at the Friendship & Flowers shoot - Nick Hewer's not impressed either.  The advert is "mumsy and cosy" not "classy".  It's his age group - and he'd run a mile.

Myles and Jordan are at back at the advertising company's offices, looking at photos from their ad shoot.  Photos, specifically, of Alex - as their bad date character, Herbert.  As Jordan highlights - the risk with Alex is that he'll end up some way from the original brief by putting his own spin on it.  And, indeed, the photos demonstrate that he's "gone panto" and ended up being a total Aladdin cockstain.  Even Dame Wishy Washy couldn't fix that one...

Two from each team put the finishing touches to their ads, whilst the other two work on the wording for their pitches.  Jordan's decyded to let Myles lead thys one and Myles is quick to hylyght that he thinks thys ys a mystake (I'll stop now, I can't keep it up - unlike Myles, who continues to spell his name with a "y" - the prick).

Luisa and Jordan applaud Neil and Francesca for their advert, complete with middle-aged lady winking over her shoulder at the camera, before disappearing for a pint, a pie and a quick fumble round the back of the cinema.  Romance, eh, can't beat it!  Neil reckons they'll either love or hate the wink.  I think that's so vague as to probably be true.

But, what's this?  More trouble for Evolve - they can't decide who's going to do the pitch. Luisa wants to.  But so does Neil.  Given Neil's track record with public speaking at the team-building task, surely Luisa would be a fool to turn him down.  But - oh, yes.  Luisa's a fool.  She'll sleep on it, then decide it's her in the morning, apparently.

The Alex the Herbert Panto advert is being viewed by Team Endeavour.  Myles and Jordan are speechless, initially.  But then Myles speaks - and he's got concerns.  It's verging on silly and he has to pitch it to some serious people.  But - c'mon, chaps - they let Alex loose with a camera.  What did they expect?

The pitch

A whole lotta advertising execs and dating website experts see Luisa's pitch - beginning with the "work in progress" website, which gets raised eyebrows and scornful mouths and wrinkled noses and I couldn't see their ears, but I don't think they were impressed either.  And then the advert with That Wink - which attracts hoots of laughter.  So, very much the reaction Team Evolve were after then...

The feedback is full-on and scathing.  They've played safe, but they've also positioned it wrongly - 50 plus isn't that old, they've targeted the 80 plus market and the ad could've been in a funeral parlour.  The wink made them cringe.  And the website was unfinished.

Evolve leave, with Luisa saying they listened to the focus groups too much and Francesca pointing out that they had to listen to someone, because they didn't know anything about the target market.  Ouch.

Next up, Endeavour's Cufflinks.

Myles starts strongly, opening the pitch with the website, saying they wanted it easy to use and functional - and then introduces "Herbert" - who epitomises bad dates.  The audience aren't sure.  If "aren't sure" means "nauseous".

Still, on with the advert.  And it makes the audience laugh in what might not be a 100% mocking sort of way, which is pretty good.

But what's this?  The audience is also full of young professionals - and not one of them's wearing cufflinks - so the name's wrong, surely?  Still, Alex tries to explain.  Then bites the woman for asking.  Mwahaha.

Also, the advert and the website don't go together - there's a fundamental disconnect there.


As the two teams travel to the boardroom, Shugs takes calls from the experts, to give his tongue lashing substance.

How did Jordan get on as PM?  But, first, why didn't people vote for Alex as PM, Karren wonders?  Does he know?  No.  Thud.  So they play the advert and Evolve piss themselves laughing at it.  Shugs isn't quite so amused - why didn't Herbert feature on the website?

Was Jordan a good PM?  His team say yes.  Karren points out that he was a good delegator - Myles did the pitch, Alex was in the advert, Leah directed.  Is he "the great statesman" who doesn't like to get his hands dirty?  Jordan says no, he wanted to get the best out of his team.

Jordan gets a rest as the spotlight turns to Team Evolve and Jason's project manager hokey-cokey.  Surely Mr Cupid was the obvious choice for PM - what went wrong?  Jason tells it one way (he decided to relinquish the reins), Francesca tells it another (Jason buckled under the pressure) - but Nick Hewer gives the definitive story - Luisa nipped at his heels like a terrier at a bewildered sheep and drove him into a corner in "the most disgraceful display of bad manners" he's seen "in many a long day".  Ooh, that'll go down well with Lord Sugar (remember, this is the man who has the final say on the advertising task - so he can pretty much get rid of whoever he chooses this task - canny, Shugs, very canny).

Can Luisa defend herself?  She blames Jason for taking 45 minutes to choose the colours on the website - Neil asks if she should be taking some responsibility for that too.

Lord Sugar congratulates Evolve on being the first team ever to have a PM abdication - it's a "bloody mess" - and he goes on to pull apart their website.  Or, rather, the single page of the website they've half finished.  Then they run the ad.  There's some tumbleweed, Leah yawns ostentatiously and a tortoise ambles past.

It finishes, quietly.  And Lord Sugar (the wag) says it made Last Of The Summer Wine look like an action movie.  Yowzers.

The result

Lord Sugar says his industry experts are somewhat at sea.  Endeavour have a funny advert - and they often pay off.  But their website is ditchwater dull.  So they failed miserably in the coordination - it's disjointed.

As for Evolve - they picked the right market (big tick, Jason), but it was boring.  And the wink was cringe-worthy.  The only thing going for it was that it was cohesive.  What, like it was all shite?  Seemingly - because Evolve have lost the task.

Endeavour's prize?  They're off to Mayfair to taste fish poop caviar.  The lucky devils.

And Team Evolve - they need to go and have a long, hard think about being total shits and come back for a whipping in the boardroom in a bit.

The caviar scoffers are eating it off the backs of their hands (is this the done thing?  I'll stick with actual fish fingers, I think, made of fish and breadcrumbs and white beards and twinkly eyes - that's right, isn't it?  Only the best at the Captain's table!  #jollysmile  Or something.  Anyway, I'd rather that than the fishy hand slurping that's going on from Endeavour).  Jordan doesn't think it's fair that he was told he delegated and wasn't responsible for anything - he was responsible for the success of the whole task.  I think that caviar's gone to his head.

Cafe of Sorrow

Neil describes their performance as "a joke".  He's embarrassed to be a part of it.  Luisa says it's not Jason's fault that they failed (an attempt at avoiding boardroom blame?).

Anyway, they're in the boardroom.  And who's Shugs talking to, as project manager?  Both Jason and Luisa.  Why didn't they go for cool and vibrant as Jason had wanted?  Francesca says the focus group hated it.  Why didn't they go with their gut instinct?  Why didn't Francesca and Neil give better feedback from the market research?  And the advert was boring, boring, boring.

Jason is nice about how Luisa dismantled his project manager role, saying he thinks she probably felt she was being constructive, but it wasn't an approach that helped him.  He stepped aside because he felt they'd waste more time bickering if he didn't.  Very noble.

So, who does Jason think should come back into the boardroom?  Francesca.  And who does Luisa want back?  Neil.  They can't even agree on that!  But Francesca says that if her input, with making a finished advert, is a problem, then they should bring her back in, so Neil goes safely back to the house.

Shugs asks Nick and Karren what happened on the task - is Luisa powerful?  Karren says that Jason tries to come across as a deep thinker, but he's really just a ditherer.  Nick isn't impressed with the choice to bring Francesca back - she was calm and collected.  Perhaps Jason's frightened of Neil.  But did Francesca ask the right questions in the market research?  Maybe she just told them how she'd wanted to be a policeman.

Back in the boardroom

So, Jason, why's Francesca back in the boardroom?  She was the director of the video and didn't get good feedback from the focus group.  Francesca narrows her eyes.  Or maybe that's just her, you know, eyes.  But she defends herself - she made the video based on the theme Jason went with (the one she got the duff feedback to create, but she glosses over that bit).  Weirdly, Luisa goes into bat for Francesca, meaning Shugs turns the spotlight onto her and Jason.  Who should be fired?  I wonder what she'll say...  Oh...!  No surprise there - she wants Clickety-Boo out of the picture.

But what's this?  Shugs doesn't want to hear from Francesca or from Luisa (who he thinks intimidated Jason with her constant "we need to make a decision!" banging on) - he wants Jason to speak.  And Jason is rather eloquent - he says that if the team works together, the team wins and nobody on the team is fired.  Francesca rolls her eyes and tries to speak, but Lord Sugar asks her what she doesn't understand about "shut up".  Nicely done, Shugs.

But why did Jason give up the project manager role?  He says that he could have said shut up, I'm PM, I'll rule the roost...but he took the courageous decision to step down.  Shugs isn't sure that it was "courageous".  Luisa and Francesca continue being shrill at Jason, till Lord Sugar shuts them up.

Francesca - produced an advert that was a total mess.

Jason - last week, Shugs was impressed by his caravan sale last week.

Luisa - he's very concerned that they'll have more problems with her.  Shugs felt that he browbeat Jason and wore him down.

But, nice, academic fellow that he is, it's the end of the road for Jason, as Lord Sugar points the finger of fire at him.

And I, for one, will actually miss him rather a lot - we're left with Luisa and Francesca - out for themselves and nasty of character.  Shugs, you've got it wrong, mate, this time.  Tsk.

Karren wants to follow Luisa next week to see if she's a strong businesswoman or whether she'd just be too hard for Lord Sugar to handle (c'mon, Brady, see through her!).

And we're left with the "magnificent" seven, as they come up with their own ready meal.

Will it be a chilling experience, or will they savour the moment?  We'll have to wait till next week to find out.

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