It is an immutable law of The Apprentice that one team will immediately come up with a crap idea, while their rivals will dither around for hours before returning to their original (equally crap) idea.
Last year the Pants Man debacle provided a much-needed wake-up call for bumptious estate agent Philip Taylor. This time a number of candidates were caught with their pants down — or in Jamie’s case with his flies open — as they failed to rise and shine for Lord Sugar’s surprise visit.
Yes, after weeks of flogging sausages, muffins and overpriced schmutter, it was time for the advertising task. Brand Baggs didn’t get off to a good start by appearing in front of the boss in shorts and T-shirt. Joanna was still in her pyjamas. Lord Sugar looked suitably unimpressed by this motley crew, as he announced they had two days to create a new brand of household cleaner and formulate a campaign around it.
After slaying the wicked Princess Paloma, Alex declared that his marketing powers were undiminished: “If I was an apple pie the apples inside would be orange.” I have no idea what this means, but I do know that Alex is all mouth and no trousers. His Apollo colleagues were obviously suffering from collective amnesia, because they picked him over Stuart to be this week’s PM. Synergy’s choice was made for them, as scouser and former marine sniper Christopher Farrell was the only one who hadn’t already been in the firing line. (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one.)
It is an immutable law of The Apprentice that one team will immediately come up with a crap idea, while their rivals will dither around for hours before returning to their original (equally crap) idea. That, to cut a long story short, is how we ended up with our very own Apprentice Monster Mash-up: Octo-Kleen vs Germ-o-nator. Not coming soon to a cinema, or even a supermarket shelf, near you any time soon.
Would you Adam and Eve it?
Synergy got their octopus idea from someone else, which was probably the smartest move anyone’s made in this series to date. Over tea and posh cakes with some upmarket mums, a lady called Eve came up with the concept of the overworked housewife who wishes she had extra pairs of hands with which to multi-task. Jamie, who thinks octopuses say “bathroom” wasn’t sold and neither was Jo, who runs a cleaning company. But Christopher “we can smash this one out of the park” proved to be real autocrat, not to mention a male chauvinist pig.
The creative stage of the task was notable for Alex’s failure to come up with any good ideas. He does know his way around a flip chart, which is an improvement on his ability to navigate the Trafford Centre. I quite liked Sandeesh’s Swipe, and Chris’s Germinate had a certain juvenile charm, but Laura’s Helping Hand rightly got short shrift. The best bit was when Laura came up with the cheery “Blitz”, only for Alex to snootily remind her that it “was like a big bombing thing, years ago in London”.
After failing to “turn the thing on its head” or come up with “the one you need”, Alex was forced to capitulate to the power of the Germ-o-nator. This, despite the fact that the mums in the focus group agreed with him that the idea was laughable. In a classic case of putting the cart before the horse, Chris and Stuart had already brainstormed an advertising campaign in which a little kid unleashes the cleaning power of Germ-o-nator with the immortal words “Hasta la vista, gravy!”
Who knew that influenza — “let’s hide down ‘ere” — has a Cockney accent?
Following another time-honoured Apprentice tradition of ignoring the patently bleeding obvious, Apollo opted not to brand the Germ-o-nator (“terminates germs and dirt”) in traditional colours of yellow and green. No, they went for “dark and mysterious” red and black, which I think we can all agree are not characteristics you normally associate with household cleaning products. Karren Brady was baffled by this decision. Synergy picked orange, with the tagline “8 arms are better than 2”, which says schlock horror to me, not unbeatable cleaning power.
We’ve been waiting for weeks to see the best of Brand Baggs and, I must say, he did not disappoint here. I’ve finally figured out that Stuart’s “comedy” voice reminds me of Nigel “these go to 11” Tufnel, the dopey drummer from This Is Spinal Tap. Laura was definitely surplus to requirements in the recording studio. Stuart took to the mike like a duck to water, to become the voice of the Germ-o-nator. At times he sounded as though he was trying to emulate the fruity tones of the great Vincent Price with his “Oh no it’s the Germ-o-nator” routine. It was educational, too: who knew that influenza — “let’s hide down ‘ere” — has a Cockney accent?
Stuart’s unrehearsed brilliance was by far the best thing about either of the campaigns. Casting for Synergy’s Octo-Kleen ad, consisted of Stella twittering about citrus fragrance, while creepy Christopher tried to weed out the “mingers” among the actresses who were auditioning to be his on-screen wife. To be blunt, the one he selected wouldn’t win any awards in the looks or the acting departments, and the final product was embarrassingly cheesy. The harassed house frau morphs into an octopus so that she can clean up quickly and then get cosy with her hubby. Yuck! It was also, as Nick pointed out, unforgivably dated in its sexual stereotyping. As one of the bosses at the Lowe’s advertising agency later asked: “Are you selling marital harmony?”
At least the sight of the pint-sized Germ-o-nator bursting through the door armed only with bottles of cleaning fluid (“Move over big guy!”) was funny. Well, sort of. The professionals at Lowe’s were smiling — through clenched teeth — as they sat through both these presentations. Afterwards, words like travesty and bad taste were bandied about as they delivered their verdict to Lord Sugar.
A technical KO
This week’s boardroom bust-up was a little lacking in the suspense of recent weeks. For a start, there were no figures to read out and no chance for Laura to improve on her record of scoring zero in Week 2. A rather weary Lord Sugar informed Synergy that they were the victors with the words, “I wouldn’t say you’ve won, but technically you haven’t lost.” Their reward was a private karaoke night, the highlights of which I enjoyed with the sound on my TV muted.
Down at the Bridge Cafe, on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Alex got a big hint that his team-mates weren’t exactly overwhelmed by his management skills. Perhaps he should have helped himself to a slice of humble pie after last week’s task and learned something from Paloma’s catastrophic errors. Of course he didn’t.
Lord Sugar really doesn’t like people telling him how to do his job, so Alex’s opening gambit — claiming the wrong team had won — was an own goal. He compounded his error by picking Chris and Sandeesh to come back for the final showdown. Only moments earlier he’d been congratulating Sandeesh on her great pitch. Those big Bambi-like eyes went into overdrive again, as Sandeesh realised that the movie she was stuck in was not Germinator 2: Judgment Day, but Groundhog Day.
Effortlessly outstripping Paloma in the volume stakes, Alex tried to shatter Lord Sugar’s frosted glass door with his angry protests, denials and self-justifications. He failed. Lord Sugar, who obviously thought Sandeesh had been ambushed this week, dismissed her from the room before giving Alex the finger. There was a touch of regret there, I felt.
Hasta la vista, Alex! Let’s hope he didn’t get lost on his way back to Manchester.