This week on The Apprentice: lucky fish, fat cats and a nasty sting in the tale.
Fur-arri, Pet-Eat, Fur-Play, Cat-Size. Week Five of BBC1’s The Apprentice was so chock full of puns and (would-be) double entendres that this blog practically writes itself. Except, of course, for Everydog — the flea-ridden mongrel that failed to come to the party. In case you hadn’t guessed, this episode was all about pet food, and for four-time losers Vince and Tom the stakes were higher than ever. Would a fifth Boardroom appearance result in Lord Sugar having them both reconstituted as cans of dog food?
After a brief shot of Tom’s briefs, the candidates assembled at advertising agency TBWA for the “larger than life” Lord Sugar’s latest video presentation. (Yes, he’s now so blasé, he doesn’t even bother to turn up to these early-morning chats.) Pay attention here, folks, because he’s just stressed the need to come up with a pet food product that is “innovative”. As we’ll soon see, the Logic dictionary doesn’t go up to “i”. The teams were given three days to cram the dog’s bollocks or the cat’s whiskers into some consumer-friendly packaging and then devise a campaign.
My impressions of Vince so far have been pretty negative. Patronising female colleagues, fluffing a presentation and tossing your well-coiffed locks in a bid to appear more handsome, don’t strike me as winning strategies. Putting him in charge of the leaky ship that is Team Logic seemed like a recipe for further disaster. He was stuck with Ellie “Gnasher” Reed, who seemed to think that dental hygiene products can be classed as pet food. Is it just me, or is she a bit thick? Vince’s vision for a brand called “Pals” was even more worrying. His unfamiliarity with the “second biggest dog brand in the world” suggested that there were Labradors out there better qualified to lead the task.
“I’m a catalyst” announced bullish design engineer Glenn Ward in one of those teeth-clenchingly awful addresses to camera. He didn’t actually mention his “extreme masculinity”, when he attempted to rally his troops, but you knew he what he was thinking. (Stuart Baggs did this so much better.) Venture picked cat food and embarked on a brainstorming session that left Edna looking distinctly unimpressed.
Make no mistake: Vince was the architect of his own downfall in this task. Jim may have been the creative impetus behind Everydog (“For every day there’s Everydog”), but it was the PM who kept loudly proclaiming the importance of having a product that “hit everything”. A focus group of dog-walkers and a helpful vet informed Vince, Jim and Natasha in unambiguous terms that you don’t feed the same food to every type of pooch. Those words fell on deaf ears. For the second week running brainy Tom tried to point out the fatal flaw in Logic’s plan, but he was completely ignored. When you have a “brilliant” concept like trying to feed the world’s entire canine population from one can, why would you change it?
Glenn sparks an argument
Leon’s contribution Lucky Fish “The catch of the day!” had Helen and Zoe tittering politely. Flushed with success, he boasted that he should “just become the apprentice”. If great hair and ultra-bright teeth were relevant criteria, you’d be a shoo-in, son. The idea of food that gives goldfish a break (from being eaten) went down well with cat lovers, but the autocratic Glenn callously flushed Lucky Fish down the toilet. Inspired by the sight of cat’s eye road markings, he came up with Cat-Size as a nutritional nosh for your calorie-conscious feline. But “See their light” (they’re light, geddit?) for the strap-line was too clever for its own good. If you are literally having to spell it out for people, the concept’s a dud.
Let’s gloss over the bowls of unidentifiable ingredients and disgustingly viscous liquids that were this week’s laboratory exercise. No one was going to judge this week’s task on the basis of how this stuff looked — or smelled. The creating of the TV ads seemed to get less screen time here than usual. There was nothing to rival the gloriously silly “Pantsman” exercise of a couple of years ago. But at the casting for the Everydog commercial, Vince did make a prat of himself by wrongly identifying a Golden Retriever as a Labrador. Though Mabel the Pug got the bum’s rush, Scramble, the Russell Terrier looked a lively little fellow. If any mutt could inject some life into Logic’s doomed campaign it was this one and — luckily for director Natasha — it turned out that his acting skills had already graced the set of Midsomer Murders.
Mabel turned out not to be the ugliest pet on this week’s show. That honour went to Lola, the Sphynx cat, whose hairless appearance failed to charm Zoe, Helen and Leon. “Not mainstream enough” was one of the kinder remarks that Lola’s owner had to endure. (I wonder what Leon says when he’s confronted with a particularly unattractive baby?) I didn’t understand why Venture couldn’t find a female voice artist for their commercial, but their concept was so hopelessly dated that it probably wouldn’t have improved things.
Venture did come up with a good product design. Their sachet of cat food looked like the real deal — apart from that strap-line. Logic’s concept was, by contrast, a total dog’s dinner. That name, combined with the insipid green can, looked destined for The Apprentice vault, along with all the show’s other really rubbish products.
Melody and Leon were charged with delivering the 20 minutes presentations to the suitably underwhelmed professionals of TBWA. Melody claimed their product’s bid to find its way into eight million dog bowls was “pushing boundaries”. Asked whether they were worried about sending the wrong message, Jim claimed his “one size fits all” approach was going to make things easier for consumers. Though Leon was onto something with his mission to save overweight cats, he came across as rather smug and didn’t seem to know his material — despite having hours to prepare. No one was enlightened by the strap-line. The admen (and ladies) were left to chew over a tough decision before reporting to Lord Sugar
End of the old pals act
Earlier in the series I was impressed with straight-talking sales and marketing manager Jim Eastwood. But I wasn’t nearly as impressed as the lovestruck Vince, whose constant need to defer to his friend had not gone unnoticed. This week Nick Hewer characterised the Vince/Jim relationship as a “Batman Robin thing” but really this was a textbook case of a bromance that was so out of control that it derailed one man’s brave bid to become Lord Sugar’s business partner.
Despite having the better advert, Logic’s flawed concept of trying to develop a universal dog food lost them the task yet again. While Venture went off to knock a few balls around with former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, Lord Sugar tried to talk some sense into Vince. Despite a tendency to end her sentences with an overly aggressive “Yeah”, Natasha had a good week. As well as identifying her USP as “heart and joints”, she correctly predicted that if Vince put his feelings for Jim before business considerations he’d be in trouble.
Karren and Jim had a heated encounter over who was responsible for the Everydog name. It looked as though Karren badly wanted to see Jim neutered — rather than “mute” as he’d suggested. But it was all to no avail, because Vince opted to bring back Ellie and Natasha, letting a self-righteous Jim off the hook for another week. Still, Lord Sugar did inform him that his card was marked, so don’t expect to see him in the Final.
Ellie claimed to have “surprised herself” with her contribution this week. Given that last week saw her doing virtually nothing, perhaps this was indeed progress. But Natasha, taking Jim’s place in the firing line, was in no real danger of being booted out. Accusing Vince of “being so far up Jim’s behind that you couldn’t see the wood for the trees” was an uncomfortable metaphorical juxtaposition, but you admired her for saying it.
After Lord Sugar fired Ellie for being absolutely useless, there was a brief moment when I thought Vince would be running back to Richmond and falling once again into the loving embrace of Jim. But there was a big surprise in store. As Ellie trudged off with her wheelie bag, that finger came out again and Vince became the week’s second victim. There was astonishment back at the house, and perhaps Jim went to bed shedding a little tear for his mate’s noble sacrifice.
“Never mind Logic, you should be branded tragic!” (Lord Sugar)