Did we like it?
Aside from the agitated imagination of Jonathan Ross, this was nowhere near as good as in previous years. The Apprentice thrives on dogmatic egos warring over the pettiest principle, and there was little of that with only the duel droning of Michelle Mone and Patsy Palmer in conflict, while on the boys’ team you could have chiselled more charisma from a granite boulder than the stoical Gerald Ratner.
What was good about it?
• While he may have been more febrile because of his suspension, Jonathan Ross’s efforts in creating a range of toy monsters and hunters were brilliant. Sure, they were derivative of Pokémon and the like, but he made them distinctive enough to stand alone as a beguiling product. It was only Sir Alan’s baffling decision that meant Ross didn’t lead his team to a deserved victory (even if Gerald Ratner was the nominal project manager).
• The boys’ advert with Alan Carr making random guttural noises.
• Ross’ brilliant presentation to the assembled toy manufacturers. Of course, he’s hosted the BAFTAs, so this would hardly test him.
What was bad about it?
• Michelle Mone is the most vexatious presence on the You’re Fired shows after Vanessa Feltz (but an infectious ogre composed of impetigo is less of an irritant than here, so it’s no great feat), always disgorging patronising, populist platitudes as if writing in the comments box on The Guardian or Times website. She also claimed to be “a perfectionist”, which is a craven synonym for callous megalomaniacs to be grotesquely rude and somehow make it appear a virtue.
• Here, she was initially reluctant to take charge, citing that her husband “would kill her”. But once she was installed as leader, she adopted that sub-human, instinctive disregard for any kind of empathy common to business people and assumed her team to be tools to be distributed like a Napoleonic general shifting round her auxiliary forces to position them as cannon fodder.
• And the most expendable member of the team was Patsy Palmer, who clashed drearily with Mone in an exchange so stilted and rooted in thespian neuroticism that it made the routine between Ross and Jack Dee simmer with spontaneity.
• This was because Dee’s role in the show was to act as a lugubrious foil for the frenetic ramblings of Ross; undercutting him by claiming, “I haven’t been listening for the past five minutes”. It was a limpid imitation of their ‘banter’ on Ross’ chat show. Dee committed the semantic sin of, “I’ll throw a curve ball…”. In Britain you throw a googly not a curve ball; if you wish to appropriate such a heinous vernacular, pop a cap sideways on your head.
• And the teams’ were ignorant, too, in their appraisal of focus groups. When confronted by an adult they know is famous, children invariably are intimidated and agree with everything that adults say, often through leading questions. Here both Ross and Fiona Philips quizzed kids about their projects to an ostensible unanimity of endorsement.
• And while the boys’ idea was pretty good, if a little unoriginal, the girls’ idea was appalling – a Velcro uniform that kids could stick together and fall over; they’ve got a pair of hands for that. And a feeble facsimile was clumsily bolted onto the original idea to award a deluded sense of a game.
• This is what made Sir Alan’s decision to reward the girls’ torpidity with a win, simply because it was ‘viable’ as a product. The boys could have devised party hats with the names of superheroes emblazoned across them, embroidered with cotton dipped in the blood of Gerald Ratner, or a wholly inappropriate kids’ board game version of How To Look Good Naked (“You’ve thrown a three – hug the person to your right with all the insincerity of a fashion magazine editor!”), and either would have been preferable.
• Perhaps Sir Alan’s loins were piquantly curdled when, during their presentation, an arm was placed across Carol Vorderman’s lycra-clad body. It certainly seemed to stir one of the 50something executives, who was so excited he may as well have placed 50 orders for a wife-swapping party.
• Carol Vorderman herself appeared to laugh heartily at everything.