19/06/2011

The Apprentice - Episode 7 and it's official, Darth Jim is invincible

Finally got around to watching Episode 7 of The Apprentice and based on the outcome of the episode, I have concluded definitively that Darth Jim is invincible. The high point of the episode had to be Nick’s increasing horror as team Venture proceeded to patronize and insult a significant section of our society, the over 60’s. More on that later…. 

So this week the candidates were tasked with creating a new free magazine and generate revenue from the sale of advertising space. Team leaders were Jim, who was moved over to Venture and traded for Leon who went to Logic, lead by the hideous Natasha. The candidates had been transported to Fleet Street, the seat of the newspaper industry…30 years ago… to receive that news. That in my mind said it all really….
The Candidates arrive at Fleet Street
The team brainstorm was preceded by Helen pointing out that whatever concept they went for, they should ensure they appealed to the "advertisers target market. Forget everyone else…forget what we’d be interested in reading…That should be the focus.” The fact that it sounded like a sensible strategy and that Inspector Gadget agreed, meant it was a strategy doomed for the scrapheap.
Natasha, who morphed into David Sullivan over the course of the episode, hit upon the idea of a “lads mag”. “Lads magazines are about lads,” she explained, without irony, “..the kind of guy who has a lot of dollar in his pocket.” Inspector Gadget was uncomfortable with the idea from the off and indicated that he doesn’t read lads mags often. Leon, (who, let’s be clear, has a girlfriend and is straight) emphatically announced that he did. All the time, I’m sure, I bet he has stacks of them at home. In fact Leon must be, single handedly be keeping the one lads mags still in circulation going (the rest all gave up the ghost ages ago). Admittedly, I am not a lad (or, thankfully, a ladette...) but I was under the impression that all the free porn on the internet meant that lads can view images of scantily clad young ladies at will. That and the scantily clad women on TV reality shows, music videos etc means they can perve in private and have no need to ‘out’ themselves by buying a magazine. What do I know though? I will bow to the superior knowledge of Leon, the straight male, on this one…

Inspector Gadget and Helen, not on board with the concept
Helen, who was similarly concerned about the low rent nature of the content, questioned advertisers willingness to associate themselves with it. Helen felt that targeting more ‘professional lads’ would be a better idea. Natasha wasn’t sure, but she felt that would “translate into boring” and anyway, “porn sells”. What does porn sell though? Presumably more porn. Hopefully the target list of companies looking for ad space included the Playboy Empire…. The brainstorm whiteboard filled me (and no doubt Helen), with horror, containing as it did the words: ‘boobz’ and ‘nacked’. Not sure why I was surprised, I’m pretty sure these were some of the people involved in the ‘see their light’ debacle of a couple of weeks ago…

Venture inadvertently hit upon the lucrative over 60’s market. As Darth Jim in a rare sensible moment pointed out, they seem to have the largest circulation and “It gives us an opportunity to be classy rather than cheap.” He then proceeded to ensure he mind controlled every member of the team into agreeing with his concept. “I can take their hearts, I can take their minds…” he said as he stared spookily at camera, ”I am good at making people do what I want them to do.” Brouhahahahahahahaha. (Ok, he didn’t actually voice the ‘Brouhaha’ bit, but you knew that’s what he was thinking). Nick’s take on the situation was slightly different, a classic Nick face being accompanied by the observation that: “trying to nail anything on Jim is like trying to nail Jelly to a wall. He never gets himself to take his own decision, it’s always with people around him.”

Glenn and Violet/Susan in charge of market research, decamped to a Bowls club where some quite sophisticated over-60s indicated that: they don’t have one foot in the grave; they’re active; they read The Economist & Viz; they ski and bungee jump. What they want is a magazine to reflect that and not one that includes knitting patterns, or as Violet/Susan offered; “something to aid your memory like little crosswords and puzzles?" Or better still Violet/Susan, how about an article on the best fitting and most comfortable incontinence pants? They truly hated all the names Violet/Susan suggested, but one of the focus group suggested the hilarious ‘Zimmer’!!! They should so have gone with that!

Meanwhile Helen and Inspector Gadget, the combined moral compass of Natasha, the Porn Baron’s, team went off to talk to a student rugby team. Tellingly, even a student Rugby team didn’t warm to the idea, advising that the tone should be raised and the business angle should be pushed. When a rugby team suggests you need to raise the tone, you know there’s something wrong. Natasha the Porn Baron however, was not to be distracted from her mission to flood the world with porn and in true Apprentice tradition, ignored the focus group. “This isn’t the time to be discussing this”, she retorted in the face of Helen’s protests. Really? I thought that the phone call, during which you were reporting the results of the focus group, would absolutely be the time to discuss such critical questions as the focus of the magazine. What do I know? Perhaps that sort of thing is best reserved for the loser’s café… In any event, I like Helen, was failing to remember that, “…our focus group was quite focused.” Luckily, Natasha the Porn Baron was on hand to remind us.

I'd buy this!
Team Venture’s brainstorming, observed by an increasingly outraged Nick, produced some cracking suggestions for the name of their magazine: “Pension Mention”, “Coffin Dodger” and “The Old Boot” to name but a few, all inexplicably, rejected! My personal favourite was Violet/Susan’s: “For the old looking, young at heart. Oh I don’t know”! I would pay good money to see that title, with a picture of Nick’s face when she said it, underneath, on a magazine stand!! I suspected Nick might have started to rethink his previous admiration for Violet/Susan at that point! They finally settled on Zoe’s “Hip Replacement”, which LudAllen observed later, was meant to be a play on words and in fact that meant the magazine should be cool and funky. Which, to be fair, was Zoe’s intention, the accompanying tag line being ‘60 is the new 30’. Darth Jim had other ideas and post the shoot for the cover shot for the magazine, where Violet/Susan, put various mature models though a Bikram yoga class, minus the heat, Darth Jim completely ignored the concept. When Zoe wasn’t looking, he turned it into, as Zoe pointed out: “The concept was supposed to be young and funky. Jim has produced a health feature magazine.” 

Cut to Logic's brain storm where Leon, in an effort to underline just how straight he is, came up with the tag line (whilst sounding 'camper' than Alan Carr) “How do you blow your load?” I despair, I truly despair…. An increasingly uncomfortable Inspector Gadget, dressed a half naked girl in his glasses, jacket and a hard hat???? (Side note: Karen spent most of the shoot tutting and looking slightly offended. I wonder how she can stand to work for her current boss, David Sullivan...) The result was a magazine cover that wouldn’t look out of place on the top shelf of a news agent, but Natasha the Porn Baron, was positively orgasmic about it, so job done.


Back to team Venture where Darth Jim tried as hard as he could to avoid having to do the pitches. Glen offered the assurance that he ‘delivers the pitches literally as I am there’? Unsurprisingly, people decided not to take a chance on him and insisted Darth Jim take on some responsibility. That, in Darth Jim’s mind, was clearly evidence that he had, “3 people who are happy to follow. Perhaps they think I know all the answers?”

Leon pitched for ‘Covered’ and made his usual Pigs-Ear of it, not helped by continuous interruption from Natasha the Porn Baron, who irritatingly, kept adding “yeah” to the end of each sentence. He was, to an extent, fighting a losing battle as most advertisers recognized this is a waning market. Additionally, some of the media buyers indicated that quality brands wouldn’t want to be associated with it. One indicated that 80% of his client base would be alienated by the concept. Darth Jim pitched for ‘Hip Replacement’ and in a masterstroke, failed to actually negotiate during the rate negotiations. (Clearly, those were not the advertisers Darth Jim was looking for…) Realising his mistake in the first pitch, he completely capitulated in the second:
Media buyer: We’d be looking for 50% off
Darth Jim: 50% is very bold in terms of what we were thinking
Media buyer: Quite a lot of people give space for free in order to attract other advertisers
Darth Jim: OK, we’ll go for 50% off then.
The finished products, nothing to be proud of...

All of the advertisers hated the name “Hip replacement”. "It's like Viz have done a magazine for the over 60’s" said one of them. All of them did, however,  concede there was a market for this type of magazine. 

Vincent?               Erroll?
So to the boardroom, where it turns 
out, we should all be rushing off to start a ‘Lads Mag’ as 'Covered’, pile of poo that it was, managed to get nearly £80,000 of advertising revenue???? Who from? I hear you cry…. To be honest, I am as a mesmerised as you. What self respecting company would want their product displayed in a magazine that asks it’s readers, "how do you shoot your load?"??? Kleenex? Durex? The mind boggles… Anyway, Natasha got her just deserts to an extent, as LudAllen dug deep into the annals of his ‘crap prize’ bag and came up with a fencing lesson. Perhaps LudAllen was being ironic? Offering the candidates a legitimate opportunity to stab each other in the back? Anyway, he sent them off with the observation that he would be interested to see “who is the Errol Flynn amongst you”. Vince/Mickey was doubtless at home turning in his grave….

Team Venture began the serious business of scrambling to save themselves and Darth Jim, went into bullshit overdrive. Darth Jim had taken Glen and Violet/Susan back, but only because he was forced into admitting that he’d messed up Zoe’s, very sensible concept. Inexplicably, he sign-posted Violet/Susan as the villain by referring to her as Bambi and everyone shooting her? "I actually think Susan, you're just marginally worse than Glen." (No flies on LudAllen, who was quick to point out that it was Bambi’s mother who got shot). The subtext of all of that being that everyone else is shite and that despite being “the project manager they loved…” and “leading them to defeat...”  "The essence of this failure of the task" was "contribution and cowardliness", basically, everyone else was responsible for the failure of the task and he as usual was above reproach.

To be fair,
Violet/Susan held her own pointing out that she was the only one of the 3 under fire that had ever set up and run her own business. She ruined it by throwing in a, ‘this is so unfair’ in her whiny Violet/Susan voice. All that should have been academic, given the fact that losing the task was actually down to Darth Jim’s failure to negotiate on the first pitch and thus win no advertising revenue. It turns out that LudAllen had other plans and decided to use this as an opportunity to exercise his prejudice against engineers, firing Glen on the grounds that he’d “never yet met and engineer that could turn his hand to business.” Err, Steve Jobs? Bill Gates?? Mark Zuckerberg??? I suspect LudAllen will live to regret that statement….
Everyone shooting Bambi

LudAllen, did let Darth Jim know he's onto him and wasn’t sure if he could go into business with someone who never admits to making a mistake. ("What I've forgotten about bullshit, "you ain't even learnt yet.") I would be excited about the potential ramifications of that statement if it had been directed at any other candidate, but there’s no point as Darth Jim will just mind control his way out of danger again. Karen, who clearly doesn’t know who she’s dealing with, told Jim that she thinks he’s passive aggressive. Darth Jim, in an effort to prove that psychotic would be a better adjective to use when describing him, retorted that, “That's a statement that may have significance in the long run...”

In any event Glen bit the dust and was ferried off into the night, whilst Darth Jim lived to fight another day. Did the right person go? Absolutely not, I’ll wager the cab driver had Jim’s address programmed into his SatNav and would have been as surprised as we were to see Glen emerging from the building. Am I sorry that a travesty of justice occurred? Not really, despite the fact the Glen looked very nice with his top off(!) Darth Jim is far better telly!

Next week, the idiots are abroad in Paris, it should be fun!!!!

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