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The Apprentice Week 4 – ‘Sh*t of the Show’ winner

Ben 'Nobby' Clarke

Ben 'Nobby' 'The Nob' Clarke

The Apprentice Week 4 – ‘Sh*t of the Show’ winner – with still 8 shows to go.

Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram July 1961:

“I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the participants’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the participants’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.”

This shocking experiment explored only a one-to-one relationship. Add in peer group pressure, instinctive showing-off and off-camera encouragement to behave badly, and you have the toxic moral, social, emotional climate of The Apprentice. It seems pretty clear to me that a great deal of nasty coaxing and coaching must go on off-camera to nudge, encourage and provoke these young people, less than pleasant in the first place, to join in the bitchy, snidey, whingey, charmless spirit of this show. For our fun. It is about as real as a chocolate saucepan: but less use.

All the participants in Milgram’s expriement had to do was take responsibility for their own actions, to question authority and make their own moral judgements about how to behave. I don’t want someone to walk out of The Apprentice – I want someone to take it on – from within: preferably a woman. That would really be worth watching.

Following Rocky and Maj, Sralan’s latest crap decision in firing Paula is at least consistent – get rid of any shred of humour, likeability, team-work instinct and yes, genuine potential. Boil down the remaining contestants into the witless and the charmless, wind them up, and then set them on one another to scratch each others’ eyes out. Two rhetorical questions clamour for expression: first, why would anyone, with any sense of morality or independent thought – ever want to work for Sralan Sugar? Second would any parent, teacher, or even friend ever want their child, their student or their mate, to work for this unpleasant little man?

The late Sir John Harvey Jones on Alan Sugar:

‘It’s not your job to exploit your position of power. It’s easy [to do that]. My experience of life is that you get the best out of people by encouraging their self-belief’.*

The former industrialist said he believed celebrities like Sir Alan whom he had met, did little to assist the young hopefuls who came before them.

‘They seem fonder of themselves than the people they are interviewing. My own view has always been that it’s quite wrong and that if you were appearing on TV you had a duty to preserve other people. I think he [Sir Alan] comes across as a bully. ‘I think his methods of leading people or choosing them are not ones that get good results.’

Even more than usual this week, Aidy Chiles’ follow-up – The Apprentice – You’re fired – was far better than the programme itself. The likeable, articulate, quietly amusing Paula came out with one of the best comments of the show so far – asked if the endlessly self-grooming, self-adoring Debra Barr was tall, Paula demurely but devastatingly replied ‘oh yes, she’s about 6 foot….. 7 with her mouth open.’ Just so.

After last week’s ‘cost-free’ exercise, we returned this week to Sralan’s usual anal preoccupation with costs. I’m not sure where stands among the profound insights from the Pantheon of Business Gurus, Sralan’s injunction to check the paper clips and count the beans. Heavyyyyyy. Rocket science.

The most precious of useful human qualities is the scarcest on The Apprentice – week in, week out, series after series – common sense. And it is no mystery why. Common sense is not an intellectual quality but it is related to practical intelligence. Bertrand Russell said in a remark that might almost have been made for The Apprentice and Sralan Sugar:

“Never discourage thinking – for you are sure to succeed.”

The climate of selfishness and fear that defines this show is hostile to thought: people are induced to act without thought or planning in a climate of anxiety, recrimination and self-doubt. In her normal environment, despite her insecurity about numbers, Paula would have instinctively felt that when the unlovely Yasmina told her that the special sandalwood oil for their batch of soap would cost £1.97 – that it must be bullsh**t and would have queried it.

The upside, as we business gurus like to say, of purging the candidates of all the likeable people, is that I am absolved of any sense of guilt or self-doubt in taking the p*ss out of the rest. Which of course brings me inevitably to:

Ben “I had a place at Sandhurst” ‘Nobby’ Clarke.
“Did you go?”

The nation heaves a collective sigh of relief. We feel just that little bit safer in our beds tonight.

‘Nobby’ is well nick-named for truly he is a pr*ck. One who, based upon his behaviour on The Apprentice, would have been the first Sandhurst cadet ever to have been thrown out before he’d unpacked. And I don’t care if he’s putting it on and playing up to the camera – he should grow up, get a life and get lost. Asked this week to keep an eye on costs he wimped out, intentionally one feels, and bleated to Sralan that Paula should have kept begging him to help. So Paula got canned because Yasmina could neither read nor add up and numbskull Nobby was sulking waiting to be asked to play. The Nob also had a logistical conundrum: going into the Boardroom with the threat to ‘bite their teeth out’ – how was this bizarre objective to be accomplished while he was groveling on the floor to Sralan most of the time? Nobby’s mastery of the inarticulate metaphor is positively Bushian. No mean feat. Just mean.

The task? Source, cost, manufacture and sell 2 new beauty products using the professional help and specification guidance of a company in that market. Yasmina and Paula first confused Cedarwood Oil (£25/kilo) with Sandalwood Oil (£450/Kilo) and then grammes with percentages on the spec sheet. Result: a good product, well marketed and finally well sold. But unknown to them – too expensive to make.

Ignite’s product also failed Sralan’s ethically enlightened insight into this market ‘it should cost pennies and sell for pounds.’ It is clear that he and Debra ‘any cheap sh*t meat will do’ Barr (Week 2’s sandwiches) are a marriage made in heaven – though the logistical problems loom large with his 5’6” playing her 6’. If she opened her mouth he’d disappear out of shot.

Empire’s ‘Honey-I’m-Home’ soap was in the best traditions of The Apprentice, truly CROACI – Crap Result Of A Crap Idea. Literally half ‘baked’, their cake of soap was still partly treacle soft, pushed by their inept team leader ‘No-rule’ Noorul as a design feature – ‘if you get any in your mouth, it will taste nice.’ It is deeply troubling that these people are allowed to vote.

Based on previous weeks it wasn’t a surprise that ‘No-rule’ displayed no qualities of leadership; but as a graduate Chemistry Teacher we might have expected some vestigial qualities of Chemistry – some understanding of materials, physical processes etc. That said one of the nasty little things about this programme is that it is edited to make people look bad. The received view, probably correct, was that ‘No-rule’ wasn’t any good: so they edited to make that as humiliatingly obvious as they could.

One heart-warming outcome this week was to learn that at least one competitor felt she had made some progress, some genuine personal growth. Yasmina ‘£1.97’ Siadatan (which I pray isn’t an anagram – ‘aid Satan’ perhaps?) shared to camera with us the impressive self-knowledge that as she had managed to turn on Paula, who she ‘liked’ and shaft her, she was now totally confident that she could shaft any of the others when necessary. Without a second thought.


Ain’t self-knowledge a wonderful thing?

Go Yas.

No really…..go!

* If you want to see the perfect illustration of this principle pick up the last series of The Choir – Boys Don’t Sing on BBC I-Player. Inspirational. The youthful Gareth Malone knows more about the essentials of managing people than old Sugar-Lump will ever know. Gareth respects those he is managing; believes in them; fosters their self-respect and confidence; motivates them for God’s sake.

Watching The Choir is uplifting, inspiring and a lot of fun too. It makes the sheer lack of aspiration, cynical manipulation and exploitation of its participants in The Apprentice shameful to its producers. The Apprentice isn’t about business, or management, or even the contestants – it’s all about Sralan Sugar who I doubt has ever, could ever, manage anyone he couldn’t dominate and bully. Which is why he distrusts intelligence and hates articulate independence of thought: especially in women. He has another 8 weeks in which to dominate and humiliate one of the women – watch for it.

In Fifteen Jamie Oliver, who also understands the essence of management is bringing the best out of people, turned 7 (out of 15) young people the world had given up on into highly professional, highly motivated top class chefs: not one of whom would have lasted 30 seconds with SAS.

But then neither Gareth nor Jamie took good money, whether or not for charity, to exploit and humiliate young people as an indoor diversion for the nation.

Why watch? it’s a bit like watching a train wreck each week – you feel guilty but can’t avert your gaze. Mea culpa.

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