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Apprentice Ep 3: Cloche Ears

Zee Lone Musketeer

The Apprentice Episode 3 – Cloche Ears

It must have crossed other minds than mine to wonder whether these Apprentices and those before them are actually from another planet.

Apart from the frequently incomprehensible behaviour, there is their curiously eccentric use of their personal communication devices. I don’t say mobile phones because I have never seen anyone outside this programme hold and use a mobile phone the way they all do.

One often wonders, fervently, whether at any moment the guys and gals are going to be beamed back to the Star Fleet Flagship ‘Entrepreneur’, good old fashioned enterprise having been consigned to the knackers’ yard long ago. These can’t be the mobile smart-phones they appear to be, because these paradigm talents of the internet generation, the golden stars of the business firmament, never find anything out about anything on the net. Even what a ‘cloche’ is. I doubt they can even spell ‘dictionary’.

Sugar Daddy’s treasure hunt is always a triumph of pointlessness over rationality every year. One remembers classics of the genre: like the ‘Kosher’ chicken bought from a Halal butchers by an earlier visitor from Planet Stupid whose name I can’t remember but whose ethnic/religious status as “half-Jewish” will never be forgotten.

Bewilderingly and perversely in the digital age, locked into the customer-hostile London Yellow Pages (Product placement perhaps?), 2 teams of 7 of the brightest young people in the land could not source 10 items each in a day. Team Logic who disavowed their Team name throughout this task with stunning, literally wilful determination, managed only 6: e.g. a 30 mile cross-London drive apparently being the only way to get ice in one of the great cities in the world. I have been in the odd bar where the barman appeared to have followed the same strategy but as Sugar Daddy himself would delphically intone – “strewth, where is (sic) your brains?”

Efforts to ‘negotiate’, apart from ‘Jungle’ Jim Eastwood and Vincey – for whom the word ‘vainglorious’ must have been invented, were farcical. I watch much of The Apprentice from behind the sofa and the carpet back there is getting worn away after last night. Trying to knock down a Savile Row Royal Warrant Hatters from £360 to “offer a fiver” was deeply, painfully embarrassing to watch until the slow-burning schadedenfreude endomorphins kicked in. At least the guys in the shop proved that even those who spend their days sucking up to the rich have a sense of humour in discounting the topper by a piss-taking 1p. The Apprentices should have airily left the shop telling them to “keep the change”. When the assistant said he’d have to “consult his colleague” about a discount you can just hear the conversation: “’ere Bert..you’ve just got to come and have a laugh…” I’m sure that I saw one of these purveyors of silly hats to Royalty – Tonga no less – actually wince when one of our intrepid entreprenoors paid with real spondulicks – cash.

Acquiring 500 triple-ply bog rolls wasn’t as funny as it should have been: Team Logic failed altogether and ended up in the….. Even, “I move among the upper crusts nowadays” Sugar Daddy was gobsmacked at £900 big ones for tea. It was of course “rare” tea: in the sense of very rarely bought I guess.

On a serious note: when Gavin Winstanley (at least the Khyber Pass doesn’t have to be neglected any longer) appeared on the follow-up ‘You’re Fired’ where he was very funny and displayed a keen native Liverpudlian wit. Not a vestige of these qualities had we seen from him in the preceeding 3 weeks. Despite running his own successful business, getting the circus of egomania that is an Apprentice Team in action, to do anything, let alone anything purposeful, was beyond him. Creating an environment within which intelligent people behave with breathtaking stupidity is pretty much the leitmotif of the Apprentice and it can be directly and exclusively tracked back to the Good Lord! Sugar.

You can frighten people into action: you can’t frighten them into thought. The peer pressure carefully nourished by the producers of this show allied to Sugar Daddy’s instincts to bully, demand deference and intimidate any and everyone as the mood takes him, combine to drive every shred of thought and intelligence from the candidates and therefore the show. The only response open to these hapless ratings-fodder, is to withstand: challenge, disagree or argue and the arch-proponent of the FIFO (Fit In Or F**k Off) style of management, will just sack you.

The Good Lord!’s distaste for intelligence, hatred of intellect and deep insecurity at dissent doesn’t only apply to the Apprentices: as is evidenced by the few mumbled ‘safe’ observations by the Ms Brady and the tragic fate of Nippy Nick Hewer: apparently struck dumb for the last 2 weeks. ‘Fit-Inners’ both. Butter, bread and worldly savvy come to mind here.

For all our shameless and slightly shameful fun at The Apprentice – the Good Lord! Sugar creates an ethos and atmosphere that is toxic to the trust and well-founded self-confidence crucial to effective teamwork. With his inimitable bullying style and distaste for intelligence in which he appears to pride himself; the resulting climate of anxiety and nervousness makes all but the arrogant egomaniacs do really stupid, out of character things.

I suppose there is a kind of power in that: but it has nothing to do with excellence and very little to do with successful management and business practice. It is also nothing very much to be proud of.

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