TV Review: THE APPRENTICE, 7.9 - "Biscuits"

rating: 4

Ed Whitfield reviews the final leg of UK's The Apprentice, airing on BBC every Wednesday at 9pm It€™s too bad The Comic Strip already used The Bullshitters, because that, surely, is a better title for this business show for those uninterested in business. Better than the one it has anyway. Week nine saw what remained of Britain€™s brightest business prospects forced to design a new type of biscuit and sell it to retailers. This was a typically mischievous task from that gang of bullies sometimes called the production team. Once more, the contestants in this strange game show were asked to prove their worth in an industry they knew nothing about. Perhaps Alan Sugar believes that if someone€™s good they€™ll turn their hand to anything, after all he didn€™t with personal computers and football clubs, but it€™s a funny way to recruit. If I take the best administrator in the world and ask them to design a new tablet that€™s going to break Apple€™s dominance of the touch and stroke market, it€™d be nothing less than a direct hit from a serendipity bomb if they came back with anything other than a furry pill. Yet week after week, this cabal of middling monetarists are asked to create advertising campaigns, design products, break into the beauty industry, in fact anything that looks simple but isn€™t, and f**k me with a chainsaw if they€™re not clueless. Week Nine€™s biscuit task was no different. All eyes were on Melody following her disastrous invasion of France in last week€™s episode, and once again she proved to be a toxic mix of selfishness, vanity and rampant egomania. Her nemesis, dowdy Zoe, could only mime strangulation, take deep breaths and let her forehead collapse into the space between her eyes, as the dark destroyer undermined her authority, rubbished the team€™s ideas, then followed them; saving the €˜Excuse me€™s€™ for the boardroom when her monolithic self-confidence would retcon her non-achievement into sheer bloody determination in the face of mass incompetence. Set up to fail, Zoe€™s team duly did, botching both the design phase of the biscuit and its introduction to the world of retail buyers. With team mates like Melody, enthused imp Susan and geek cliché Tom, the project manager, who fatally had a background in manufacturing and was consequently marked for death from the get go, needed a jack that would plug her into the brains of her colleagues and neutralise their ability to make their own decisions. Sadly, no such device existed and her team lacked the nous to invent it. Instead, Tom, with Melody lingering in the background, ran riot in the R & D phase. The bespectacled inventor fancied himself as a polymath, but biscuits aren€™t like equations, they require application and understanding. It€™s not for nothing that biscuit theory, known only to Jim on the opposing team, is considered harder to master than quantum mechanics. Tom tried hard, but despite a tour of the mix drum and the chocolate drum, he contrived to choose a formula that tasted like an open wound. Later, saddled with a two tone biscuit that left a stench in the mouth like rotting flesh, Zoe€™s zombies came up with a marketing concept that once again showcased the disconnect between the human world and the buisness bubble. They might have gone with the Brit-Bic, the biscuit shaped like the United Kingdom or the Bic-Bic, a biscuit designed to look like a biscuit, but instead, they settled on €œBix-Mix€, a biscuit you could snap and share with your girlfriends. No biscuit in history had even been broken on purpose and watching the concept take shape, one felt a sense of excitement akin to the discovery of a new Earth type planet. When the pitch came, Melody and Zoe roleplayed the moment when two girlchums, presumably singletons with few prospects, got moist at the prospect of snapping and sharing. Who€™d have the plain half and who€™d have the chocolate half? Team Helen surely had nothing to match this? Helen, fast becoming a favourite, despite her talent being in sales and this series being about a hunt for a business partner, in contrast with the salesperson hitherto sought in previous seasons, had nothing but a history of competence and lucrative orders to shore up her bid for victory. Armed with Jim, a belligerence and bullshit shake, and Natasha, the Taunton taunter who refuses to recognise her teammates, they eschewed Team Zoe€™s innovation and instead invented a star shaped biscuit for kids to enjoy after school. It was a stupid idea, kids preferring sex and TV after the final bell, and Jim lied his head off, telling ASDA that the forthcoming campaign could feature a star of their choice, including Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe (whose agent hadn€™t been contacted), so it was a surprise when the supermarket giant ordered 800,000 packets. Remember that when you€™re shopping there next. It was close, with Zoe€™s team selling no biscuits, but that 800,000 was enough to net Helen a cool victory and narrow her odds for the grand prize. In the boardroom, sensing the end was close, Zoe tried to fortify her position by flanking herself with Tom and Melody. Tom fawned and stuttered, Melody looked indignant and flapped her head; the plan failed. Poor Zoe was impaled on Lord Sugar€™s pointing finger. A tough break for the girl who dared to snap a biscuit and give the chocolate half away.

Ed, or Extreme Discernment, is experimental Film and Television critiquing software developed by and for What Culture. Invested with over 3 million digitised artefacts, spanning 80 years and including volumes of criticism from luminaries such as Paul Ross and TV’s Alex Zane, Ed generates the best reviews money can buy. Ed’s editor plug in also allows him to oversee The Ooh Tray, a magnificent film and literature review. Follow Ed’s digi-pronouncements on Twitter: @edwhitfield