I only started watching The Apprentice last year, and luckily for me it was a great series to start from. The top four was the very charming except when he was a bit of a bullshitter ‘Jedi’ Jim Eastwood, Susan “That’s so unfair!” Ma, the sort of Mary Poppins meets the T-X Terminatrix multiple task winner Helen Milligan, and the winner being adorkable sexy nerd Tom Pellareau. There were some of the memorable contesants like Edna Agbarha with her fabulous gloves, the malfunctioning cliché spouting machine that was the first booting EdHunter, and who could forget Melody Hossaini, with her saying “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon”. Not an original quote, but one of the most memorable, infamously inspiring a fan to have it tattooed on his arms. It was also the first series where the format had changed, where instead of finding an employee, Lord Alan Sugar was looking for someone with a business plan for him to invest in, and this format continued with the eighth series.
Having ‘the nice one’ as my favourite worked well for me last year when Tom won. This series I picked the nice one as my favourite again, Gabrielle Omar, who came across as lovely throughout the series, if prone to the occasional boardroom meltdown. She didn’t win though, and instead lasted until week 10 the subject of the double firing. The other contestant in that firing was memorable as the most satisfying elimation of the series, smarmy, insincere sales manager Stephen Brady. If ever there was one who should beware the old saying that if the wind changes your face will stay that way it’s Stephen, as his facial expressions put some gargoyles on church walls to shame.
Many thought, including myself if I’m honest, that Gabrielle was a little too nice, that is she wasn’t cutthroat enough to succeed in the ‘process’. Having said that, she did well on sales. In one week where she sold more than anyone else in her team, another contestant sold only a tenner. That was Jane McEvoy, who was also one of the most memorable candidates of this series. Jane was quite abrasive and something about her tough, uncompromising streak suggested she’d last a while, but as it turned out she only lasted until week 4. While I’m contrasting them, I can imagine a Gabrielle and Jane Weather House. If the weather is going to be sunny, out comes Gabrielle with a parasol, a sunhat and a smile. If the weather is going to be rainy, out comes Jane with an umbrella, a crimson raincoat and a scowl. Actually, it might be better if Jenna Whittingham did the cloudy one, as the Gabrielle and Jenna BFF montage on You’re Fired suggests a more likely houseshare than Gabrielle and Jane. Although when Jenna comes out she’d still be determined to go out to see t’Penguin Beach regardless of the rain. Jenna turned out to be one of the most likeable contestants of the series, the audience warmed to her because she was down to earth, a hard worker and basically most of the positive stereotypes about people from Northern England. As a fellow Northerner, I loved how Jenna played that card as much as she could.
Speaking of Northern contestants, there was also market trader Adam Corbally. My opinion of Adam, like the shows appeared to be, was mixed. Adam could be irritating and fairly likeable in almost equal measure, but the thing was he never changed much. He was a bit like an annoying younger sibling even though he was one of the older ones. For me his boasting and his casual chauvinism could get on my nerves, but I could see why he was a good salesman as he could be friendly, and while some viewers saw him as ‘uncultured’, part of me quite liked that he would probably pick pie and chips and a cup of tea or coffee over poncey overpriced stuff any day of the week.
If there was one thing that defined this series it’s how odd it was that candidates who seemed like they would be ‘the big characters’ because they got a lot of screen time early on ended up being booted out quickly. That’s to be expected in reality TV where the series happens live and who the producers think will get a lot of public votes doesn’t always match up with who actually do get public votes, but the events of The Apprentice are pre-recorded long before they are screened, and there is no public vote. Some of the surprising early exits were self-proclaimed “blonde assassin” Katie Wright, brother of Simon from Blue Duane Bryan, who looked like he was potential winner at one stage, and of course Jane. But some initial background characters such as Jenna and Stephen would become more prominent in the later stages of the competition, as would the eventual winner.
The final 4 this time included Nick Holzherr, an all-round nice chap who appeared to be a computer geek trapped in the body of the ‘posh’ one out of a boyband. Then there was Tom Gearing, who was successful in a lot of tasks but could come across as pretentious at times. Shallow as I can be, one of my favourite things about this series were his lovely eyes. My favourite finalist though was Jade Nash. I loved her, her boardroom pearls, her husky voice and that she seemed like she enjoyed a drink. Having worked in a call centre and hated it, I wasn’t a fan of her business plan, but I do like her second plan, which seems to be a sweetshop with alcoholic jellies.
But the winner turned out to be bio-chemist and wrestler Ricky Martin. At the start of the series he seemed like a comedy contestant who might have lasted halfway through, but, in terms of the narrative that these reality tv shows have to create, they did a good job of showing him develop. The audience got to see more of the man behind the cringey wrestling catchphrases. He got a great moment in a boardroom telling off Stephen for being condescending to Gabrielle, and in the Final Five programme it was very nice to see how much he loved his mum and how proud his mum was of him. But in the end, the real reason he won seemed to be that he simply had the most sensible business plan.
The consensus I’ve seen of this series is that it is one of the poorest ones, but, given that I have quite liked this series, if anything it makes me think I’ve missed out more by being a latecomer to The Apprentice series.