While most reality TV shows, such as Big Brother and The X Factor tried to make a big song and dance over the fact they’d reached ten series, with The Apprentice it was barely mentioned and was kept mainly in the background. There were tasks like Ten Years of Selling where the contestants had to sell items that had been sold in past series, and there was a little bit of a Memory Lane moment near the end of the series with Lord Sugar being all “Can you believe we have been doing this for ten years?”, but it was never really in focus. Of course The Apprentice has always been the slightly more serious and sensible reality TV show and the only one which the Mark Corrigans from Peep Show of this world will openly admit to being fans of.
However, this series of The Apprentice made a similar mistake to this year’s series of The X Factor. There were too many contestants. There were 20 candidates in this series of The Apprentice, meaning there just wasn’t enough screentime to go round.
The early boots included Chiles Cartwright, a bald bloke who got fired for choosing to sell some spuds (with the wheelbarrow thrown in to the bargain!) instead of some T-shirts which cost the team £600. Then there was fashionista lamppost Robert Goodwin, angry Scot Scott McCulloch, Lindsay Booth who didn’t do much other than put stickers on a box and sell ONE candle in a task, and would probably have quit soon anyway if she hadn’t been fired, and market trader Nurun Ahmed. She seemed nice enough but… that’s about it really. Well, I quite liked one of her Apprentice contestant style quotes. “I always go the extra mile, because there’s always less traffic”.
My favourite contestant in the early weeks was hypnotist Sarah Dales simply because she was the most entertaining. You’ve got to admire someone who makes as many bizarre decisions as she did as Project Manager and still manages to win. She thought that some lemons would sell more if they sliced them up, she refused to make the coffee the team had to sell simply because she was the Project Manger and tried to flog a bunch of bog brushes and rubber gloves to Penguin Beach. She continued the lemon theme in ‘Home Fragrance’, suggesting a lemon fragrance named “Lemonise”. She seemed to put looking attractive as a top priority, and indeed she went through a lot of different outfits while on the show, and modeled a jacket the team made in week 2 quite well. (The jacket in question included solar panels, heat sensors and a built in phone charger). Sarah unfortunately only lasted until week 4, in the ‘Online Video Channel’ task when she along with the other three who ended up in the boardroom were eliminated in a triple firing. She said of her firing that Lord Sugar wouldn’t have been a good business partner for her anyway, and on the spin-off show You’re Fired she deadpanned “I don’t think we would have got on really”. She was one of the contestants who returned for the final task and provided a lot of highlights, saying funeral directors will make a packet as “there’s always someone dying”, reading Mark’s climb online logo as “clim bon lean” and James asking her if she could hypnotise Mark into giving a good speech.
Steven Ugoalah who was fired in the same week as Sarah was another early candidate who commanded a lot of screentime, and even as Apprentice contestants go he went overboard with cheesy buzzphrases. “The hardest part of a 100 mile journey is the first step”. The way he talked about some potatoes they had to sell was quite something to. “[These] potatoes shine in the glistening sun. It’s not going to just be a potato, it’s going to be an experience”.
Ella Jade Bitton had been the project manager for that task and ended up getting fired with the two she bought back into the boardroom,partly because it was a video production task and her business plan was a TV production company. But even so, begging for another chance as she was leaving the boardroom after she had been fired probably wasn’t the most dignified exit ever.
Of all the contestants this year who ended up barely appearing because there were too many of them, the one I liked the most was probably the most invisible, Jemma Bird From the little we saw of her seemed lovely, and the obligatory “perhaps a bit too nice and sweet for this show really” candidate. The quote she seemed most remembered for was “I’m always the girl who nearly wins, who nearly gets there but never quite”, which contrasted to the usual boastful quotes you get on The Apprentice and made her one of the more sympathetic contestants.
We’re not even half-way through the contestants yet! Who went next? Pamela Uddin, who came across as snide and a bit humourless on the show itself, but very pleasant on You’re Fired. Then Lauren Riley, a very glamorous, glossy and smart lawyer and apparently a pretty good history tour guide from what we saw of her doing that as part of a task in the ‘Coach Tours’ episode.
James Hill was one of the most cocky candidates, doing stretches in the boardroom and generally being a bit of a loudmouth. He was at least self-aware though. “The only trumpet I can blow is my own”. He was mainly the class clown, specifically given a comedy role in the Online Video task and was shown doing stuff like blow drying his armpits and on the ‘Coach Tours’ task being the coach announcer telling the passengers the toilet was “not in the best condition” and bellowing out renditions of ‘One Man Went To Mow A Meadow’ and ‘The Wheels On The Bus Go Round and Round’. It must have been difficult to put up with him though, and all credit to some of the other contestants who managed to stay calm. After an argument with fellow contestant Bianca (well it less an argument and more just James shouting), Bianca said “As the saying goes, a wise man speaks when he has something to say, a fool speaks when he has to say something. I’m not saying [James] is a fool, but he likes speaking a lot”.
One of the best episodes was ‘Country Show’, partly because most of the candidates came across terribly, and James was the ‘star’ of that episode. He was a project manager and after a subteam went to research and negotiate products with the supplier, something they spent ages doing, James completely ignored them and told them to get the exact products they didn’t think would be a good sell. What won that task for the other team was getting some hot tubs, and James completely screwed up there. The vendor for the hot tubs was called Anthony, and he had introduced himself, but James called him Derek twice. Not only that, but we found out on You’re Fired that James’ full name is Anthony James Hill, so he forgot someone who had the same name as him! It only got worse from there, as James sulked that he didn’t want the hot tubs anyway and decided to lie to the subteam that he had deliberately chosen not to get the hot tubs rather than that he’d lost the deal. He said this was to “keep the team in good spirits”. When Roisin advised against this, James replied petulantly “Today it’s important what I want to do, innit?”. Roisin must have had the patience of a saint. The team inevitably lost, and James made a big speech about needing guidance before he was fired. I didn’t mind James that much as reality TV contestants go, and to be fair the opposing team might have won the task, but they didn’t come across much better in that episode.
Daniel always bragged about being a great salesman, but he sold nothing in many tasks, and he didn’t exactly do well in ‘Country Show’ using corporate buzzword-filled crap like “Excel your target” and “Passion is our keyword”, which of course went down like a lead balloon at an agricultural show with farmers and local long running family businesses.
His arch-rival Mark wanted more sales opportunities for himself, so he manipulated the project manager Felipe, who came across as very weak willed in this episode, so that he would swap Daniel with Mark at getting to sell the big item, the hot tubs. Daniel was a little bitter about this, and he and Felipe spent much of the rest of the task bickering, which descended into playground level very quickly, Daniel saying “You’re boring!” and Felipe retorting that his business was bigger than Daniel’s.
Speaking of Felipe Aviar-Baquero, he was mainly known for being one of those contestants that talks about themselves in the third person, but he was still one of the most popular from this series and his firing was the big controversial moment (well, until the final anyway…). It was the other “tenth anniversary” task of the series, ‘Ten Years of Discount Buying’, where the teams had to get a list of ten items, in this case items from previous series. One of the items was a skeleton, which everyone seemed aware that it meant an assembled 3-dimensional plastic skeleton. But this apparently hadn’t been specified, so Felipe saw a loophole and thought that a paper skeleton which still needed to be put together would do. Lord Sugar thought different, and voided that item, which meant that team lost the task. A lot of fans thought that this was unfair, and some of them liked the idea of a contestant “Getting one over Lord Sugar”. I highly doubt that was the intention, I think it was probably more Felipe seeing a way of winning the task by buying something cheaper than what they were supposed to get but which they could still argue “fit the description”, but to be honest I think the team deserved to lose, because fair enough if it had been a genuine mistake, but they seemed aware that it wasn’t really what whoever set the task had in mind. The weaselly way the rest of the team did such a U-turn and went from telling Felipe it was a genius idea to Katie condemning him and Daniel trying to pretend he hadn’t supported it after the item was voided was quite funny though.
Before we got to interviews, there was a double-firing of contestants who had lasted longer than many might have expected but had become a bit surplus to requirements by that point. Sanjay Sood-Smith (who was bitchy and a bit useless) and Katie Bulmer-Cook (who mainly had the role of the long-suffering mother figure).
The finalists included the extremely pretty and social media obsessed Solomon Akhtar. He got the final 5, but wasn’t exactly well prepared for it. It did seem a bit like writing your dissertation the morning you’re supposed to hand it in. He only had an 8 page business plan, and half of it was a repeated logo of a paper boat in different colours.
Roisin Hogan was very sleek and stylish, and looked a bit like a cat in human form. She performed well on tasks, but her most memorable moment was probably when she managed to negotiate a sale of a diamond from £145 down to £50 with the jeweller who may have fancied her a bit. Her business plan of making healthier ready meals was met with a bit of an “it’s been done” response though, right down to the specific ingredient, konjac root, she was hitching it all on.
Daniel Lassman claimed he was awarded “Salesperson of the Year”, but in the interviews it was stated that while yes he was the top seller of that year where he worked, no such award existed. Well, unless he made one himself. But his main storyline was his rivalry with Mark. When he came back for the final he was on Bianca’s team and told her “You got me fired, but I hate Mark more”.
Bianca Miller was my overall favourite contestants this series, I particularly liked how professional she was. She made a couple of odd decisions though, giving exclusivity for their board game for the whole of Westminster to a small toy shop being one of them. There was also the time she told a group of coach trippers that they were the last group they were speaking to, which kind of gave the coach trippers the upper hand. But that’s one of the things I liked the most about her, that she was so straightforward and honest. It worked out better in ‘Ten Years of Discount Buying’ when she told the seller outright that she wanted a better deal than the other team, and she got it. Her business plan was to sell tights which came in a wider range of skin tones than is currently available. In the final boardroom the consensus seemed to be that it was a great idea, but it was a mistake to try and limit it as a luxury product.
Mark Wright‘s business plan, which saw him win the show, was to help websites get a higher place on internet search engines. As a candidate, Mark was mostly very self-assured but had a couple of moments giving pitches such as in the ‘Premium Pudding’ task where he had to deliver a pitch and got nervous and almost flooding the floors with his sweat. Mark was a surprising winner, as he appeared to be getting a Villain Edit. Unless they were editing him to make him look good, then well… He had a couple of amusing obligatory Apprentice contestant quotes. “It’s hard to fly like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys” and “You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon”, but still it was an unsatisfying end to an unsatisfying series.
It never really got going, and felt like it was on autopilot most of the time. I get the impression they didn’t want to make a big fuss about the fact that this was the tenth and played it down, but it did add to the “going through the motions” vibe this series had. It was broadcast a lot later than usual too, which meant it got lost in the shuffle of the crammed late autumn-December TV schedules. As someone who’s only watched from series seven onwards, maybe any “ten years” style retrospectives were wasted on me anyway, but it is my least favourite of the four I’ve watched.