The Apprentice (Series 12)

I know by now most will have moved on from series 12 of The Apprentice, but I ended up having to put this on the back burner to make way for the Christmas TV. So, here it is.

In the first episode ‘Collectables’ the teams, Nebula and Titans, had to go to garage to find some stuff to flog. Jessica provided some comic relief. She seems very much of the old school of comedy, tried and tested innuendos, “Nice pair of jugs”, and slapstick, pretending to drop an expensive vase and later to pretend to throw one for someone to catch. It was funny, but came off as trying a bit too hard after a while.

The first candidate to be fired was losing project manager Michelle Niziol, who mostly passed me by to be honest. I vaguely remember her insisting on going to Camden instead of going to Portobello like she was advised? This is a problem when they put so many candidates in. There’s simply not enough screentime to go round.

The second episode ‘Advertising Jeans’, Jessica was the team leader for Nebula, and they forgot the jeans for their photoshoot! Jessica burst into tears and had to leave the room to calm down. She was flustered and stressed throughout.

Meanwhile, on Titans, Dillon was flirting with the model with a sixpack for their video advert. They couldn’t find another model, so Courtney had to be the model for the billboard advert. I thought Courtney was much cuter than the model, personally.

This episode was notable in that BOTH teams lost! But the one who was fired was Scottish hair and beauty salon owner Natalie Hughes, who after being fired exited with her big floral scarf billowing in the wind like a cape.

In episode three, ‘Corporate Candy’, the teams had to manufacture and sell sweets. They started stuffing themselves sweets, then had to make some. What I learnt from this episode is that sticks of rock are actually quite hard to make. Nebula had a problem with wrestling with the sticky goo that would be made into rock, and rolling it out it looked more like those plasticine snakes everyone made when they were at school.

Nebula choosing to make salt and vinegar flavoured fudge probably wasn’t the best idea. It reminded me of those old jokes in pantomimes and so on with people mixing up ice cream and crisp flavours. The name Nebula used wasn’t very good either – “Suck It And Sea”. Titans sold cappuccino coffee and strawberry and champagne sweets, but it was more Nebula doing badly than Titans doing well which decided the result.

On Nebula, Paul spent all the task scowling at everyone and shouting out everything they were doing was wrong, as opposed to his contribution to the task, which was selling precisely…. nothing.

But it was project manager Oliver Nohl-Oser who was fired. He owns a sausage distribution business, but came across as a bit out of his depth here, bless him. He didn’t make any decisions, was nervous most of the time stammering and looked absolutely terrified throughout. But all of that also made him quite adorable. He seems like a sweet guy, he was liked as a person by most of the people on the show.

In the ‘Department Store’ episode, one of the candidates Aleksandra King quit the show before the task had even properly begun!

The task itself was lost because of the sale of one handbag, but was kind of a tale of two window displays. Titans went with Jessica showing off the expensive scarves, and she found time to go into the store itself and be the highest salesperson on the team! Nebula went with some pretentious modern art piece which had cube-shaped handbags floating in mid-air, apparently meant to represent a New York skyline. They lost the task. The fired candidate was digital marketing manager Mukai Noiri, who was quite stilted and dull. His bowtie was the most interesting thing about him.

‘Cycle Crowdfunding’ wasn’t an episode I was keen on. Tacky PR stunts and viral marketing are annoying anyway in the short time most of us are exposed to them, let  alone a whole episode of candidates making them. A memorable moment was the argument between self-imporant Samuel and grumpy Grainne, but their team, Titans, won.

Nebula’s project manager JD O’Brien was fired. JD talks like he has a sore throat, and looks like he should be wearing a football manager’s jacket being interviewed on a pitch in the rain. He would much rather be chilled out than stressed out, which is an admirable quality, but he was to the point of not being involved much at all… despite being Project manager in this task. In a similar way, being honest and holding your hands up to being responsible for the failure of the task, while again admirable and “good”, is probably not the best way to stay in the process.

In ‘Discount Buying’ they had to purchase a list of items during the night with only £1,000. Rebecca Jeffery was fired after a shopkeeper misheard her asking if they sold soap. He thought she said soup! So they went there and wasted an hour and a half. But she’s probably most memorable for her exit comment. “I think I went because I haven’t been enough of a twat!”.

‘Boat Show’ saw Jessica holding a fishing rod pen which expanded and she looked amazed at it like it was some sort of magic wand. Other products they had to sell included some Power Rangers helmet-ish colourful snorkels and a splattered cartoon frog kids backpacks, and some (quite ugly, to be honest) giant fish cushions. You had to feel some sympathy for the teams having to try and sell jet skies and waterboards while it was pouring down with rain and the wind blowing, hardly puts people in the mood to go out on the sea.

But it ended with a thrashing of one team. Nebula made £40,000 while Titans made £188. It was great news for Nebula’s project manager, Frances, who had been on the losing team for the first 6 tasks. But to be honest, the result was probably more Titans’ project manager Karthik being useless more than anything. He was fired before they even got to the boardroom. Karthik Nagesan was known on the show for his monobrow and talking over everyone. I found him quite entertaining for a while, but in this episode he was so overbearing and try-hard I was fed up of him and relieved that he had gone.

The other fired candidate was sales manager Samuel Boateng. With hindsight, I guess it was obvious he wouldn’t last long with him not getting much screentime except when he won as project manager… and despite winning, that resulted in everyone finding fault in everything he did!

I thought ‘London Landmarks’ was a great episode. The teams had to organise an event on two popular London attractions. Titan, led by Dillon had to organise for The London Aquarium, and Nebula, led by Paul, had to organise for Madame Tussards.

For the London Aquarium, Titans hired a woman named Grace who dresses up as a mermaid. She had green eyeshadow to match her tail and sang ‘Part Of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid. She’s blonde, like Daryl Hannah in Splash, rather than a redhead like Ariel in The Little Mermaid though. (Apparently, Ariel WAS going to be blonde originally, but they changed it to avoid comparisons with Splash. That’s my obligatory gratuitous Disney trivia I seem to do every blogpost). There was some miscommunication, as Grainne and Courtney thought that Grace would be swimming in the tank holding her breath. Grace revealed on You’re Fired, sat in the audience in full mermaid costume, that she IS a qualified diver, and normally she would have been in the tank, they just weren’t allowed to this time for some reason.

Courtney looked particularly cute in this episode. Yes, I know, shallow. But him dressed as a pirate, and I really liked that he kept the black eye make-up on after he got dressed back in his suit. Yeah, sorry but that totally does it for me…

When they had to sell tickets to passers-by, Courtney asked a woman what she was doing tomorrow night. She replied “working”. He said to her “Call in sick!”, to which she replied “No way!”.

Dillon was really into it the task, he got very excited. He was dressed as a sea captain and began singing himself and with Grace. I would definitely love to go to an event like this! I loved the ocean tunnel too. The event was popular with the people who attended it, in fact Titans got 100% customer satisfaction and won the task.

Nebula decided to go with a “casino night” theme. Not a Casino Night Zone from Sonic The Hedgehog 2 theme, but that might have been more interesting. There was miscommunication here, with the subteam thinking that hot food would be included in the ticket price. Nobody on Nebula seemed to settle on what the ticket price actually was either! It kept falling throughout the day, going from £65-£55-£50-£35-£28-£22.

Paul demoted subteam leader Jessica, which she accepted, but understandably she was a bit annoyed about it. He put Frances in charge instead, who despite saying she didn’t like Paul in the last episode, really sucked up to him here…

Paul later lost his temper and than had a big argument with Jessica about the hot food at the event in front of all the customers.

In fairness, Jessica had her own bad moments. Dismissing others concerns with the standard Northerner response “Use your common sense!”. I’m Northern myself, but I can see why that would get irritating. She told potential customers they they would have the opportunity to play “Russian roulette”.

But what seemed to be the main reason they lost the task is the refunds for the canapes, which they’d try to cut costs on by making them less, well, good. Frances suggested not using smoked salmon and just having them be cucumber and cream cheese. Sounds like Ned Flanders nachos, i.e cucumber slices and cottage cheese.

Paul Sullivan had been bad tempered throughout the series, but it came to a head here with him being aggressive and domineering to his team, shouting over people and in the boardroom after they lost he even talked back to Lord Sugar! After a very emotional boardroom, with Paul being angry and Jessica and Frances both crying, Paul was fired.

In ‘Virtual Reality Game’ the teams had to create, you’ve guessed it, a virtual reality game. Courtney offered Karren and Claude a cup of tea or coffee when they arrived at the Apprentice house. Not that it was appreciated.

The candidates were shown a virtual reality boardroom with a hologram Lord Sugar. The virtual boardroom was then made to look like it was in Earth’s orbit, because why not?

Titans project manager Sofiane made bad choices, such as not putting art designer Dillon on branding, and instead had him go to make the game along with Alana who doesn’t play video games. Grainne wasn’t on the subteam who would make the game, even though through her teenage son she had some knowledge of games. Sofianne and Grainne came up with the bland game Magic Shells which ended up looking like it was targeted at young children, which are the smallest market in virtual reality gaming. The target market is males aged 15-34.

On Nebula, Jessica and Courtney together laughing while they were coming up with the game concept and later when they were trying on costumes was a highlight not just of the episode, but of the whole series! I’m not really a shipper sort of person, but I do like them as a couple. Some of the names they came up with were Spaceman Sam and The Cosmic Badger. The character names they settled on were Galactic Gordon, the Astrobadger and the name Gordon’s Lost His Badger. The idea was someone had to go into space to find their badger, and Jessica and Courtney thought the randomness of it would make it fun and unique. They were very enthusiastic about it, designing the Astrobadger to have a rainbow quiff.

Trishna and Frances were massive killjoys and weren’t having any of it though, and frankly came across as a bit humourless and dull.

The teams had to pitch their games at Comic Con. Courtney wore an astronaut suit, and Grainne and Alana both had the same peculiar costume that made them look like some sort of zombie princesses who had drowned and had risen from their watery grave.

The experts at Comic Con liked the Astrobadger character, and said how engaging Jessica was pitching it. 5 out 7 of them liked the game, and the public vote saw 222 out of 300 vote for it, so Nebula easily won the task. I was ridiculously pleased about this, as I really liked the Astrobadger too.

Lord Sugar commented on how simplistic and literal the Magic Shells name was. “If it was up to you, Super Mario would be known as Fat Plumber”. One of his few good jokes this series.

There was a double firing. One was Dillon St. Paul. That sounds a bit like an American place name. “Hi, I’m from Dillon, St. Paul.” He isn’t a bad looking guy, the silver hair was distinctive. But he also looked a bit like a Thunderbird puppet. But he was definitely one of the most memorable candidates from this series.

Sofiane Khelfa was an odd mix of trying too hard (to get the upper hand on sales deals) and not trying hard enough (to work with others). He sometimes looked like he was Paul’s archnemesis, but that never seemed to be too consequential.

‘Gin’ saw the candidates making and designing their own brand of gin.

Nebula went for rasperry and pink pepper. Alana was a bit like a methodical mad scientist, creating a bubbling cocktail with steam coming off, and using a pipette.

On Titans, Grainne and Trisha had to sample different gin flavours, and spent their whole time getting drunk. Grainne in particular was a self-confessed gin fan. Grainne had been a little bit of an ice queen, and this episode wasn’t quite an ice queen defrosting, but an ice queen getting tipsy. Frances called them 19 times to get the ingredients on the label, while all this time Grainne and Trisha were getting pissed! Not only that, they left the phone in the room.

Titans lost. Giving their gin the name Colony Gin was a pretty terrible idea. It’s not exactly a period of history a lot of people want reminding of. Well, maybe old duffers who subscribe to the Daily Torygraph, but I don’t think they were the gin’s target market. I think they were aiming for hipster types, and something called Colony Gin would only appeal to them as an opportunity to feel smug(ger) for not liking it. Making the gin orange coloured wasn’t a popular choice either. Trishna Thakrar most pushed for the gin to be orange coloured, so she was fired. She always seemed perpetually moody and fed up for the whole 10 episodes she was there.

Courtney was adorable in this episode, with how nervous he was while pitching and then wanted to buy a helicopter after going on one in the treat for being on winning team.

Then it was the ‘Interviews’ episode.

Alana had chopped up some chocolate digestives and whipped up some cakes, wrapped them up in brown paper and string to give to the interviewers. This wasn’t an attempt to bribe them, it was to sample her work as her business plan was a cake company.

What came up with Frances Bishop in the interviews was her basically saying her filing cabinet is her handbag. She didn’t mention her two failed stores in her C.V. as “It was an experimental store”, which sounds a bit like when a popstar’s stans and/or P.R. call a song a “buzz single” after it has flopped.

Grainne McCoy wanted to create her own brand of make-up and open an accademy, despite that she wasn’t qualified to teach that at the time, which was why she was fired at this stage. But she had been one of the best candidates in this series up to that point. I grew to really like her. She did look a bit Vampira-ish on You’re Fired with her red dress and nail varnish, and long black hair. Don’t get me wrong, I thought she looked great, but definitely a little like a vampire.

Online fashion entrepreneur Jessica Cunningham was the top salesperson in the series, which isn’t surprising. She has a great, infectious bubbly personality, everyone seems to really like her. As you might have guessed, she was by far my favourite contestant this series. From her jumping on the beds when they first got to the Apprentice house to her, erm, interesting outfit on You’re Fired, a glittery dress with plunging neckline. She is a bit like a nicer, less aggressive version of Big Brother 15 winner Helen Wood. In a soap, Jessica would be Helen’s “Good Twin”.

The final was between novelty gift company owner Courtney Wood and cake company owner Alana Spencer.

Courtney thought about the name of his business for ages. Kathik just told Courtney to think of his favourite colour and his favourite animal and use that, so the company ended up being called Purple Whale. The novelty item he pitched with was a baby sippy cup, shaped like a football trophy. He didn’t win in the end, but was the last man in the final six.

Alana ran into some issues with labeling and packaging. Her company was called Ridiculously Rich, though Grainne thought that the initial logo for the company looked “Ridiculously shite”. Alana took advice and altered the logo. Oliver quietly overruled Alana by adding a Welsh dragon to the packaging, as Alana is from Wales and her company is based there. Alana turned out to like this change.

Lord Sugar decided to go with Alana’s business plan. Alana was a bit like someone from the Neutral Planet in Futurama. Whether she’s excited, angry, worried, shocked, whatever it’s the same tepid mood with her. But there’s nothing wrong with her as a winner.

I was not a fan of Lord Sugar’s two minions this series. Claude Littner wasn’t noticeable until the interview stage, which was the role he always had before. It’s like they needed someone to fill the space left by Nick Hewer’s departure and just went with someone who was involved with the show already. It reminds of an ITV pantomime of Jack And The Beanstalk which featured Julian Clary. He played a character named Tim, but in Act One he played “the First Henchman”, and said “My real part’s not on until the second act, and I don’t want to get too bored”.

That said, Claude was at less awful than Karrrrrrrrrrrrrren Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrady. She was so bile-filled and insufferable this series.

With The Apprentice series 12 I thought it was OK in the first half, but I really enjoyed some of the second half of this series, but then it kind of ran out of steam in the last couple of episodes. That said, I think it was an improvement on the previous series. I especially liked Jessica, she’s one of my favourite Apprentice candidates ever.

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