We are living in the golden age of TV. It started with The Sopranos and it went through into The Wire, and then we had Mad Men and Breaking Bad and everything on Netflix. But you know what's been there all along? Inept Tories violently undermining each other for a brief shot at success, or, The Apprentice. The most important television show on TV is back, and it deserves necessary analysis. Here is that for the season opener episode, broadcasted October 4th 2017. Obviously, obviously, obviously: spoilers below.
WINNER: BEST TEAM NAME
"Graphene" wins the award for best team name, so well done to the girls for that one. If you haven't heard of it before, graphene is a material that is 200 times stronger than steel, making it nearly as hard as Siobhan. That said, the competition from the boys was gloriously miserable. It took them about three hours to come up with anything – during which, I'm pretty sure someone suggested the name "Power of 9"??? – and at the end all they could come up with was "Vitality". Which sounds either like a budget-supermarket breakfast smoothie or a Conservative Party youth wing. AH
WINNER: THE EARLY LEADERS
Hard to tell who is going to actually make it all the way to the final based on Week #1 alone. As the previous five winners turned up in the boardroom to loom over everyone and brag about their turnover while wearing slightly nicer suits than they had before, it was made starkly clear how there are diverse paths to success in The Apprentice murderdome, see the chart below:
— so I mean it's still early days, and everyone who did well at this task could still fuck up, and everyone who fucked up could redeem themselves, and everyone who was basically mute and silent throughout could come good about seven weeks in, and history here is essentially useless.
Early frontrunners: Sajan, who, despite rocking extreme "lad who went to your school and is now a football agent for a load of Gillingham Town YTS lads" realness, stood out in a chaotic boys' team by not being overtly incompetent and speaking level-headedly about the general incompetence around him; Harrison, the second-hardest in the process behind Siobhan, who posted up the boys' best sales results despite having about ten minutes of sales time (this is something he can cite later – "Lord Sugar," he says, karate chop motion onto the desk in front of him, "my sales record speaks for itself," and Sugar, who loves money and sales and basically just loves salesmen, he dreams of them, he lusts for them, all night long a parabola of naked Harrisons, selling, will agree – and will get him out of two boardroom firings, maybe three); and Michaela, my gleaming-toothed one-and-only, who already turns over £3 million from Bolton and is seemingly just here to win The Apprentice as some sort of luxuriant laugh. JG
WINNER: BEST SUGARISM
It was wonderful seeing the old Lord back on glistening form last night, both on-screen and online, where he was tweeting about proceedings live from the stroke he was apparently having. In the boardroom, however, it was the usual scintillating patter. He kicked things off with some topical humour: "We are living in uncertain times, with Brexit, but be under no illusion, in this process I'm the one who decides who's gonna remain, and I'm the one who decides who's going to leave." A later highlight included his very serious nod as he pretended to know what graphene was off the top of his head, like he'd heard someone gassing about it down the pub. Yet the best Sugarism, his pun de resistance, was a vintage burger gag. Much like the candidates' patties, the ingredients were there for something that made sense, but the delivery resulted in a gristly, sloppy mess.
"Never mind about the quarter pounder... it's the... quarter of a million... that all of you.... should be…. working on."
We're back, baby! AH
WINNER: MADDEST FUCKER IN THE PROCESS
This show is nothing without a court jester-type who will be split away from the main actually-taking-it-seriously pack when the process tightens around Week #7, fuel pods cracking from the larger rocket ship, and this year we were all expecting the jumping monkey idiot to be Charles, with his little glasses. Sadly, Charles turned out to be a combination of sheer ineptness and a rub-people-up-the-wrong-way hard-edgedness that belied his squishy interior, and that overshadowed his inclusion as a joke candidate. But I feel Charles has potential as a clown: he was just too busy negotiating over meat, badly, to truly unlock it this week.
So instead we have Siobhan, who could tear you in half like a phonebook, mate. Siobhan is our angel of chaos: she basically said (paraphrasing) "SEND ALL THE BIG TIT GELS OUT TO CANARY WHARF, MEN LIKE ALL THAT" in the face of Karren actual Brady; said "faffling" a lot; tried to snatch trays of burgers away from people; and yelled "STOP GETTING UNDER ME" when grilling a chicken breast. It was a top-to-bottom fuck-up saved only by Team Vitality somehow conspiring to be worse. This level of in-process mania is unsustainable, entirely, and Siobhan will be gone by Week #3 (self-firing, tacit admission the process is too much for her, sincere apology for throwing a rock at those children), but there is hope. I will – and I hope you're listening, BBC Three – I will watch her Chris 'n' Kem-style odd-couple spin-off show, Faffling Around, where she's locked in a series of mazes with Elizabeth and they have to use the power of teamwork to escape. I will watch that. JG
LOSER: THE ENTIRE CONCEPT OF FOOD
I have been developing this theory for years, but this episode cemented it: nobody who has ever been on The Apprentice has ever enjoyed a bite of food, ever. The absolute sub-scum they try and pass off to the public as luxury, or even edible – a dry meat puck in an even drier brioche bun, wrapped in a napkin and served without any condiments, £6 please sorry for the wait – proves this. A burger is a meat patty between two pieces of bread: yes. But it's also ketchup, mayonnaise, hand-picked salad leaves, a structural tomato slice, cheese, bacon. It is not hard to tart up (for profit). No fucker at any point attempted to make the food they were selling passable. Grey meat, dry bread, wilting salad sandwiches. These burgers chafed in their buns. Do these fuckers eat, ever? Do they take any joy in life beyond profit? Or do they just take selfies at the top of The Shard with their starter plates, bin the whole lot off, then chug Huel from a hipflask in their bags? Peek inside the burger bun of an Apprentice contestant and see the dark joylessness that lives inside their hearts. JG
LOSER: WORST SALESPERSON
The gradual disintegration of Elizabeth – the dotty mumsy figure on the girls team – was like watching the headteacher of a village primary school transfer to an underprivileged inner city comprehensive. I would describe her sales technique as "chipper with an undercurrent of mania", highlighted by her shouting a cheery "Oi! You! I want a word with you!" at a commuter like he was her literal son.
By the end of the episode she was screaming "BURGARS" at people, and telling Lord Sugar "I HAD MY HANDS IN THAT MEAT AND I MIXED IT." Full meltdown by Week #3. AH
LOSER: BIGGEST ACTUAL LOSER
This week's biggest loser is of course Danny. He was always going out this week. Danny had "first week firing" written all over him like a bad face tattoo. The second he volunteered to be team leader I said to myself, "Bye, mate. Bye forever." The other boys knew it too. As soon as they started discussing who should lead the first task they smelt Danny's thin, weak blood like a drop of squash in a pint glass. "Let us crush him" they communicated to each-other via the testosterone carried on their after-shave fumes. "Let us crush his bones."
He lost the episode thanks to a few signature Apprentice howlers. The inclusion of the word "Organic" on a label for a product that wasn't organic – a fact highlighted by a woman who had played no role in the episode until that point and was never mentioned again (like: did Claude get bored and send his sister into work that day?). And of course the real crux of the problem: selling a lunchtime product but completely missing lunchtime, so selling to nobody.
That said, keep your eyes peeled for Tory boy Elliot – a man so Tory he told his fellow candidates that the business he owns "assists landlords with their tenants... in evicting them" with a lip-licking relish most people reserve for a good shag or a buffalo burger. During the task he actually turned out to be completely useless, so while he might not have lost this week, the Old Sugar Daddy has got him pegged. He's keeping him around to toy with him, to drag the inevitable out. Lord Sugar is playing with his food. AH
For people trying to win £250,000, ostensibly to invest in a business, the candidates basically all demonstrated contempt for the very idea of money: meat negotiations were made around blind figures ("Uh, £7? ONE HUNDRED POUNDS?"), burger retail prices ad-libbed, and the end-of-the-day two-for-a-quid sell-off was about the most structured pricing point in the entire episode. Value, in The Apprentice, waxes and wanes, starting at a high-spike and dipping to next-to-nothing. I wonder… I wonder how the financial crash happened. Wonder how that all happened, with people like this in charge. JG