Basically almost every Apprentice
task this year is "design a product and sell it." Which is clearly the most appropriate to the new prize at the end but doesn't make for varied TV viewing. And it sadly means the traditional odd-numbered series trip to the Home Shopping Channel is off this year. Although I can see why they wouldn't want to expose a TV audience, even a small one, to Helen's Mad Sales Skillz - it'd be like when Russ Abbott used the Horoscope Channel to enslave the Earth in The Sarah Jane Adventures
We do, though, get the annual home visit from LdAlan, so this week's Phone Wars is Answering The Door Wars, and the point goes to The Actor Michael Sheen. Melody is in her dressing gown and can't get her head round the fact that LdAlan has penetrated her inner sanctum. He does it every year
Melody, were you not watching? Maybe there's no TV in Dally the llama's house. This week they're designing and selling imaginary biscuits. After winning last week's task, Susan's reward is to be sent back to Logic and the Curse of NotHelen. Ha! She wants to be PM again but Zoe drones that she's done stuff with food before and even Nick Hewer sort of admits that Susan's not the best person for the job. The Actor Michael Sheen draws what a biscuit looks like. Thanks for that, The Actor Michael Sheen. Helen is PM for Venture, to be followed by Karren who CHRIST ON CRUTCHES KARREN! HAVE YOU MISLAID YOUR HAIRBRUSH? She looks like she's been up all night drinking zeitgeisty, pomegranate-based beverages.
"Half" of each team (well one team only has three people so... two of each team) is off on a three-hour car journey to Wales. Aware that Melody exists, Zoe opts not to spend these three hours in her company and sends The Actor Michael Sheen off with her instead to invent the biscuit. (Well, reinvent the biscuit; we all know the actual biscuit was invented by Harry Biscuit's dad.[/Radio 4 reference]) In Swansea each team gets assigned a Welsh biscuit man, one of whom tells them the rules of biscuit-making: "Never say never in the biscuit world." AMAZING! He's like the Willy Wonka of biscuits. I want to live in Biscuit World! Actually if I make the mistake of going down the wrong aisle of Sainsbury's when I'm depressed, when I unpack my shopping I find that I now do
live in biscuit world, and while it is
awesome it does leave you feeling queasy afterwards. Zoe has kept Susan behind with her to design the packaging; admittedly this is better than being stuck with Melody but Susan does
call Zoe one of the bitchiest people she's ever met to camera.
Venture are calling their biscuits "Special Stars," coincidentally what all their mummies and daddies told them they were when they were growing up. Jim likes Helen as a PM because she's "passive." Hands up everyone who's surprised to find out Jim likes passive women. Didn't think so. Logic meanwhile haven't settled on a product yet: The Actor Michael Sheen wants a biscuit-within-a-biscuit; Melody wants to make the biscuit equivalent of popcorn, with bits of marshmallow sticking out of them. I somehow doubt that even sweetened popcorn is as bad for you as eating a bucket of biscuits would be; and do we really need someone to invent even noisier
cinema food? In any case she wants to call them Pop-Squits, and focus groups don't tend to respond to food that sounds like a bowel condition. Instead she orders them to like heart-shaped biscuits, and they sort of say OK, just don't make us eat your popsquits. On the phone to Zoe it's three against one, the two-biscuits-in-one (which now also have one half coated in chocolate and snap in two for some reason) win out despite Melody repeatedly barking that the focus group LOVED the heart-shaped biscuits. Zoe then hangs a lantern on how this show works by finally
saying to camera what we've all spotted about Apprentice
focus groups: If Melody asks a group of people whether they'd prefer a heart-shaped biscuit, or being repeatedly punched in the face for three hours, they'll come out in favour of the heart-shaped biscuit. Actually Eddie Izzard should sue The Apprentice
for royalties, since the show's approach to focus groups is entirely based on "Cake or Death?"
Zoe and Susan's research meanwhile has been in supermarkets, where they find out that the prescribed price of £1.99 a packet puts the biscuit in the more premium category; they look interested at this new information, bear this in mind for later. Their rather hodge-podge biscuit is now called Bix Mix, the strapline is "Snap and Share" and Nick Hewer is rather impressed to camera. Oh, naughty editors! You've taken Nick's quote for use if the team wins and used it instead of the "ooh it's horrible" quote he gave them in case they lost! Anyway despite the numerous concepts thrown in I do like the look of this biscuit, on looks alone it's the one I would have picked. However we are later told the chocolate coating is rather cheap and nasty-tasting, and we weren't given this information when I was comparing it with Special Stars. Which is a flapjack with a HEWGE dollop of star-shaped milk or white chocolate on top. There's a couple of murmurings about it being more chocolate than biscuit but (a) I'm pretty sure M&S use "more chocolate than biscuit" as the actual tag-line on their chocolate-covered shortcake rounds so it's not necessarily a bad thing and (b) you can't really complain about how unhealthy more than 50% chocolate is, when the other 50% is biscuit. I mean we're really not in the health food market here. This is mentioned as a bit of a worry since they're targetting to kids, especially since the tag line is "any time is treat time!" Actually most of the concerns are about how it contradicts itself, I would have been more worried about how telling them to gorge on biscuits at all times is supposed to get past the "no marketing junk food to kids" rules but there we are. Team Venture do not
take the hint from the marketing bod's face when confronted with the slogan. Do they ever?
On the car back from Wales, Melody, having failed to shout the team into accepting her heart-shaped biscuits has now turned her attention to the pitches, and is determined that it should involve her and The Actor Michael Sheen doing a bit of role-play. This conjures up frankly horrifying
images although not quite as bad as the reality of "Oh! Hello! Darling! I! Love! You! Let's! Share! A! Biscuit!" that transpires, and has me wriggling on the bed with squirm. They're pitching to a large nameless superma... oh no, seems we're not worried about product placement any more, they're pitching to Sainsbury's. It doesn't go too well. Instead of putting this down to the fact that THEY DID A ROLE-PLAY, they decide it's because they did the wrong
role-play, and should instead show two female friends palling up over a shared biscuit. This decision is come to as Zoe and Melody have a massive catfight in the middle of ASDA, and sometimes seeing a stereotype come to life before your very eyes is a beautiful thing, no? There's certainly no fighting when they go to Waitrose! Anyway the Bix Mix have now been rebranded for women chums to snap in half and playfully argue over who gets the chocolatey half. Yes, only Apprentice
candidates could turn two friends sharing a snack into a status battle. The pitch finally seems to be have become almost bearable by the time they get to Waitrose, unfortunately the biscuits themselves haven't.
Venture are meanwhile pitching
New! Heart Attack for Kids!
Special Stars to the same supermarkets. Highlights include Natasha half-jokingly asking Helen and Jim if she should just shut up, and them not-jokingly telling her yes; and Helen snapping at Waitrose "we don't need to be told what's healthy!" (The answer being, of course, "not this.") Jim does the last pitch to ASDA, which I presume is slightly weirdly edited since, as well as telling them he has an unlimited publicity budget (which is technically true since it, like everything else, is imaginary) he seems to tell the buyers to "go big or go home." Nice.
Boardroom! Logic done sold NUFFINK TO NOBODY! Venture on the other hand have an offer of 800,000 (imaginary) packets from, obviously, ASDA. Proud sponsors of childhood obesity! LdAlan teases to Logic that "at least" one of them will be fired, but he's already used up his double firing so he ain't bladdy fooling nobody. While Venture go off for cream cakes and lashings of ginger beer, The Actor Michael Sheen is actually standing up for himself a wee bit in the boardroom; since taste seemed to be their downfall the finger of blame is pretty strongly pointing at Zoe for not actually supervising the product's creation herself, instead of The Actor Michael Sheen for coming up with it. Melody spots this and goes in for a Melody/Zoe smackdown until LdAlan points out Susan's not said much. She replies "I answer when I'm spoken to," and you can actually hear
Nick Hewer tumescing at this. We don't get much feedback from Nick after this because he's mentally retreated to his Special Place where he thinks about lovely obedient Susan, possibly in a geisha costume while smiling inscrutab- look, we all know exactly
which Dirty Old Man stereotype I'm going with here so we might as well move on.
Melody and The Actor Michael Sheen get brought back into the firing line; Zoe thinks The Actor Michael Sheen should have known from the £1.99 price tag they should be aiming for the premium biscuit market, not digestives. I mean, looking at the size of him I don't think biscuits feature heavily on The Actor Michael Sheen's shopping list but I would
tend to agree with her, if she hadn't gone into the supermarket, seen that £1.99 was a bit more than your average packet of own-brand bourbons cost and been all THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION! This week, LdAlan will be mostly picking on The Actor Michael Sheen for his 20/20 hindsight, once again suggesting he's not been paying attention the last 7 years since the boardroom is always
about hindsight. If anything, The Actor Michael Sheen is less
guilty than most of it, since he has on occasion been known to be right about something before
it's proven to be so; it's just convincing other people that's his problem. Wanting to know what Melody done, she says she contributed the idea of sharing, at which point the concept of irony remembers last week's episode, and promptly explodes.
The Actor Michael Sheen is this week's fire-tease; he doesn't actually realise this and tries to talk LdAlan out of it but gets shut up because Zoe PM'd a team who sold bladdy nathing. It's not quite as much an automatic firing as making a loss would be, but it's close enough. Zoe is bladdy fired, and can now go back to her day job providing the voice for the Old El Paso ads. "Aromatuuuuuuic." "If I'm still aluuuuuuuuuuuuuive." In the car back to the house Melody proclaims of Zoe that "that sort of behaviour is childish!" The remaining scattered body parts of the concept of irony howl in pain as they remember Melody in France, going "No! You can't play with any of the meetings I set up! Only I can play with them! You can play with them when I'm finished with them! Nyah!"