Warning: spoilers ahead
More than two years later, The Apprentice is back. Some things haven’t changed. We have 16 new candidates – all with the same lust for power – rocking up to the boardroom.
A £250,000 investment is still up for the taking alongside a business partnership with your man, Lord Sugar.
But an empty chair signals that change is just around the corner, in the most literal sense. A shadowy figure strides behind the semi-transparent screen to reveal replacement aide, Tim Campbell, who won the first series of the programme in 2005. Sugar addresses the sorely-felt absence of Claude Littner, who is recovering from a bike accident.
Some jovial barbs from Lord Sugar get everyone (including the audience) acquainted before the announcement of that daunting first task.
The Cruise Ship
Setting sail from Portsmouth, the candidates’ task is to concoct an advertising campaign for a fictional cruise business, pulling together a video ad, a social media teaser and a logo. Both aides lurk in the background as if they’re doing secondary school teacher assessments – with Tim observing the girls and Karren observing the boys.
It’s clear that both project managers, Kathryn and Akshay, like their own ideas rather a lot. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much collaboration, with other members trying to pipe up and influence the outcomes of the projects. So, what will they come up with?
Girls’ team – Bouji Cruises
Kathryn insists on Bouji Cruises as a brand name because she likes the word bouji, even though one of the older members of the group (Shama), who is very much in the brand’s target market of women aged 25-45, has no idea what it means. In case you’re curious, bouji comes from the term ‘bourgeoisie’ and means activities and lifestyle that are typically middle and upper class.
It comes up several times throughout the episode, with mixed interpretations as to what bouji really means when pressed by industry experts. In the pitch, beauty brand owner Amy says that bouji is a feeling, contrary to Kathryn’s definition of bouji being like ‘a boozy brunch’. I’m sensing a new tongue-twister coming on from ‘boozy bouji’ – try saying that a few times really fast.
The campaign didn’t scream ‘fun’, weighed down by a corporate-looking logo in a dreary navy blue. All of the fun was packed into one gaffe surrounding the disappearance of Sophie’s thighs in the social media teaser. Evidently, a green dress against a green screen doesn’t turn into the sort of legless-ness you’d expect to see on a pals’ cruise.
Boys’ team – Never Ending Nauticals
The boys’ efforts are a barrel of laughs, albeit unintentionally.
We have to start by talking about that logo (below, right).
What the boys are after is a cruise for older people looking for some mindfulness. To achieve this, they create a logo of a man doing an upward dog yoga pose with his head becoming a wave. Makes sense in theory. It’s the detail that really makes this logo legendary for all the wrong reasons. The colour scheme is ‘green and brown, representing nature’… or possibly sewage. The lack of a name on the logo makes the already-cryptic brand recognition even more problematic.
Massive egos impede productive discussions at the beginning, but the brand name decided on is Never Ending Nauticals, intended to reflect the never-ending journey of spirituality. The ordeal is never-ending for onlooker Karren Brady, whose face captures that sentiment perfectly.
Things don’t get much better with the video ad, described as being more retirement home than luxury cruise.
Despite a few interruptions from regional operations manager Harry, the team seem to get along better as the campaign goes on. A ‘smooth sailing’ quip from the boys gets a hearty chuckle all round except Karren, who looks as if she’s getting sea sick from the comment.
The final boardroom
Back in the boardroom, all of the candidates look nervous after less-than-stellar performances. It’s the girls who win the challenge as their campaign has the synergy that the boys’ lacks. The clips of the winning team in the house fittingly show the bouji lifestyle that they were aiming to portray – plush furniture, vibrant artwork and a champagne reception.
The forced accountability of being the project manager on the losing team is about the only accountability that Akshay takes. He chooses Akeem (who led the way on the sewage logo) and Harry (the disruptor) to join him as the last three in the boardroom. You know what it’s like by now: much bickering ensues. A few minutes of desperate self-preservation from the candidates drives Lord Sugar to order silence, uttering, ‘This is like the band playing on the Titanic’. His own brief deliberations lead the tycoon to point that scene-stealing finger at Harry, who will never even get to see the house.
Is the new series of The Apprentice worth a watch?
This was a promising start to the latest instalment of The Apprentice, especially after such a long time away. A fun challenge, plenty of drama and some interesting characters to get to know. All of this elevated by stress-raising music and the candid cut-offs to contestants slating one another. Could I pick a winner at this stage? No, I absolutely couldn’t.