Monday, 4 January 2016

Guest Post: Murphy Rants About... The Apprentice S11E11+12 (Final)

So, let’s just get this out of a way first: The interview episode was, as always, a complete and utter shambles. People were screaming, things caught fire, loads of people were caught out in lies.

None were more shambolic than Richard and Gary’s interviews, though.

Gary, whose business idea was ‘Celebration Disco’, a mobile disco, yes you read that one right, was caught in several lies right off the bat. First, he said he had been in charge of a one-billion pound budget, which was actually totally untrue, and he said he’d been in charge of a team of six-hundred people, when his team actually only had three people in it.

Worse, when caught in these lies, he didn’t just own up to them. He tried to hedge, saying that he’d been de facto in charge of these things, but nobody fell for it. As one of the interviewers pointed out, Gary liked to exaggerate his importance, and also his business idea was absurd.

Richard may well have done even worse. His business idea was basically a marketing agency, but he wrote his business plan in flowery, purple prose that nobody could understand. Claude said it read like a ‘1980s marketing manual.’

Worse still, he was caught in a bigger lie than Gary: Having said his idea was entirely unique, it turned out that it was an identical copy of another business he owned. A business that would be in competition with the won he’d have with Lord Sugar.

Also, everyone - everyone - hates Richard. The other candidates were talking about how he was an inveterate liar and would definitely come back and say that he’d aced his interview even though it wasn’t true, and they were right. That is literally exactly what happened.

By the end of the interviews, he had just been beaten down. He had no fight left in him.

Vana’s business idea was an online dating app involving games, and while that sounds like my idea of hell, the main problem the interviewers had with it was that dating apps having massive start-up costs and don’t turn profits for a very long time.

It was a problem that Vana didn’t really have an answer to, which is a shame, since she’s otherwise a pretty credible businessperson.

Charleine had much the same problem: As a businessperson, she’s fine, but her business idea - a franchise of haircare salons - was immediately called out as being impractical. All of the interviewers did like her, however.

Joseph, meanwhile, also had a franchise idea, of plumbing and heating businesses. This fell flat almost immediately when one of the interviewers pointed out that any franchised business would lose money because of it.

In general, that was the viewpoint of many of the interviewers: Joseph was considered a credible businessman, but the franchising model was generally seen as doomed to failure in this instance.

Surprisingly, Joseph was all set up to get caught in a lie (“I’ve read Alan Sugar’s autobiography three times, it’s really inspired me, he’s my idol,”) only for one of the interviewers to try to catch him out with a quiz on Lord Sugar’s life and fail. Joseph answered every question correctly. He really is that much of a Lord Sugar fanboy.

In a rather sad moment, he talked about how you had to ‘sacrifice your youth to be successful’, which is just - really sad.

In the end, Richard, Gary, and Charleine were fired, leaving Vana and Richard to go on to the final.

The finale opened on an interesting note, with Vana claiming that her business idea was inherently more morally worthwhile than Joseph’s, which seems a bit of an odd claim, given that there’s no shortage of dating apps, really anywhere.

As ever, the challenge was to create a pitch for their business idea, using a team of former contestants. Vana picked Richard, Charleine, Ruth, and Natalie, while Joseph picked Gary, Brett, Elle and Mergim.

In Vana’s team, the brutal snark against Richard was out in full force, with Vana immediately noting that while he was good at marketing, she didn’t like Richard as a person. It only got worse when they were making the television advert, where Charleine outright said that Richard was the perfect casting choice for a ‘lonely old man’, before remarking that it’d take ‘all of [her] acting ability’ to pretend she was in love with him.

I actually really enjoyed watching Charleine in this episode. She was doing her best to help Vana win, but it was also totally clear that she was delighting in the chaos around her.

Vana’s business plan ran into many of the same ideas it did in the interviews - namely, the owner of the biggest dating app in the world saying it would never work, at least not for turning a profit or even breaking even quickly, and her at first deciding to ignore him, and then trying to find other ideas for funding to cover up this problem, thinking it would spare her from awkward questions.

Needless to say, it did not.

Joseph’s team, meanwhile, was terrible, because he picked people he liked rather than people who were good at their jobs.

In a strange parody of Vana’s problems, all of the experts thought that Joseph’s idea could very easily be massively successful, and they thought he was pretty personable to boot. Even better, Joseph took the time to give them his card, get their cards, and generally network with them, which will be invaluable.

But rather than focusing on his unique selling point - the most important part of the task - Joseph instead had an almost laser focus on things like logo, television adverts, et cetera, all of which turned out pretty poorly.

Part of that is that none of his team are any good at advertising, and part of that is that Mergim is almost cartoonishly terrible at acting, and was cast in the television advert nevertheless.

Nevertheless, in the boardroom, Joseph won, and I’m not even sure it was that close, either. Vana’s idea was - and is - kind of a non-starter.

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