Cultural Divisions – Part 2


Is this the real life – or is it just fantasy?’

I sincerely hope that you know where that line comes from.

More musings from the sofa – the joys of being not-very-gainfully-self-employed – and sharing my viewing with a happily moaning Scooby.

Hands up all those who watch ‘The Apprentice’?

Ah – depleting numbers obviously.

I can remember when the candidates were reasonably sensible young men and women with an earnest desire to become Lord Sugar’s latest employee, and the ability to tell some semblance of truth about their backgrounds and experience.


The latest crop of  apprentices can no longer slide into a well-paid job in Lord Sugar’s mighty business empire but have to come up with an innovative business idea for SurAlaaaaaan to invest a quarter of a million pounds in. What a difference a life peerage can make.

Sorry. Did I say innovative business idea?

Innovative  – ‘a new idea, device or process’.

Innovative.  One of this year’s candidates wants SurAlaaaan to invest in a residential unit for young adults with learning disabilities.  What is innovative about that? There are already many such units around the country; some able to provide a safe and inspirational environment for their service users,  but others charge a small fortune, often employ untrained and sometimes abusive staff, and hit the headlines when someone has the courage to blow a whistle on them.

Innovative – yeah.

SurAlaaan hit on a winner with Tom Pellereau and his StylFile – a truly innovative product. A lovely curved nail file that enables you to get to those awkward finger and toe corners. The idea was inspired by Tom’s sister and is readily available in Sainsburys and Amazon – to name but a few. I have three Stylfiles, one of which is handbag size and has a curly wire cover to protect it from the other strange things I keep in my handbag (which may be discussed at a later date).

I also liked the fact that Tom’s main boast was that he was a nerd.

Good old Wikipedia defines Nerd  as (adjective: nerdy) a descriptive term, often used pejoratively, indicating that a person is overly intellectual, obsessive, or socially impaired.

I like nerds. The nerd admission is honest but usually inaccurate  –  all the nerds I know are entertaining, fonts of knowledge, very handy in a pub quiz and often quite shy.

The current would-be apprentices are not nerds.

They are a mixed bunch.  Some have ordinary occupations – social worker (yes – he spent a year doing community work with Eskimos in the Antarctic and is the person with the residential unit proposal), a couple of lawyers (who really ought to know better), some marketing managers (can sell a variety of products on a market stall) and others who skulk under the dubious titles of ‘operational manager’ and ‘brand manager’.  There is also a bank manager, the owner of a swimming academy and the most irritating woman in the world, who does at least admit that she is a former PA and a hypnotherapist rather than anything containing any job title containing meaningless business jargon. This woman volunteered to project manage the first task and her team unanimously agreed in front of SurAlaaan that she was lazy and bad at the job. Perhaps she’d better brush up on the self-hypnosis before she tackles the next task.

The Apprentice stage that I love the best is when we get down to the final three candidates, and each one is interviewed by SurAlaaan’s head-hunters. All the fabrications and fantasies contained in their CVs and application forms are hauled out, laid on the table in front of them and systematically hacked to bits till all that is left is a name and date of birth – and sometimes these are false too.

Of course, the production team could save a lot of time by having a more rigorous research process at application stage so that the true fantasists (sounds better than ‘liars’ – a tip I picked up from watching Jeremy Kyle) will be weeded out right from the start.

But hey, that would make the whole series far less amusing, wouldn’t it?

Part of the enjoyment for me is watching those fantasies burst like multicoloured balloons filled with confetti.

After watching four hours of Jeremy Kyle, I came to the conclusion that SurAlaaan’s apprentices have better teeth, glossier hair and more expensive clothes. Even those with regional accents have polished them up to an more intelligible level.

Essentially though, many of them are every bit as deluded as the cheats, the philanderers, the liars and the drug takers that are given a platform on Jezza’s show.

Apprentice  Mr D says that he can charm any woman into buying his goods – and some men too – well he is a barrow boy aka marketing manager and has an impressive line in patter.

Some of the males on Jezza’s show exhibit the self-same arrogance with regard to their lovelorn cheated partners. The spotty face and missing front teeth gurning above the uniform grey hoodie and tattered jeans, is less convincing than Mr D’s designer stubble above his sharp-cut suit and tie. Mr D committed a cardinal business sin however, and lost a contract by criticising his team’s own product – does he diss his market stall wares in the same way I wonder?

Cue a volley of rotten tomatoes and flawed china plates.

If I cringe at Jezza’s participants, they can at least be excused their ignorance once they recount their abused childhoods, lack of schooling and familiarity with the penal system (males and females). That’s penal as opposed to penile – another kettle of proverbial Jezza fish.

SurAlaaan’s apprentices have – on the whole – had the advantage of an education and some element of wealth that Jezza’s bunch could only fantasise about. I have no doubt that some of the apprentices started by selling chocolate bars at an inflated price in the playground, or that Ms B knows enough about stockings and associated lingerie to encourage SurAlaan to jump into a metaphorical business bed with her.

What about life experience?

Ms B – she of the former PA and hypnotherapy status – is an elegant blonde who informed her team that they had the sales advantage over the male team because ‘men will buy anything from women’. She exhorted her team members to wear their highest heels, their shortest skirts and to slap on the make-up – thereby setting back the hard work started by the suffragettes and promoted by those who followed in their footsteps. Fortunately Ms B’s simpering principles were shot down in flames by some of her more sensible team members – but there was still a lot of power-dressing strutting around and some shots of very high heels as the team climbed into their chauffeur-driven cars.

Ms B really was a rubbish project manager. She was significantly quiet on the second task (also won by the female team – go girls – whose project manager was more proactive but still hopelessly inexperienced). Perhaps she did some self-hypnosis on keeping her mouth firmly closed so that her foot had nowhere to go but the floor.

Although he was  unbearable snobbish and effete, I will miss the lofty proportions of apprentice Mr R, who was sacked by SurAlaan for having the temerity to refuse to be project manager when SurAlaan ‘suggested’ it.

Mr R had a natty taste in clothing but moaned about the lack of wardrobe space in his team’s accommodation – and the lack of a shower curtain! He stuck the final nail in his Apprentice coffin when, as his prospective clients were questioning the ethics of wearing a sweater with an inbuilt video recorder and filming in public places, Mr R shouted ‘Privacy is History!’.

Hmmm. Phone tapping. The right to a personal and private life. Data Protection. Current – not historical thank goodness.

Mr R was tall. He was thin and a flashy dresser.  He was entertaining but he was undoubtedly a prat.

SurAlaaan has raised the stakes this series by having twenty apprentices  but having fired three of them in the first week – I worry about whether he’ll have enough bodies  to last till the end. Other reality shows have a crowd of desperate subs sitting on a bench comparing entertainment column inches, CVs, and fake tans – so why not ‘The Apprentice’?

Silly me! Unlike these other live ‘reality’ programmes, SurAlaaan and his team have already picked their winner but the participants have signed a secrecy contract so that they can’t kiss and tell until the whole series has been broadcast.

A large part of my viewing enjoyment comes from the lovely Dara O’Briain and his Apprentice follow-up show on BBC2 straight afterwards.  His panel usually contains at least one of my other favourite comics, together with more successful business entrepreneurs whose critical comments cut through the candidate’s crap like a laser beam.

What confuses me most is that Dara’s programme is live and by this time the apprentice we have just seen fired by SurAlaaan has often changed their hair and style of dressing completely, and has opted for contact lenses or glasses depending on what they were using before.

Their failure to impress SurAlaaan is just an unpleasant memory by the time they get to sit next to Dara and have people poke fun at them. I expect this is written into their contract however and that they get well paid to sit and sport a fixed grin whilst the audience waves red and green fired or hired cards at them.

We decry the people who are desperate to appear on the Jeremy Kyle show as sad sacks who are desperate for their fifteen minutes of fame.  What about the Apprentice candidates though, who have spun their elaborate fantasies so littered with popular buzzwords and corporate jargon that they are unintelligible too?

Ah but the Apprentice candidates have a bit more savvy.

They must have, because they are being well-paid to make themselves look stupid, incompetent and false, whereas Jezza’s lot are lucky if they get a return train ticket and overnight accommodation to bolster their DNA results and lie detector tests. Even the first apprentice to be fired gets more airtime than the most garrulous of those baring their unhappy souls on daytime TV.

There are so many ‘reality’ shows now that escapism is a far more attractive prospect.

Let me get lost in ‘Dr Who’, gossip below stairs at ‘Downton Abbey'(I know my place) or chortle at ‘Plebs’.

Ah but despite my desire for escapism – I am drawn like a moth to a flame by Jezza and SurAlaaan – Dara on the other hand I will watch in absolutely anything.

One comment on “Cultural Divisions – Part 2

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