James Max's The Apprentice blog, episode 1

LBC Radio presenter James Max was once a semi-finalist on The Apprentice. Here’s his damning write-up of last night’s programme

Chryslers with synchronised door opening at the ready, and fabulous aerial shots of London. It’s back!

We’ve gone through the rough patch of wondering whether we’ve had enough. Like a familiar friend we’re all pleased as punch that the Boardroom replaces the boredom of Wednesday evenings, now punctuated by the return of the daddy of reality TV shows instead.

The Apprentice has returned for its eighth series. Trending worldwide, it seems like Twitter was rather excited too.

It takes me back. In 2005, the first series was aired. On BBC2 in those days. There was no Twitter. There wasn’t even You’re Fired!. And I had less grey hair. Here’s a golden moment for you, to show how it’s really done!

“Last series was a bit of a dog’s dinner. Perhaps that’s why Peter Moore, the series producer from the first ever series, is back. Like a mad professor, the man is a genius”

Once again, Lord Sugar is looking for someone with whom to invest a quarter of a million pounds, to form a new business. Here’s the website for last series winner, Tom Pellereau who managed to be picked by Lord Sugar despite losing every task imaginable.

The producers have learnt their lesson. Make the tasks relevant to the prize. Let’s face it. Last series was a bit of a dog’s dinner.

Perhaps that’s why Peter Moore, the series producer from the first ever series, is back. Like a mad professor, the man is a genius. I expect great things.

A bit of Apprentice geek for you: the series director, Andy Devonshire, is also the series director for Four Rooms. In charge of cameras, James Clarke has worked on all the series and the music is written by Dru Masters.

I am sure there will be more little bits of information that I’ll share with you over the coming weeks!

Voiceover man is back. So are Karren Brady and Nick Hewer. As ever, it all started in the Boardroom.

No, the Boardroom isn’t located in a shiny office in Canary Wharf but a shed near Park Royal. It’s a TV studio.

“Candidates split into two teams. “Boys and Girls”. Here they are. In their twenties and thirties yet they are referred to as boys and girls. Only in Britain”

Lord Sugar told us what he is looking for. In homage to Paddy McGuinness, he wants the “Spencer to go with my Marks”. Given some of the ladies, this really could have been an episode of Take Me Out. Brassy, noisy, argumentative and desperate.

Candidates split into two teams. “Boys and Girls”. Here they are. In their twenties and thirties yet they are referred to as boys and girls. Only in Britain.

Anyway. To the task. Printing stuff. The girls with their shiny new name “Sterling” were led by Gabrielle. The boys decided that the team name “Phoenix” would be original. Let’s forget the Phoenix Four who diddled the taxpayer out of millions when they bought and screwed up MG Rover.

Reluctantly Nick put himself forward as their team leader. [Not that one. Nick Holzherr. A 25 year old technology entrepreneur. He has a website and a twitter account.] The rest of them couldn’t congratulate him quickly enough. Well, he has good hair and can add up. So that’s got to be a good start. No one turns against someone with good hair.

You know the montage bit where they show you the character saying who they are and what they want to be? The dreadful clichéd one liners. God those take AGES to film! They won’t stop the tape running until you’ve said something daft. Of course we weren’t disappointed, “I am the reflection of perfection”. Wretch.

Although I did rather like the comment from one of them. Oh forgive me I don’t know what their names are yet. The annoying one who thinks he can sell, yeah him, he said, “business is made complicated by idiots”. So beginneth the master class!

The girls came up with some designs. Twitter said they were good. Twitter was wrong. The boys proudly stated “This is a” and sloppily printed an old fashioned Routemaster onto some bags. Yawn. And they had a teddy bear with a union flag printed on it. Yawn. And called the bear Jack. Yawn. And then decided to charge £15 for him. Sorry. How much?

I always think it’s important, about a third of the way into the episode, to pay homage to TV shows gone by.

The boys morphed into an edition of The Generation Game as they made rather a mess printing their stuff. While the girls running around like headless chickens did a bit of Treasure Hunt. Google it.

Searching for Anneka Rice, I discovered Bilyana. TV gold. She said she knew where she was. But didn’t. Had a fabulously annoying and grating accent and, worst of all, she’s somewhat direct. Enough to make us recoil. Perfect, I thought. She’s safe.

Neither team set the world alight. If you think any of these people are Britain’s brightest business prospects, think again. This is an entertainment programme with a business thread. You need characters and people to love and hate. Otherwise you’d be bored. And we wouldn’t want that. Would we?

More than that, the boys stumbled upon an important business lesson. Often, I work in Leicester Square. To get to our studios, I pass through tourist central. These people will buy any old crap, they really will. You’ll see t-shirts, flags, teapots galore. Festooned with anything and everything “British”. Flags, taxicabs, busses, The Tower of London and Big Ben. All made in China of course, but who cares? They buy it. There’s no Marc Jacobs or creativity. It’s all about the toot.

Long story short. The boys won. The girls lost.

Then the bitchin’ started. In the Boardroom and then the café. Fabulous! What you really need to know is where The Bridge Café is. Right? It’s here!

And then for the final showdown.

“I thought Lord Sugar would fire Katie because she’s dull. He will. But not this time. Gabrielle didn’t do much right but she was never going despite her rather desperate rant”

Katie didn’t say much. I didn’t expect her to. After all she did nothing during the task. What could she say?

Team leader Gabrielle started off nicely enough. Then she got uber shirty. Screech, screech screech. I didn’t even hear what she was saying. Blah blah blah. Then Bilyana started. And she didn’t stop. And another thing. And another thing. And they didn’t do this. Or that. Or whatever. And I was head girl. SHUT UP!

I thought Lord Sugar would fire Katie because she’s dull. He will. But not this time. Gabrielle didn’t do much right but she was never going despite her rather desperate rant.

As for Bilyana? As the Boardroom progressed, so it seemed that perhaps she wasn’t safe after all. She wrote her own exit script. Like everyone who leaves the process first, that’s the way it always goes. Haven’t you watched the last seven series? It’s not rocket science.

A great opener. Good fun and an engaging Boardroom. The line of the night goes to Nick Hewer. Referring to the offloading of stock in a Primrose Hill toyshop. The girls were like “a bag of baying hyenas”. Yes please, and I’ll have more next week as the teams have to… guess what? Invent something. Well. It will be episode two and that’s what you have to do in episode two.

More from me next week. Post your comments and questions and do follow me on Twitter. www.twitter.com/thejamesmax

James Max presents the Weekend Breakfast on LBC 97.3 every Saturday and Sunday from 7 – 10am and was a semi-finalist in the first series of The Apprentice.

Readers' comments (4)

  • James Max's blog would have much more credibility if he didn't throw in odd comments as fact which are completely untrue. The Phoenix Four, whatever anyone thinks of them, did not "diddle the taxpayer" - or indeed anyone else -out of a penny. They didn't receive any Government or taxpayer support whatever, and far from "making a mess" of MG Rover, they ran it successfully for five years, providing employment to 6000 people who would not have had it other wise. The company collapsed precisely BECAUSE it did not receive any taxpayers money when the previous Labour government bottled out of providing a £120 million short term bridging loan. Don't make defammatory comments if you haven't a clue what you're talking about. It makes you look foolish.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous

    ^^I would directly condradict the above statement. Given that more than a few thousand employees pension fund is having to be bailed out by the UK govt seems to me that the UK tax payer is picking up the bill for the Phoenix Four. Despite paying in over £20million to a directors company pension (memebers totalling 5) they felt unable to make any payments to the general workers pension.

    Yes, they took BMW's dowry to run the company for four years, however if the dowry had simply been divided up and shared amongsth the Rover employees at the very beginning they would have received more than they did in four years of salary. I worked at the highest level at Rover Group and then Land Rover and then Ford - I know what I am talking about.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am fascinated, Mr Strachan by your response. I am very careful with the opinions I put forward. It's a simple business reference in my blog that has little to do with the rest of it - other than a comment on the name of one of the teams... yet you seem to think it damages my credibility. Well, aside from having taken part in The Apprentice process which I think is as much credibility as one needs in these situations, I have also been a partner of a private equity firm. The way the Phoenix Four and their directors and advisers behaved was, in my opinion, reprehensible. The whole point of such investments is that you take money and payments after your investors and staff have received their rewards. I think they did behave poorly, the taxpayer has had to pay in many different ways (hence my choice of the word "diddled") and I stand by my blog. I have direct experience in the private equity industry, understand how deals are structured and have a good sense of right and wrong. Do you?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Yes.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Social Bookmarks