Fat man overboard

It's fairly obvious that when they choose contestants for The Apprentice it's more about casting than it is about picking the best candidates.  In the early weeks the "characters" provide some entertainment, cause trouble, and then get fired.

Hence (as I mentioned before), this time around we had a fat bloke with glasses (Brent) and a Russian (Lenny), who won't be around very long.  Each thinks that he knows more than anyone else, and is very happy to let you know his opinions (uncomplimentary almost without exception) on his fellow team members.  If only they would listen to me, they cry plantively, blissfully unaware that their colleagues have long ago decided to ignore them. 

Even Brent's thick skin and small brain don't seem to have prevented him from noticing that he was being sidelined by the project managers (in week 4 he was given total responsibility for organizing the clothing to be worn by the team members when they did their presentations).  If he had any common sense he would just have kept quiet and realized that he could hardly get fired if he was never in charge of anything important.  He didn't, but Sean is obviously a lot brighter because he started worrying that this might enable Brent to survive.

Or not, as it turned out.  Brent couldn't keep his mouth shut in the boardroom, and when he launched an over-the-top (and unwarranted) attack on Tammy he opened himself up to a barrage of criticism from the rest of the team.  He responded with largely incoherent attacks on people who had upset him, much in the style of a petulant seven year-old.  As with his misunderstanding of 'brainstorming', he appears not to have realized that saying the first thing that comes into your head is not the way to win an argument.

Even after Trump fired him, he still seemed to believe that he was better than the rest of the team and that Trump had made a big mistake.  I don't think so.   

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The man from Mensa

The Apprentice is back, and it's as daft as ever.  We are told that one million people applied to be on the show, and they have selected only the best and brightest.  Well, you could have fooled me.

This time the teams were created by the random device of Trump choosing two Project Managers and asking them to pick the people they wanted - with the minor drawback that they didn't even know the names of most of the people, let alone anything about their character or personality.  In spite of this, both seemed to figure out that the rotund bloke with the glasses was one to avoid. 

Trump's way of choosing the PMs wasn't much better - one was selected because he had announced that he was a member of Mensa.  I'm sure Mensa is a marvellous organization, but if the best achievement that someone can come up with is that they have paid a membership fee to join a club for people with high IQ's then they can't have done very much with their life.

Anyway, things moved along as they usually do, with ample proof that they aren't picking those people because they are the most capable.  That would be far too dull, I imagine.

Someone with the unlikely name of Summer volunteered to do cold calling, and promptly gave up after one call.  Brilliant.  There's a Russian guy called Lenny who'll also be gone soon, and the man from Mensa was every bit the leader that I had expected.  Oh, and the guy who got picked last seems to have read something about 'brainstorming' but not realized that it's not just about saying random things that happen to have come into your head.  He's a lawyer, I think, so that's two strikes already.

Boardroom.  Carolyn does her best to get Summer fired, but Trump is going for Mensa man when Summer interrupts him to say something of no consequence.  Haven't those people watched the show before?  Don't they know how it works?  Keep quiet.  Mensa man survived, but not for long.   

They seem to have dropped the 'immunity' option altogether.  Now, that was a daft idea.


Only one winner

The fourth series of The Apprentice has been notable for the number of times that Donald Trump has broken the rules, so it was not really a surprise that he considered hiring two people. It had been obvious for a long time that he was going to choose Randal unless he did something really stupid, and so perhaps the only way to inject some tension into the proceedings was to have the possibility of two winners.

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Week 11: Two left

Week 11 of your 13-week job interview, and what is the point of Carolyn?

The previous week she so unsettled Felisha (by telling she was rubbish) that it made her determined to be the PM whilst simultaneously destroying her self-confidence.  This made for entertaining viewing, starting from the initial discussion in which Felisha couldn't even bring herself to say that she actually wanted to be PM. Even though team mate Ulla is allegedly her friend, she certainly didn't make it any easier for her, and Ulla's comments to camera were incredibly bitchy.

The task, by the way, was to do product placement a 60 second promotional video for Microsoft Live Meeting, and for some reason that I have probably missed, Ulla is seen as expert on videos, so this made an awkward situation even worse.  Felisha spent half the time trying to take charge and the other half letting Ulla decide what to do (and wondering whether that was the right thing to do). 

Ulla decided to scrap the footage they had painstakingly shot (of Felisha getting into a cab) and show pages of dull techno-jargon instead.  Bad mistake.  Incredibly Ulla still seemed to cling to the belief that they had done a good job and how it was her brilliant idea that had won it.  The Microsoft executives were polite, but they knew (as we did) that the video was hopeless.

Once Ulla realized that she was in a minority of one, she thought she could get away with it by denying that she had made the fateful decision.  This was was ridiculous because we had seen the discussion on video and it's obvious that Trump must also have watched it (or would do so later).  He fired the pair of them, Felisha for being too weak and Ulla for being a lying bitch (I paraphrase slightly).  If that is how she treats her friends, I don't like to think how she handles people she doesn't like.

Carolyn proved that she knew nothing by agreeing that they both had to go (no surprise there - she always agrees with what Trump says), but explained that this was because they had each blamed the other, as if that never happens in The Apprentice (except, like, every week).  Trump had it right when he said that Felisha would probably admit that she deserved to be fired and Ulla should just have kept quiet - she didn't, and thereby demonstrated why she also had to go.

Team Randall did a competent job, but this was one task that he could have done with his eyes shut and one arm tied behind his back.  Rebecca smiled sweetly, hobbled around on crutches, and pretended that she was in charge, but was more than willing to let her team mate get on and win the task for them.  As a reward, Randall was re-united his wife and Rebecca had quality time with her rather dopey-looking boyfriend.


Over-thinking

Some tasks on The Apprentice just scream out 'product placement'.  It's almost as if the producers are willing to organize any old task as long as it suits their sponsors.

Hence we had the weirdest task so far - the teams were asked to select an unsigned singer, write a song with him and then record a demo.  Both would be played on XM Cafe, which is apparently an alternative rock channel (one of a mere 150 channels available on subscription from XM Radio).  Did I mention that it is on XM Radio?  Oh, I did.

Simple and straightforward task.  Three steps

  1. Find an artist who would be at home on XM Cafe
  2. Write a song that would fit with the format of XM Cafe
  3. Record the song in a style that would fit with XM Cafe

Nothing else to worry about.  No surprise that Team Excel over-thought the task and decided that they would "challenge" the audience by finding an R&B artist.  No surprise that the audience and the executives didn't really want to be challenged. 

Capital Edge seemed to be more aware of what was required, and had the sense to remind the artist and the producer that they didn't want any of that funny jazz sound thanks very much.  They won.  Clay was fired for being the most irritating contestant left.


Babbling incoherently

Funniest moment(s) so far in series 4 of The Apprentice came after Trump had fired Markus.  It is traditional at this point to thank "Mr Trump" for the opportunity, or maybe to walk out looking shocked.  Instead, but true to form, Markus babbled incoherently and in the taxi on his way "home" he couldn't put together even one coherent sentence in attempting to justify his performance.  If anyone doubted why he had to go, here was the proof.

Frankly, I'd have fired all three of them - Clay is another one who whines too much without contributing anything of value, and Adam is just too young and inexperienced to be any use.

Regular viewers will know that every week Donald Trump has to say "...and the losing team will meet me in the boardroom where someone will be fired."  Woe betide anyone from the losing team who tries to argue that they only lost narrowly or that they did a good job.  Yet the reality is that the margin between victory and defeat is often extremely narrow, often based on entirely subjective factors, and sometimes both.  So it can be rather annoying when Trump (or more often Carolyn) treats the losers as if they have done something very wrong, when maybe they have made a small mistake or just been unlucky.

Not always, though, as Excel proved when they completely missed the point of one of the challenges.  They staged a fairly spectacular baseball event in a sporting goods store, but amusingly this actually reduced sales.  Possibly not quite the ideal result, and the other team achieved a respectable sales increase, so for once Trump and his sidekicks were fully entitled to give the losing team a hard time.

Typically, TVB managed to spoil the fun by running a trailer for the show in which Trump was seen to say "you're all fired".  Hence the only suspense was finding out whether he meant the whole team or just the PM and the one or two people he brought back.  Or (as it turned out) something inbetween.

Of course, the cynical amongst us might have suspected that the culling was inevitable given that they started with 18 contestants and the show only runs for 13 weeks.  But, hey, Trump likes to look as if he is charge.


It's back

I think the word is hubris. 

In week 2 of the latest Apprentice, the men's team were delighted when they were told that the task was to develop an advertising campaign for Lamborghini.  What could possibly go wrong?  Chris works in advertising and the rest of the team are all, er, men. Throughout the task they exuded confidence, and yet they came up with a dull and confusing campaign that they roceeded to explain in minute detail.  "Here's the car, and here's water, which could kill us and yet we need it to stay alive" (I paraphrase slightly).

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The elimination game

Well, season 3 of The Apprentice is coming to an end on Star World, with two women (Tana and Kendra) the last two left standing.

I have to admit that around week 11, my shortlist would have included Tana (and Bren, Alex and Angie) but not Kendra.  Somehow she and Craig seemed to have coasted through as the weakest members of the team that kept winning (Magna).  They were helped by the way that their more high profile teammates got picked to join Net Worth and then seemed to fall apart when they got there - the best example of this being Alex and Bren messing up the Staples and Solstice tasks.   

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14 toilets and a plastic viking hat

[I was quite sure I posted this on Monday, but it disappeared for some reason]

The first series of the UK version of The Apprentice appears to have been highly successful, and here in Hong Kong we are already on to the third series of the Donald Trump original.

In the first three weeks the losing project manager has been fired each time, and it's really hard to fault the logic behind this. So far we have seen three textbook examples of weak management, all from people who must have watched the first two series and yet failed to learn a single thing. I can only assume that they have been picked because they will make the show more interesting rather than for their ability.

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Firing duds

I am trying to resist the temptation to write about ‘The Apprentice’, but I did enjoy this week’s episode so I’ll indulge myself.  This week Trump actually did something that appeared to be spontaneous and also made sense, which must be a first.  Many is the time when I’ve sat there thinking that he should fire most of the damn stupid contestants, and after seemingly coming close last week he really did fire two people this week.  They both deserved it, I have to say.

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