Sorry it’s late – small matter of running www.colchestercomedyfestival.co.uk until 16th October. (p.s. [shameless plug]please come along to it – it’s great![/])

Anyhow it’s Week 1 of the Apprentice and the voiceover reminds us grimly that “In times of economic turmoil one man stands firm”, yes it’s our favourite beardy bollock-faced barrow boy billionaire Lord Alan Sugar who yet again is offering £250k and the chance to lick envelopes in a freezing cold warehouse as his “business partner” to one from another veritable cavalcade (18 of them for fucksake) of shiny haired snappy suited vacuous corpobots.

Why here they come bounded up escalators and looking serious and thoughtful on moving floors. There’s 12 weeks of some of them to put up with and the worst that will happen to them is they get to sit in a corrugated Café and look sad or go away in a cab wearing a different outfit to the one they appears to have on in the edit only minutes ago.

There’s Karthik (which also works as an easy way to remember what Jeremy Clarkson likes and is), a monobrowed IT Consultant with a nice line in polite and slightly nerdy megalomania which smacks of way too many role playing games in his youth. “I will be an emperor, the world is not enough!” he proclaims, later stating that he WILL be Prime Minister but first he will be a billionaire (which looking at the government seems to be how it works nowadays).

Courtney looks about 12 and apparently has a weird obsession with Leonardo di Caprio, but insists that “behind my boyish” (i.e. spotty) “good looks there’s a very shrewd businessman”. At least we know it’s not Savile.

There’s even a twat in a bow tie. Sorry he’s probably lovely but that’s just an automatic response isn’t it?

I quite like slightly bonkers business consultant Aleksandra who is starting to remind me of a power dressing Amy from the Big Bang theory what with her references to her sheer energy mimicking “that of a nuclear explosion” and her managing to convince the girls to select the most geeky team name ever, one that would get you beaten up in any self-respecting playground.

Nebula” splutters Lord Sugar when it’s broken to him. “Isn’t that toxic gas in space?” “It’s an interstellar collection of dust and clouds” Aleksandra insists proudly (still WTF?). “You could have called yourself SMOG” Sugar retorts to her bewilderment. Alana reckons nebula sounds “like a disease”. Maybe she’s thinking of crabs.

The candidates hand in their business plans at the boardroom and Sugar declares he has no time for moaners who should either buy themselves “a scratchcard” or email him at lordsugar idontcare dot com (sadly Karthik doesn’t point out that this won’t work as there’s no “@” symbol, but he DOES point out that he likes to be known as “Big K” (“to my friends and fans, but you can call me K if you like..” I’m sure Lord Sugar will remember to use the “Wan” suffix and “Er” prefix as well!).

Alana’s CV states that she “reacts badly to being shouted at” (worrying that this would happen to a woman who makes cakes) and she looks a bit wobbly when Sugar suggests she might have a problem with him then.

Lovely smilie posh Olly owns a Cumberland Sausage business and looks very jolly when Lord Sugar declares he loves the sausage.

JD looks like Jack Dee and Larry Hagman pressed together into a too-tight suit (he owns a beach wear company which gives me a horrifying thought of him in a mankini). He looks like someone who would call himself “No nonsense” and his CV states he has “gumption and balls” (“like Olly’s sausages” quips Sugar). JD’s good value for his need to be as MANLY as possible in every situation, which in reality renders him camper than the entire cast of 300 Rahhing in unison. It’s he who coins the boys’ team name TITAN (rahh!) rather than “Assassin” (This from Dillon St Paul, art director in a fashion magazine and not apparently some Keith Lemon character who declares “I’m king of the truth bomb” (yeah preach it!) like it means something. I think Dillon should launch a men’s cologne after he’s fired “Assassin… By Dillon St Paul.. King of the Truth Bomb” has a certain ring to it, but no Titan wins. “Cos we’re Titans of industry- leaders of MEN” JD explains to the bemused faces around him.

The name reminds me immediately of giant sized condoms, rather than motherfuckin “mythological Greek badasses” (JD) – and what do you know?

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Oh hello here’s a “character”, it’s digital marketer Jessica “I’m mad me!” Cunningham. “You’re very excited” Karen says sniffily as Jess twitches and gurns and shrieks with delight at things giddily. “I’m rrreaallly nervous” Jess blusters merrily. Karen’s not impressed “Take a breath” she orders (and keep holding it she thinks). Jess reckons people say she’s the “female Jim Carrey” as though she’s blithely unaware that they’re calling her annoying.

She reminds me of Nina Conti doing an impression of Peggy from HidiHi – just look at her being mad!

Anyhow the task is to go to Lord Sugar’s secret lock up garages full of tut nicked off which he explains also contain some collectables and “diamonds” (whatever!) and tidy them out for him identify things to sell to public and trade. Most sales win and the very important message is “SUSS OUT WHAT’S VALUABLE AND WHAT ISN’T. DON’T RUSH OUT BUT THINK WHERE THE VALUE IS”. Hmm I wonder if this may prove to be key advice.

Claude follows the girls with a sneer of his face like they all smell. Karen follows the boys.

In the girls car the more mature mortgage company owner Michelle thinks the girls will “work well together” and all the other girls give her “yea sure!” hacky looks.

First stop is the Argos decorated flat where Jess bounces joyously on the bed and everyone looks at her and thinks “twelve frickin weeks” and K falls in love with the mirror (“I love you”).

The boys pick a Project Manager. Whilst slightly geezerish Sofiane says he started work on street markets, and even sausage boy Olly has friends with antique shops they choose Paul because he watches Bargain Hunt. Right you are.

The girls compete wildly to avoid being leader. Feisty Frances who’s just bragged about being a karate champ and up for a fight declares herself out. Madforit Jess admits to some car boot sale experience but says she still hasn’t “got the foggiest”, so it falls to the rather dour Michelle who reckons she has been chosen because she’s “strongest. They think I’m a threat” and not because the women’s teams have been getting so rubbish in the last few series that it’s highly likely that she’ll be first out. Michelle aims to maximise on sales but doesn’t mention value. Oh no Michelle… remember what the wise old bearded bollock told you.

Over on the Titans (giggle) Sofiane immediately identifies that this task is all about getting decent prices and sticking to a pricing strategy so Paul sensibly appoints him subteam leader to head up their Wimbledon market operations. Nebula look like they might have a ringer too with cake girl Alana stating that she does markets “Yeaah” she says uncertainly “I’m a market trader”.

What sort of tie do you wear at 3am to go to Lord Sugar’s dodgy garage of knock-off auction reject tut. Why if you’re K one with evil looking alien santas on it!

Jess is still horrendously lively at 3am (“GAME FACE!” *shudder*). Michelle wants to make sure the team is not too excitable. Good luck with that with Jess insisting that if she find the (obviously nonexistent) diamonds they’re going straight down her bra, finding several pairs of jugs just so she can say “What a nice pair of jugs” (OK I admit that was funny the first time) and pretending to hilariously drop things.

The boys just get all practical and lug the lot of it out into their van.

Dahhn the market and Sofiane is bloody brilliant at making sure the boys don’t undervalue anything (“Start high yeah and work dahhn”) and he has a pretty good idea of how much the stuff’s worth (clocking a leather chair as worth easily £200 – later the expert Paul gets to speedily check their stock early on in the day says they could sell it for up to £300). Even Karen’s impressed.

The girls however bung everything on a rail with a sign saying £15 each then knocking things down to £7 at the first hint of a haggle. It’s embarrassing for me to watch and Claude can barely look as salon owner Natalie flogs some pricy looking glass vases for £15 (“I think I’m doing well but we might be undervaluing things – there’s no pricing strategy just guesswork” she admits). And you know that leather chair. Frances haggles some woman up to sell it for erm £17.50 (and is chuffed with how badass her haggling was – oh dear).

Michelle visits antique experts for their opinions after her market team have given away most of her valuable stuff for peanuts and after spending ages there completely ignores his advice, the key one being “Take all your stock to Portobello – they love antiques and shit there”). She decides to “go with her gut” to Camden (because the expert didn’t say “don’t go to Camden” – he also didn’t say “Get in the sea”). Unfortunately she decides to take a detour to a dealer on the way and fails to inform the van driver with all their dodgy gear so he trundles on to Camden. Claude does a BIG facepalm!

Sofiane who is bossing this task suggests that the market team should move to Portobello as they can flog antiques there at higher prices. Paul wisely agrees. He continues sticking to his prices at Portobello and Karen pretends to be concerned he won’t get the sales like there’s any remote competition here.

At Camden where all the girls market team have also arrived start flogging everything three for a quid. Classy! Rebecca who’s like a dithery female Rodney out of only Fools and Horses asks what prices they can drop. Alana thinks they should “Stick at what’s written down but go lower if needed”. Rebecca’s confused “What’s lower?” Alana: “Up to 50%” Rebecca (happy) “OK so cut to 50%” Alana: “Noooooo!”.

Paul’s trade subteam isn’t doing as well as he drags the chair and an Abigail’s Party drinks party round top end Chelsea antiques dealers of the “I Saw You Coming” variety so they can all pull Brian Sewell faces and sneer at the boys. Samuel worries about Paul’s lack of leadership and “Sausage supremo” Olly isn’t happy being ordered to polish the sodding chair but Paul insists that they trust him yeah.

Olly just wants to sell sell sell though and sell sell sell he does, unfortunately to Dave some mate the real antique shop lets sit in his chair but who is definitely NOT allowed to spend money so his £300 deal turns out to be 30 minutes wasted as Karen points out if they don’t get cash on the day the item isn’t sold. Both she and Samuel point out you should check beforehand that a bloke in a shop has authority to purchase things and is not just a “Dave”. Paul phones Sofiane and starts to relate this unhappy tale, but Sofiane is completely unruffled (“You don’t need to explain”). I’m feeling the Sofiane love already.

The trade team girls flail around Camden Lock trying to find their market team with Jess offering typically lunatic directions (“We’re by two huge titanium statues.. do you know the robots in the stables). Michelle takes her last remaining silverware into a shop selling t-shirts and bongs and they get completely fleeced by a dodgy bloke (“It’s worth £180” “I’ll give you £75 tops” “Can we get £85” “£80” “Done”) who convinces them that their hallmarked silver isn’t real and is probably going to buy a gold plated caravan thanks to the profit he’s making out of this team. Trishna (who actually seems quite sensible and also wanted Michelle to go to Portobello) is outraged when Jess pops up mid her sale for over £50 and offers £25 which the bloke gladly accepts. Jess admits her error “right – he did bite my hand off sorry” before going back to gamely holding up jugs and gurning some more. Alana’s reduced to flogging off the rest of her stock for £55 in a shop whilst Aleksandra does some more Nebula style haggling up from £30 (“You say £33 and you got a deal” “OK £33” **Alana looks smug**).

Paul pops up as Sofiane is desperately trying to motivate his sale failing teammates Courtney (“It feels like I’m flogging a load of shit”) and bow tie twat (who is actually called Mukai) who is quite posh and wearing a bow tie but still not capable of selling antiques FFS. Paul finally slashes Sofianes prices. I just love the sound of money K purrs. It’s also the sound of toilet paper mate.

Michelle looks fairly hatchet faced and unrepentant of what I’d call a bad day (“It’s my job to remain calm, if I’d crumbled or had no strategy at all wewould have done badly” – erm).

Back in the boardroom and Alana’s bragging about how quickly she sold all her crap. “Did you value it first?” Sugar asks. Alana looks crestfallen. Jess manages to get in a comment about finding “nice jugs” for the billionth time and Michelle gets bollocked for not listening to the expert and managing to turn up to a dealer without any stock. Still Michelle reckonds her team were 100% behind her, until Rebecca (who is desperate to distant herself from failure) slags off her lack of a pricing strategy and Michelle shoots her evils (“Everyone else on the team knew the strategy” – ooh you lying cow Michelle!).

Sofiane gets kudos for selling a “garden erm porcelain thing” (“A vase?” Courtney offers helpfully) for £175 when it only cost £7. Unfortunately for the girls Natalie managed to sell two vases worth £300 for £15. “Erm sorry” she mumbles nonapologetically.

Courtney tries to weasel his way into Sofiane’s glory by claiming his sales approach was different and “subtle” (in that it didn’t involve selling).

Anyhow the boys only sold £371 worth to Trade whereas the girls made £540.

The non-surprise of the night is that whilst the girls made £419 on the market and made £959 in total, Sofiane’s market team smashed it with £1057.10 on the market making £1428.10 for the Titans in total. There’s understandable fistipumps and they get the treat of a “vintage” dance class, whereas a doomed looking Michelle takes the girls for bitching and decaf in the corrugated cafe of Despair.

Back in the boardroom everyone blames Michelle except Michelle who thought her sub team were big enough & ugly enough to think up pricing strategy with ZERO input from their leader. It turns into yet another traditional massively unedifying catfight (go SISTERS!) and Michelle brings in Alana and Rebeccca who looks mortally wounded and starts pleading pathetically (“How am I responsible for the loss of a task” and gets so teary and whingy I start praying for a double firing. “This is NOT what I do, I build relationships with people” Rebecca insists gulping back tears like she’s trying to stop someone dumping here (yeah nice job with relationship building there!). Michelle insists she shouldn’t have to “babysit” anyone, but ultimately she took on the role of PM and has to take the rap and it’s her who’s dismissed by Sugar’s finger of scorn. “THANK you VERY much for the opportunity “ she sneers in what has to be one of the most wonderfully graceless boardroom exits. Even in the taxi of defeat she is unapologetically nasty (when a person boasts about being “SO straight talking” you know they’re going to be a bit of a dick) and clearly has it in for Alana (“It won’t be too long before she gets fired).

Next week the teams advertise jeans and somehow manage to do so without any actual jeans. There will be tears and there WILL be twattishness.

Got the love for: Sofiane

Liking: Olly, K (he’s hilarious!), Aleksandra, Samuel, Trishna

Amused by: JD

Unimpressed by: Paul, Courtney, Natalie, Frances, Dillon, Alana, Grainne

She’s Mad She Is and the Jury is Out On: Jess

Twat in a Bow Tie: Mukai

Sort Yourself Out: Rebecca

Bye Bye: Michelle

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