And now, the end is near, and so we face the final curtain ... yes folks, it’s the final of The Apprentice.
Perhaps we can judge the success of this series by the way time seems to have passed since it all began. Ve-ry ve-ry slow-ly. This one does seem to have dragged a little, it has to be said.
But Nick, Jade, Tom and Ricky should be congratulated on making it this far. Now they face the ultimate challenge — the interviews. Sweat will pour. Blood will be spilt. Seemingly rock-solid egos will crumble. Bring it on!
The candidates have to present their CVs, personal statements and business plans to the four horsemen of the apocalypse that are Claude Littner, Margaret Mountford, Mike Soutar and Matthew Riley.
If you’re in any doubt about the horror show that is to come, this is what Claude Littner says about Ricky. “I spent a sleepless night with excitement at how I was going to rip him apart”. At which point, the other rottweilers snort their approval.
So let’s get to the juicy bits.
His plan: A recruitment firm specialising in biotec and pharmaceuticals
Matthew Riley takes one look at his application and tells Ricky, “There are so many things in there that basically made me want to be sick”.
Margaret Mountford is more concerned about Ricky’s claims to be a business god — Thor to be precise. And Mike Soutar thinks it’s all show business, not real business. As they discuss Ricky’s wrestling, he asks, “Do people take you less seriously because they imagine you in lycra pants?”
But what does Claude Littner — the Simon Cowell of this process — think? “Your personal statement is the most crass, obnoxious, infantile personal statement that I’ve had the — not really pleasure — the opportunity of reading.”
But wait, Claude hasn’t finished. He adds: “However, I read your business plan and I was quite impressed.”
His plan: An online recipe-based food ordering service
Claude Littner thinks Nick’s plan looks like an academic exercise. He doesn’t even bother to lay into Nick, he just doesn’t care. Nick claims it will be as big as Google and Facebook — Claude says “dream on”.
When Nick tells Matthew Riley about his existing business — a successful venture that looks set to make a few million, Matthew is incredulous. Why is Nick even here? “Are you smoking something?” he asks.
His plan: A fine wine hedge fund that will be started with £25million of investors’ money.
Mike Soutar’s eyes light up when he discovers that this is Tom’s first ever job interview. But how has Tom managed to avoid interviews until now? He works with his father. “Are you a daddy’s boy?” asks Mike.
Tom tells Margaret that his nickname at university was BNOC — Big Name on Campus. By the look on her face, Margaret is definitely thinking of a name — but it’s not a very nice one.
Claude challenges Tom on his ability to raise the £25 million — “Can you raise the money? I say you can’t”. There’s not much Tom can say to that.
Her plan: A call centre specialising in debt solutions, energy suppliers and mobile phones. Classy.
Claude is not mad about Jade’s telemarketing concept. “That’s a pretty grubby little business you’re proposing,” he says.
Matthew grills Jade about her business education. It seems she’s forgotten something — that she got an N in her business A-level. An N, apparently, is a “near-miss” fail — a small detail that didn’t make it onto the CV.
Mike Soutar’s checking that Jade has bought all the domain names she needs for the business. She’s adamant that she owns them all — trouble is Mike has actually bought one of them the day before.
In the boardroom
Jade and Nick are quickly dismissed. So will it be Tom or Ricky?
“Is it necessary to come up with a load of old bullshit?” asks Lord Sugar as they discuss Ricky’s ridiculous bragging. That’s an easy one Lord S. No it’s not necessary in business. But I think you’ll find it’s a contractual requirement on reality TV.
The concerns about Tom include his age, his lack of experience, the fact that he has led a somewhat charmed existence and his very risky business plan.
So what kind of business is Lord Sugar looking to invest in? It turns out he’s after a safe bet. He says, “I’ve never done business with other people’s money” referring to Tom’s investment plan. And, it seems, he’s looking for the quiet life. “I’m a pensioner, I don’t want too much hard work”.
It’s a rather down-beat conclusion to a lack-lustre series.
Ricky — you’re hired.
Highly recommended: Matt Edmondson’s hilarious Funny Bits video review on the Apprentice website.