The Apprentice is back. Tonight, Series 6 sauntered into our living room to fill that gaping recess in the nation’s hearts.
It’s a winning formula that rightly hasn’t been tampered with. Take sixteen of the most misplacedly-confident, attention-starving “entrepreneurs” (just like Peaches Geldof is a “journalist” and I “read” Ulysses at university) and let havoc commence. It’s like shooting suited, shit-spouting fish in a barrel for Lord Sugar, Nick Hewer and new girl Karen Brady. You don't have to be a multimillionaire rags-to-riches success story to point out their shortcomings, but it helps.
The shit was flying before the start credits had even finished. The usual train station montage was interspersed with candidates saying things like “My first word wasn’t mummy, it was money,” or “Everything I touch turns to sold.” Alan Sugar? More like lines from a recession-era Alan Partridge.
Once given the task of buying, making and peddling sausages to Londoners and dispatched to Smithfield Market, the issue of team names came up. Apollo was cringe from the ladies, but it had more lift-off than the men’s Synergy. Apparently, shruggable boardroom jargon means something; maybe they’ve been watching too much 30 Rock.
The Herculean boasting and flexing of business brawn briefly shut down when it came to choosing team leader, and a tumbleweed silence drifted across both groups. Then, when the lambs for the slaughter volunteered themselves (Dan and Joanna), did they all start up again.
Having bought their woeful, orphan-grade meat to fob off on the capital’s unsuspecting carnivores, Dan soon showed the leadership style of Francisco Franco, assigning each person a role and bellowing orders, with the intensity and looks of Barney Rubble post-Betty-divorce.
The women won. They went for a mixture of flavours, higher quality meat, they didn’t mess up for quite as long as the men in sausage production and employed a more efficient selling and leadership technique. That wasn’t difficult when Stuart the Anti-Midas's method was wholesale harassment, and blue-eyed Dan had all the hallmarks of a mini Hitler, shouting down any objections to his iron rule. It was Synergy by name, not by nature.
Ah, Stuart. Down to the final three in the boardroom, 21 year old Stuart belied his years by displaying the obnoxiousness and misplaced arrogance of a truly veteran prick. His uber-confident boadroom argument was based around rewording “But how many did you sell?” to Dan over and over again.
The best bit was when he punched the numbers into an invisible calculator, looked at the imaginary “zero” and then screwed up his extremely-punchable crowing face to Dan, before claiming that he – sorry, Stuart Baggs, the brand - was “one of the best businessmen in the country, if not the world.”
Meanwhile, neither a massive twat or an Ayran-alike close to a violent, rampaging breakdown, Alex ummed and aahed, his hangdog expression giving at least a description to someone who looks like a real contender for The World’s Most Boring Man competition.
Fortunately for Alex and Stuart, because crazy eyes Dan had been too busy leading the group – ie. belittling them and marching around like a drill sergeant – to sell anything himself, he got the chop.
Back at the central London Georgian townhouse – why not, just once, give them Croydon Travellodge, for poops and giggles? - the women screamed in unison at the swimming pool (“We can narcisistically stare at our own reflections in the water! Eeee!”) and glugged champagne.
It’s early days yet, but there are already some stars waiting in the wings for coming weeks. Take token toff Raleigh Addington, whose parents were evidently Dallas characters with a penchant for cycling. The young graduate is clearly in way over his head, but had his own little pop at Dan, adding “It’s shameful!” and pointing with histrionic, J'Accuse intensity.
Then there’s Jamie and Chris. Footballer looks, intact senses of “hang on, this is actually bullshit” self-awareness and good timing? They’ll make it down to the last few.
Standing out from an outwardly nondescript women’s group, Jenny Éclair-a-like Melissa also had a little sniping match with the team leader. Too right; Joanna did seem more than a little makeshift, but with a narrow victory in the bag, the women postponed their cat noises and petty backbiting for a later date.
All in all, the Apprentice settled right back into the groove. A meaty start to what is going to be another good series.