Thursday, December 9, 2010

Apprentice Watch: Lord Sugar points 'stubby finger of doom' at Liz rather than 'useless' Bagpuss

By Paul Connolly

On tour: Liz Locke sells tickets for Team Apollo's Cockney Tour Of London - but got the boot despite arguably being the best of the three

Liz has gone. It’s shocking I know but the clues were there from the start. Just a few minutes into the 10th week’s episode Liz said, ‘It’ll be almost like going on the first week if I went today. Even though I’ve achieved so much I’ll be absolutely devastated.’

At the time I thought it odd that the programme makers had chosen to include that quote. But I dismissed it – surely Lord Sugar wouldn’t be so idiotic as to fire Liz, even if last week she’d displayed a surprisingly brutish side to her when confronting Stella back at the house.

Fifty five minutes later, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one muttering oaths at Lord Sugar’s gross stupidity in falling for Stuart ‘Bagpuss’ Baggs’ ravings as The Brand desperately sought to save himself from a deserved firing and Lord Sugar chose instead to point his stubby finger of doom at Liz.

Mission failed: Team Apollo all finished their tour in Lord Sugar's boardroom

Bagpuss, who’s 21 by the way, in case you hadn’t heard, had put himself forward to project manage Liz and Stella in this week’s task of selling tours on London buses. Sure enough Baggs was soon displaying a deft touch for man management.

After Stella had persuaded Baggs and Liz to back her Cockney tour, Baggs, charmingly, had this to say: ‘Stella needs to put up or shut up. If we lose it’s her fault.’

Over on Team Synergy, Jo was project managing and her, shall we say, abrasive side, hidden since the early episodes, was on full display as she nagged – no, harassed – Jamie as they planned his Ghosts and Ghouls tour.

Never mind Jamie, after five minutes of her relentlessly haranguing in her fingernails-on-a-blackboard voice, I was ready to give her a clout. How Jamie withstood a couple of hours of it and retained his sanity I don’t know.

Tour guide face-off: Stuart Baggs, in the red, tells Synergy rival Chris Bates to get off his patch as they tout for business

Back over on Team Bagpuss, The Brand was saying something you just knew would come back to bit him on the bottom. ‘Let’s set the price at £35. Lord Sugar won’t shout at us for charging too much.’

He will if you don’t sell enough tickets, you plonker. The folk at the London Tourist Office, who the teams were hoping would help sell their tours, certainly thought he was charging too much.

Chris Bates, however, Jo and Jamie’s colleague, took the initiative by offering the tourist office a very sweet deal – 20% of all their revenue, including tickets not sold by the tourist office, drinks, merchandise and tips. It was a very bold move. And Jo was not happy. ‘Absolute foolishness,’ she barked at Chris. His upper lip remained stiff under the assault.

Spooky: Strangely enough, the tourism office was having none of it when Jo tried to back out of the deal

Jo, in a very unprofessional episode, even tried to renege on the deal but the tourist office wouldn’t budge.

She then went on to try to sell the Ghosts and Ghouls tour to some Far Eastern tourists. ‘Big Ben? The Eye? BUCKINGHAM PALACE?’ she shouted at them. They looked utterly nonplussed.

The older one spoke to her companions. I reckon she was saying, ‘London? I thought we were in Oslo. Who’s got the map? And why is that lady with the funny voice angry with us?’

Bagpuss bluster: Yet again, Stuart Baggs had virtually no sales strategy despite boasts to the contrary

Bagpuss was also ‘selling’, in that odious way that Bagpuss sells. ‘Come to London and have a taste of my eels,’ he bellowed, quite possibly emotionally scarring anyone who could make out what the dolt was saying.

On the bus, tour guide Jamie was a hoot. He wasn’t always intentionally funny. ‘To your right is the Thames – it’s the second largest river in London.’

‘In front of you is Big Ben. The face of the clock is 20 diameters in width.’

‘You see that building which looks like a gherkin? It’s called the Gherkin because it looks like a gherkin.’

“Westminster Abbey is an important part of English history. So you can go there and, well, it’s a church.’

On the buses: Jamie was a funny, if not very knowledgeable tour guide - seen here leading a singalong of London's Burning

I firmly believe that Jamie was making it up as he went along but it didn’t really matter as he did it all with such enthusiasm and gusto.

Meanwhile Bagpuss who, let’s not forget, once said that ‘Everything I touch turns to sold,’ was so lacking in a sales strategy that he had resorted to trying to steal the other team’s prospects. Chris wasn’t having it. ‘Stuart, just **** off,’ Chris said wearily.

‘No, you **** off,’ said Stuart, 21, before he bumped his forehead against Chris’s chest. ‘Why don’t you hit me then?’

7m viewers shouted ‘Do it!’

Chris looked disgusted and walked off.

No stars: Stella ended up giving a tour to a virtually empty after Stuart's hopeless sales pitch

As a consequence of Baggs’s utter lack of sales nous, poor Stella was left with mostly empty tour buses, so it was no surprise that she became quite lost in the East End and never found the jellied eel stall they’d promised their customers.

It was quite clear that Jo’s team had won even before they returned to the boardroom. Chris’s audacious deal had paid off and they had earned £300 more than Team Bagpuss. Surely Baggs was toast.

Stella seemed to agree. ‘The writing’s on the wall for Stuart – he knows he screwed up.’

In the boardroom it became clear that Stuart had been outsold by Liz 2-1. So Bagpuss, 21, began to bluster. ‘I’ll work weekends, I’m not 9-5. I’ll work Sundays.’ Lord Sugar was reassuringly dismissive at first. “I don’t need a nightwatchman.’

‘I’ll make you so proud of me,’ Baggs continued. ‘I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a ten-trick pony, I’ve got a whole field of ponies waiting to literally run towards this.’ Literally, Stuart? In the waiting room right now? Who’s going to muck them out? It could get quite whiffy.

Bagpuss by now seemed to be just firing out random words. ‘New company. Millions. Selling. Telecoms company. Yo-yos. Own flat. Bank accounts.’

You're fired: Liz takes the walk of shame to the waiting taxi

But it may well have been something slightly more sinister than random words – a spell, perhaps - because, suddenly, Lord Sugar was bewitched. Talking to Liz as he fired her he said, ‘As nutty it sounds what he said makes more sense to me.’

Sense? Really, Lord Sugar? He’s not made one jot of sense for the entire series. He can’t sell, manage or be creative. The man is useless, Lord Sugar, and he’s somehow dazzled you with stories of yo-yos and ponies. And you’ve just fired one of the best candidates in a long while.

Still, can’t wait to see The Brand dismantled in the interviews next week. That should be great television. Hmm, there might just be a method to Lord Sugar's madness after all.


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