It feels more sensible than an awards post…
So here we are, at the end of the series, and time to bundle up my thoughts on this year’s candidates. And what better way to do that than a facile ranking post? From now til just after the Monkies are revealed, I will slowly be counting down the 16 candidates from this year’s Apprentice. Not in terms of likability, not in terms of competence, not even in terms of drama solely. More how much I think they contributed to the gaiety of this series.
16. Raleigh Addington
15. Joy Stefanicki
An obvious pair to start off with then – the two that turned up, bursting with upper-middle-class enthusiasm, bounced around a lot, mostly off-camera, then gave us an inspired moment of Boardroom Madness or two before departing to the other side of the veil in episode 2. Raleigh probably has the edge with the general public – he was posher (always helps), he quit for noble purposes (to tend to his injured soldier brother), and his Boardroom Meltdown was both more bombastic and in the pursuit of bringing down Dan, but for me, the one pointless position advantage has to go to Joy. I’ve always had a soft spot for soppy, edgeless, PR/Admin Queens and even in her short time on the show Joy called herself Tigger, apologised, apologised for apologising, get hysterically passive-aggressive over being called out on apologising for apologising, contributed nothing of any lasting value, and huffed “oh MAN!” after she got fired. Even positioning herself as the only woman to recognise what a mess the Beach Task Boardroom was turning into somehow made her appear even more soppy and hysterical. I only wish she could have stayed longer.
14. Christopher Farrell
I think it’s often the case that candidates with good records on paper (one PM win out of one, 4 wins out of 8 tasks, never in the boardroom), who get fired for good, but not exactly explosive reasons, who aren’t necessarily awful people, get under-edited so that people aren’t too upset when they’re gone. Personally I think Christopher was probably just that dull. More or less solid guy (occasional issues with women, and trying to force them into bikinis, or have sex with him dressed as an octypus aside), who advanced by sticking doggedly to his skill-set of practical organisation of manual labour (and lucky in that sense that series featured so many production lines) and hard sales, and standing solidly and function-less in the background when those skills weren’t required, Christopher was basically a hired hand more than he was a contestant. Occasional Drag Queen Pout of Indignation aside, he stayed out of drama, and hence…wasn’t much use to me really.
13. Sandeesh Samra
Even by this show’s female-casting standards it was obvious that Sandeesh was cast for one pair of assets in particular. That’s right – her eyes. Those giant, bush-baby, perma-liner’ed weapons were I think what dragged her through two months worth of show all by themselves. If they were a separate entity, they probably would have made interviews, and been much higher on this end-of-series ranking, but sadly they were a pair of exceptional eyes trapped inside a fairly unremarkable candidate. One of the things I think the show does best is always have slightly more people per task than is really necessary, so you can observe who decides to slide into the unimportant surplus roles more often than the others. Sandeesh did this to a T, and pretty much all her on-show storylines were related to it. Being Invisigirl? Yup. Getting into a death-feud with Paloma over Paloma’s unwillingness to take on these useless roles? Yup. Pitching a juvie fit because Shibby decided to make an unimportant role really important without her permission? Yup. Being really good at these unimportant roles, but still being inherently unimportant, so frequently Boardroom bound? Yup. Completely delegating all responsibility as Project Manager (finally, after a really unnecessary storyline where she was just basically told to wait around for a month until Lordalan could remember to tell her that she existed again) to her Best Buddies in the Cool Kids Clique? Yup. Sandeesh was just an Apprentice Under The Radar Asian Babe (oh hai Sara! Hi…Ghazal, or whatever it is you’re allowing people to get away with calling you!) with cloaking technology resistant eyes.
12. Shibby Robati
Lindsay Bogaard. Alexa Tiley. Paul Callaghan. Ian Stringer. Kimberlypuff. Every series has one at least. The contestant that navigates the first few weeks succesfully, keeping their head down, putting in solid work, getting on with everyone, being a team player. Then suddenly it’s their turn to Project Manager and it all goes down faster than (*outdated misogynist reference*) on a first date. And so it was with Shibby. He seemed like a contender for the first few episodes (if you ignored him getting a plum “I’m going to say something stupid now” spot in the opening montage) and then came Shibby’s Bakery. Which he decided should produce everything, and be powered by psychic Oompa-Loompas (Liz brings the orange, Sandeesh brings the height, Chris brings the rich bass singing voice and the green hair if that peroxide goes any more wrong) who knew orders they were never told. Paloma in particular did a mean Veruca Salt. In response to its failure Shibby mostly just shouted at things – clients, Paloma, Lordalan, the windows of his Apprenticar rather than taking any practical steps to remedy anything, and hence became the one positive check-mark that Paloma can point to in the giant tick-sheet that was “Paloma’s War On Everything”. Then he came back for the final and did gay hand. Oh Shibby…
11. Jamie Lester
I feel like I owe Jamie something of an apology. Not much of one obviously – I still find him fairly objectionable. But in a series where I found most of the designated baddies (Stubaggs, Melissa, Paloma) fairly endearing, I had to latch on to someone fairly mundane to be the target of my ire. Don’t get me wrong – he was still bafflingly superior, he still was unable to take instruction or stop giving it out, and I’m still annoyed that he managed to “win” both of his feuds (against Melissa and against Joanna) but…well it’s not as though he called someone an alcoholic and wished that they got run over to death or anything. On the flip-side, wanton cliché abuse aside, he never really did anything to provoke head-scratching laughter or derision either. He was there, he was quite good, he was quite obnoxious, he fell to bits at interview and got fired accordingly. As villain-arcs go, it’s kind of a disappointing one.
10. Liz Locke
In retrospect I have to wonder if Liz Locke was even real. It seems like she was built by the editors, like a Blade Runner replicant, and spent the entire series gradually being prepared, like a Vestal virgin, to be sacrificed to Stubaggs so we could all rail at his bullshitty villainy and hate him extra hard for conning Lordalan. The problem is that in ironing all the edge off her personality, leaving her with pretty much nothing apart from a professed belief in “fashion, fitness and fun” as her life philosophy (how dull). Occasional flashes of personality and bizarreness shone through (constant shots of Laura telling her to shut up in the beach product task, her selling more of the Baby Glow than should have been humanly possible, her opening late and flat-out lying to Lordalan in the fashion task, her getting hurled out of a German hotel, her sleazing all over Tony and random bitching out of Stella during the buying task, vibrating face-twitching as she got fired, and constant eye-rolling reaction and boggle-eyed reaction to everything in the background) that made me think that if the editors weren’t so determined to rebuild Miriam Staley (who I didn’t really care for either) from scratch we might have got an interesting character. Instead we got a mostly blandly competent victim for men to White Knight over. Ah well.
9. Laura Moore
It’s a long time since I was as excited about a contestant as I was about Laura Moore to begin with. Slouching around in her promo picture looking like a sultry Imelda Staunton, bragging about earning millions for a company that definitely existed, having abandoned childhood dreams of being an astronaut or an aviatrix, all in a glamorous upper middle-class 1930s Mitford Sister esque frame. What sort of glam adventures could I look forward to? Would she lead the team up the amazon in a pith helmet for this year’s foreign task? Seduce racing-car drivers and hotel doormen? Steal the Amstrad Diamond from under Lordalan’s nose before laughing all the way to the bank? No, no she would not. Beyond her forcing through the exciting Team Apollo branding, we got nothing except whinging, undermining, self-pity and flounces. Frankly, if Kaen were in any way consistent with her “not only is your behaviour poor, it REINFORCES NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES ABOUT WIMMIN IN BIZNIZZ!” speechifying she would have followed around Laura for the entirety of her two month stay never stopping until Laura shoved her off the ferry on the way to Germany. Beyond her terrifying, dizzying Week Two hysterics Laura didn’t have many other stand-out moments (calling Stella a “piece of shit” aside) but what a dizzying height that was.
8. Dan Harris
Whilst in America, Apprentice first boots are often big characters who explode spectacularly – crazed Latina sexists, waffling University professors, glaze-eyed beauty queens, crunchy cross-eyed hippies, Andrew Dice Clay… UK first boots on the other hand are usually neat comedy stereotypes, but they don’t usually do much worth a firing. Nick didn’t like football, Adenike was sulky, Anita…didn’t do something that nobody else did either. So thank the lord for Dan Harris, for being a terrifying negative force, spewing business cliches, screaming at everyone, deciding his primary role on the task was…stocktaking, and worst of all, SLOUCHING. There’s a reason Dan is, at the time of writing, still in the running for both Worst Personality and Least Competent in my end of series polls, despite appearing in all of one episode, and not even losing by that large a margin. He was just such a very concentrated shot of douche that that was all we needed to judge him, even without the benefit of an Invisible Calculator. Although that helped.
7. Melissa Cohen
Oh Melissa… Some people’s stay in the programme is little more than an extended run of Catch The Pigeon. Just put there for the comedy of them narrowly escaping landing in the Boardroom week upon week, because you know darn-well for sure that Lordalan will boot them sight unseen the first time they land there. Melissa’s stay on the programme was only a month – but what a month. Firstly riding Joanna for all of the first task basically yelling “I WILL BE FIRED IF WE LOSE!” (/”PROFF-ESH-UN-UL-ISM). Then, despite pitching in a manner fit to make the baby Jesus cry, she someone survived Laura’s scattergun “names out of a hat” method of choosing Boardroom opponents. Then she won a task as Project Manager. Scientists are still trying to work out quite this happened. Finally she met her Waterloo in a task that revolved solely around pitching – the point which formed the zenith of Melissa’s estimation of her abilities and the nadir of their reality (much like Project Managing was to Stubaggs). Unable to find another corner to hide in, she was thrust into the light, spouting neologisms every five seconds, and promptly evaporated in a poof of spite. She reconfigured her atoms in time to come back for the final, but she almost seemed sane then. Boo.
6. Alex Epstein
On the final “You’re Hired”, Lordalan was asked what he thought about the strength of this year’s candidates. He very guardedly said that, because the nation is undergoing such…troubled times, the producers decided to recruit unemployed people, people who’d suffered in the recession, people fresh out of University, and people who’d started up their own businesses from scratch from untraditional backgrounds, so as to give a different mix. Of course then he went and hired the icy corporate blonde what got us into this mess in the first place, oops, but no matter, really that speech was mostly I think about explaining away Alex. An “unemployed communications manager” who used to work for a mysterious benefactor (/wizard) but who had to be let go due to the current financial situation. And not at all because he was a giant, sweaty, gesticulating putz or anything. Cursed slightly with being one of the few creative people in the series, and then doubly so by his creativity being “dads love a boozy banger” and random European accents, Alex is ultimately doomed to be the “with regret” that everyone forgets got a “with regret”, because people like to think a “with regret” is meaningful, when it so isn’t. Natalie from Series 3 got a “with regret”. Say no more. He did admittedly have a few upsides, even if they were mostly of the “less off-putting than Melissa…marginally” kind. Mostly I shall remember him for The Claw, which got waved around will-nilly, regardless of appropriateness. Oh and “DO YOU LIKE THIS DRESS?” obviously. Classic.
5. Paloma Vivanco
If nothing else she’s clearly got the best name out of all this year’s contestants. Paloma Vivanco. Just say it out loud. Beautiful. Paloma’s audition tape started with a never fully-explained story about her cleaning blood off the walls of her business/house/whatever, and she more or less carried on in that vein from there, slicing up everybody who came into contact with her with a unwavering self-belief that bordered on the delusional. A wonderful mix of relentlessly efficient and complete unable to make anything other than completely the wrong decision about EVERYTHING Paloma was a formidable pre-interview force – just crappy and bitchy enough to cause drama wherever she went, not quite crappy and bitchy enough that she wasn’t able to skate away scott-free most of the time. Until Week 5, when she went on a Boardroom Rant that will live forever, so powerful that it took out herself, Ales AND Sandeesh in quick succession over a three week period. And that kind of vituperation needs to be recognised. Beautiful, masculine, mad as a snake, the legend of Paloma will live forever. Or at least until an even bigger, more negative bee-hatch emerges next series. Then I’ll forget her completely.
4. Stuart Baggs
Stubaggs then. This year’s “comedy contestant” and Lord how hard they pushed it. I might even have liked him more if the “ZOMG COMEDY GOLD!” push hadn’t got quite so hard towards the end. Stubaggs brought to the table all the right elements for an Apprentice Comedy Villain – a funny name, a keen wit, a set of ridiculous prejudices (in his case that a 30/31 year old woman was over the hill AND THEN SHE WON ZOMG SEXY AGEISM IS DEAD FOREVER), and an estimation of his own skills that overlapped only barely with what they actually were in reality. His announcement that the top was the only place he fit into any organisation is still my favourite deludanoid bragterview of the series. Stubaggs brought grandiosity, mendacity, and a Harold Bishop jowl-wobble of indignation for every occasion. Even if they left him in to cook for a little too long, so that when he was finally eaten up it was a bit chewy and unsatisfying, the man still brought us his invisible calculator and the field of Business Ponies waiting to be harnessed and ALMOST game us our first Apprentice fist-fight, and hey, all criticism bounced off him like rubber bullets off the hide of an elephant, so I guess we can all just mock away guilt free. Huzzah!
3. Stella English
It’s not easy being a winner on The Apprentice. You have to be the eye of calm around which the madness swirls, whilst still being enough of a character that people remember who you are at the end. And so it was that for most of the series Stella stood on the sidelines looking exasperated at the lunatic antics around her. People bang on about her leading the boys to (sort of) victory in the Beach Products task, but nothing I think exemplifies Stella’s run through the tasks better than her face of boredom as she tried to mechanically wrangle Alex and Melissa as they both screamed at each other about their GCSE results. To be frank, Stella seemed bored for most of the silly infantile tasks (as demonstrated by the level of horror on her face when she discovered that Alex had secured an advert in the Fashion Task – as though she’d just discovered that her favourite flavour wasn’t right at the end of the packet of Starburst), making mistakes out of that boredom periodically. Until interviews, the only real personality she showed was refratced in the buckled armour of the other contestants, who for the most part treated her with suspicion at best. It was only with said interviews when she truly came to life, tearing through all the interviewers deftly, before winding up in the Final. Where she went nuts, as was well documented. So there came the personality, when it was too late to do anything about it. Staple on a tragic backstory, and there we have, if not the best winner ever, certainly one of the most memorable.
2. Joanna Riley
There is such a thing in the world of reality tv as a “journey”. You may have heard of it. A contestant starts off in one place, emotionally, and winds up in entirely another. In a positive way naturally, so their tale of redemption warms the heart of the viewer. Mark Ramprakash became a sex god, Nadia found acceptance as a transsexual, Leona learned how to talk… Anyway, you couldn’t have written Joanna’s “journey” better if you were Willy Russell himself. She entered a mouthy, chippy cleaner from Leicester, she aced pretty much all the silly meaningless tasks that the show could threw at her via a mixture of natural business instinct, then came into the Interviews in the strongest position on paper, in an ironic twist on her CV being the worst…before crumbling completely due to her own inferiority complex and buckling at the knees as she stumbled out in fourth place. It was an epic journey, full of high drama, which Joanna emerged from, stronger, prouder, and ready to move on with her life as a successful businesswoman in her own right. Then she came back for the final and was alright. Kind of took the edge off a bit. Probably why she’s not number one…
1. Chris Bates
Really, at the end of the day, The Apprentice is just one big schoolyard. Most of these probably spend their entire business day stuck behind a laptop (which, as we all know, DON’T EXIST in the world of The Apprentice), checking their e-mails, setting up meetings, and ironing out the creases in moderately complicated contract negotiations. Or something. So when they get let loose in the world of The Apprentice, where you basically just yell at members of the public for two and a half months (/a week), all their latent childishness spills out. And who better to exemplify a series of The Apprentice than a young man who spanned every school clique. Jock? Yes. Nerd(/revered scholar)? Yes. Popular kid? Heart-throb? Theatre geek? (what else was The Germinator but the product of a particularly dry drama lessson?) Fashion club? (what else was that tie-duvet-dress but a particularly inspired GCSE Textiles project?) King of the debate club? Rick kid bore? Yes yes yes yes. Chris Bates spanned the pantheon, and managed to be a likable enough character, with depth, and like, three dimensions and that. The Apprentice Runner-Up club has a worthy edition to their ranks. Saira Khan? Ruth Badger? Kristina Grimes? Alex Wotherspoon’s Imaginary Girlfriend? Fembot McCokroachBrain? Farmer Tim? You were always the most interesting. Well except you Kate Walsh…
And so, another series of The Apprentice slides to a graceful finish. See you for the next one in…ooh about two weeks isn’t it?