It’s summer, and an unruly mob of teenagers are causing havoc. They rob people blind, accost them in the streets and ruthlessly grab whatever opportunities present themselves. No, I’m not talking about the London riots. It’s the return of the newly rebranded Young Apprentice. Yes, the Apprenti-Kids™ are back for eight weeks of puerile puns (and that’s just Lord Sugar), finger-pointing (and that’s just Lord Sugar) and unfathomably illogical decisions (and … you get the idea).
Making a first impression
As the earnestly serious voiceover man informs us at the outset:
It’s an education like no other. Britain’s youngest business brains take their first steps on a life-changing journey.
So we have a dozen precocious 16 and 17-year olds, all aiming to be the next Stuart Baggs the Brand™ with their snappy soundbites about how they are ready to dominate the world of business. My three personal favourites:
Zara Brownless, a wannabe film-maker who is inspired by Katherine Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker:
Everyone has dreams, but there’s a difference between the people who lie in their bed at night dreaming of all that they could do and the people who get up and start doing the work so they can actually live that dream.
Harry Maxwell, a school prefect, polo enthusiast and water-sports fanatic, who clearly isn’t from Brixton:
I’m going to be quite a good leader. I’m charismatic, energetic – I’m a ball of enthusiasm ready to explode. [What, no field of ponies?]
Haya Al Dlame, an Iraqi-born eBay trader and self-proclaimed bossy-boots:
No one intimidates me because I know that I’m better than them.
Of course, one of the difficulties of the first episode is that it is impossible to remember who’s who. This year’s crop is especially tricky, with five of the 12 candidates having names beginning with ‘H’, including two Harrys: Harry Hitchens and the aforementioned Harry Maxwell. Sugar is clearly having the same problem, as he decides to distinguish between them by imaginatively labelling them Harry H (Corbett?) and Harry M (who has a skeletally thin brother named Boney, ho ho).
Day 1: Brainstorming? Or just plain storming?
Having exchanged initial (un)pleasantries with Sugar, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady, the two teams – boys and girls – are tasked with creating a range of frozen treats with which to
poison delight an unsuspecting public. They are whisked back to the Apprenti-Mansion™ in the Apprenti-Carriers™, passing the time with the usual game of ‘my-business-is-bigger-than-your-business-na-na-na-na-nahhhh’. Once at the mansion, however, the teams set to the traditional brainstorming of team names.
For the boys, Ben Fowler (the chunky one who looks like a young Adrian Chiles) suggests ‘Ambition’ and James McCullagh (the gobby Irish one) volunteers ‘Future’ before they finally settle on ‘Atomic’, the brainchild of Lewis Roman (the camp Scouser). Haya offers up ‘Sixth Sense’ for the girls (because she sees dead people?) – which goes down like the proverbial lead balloon – and Gbemi Okunlola (the fashion designer) offers up ‘Core’ before Hannah Richards‘ ‘Kinetic’ wins the day. (She sells clothes and plays football, according to her profile.) Harry H Corbett then steps up as Atomic’s project manager, while Hayley Forrester (a Young Farmer) does the same for Kinetic.
Next task: select flavours. Kinetic opt for a range of healthy-sounding fruit options: strawberry and marshmallow, chocolate and banana, and mango and vanilla. Atomic eventually settle on vanilla, cookie and marshmallow, and an apple and watermelon frozen yogurt – but not before Mahamed Awale disagrees with everything James says and James disagrees with everything anyone says.
As Karren notes:
James’ catchphrase is already “I completely disagree”.
No doubt he would dispute that.
Day 2: Manufacturing, branding and sums
Each team splits in two, with one sub-team focussing on a brand identity while the other runs the factory.
Atomic are well organised. They settle on producing a conservative volume and have their numbers in order as Harry M punches the calculator (while secretly wishing he had a pair of glasses like grown-up Apprentice winner Tom Pellereau).
James comes up with a pirate theme, complete with names such as ‘cookie and marrrshmallow’ and ‘Shiverrr the timbers’. (He’s obviously kissed the Blarrrney Stone.) Mahamed contributes an idea for dressing their mobile unit as a treasure chest.
Lewis, however, gets this episode’s Statement of the Blahhdy Obvious Award™, when he examines a batch of the frozen yogurt the boys have produced and declares “It’s, like, solid!” Well, yes – frozen objects are by their very definition solid, surely?
Kinetic, on the other hand, are doing a great disservice to the GCSE system as they seem completely incapable of doing even basic maths. Apparently 1,000 grams is equivalent to 1,000 litres, while Hannah (I think) confidently declares that three fours are 28 and that the pink thing in the air over there is a flying pig.
Nick Hewer merely rolls his eyes. He knows that three fours are actually 97, of course.
Unable to work out their costings properly, the factory team simply decide to produce the maximum capacity possible (80 litres). Which then becomes 48 litres after the other sub-team fail to buy enough fruit, a cock-up which Gbemi firmly blames on the other sub-team, talking over project manager Hayley until the poor girl is practically in tears. Gbemi then hangs up, saying her sub-team are far too busy going to a meeting. Or getting their nails done. Or watching Countdown.
The girls are clearly going to lose. Except we are experienced Apprentice viewers who know the classic mid-task fake-out when we see it, right?
Day 3: Would you buy an ice cream from this lot?
It’s a lovely hot summer Sunday as the teams head off to sell. (Wouldn’t it have been so much funnier if it had been chucking it down with rain?) Atomic are by the beach at Southend, while Kinetic are at Chessington (which, if you ask me, is a vastly superior location with a captive audience who are resigned to paying theme park prices for everything).
The boys have a tough old day of it. James, concerned about their local competition, wants to sell at £1 per scoop, rather than taking the traditional approach of starting high and adjusting price downwards if needed. For someone who says he got the joint-highest score in GCSE Economics in Northern Ireland, it’s a schoolboy error. Literally. He attempts to compensate by dressing up as ‘Captain Vanilla’ in a pirate suit with a foam cutlass. Well.
Meanwhile Boney M’s Brother™, Mahamed and Lewis are touting for business along the promenade with their mobile unit. Harry M is quite prolific, while Mahamed’s approach is to leap out in front of people and hold them up at gunpoint – an interesting technique. (As the saying goes, if the customers won’t come to Mahamed, then Mahamed must go and terrify the customers.) Project leader Harry H boosts sales from the static unit by wandering along the beach taking orders and delivering them to customers.
At Chessington, the girls have hit on the right pricing strategy for all the wrong reasons. Aware they have already wasted a lot of money, they opt to set premium prices and then charge for everything else too, including sprinkles and cones. Which, actually, is a sound move – especially when you have a salesperson’s best friend at your shoulder: a TV camera crew. The girls’ mobile unit targets queues waiting for shows – another wise choice.
With time winding down at the end of the day, we get the usual vignettes of the teams running around frantically trying to dump their remaining stock. As one of the girls – possibly Zara, possibly Lizzie Magee – says:
I’m literally giving these away – 20 pence.
Which is an interesting juxtaposition of the terms ‘literally’ and ‘giving away’, is it not? Whatever. Time is up. Task completed.
One of the most entertaining features of Young Apprentice is that in the boardroom there are no poker faces and no self-restraint. Whereas the grown-ups are generally more strategic in their approach, the Apprenti-Kids™ are relatively guileless and transparent. Which, basically, means it’s time for a bundle.
Sugar’s initial interrogation of Atomic goes smoothly, at least until Mahamed attempts to claim all the credit for the pirate theme, which James – who is not backwards in coming forwards to praise himself – unsurprisingly takes exception to. Kinetic get a rougher ride, partly because of their ‘treat the lips and trim the hips’ slogan – which, let’s face it, is about as truthful as when the dentist tells you “this won’t hurt a bit”. But mostly it is their shocking maths skills which draws Sugar’s ire, with Nick commenting that the whole process was “embarrassingly out of control” as the girls dissolve into an embarrassing, out of control bitch-fest just to prove his point.
Sugar nods sagely, saying:
Never mind Ben and Jerry’s, this is more like Tom and Jerry.
There’s no joke like an old joke, eh?
Anyhow, it’s time for the results. Karren reports back on Atomic: £117.92 spent, generating sales of £677.17, for a profit of £559.25. Let’s reflect on this for a moment. Even accepting that ice cream is a high margin business, that’s a great performance which I doubt the grown-up candidate teams would have matched. Well done.
However, Nick has some surprising numbers to relate for the girls – “this will be news to Kinetic”, he observes – telling them that they spent £131 but drummed up a whopping £839.34 in sales, to give them a profit of £708.34. The girls have won by nearly £150, in spite of themselves.
As a treat, the girls are sent zorbing – that’s rolling down a hill in a big plastic sphere to you – while the boys are despatched to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where the self-depracating Mahamed declares:
The whole reason why we’re here today is that no one listened to me.
James questions what Mahamed actually did on the task, while Harry M notes James’ overbearing personality. Fair comments both.
Back in the boardroom, Sugar points out the blahhdy obvious, saying that the task was lost on pricing strategy, which pins the tail firmly on the Irish donkey. Lewis raises the issue of Mahamed’s aggressive selling style, to which Mahamed’s overtly aggressive response is “I’m not aggressive. Say that to me again and I’m gonna pop a cap in you, bitch.” (I may have made up the last bit of that.)
Actually, the vertically challenged Mahamed makes for compelling viewing in the boardroom, even though he does constantly bob up and down like a Jack-in-the-box in a too-big shiny suit. He repeatedly attempts to take credit for anything that happened while he was in the same hemisphere, confidently claims to have been the best seller – he was, in fact, the worst – and generally talks just like a politician, complete with emphatic hand gestures which I rather suspect he practises in the mirror. Which, given that he is a Youth Parliament Representative, is perhaps unsurprising. Sugar later calls him an ‘optimist’ – I prefer ‘liar’ myself.
James rightly takes a hammering for ignoring basic economic pricing principles – if you have a small volume of product, price high – while Sugar pins some lame excuse on project manager Harry H to string him along. It’s no surprise when Harry opts to bring James and Mahamed back in with him, with Sugar sending them outside to wait with the words:
You’re going to find out that I’m no Mr Softee.
Although if he subsequently reveals that he is Mr Whippy, it’s time to start running.
Sugar, Brady and Hewer have their little tête-à-tête before summoning the three boys back in, and the James/Mahamed slug-fest continues. James – in a boardroom performance reminiscent of StuBaggs’ first appearance – almost talks himself into trouble, but Sugar fires Mahamed for being an annoying little oik. (Napoleon complex, anyone?) The right decision in my view – he contributed little and still tried to claim all the credit – getting frozen out of the competition was his just desserts.
So Mahamed becomes the first victim of the Digit of Doom™ and is promptly sent packing with his little trolley bag, not in the Taxi to Obscurity™ but in the back of Sugar’s Riches-To-Rags Roller™. Completely non-aggressively, of course, the youngster’s departing words are:
I’m really surprised I’ve been fired, but at the end of the day I’ve still got my successful business. I’m still going to be a success. It’s going to be Lord Sugar who regrets it.
Somehow, I doubt it.
Next week: The teams must design an exciting new product for the parent and baby market. But with toddlers come tantrums – and that’s just the candidates. You know what they say, never work with children and, er, other children.
Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Monday at 9pm.
For more views on Young Apprentice and the main Apprentice series, visit UnrealityTV.
- Whatever happened to last year’s Young Apprentices? (telegraph.co.uk)