The Apprentice 2015 – The Egos Have Landed

I have to say I have high hopes for this series, particularly since Nick Hewer’s eyebrow raise has been replaced by Claude Littner’s scathing brand of management training.

But, year upon year, the candidates seem to be more media-savvy and more desperate for a job in TV whilst demonstrating an ego which would make Kanye West look shy and retiring.

That ego is usually combined with the worst the British Education System has to offer, that is zero general knowledge, a complete absence of people skills and absolutely no street smarts.

The fact that they are actually there to sell their business plans seems to be forgotten.
Courtesy of

This, of course, is the joy of the programme.  We love to sit in our armchairs, tutting and muttering.

We criticize their lack of business acumen.

We practically combust with laughter at their arrogance.

We, of course, can spot a basic business error from 20 paces and become expert negotiators even if we would struggle to take a pair of socks back to Marks & Spencer.

And those quotes.  Oh, those quotes.

Here’s a quick trip down memory lane – can you remember any of these judged by to be the top ten best / worst quotes from The Apprentice?

This list certainly contains some cringe-worthy reminders of old favourites such as Luisa Zissman and Katie Hopkins.

I’d also include this classic from the late Stuart Baggs (who sadly recently passed away) – “everything I touch turns to sold” and this, from this year’s David Stevenson – “you’ve got age and beauty and those two go hand in hand all the time.  Sugar’s got the age and I certainly am beautiful”.

Currently there appears to be an unladylike spat going on between candidates Selina Waterman-Smith and Charleine Wain  which has, it is rumored, culminated in a ‘scuffle’ outside the boardroom.

This may be a little bit of PR to oil the wheels of a series which, so far, has been a little ‘same old, same old’ but, if true, shows just how desperate some candidates are to secure their 15 minutes of fame.

The sad truth, of course, as anyone who has worked in a corporate environment will tell you, is that personalities like these do indeed often rise to the top, by dint of ruthless ambition rather than concrete talent.

There are many David Brents in waiting it seems.

But, the prize here is to be Sir Alan’s business partner and, one suspects, no amount of hot air, waffle and posturing will pull the wool over his eyes.

I can’t wait for the legendary “interview” episode and I wonder who will replace Claude in the interviewing panel.

Whoever it is, I’ll bet they won’t be a soft touch and will bring the candidates back to earth – with a bump.

I’m also enjoying Jack Dee on the sister show “The Apprentice – You’ve Been Fired”, although I think he could be a little more of the sardonic Jack we’re all used to.

Roll on Wednesday at 9 pm!

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Big Brother IS a Popularity Contest Toya!

Big Brother is a guilty pleasure of mine, along with Candy Crush Saga, Sprite (the Chinese have declared it to be the definitive hang-over cure – the drink that is, not the mythical pixie like creatures), Kendal Mint Cake (although the teeth can’t take it any more) and peanut butter. That’s the good thing about being an old bird. You can be as irrational with your foibles as you like and not even worry about defending them. Were such a thing required, in my defence I will say that keeping up with the kids is very important when your kids are nearly 7 and nearly 5. Sort of.

Toya Washington, Big Brother
Big Brother’s “raging” Toya Washington.  Source:

In deference to the husband’s loathing of all reality based TV I am dutifully sitting through the World Cup and actually quite enjoying it. It may be because I don’t understand the game but it seems really slooooooow compared to rugby. All that hair gel and hamming. Those coloured trainers – my eyes! Anyway, I digress as usual.

Last night I sat somewhat stunned as Toya, 50% of this week’s “Big Brother Power Couple” and missing some 75% of her mental faculties turned into a screaming banshee of the highest premenstrual order when called a very rude word by Ash – a man who would probably check his appearance in a mirror for five minutes before leaving a burning building. Actually the ‘boy band’ gang of Ash, Marlon and Winston (bull dog by name and brain size) are rather unpleasant. The first two have bemoaned the fact that there are no ‘sluts’ in this year’s house and express viewpoints about women better suited to the 1970s. But boy did Toya go on. And on. And on.

It is undoubtedly unfair but in my experience a woman who ‘loses it’ will always be judged more harshly than a man – irrespective of whether or not she has right on her side. And the speed with which a personal (and professional) reputation can be shattered is scary. I can’t understand why Toya did not think “hang on, these people may be muppets but they all have the power to evict me at some point”. Or, “I could possibly have a short lived media career out of this if I play my cards right” but no, she screamed, she pouted, she stropped. And then, most bizarrely, whilst crying in the Diary Room, she opined that Big Brother wasn’t a ‘popularity contest’.

Now I struggle to see how anyone couldn’t understand that this is EXACTLY what the show is – although it shares a lot with gladiatorial fights in Roman amphi-theatres and the British tradition of pantomime where we all love a villain or villainess. (I suspect Harriet Harman would frown on feminising the word villain but I’ll live with it).

In fact, success in many areas in life revolves around maintaining a high level of popularity. I remember reading a study about the causes of failure of bright, high achieving workers in the corporate arena and the number one reason was having an abrasive personality. To paraphrase the late Helen Gurley Brown (who created Cosmopolitan magazine), you can’t be a selfish, snippy little turtle-bitch and succeed. Losing it in any arena is a luxury – today more than ever.

I fear Toya has signed her own exit visa after last night’s melt-down but she does not seem to have much self awareness. Seriously where do the Big Brother contestants get their almighty egos. Tamara has been sounding off about ‘showergate’ claiming ownership after one kiss which sounded like a sink plunger being prized off a bunged sink. She clearly has her eye on becoming the next Luisa – she of Apprentice fame who has moved from the bakery arena to constantly displaying her wares in a bikini.  

I think I remember reading once about something called feminism. Still, even Gloria Steinem was once a playboy bunny.  And it’s probably not worth losing my temper over……

It’s All Go Here At Master Chuff – Ladies & Gentlemen, Let’s Cook – Tomorrow

Having watched Masterchef for what seems like eons, I now feel qualified to throw together a sea bass on a bed of ‘foam’, cobble together cranachen and do something improbable with venison and blackberries. 

Unfortunately I have discovered a law of the universe so baffling that even Rhonda Byrne would have trouble hiking an enormous camera crew and numerous American Law of Attraction experts across Bondi Beach to explain it in one of those waffly self-help type films – the number of cookery books you own is inversely proportional to the amount of cooking you actually do – and worse, the level of skill you will attain.

Gregg Wallace & John Torode, Masterchef
Gregg & John would be traumatised by a visit to Hobbis Towers

I suspect this can be quickly validated by looking at the success of food blogger, anti-poverty campaigner and meal-on-a-budget expert Jack Monroe. Her cooking pizzazz is borne of necessity and uses minimum equipment and no fancy ingredients. I have a kitchen cupboard stuffed full of the most random and hotch potch collection of ingredients which appear whenever I have a new cookery book and kid myself that I will finally try to whip up something to tempt hubby’s tastebuds.The mere suggestion of this is enough to make him hide in the cupboard under the stairs until what he considers to be one of my latest hormonal onslaughts has passed.

I think lots of us equate food with love. Us mums are supposed to be legendary cooks, aren’t we? Aren’t we supposed to arm wrestle each other for supremacy of our Yorkshire pudding or roastie production skills? Our apple crumbles are supposed to be bottomless, our rice puddings skinless and our lasagne worthy of praise from Gino. I’m afraid my culinary CV would simply state “burns pans and creates smells”.

Still, whilst Ieuan is still vegetable averse and, as we tell him daily, never likely to grow higher than four feet, nor develop the motor skills to even put a Spiderman suit on, we are still in the “fishfinger years”.  The kids seem to be doing fine, despite having a fear of gravy and the husband, well, hands up, he tends to do most of the cooking.

Perhaps I’ll enter him for Masterchef.

Don’t Put Your Grandmother On Celebrity Big Brother Mrs Worthington

You know, having sat through Julie Goodyear‘s eviction last night, I’m left feeling distinctly unsettled today because her presence on this year’s Celebrity Big Brother has raised a big question in my mind.

Celebrity Big Brother - Julie Goodyear

Many people view Julie as a ‘legend’.  Whatever your views on Coronation Street, as Bet Lynch, Julie Goodyear has been a star for over 20 years and you wonder what her agent was thinking when Celebrity Big Brother was suggested.  Leaving the inducement of the fee aside, Celebrity Big Brother is a show that can make or, if not, break then certainly tarnish careers.

There is no doubt that, in the furnace of emotions the house must be, Julie was no saint  – but why should she be pilloried for playing the game she was put in there to play?

But what is the appropriate behaviour and treatment of an elderly woman?  (I’m not even sure I should be using the word ‘elderly’)! Should we judge Ms Goodyear on a ‘level playing field’ across all age groups, or cut her some slack since she is, in her words, a 70-year-old woman who is registered disabled?  Do we judge her as a ‘nana’ or as a shrewd and experienced woman who can spot another game player at 50 paces and make mincemeat of them?  Was there a slight whiff of ageism?

Often Julie came across as an elderly lady totally bemused at her situation, breathlessly (literally) trying to befriend and gain acceptance. Other times, she was the sharpest tack in the box, running rings around The Situation and Prince Lorenzo in their fruitless quest for a position on Danica’s wishlist. Julie  is, as she says, “quite a good actress”

Harvey, Ashley and Michael (or HAM as they so maturely branded themselves) were quick enough to adopt Julie as ‘nana’ – probably anticipating that her star status would be likely to carry her and, by association, them, to the final.  As soon as it transpired Julie had a keener brain than they gave her credit for, the tables turned.  Led by Harvey, a man who has taken having double standards to an art form, the bitching became Machiavellian.

If we think of Julie as ‘Nana Julie’ then the ganging up by other housemates was unpleasant.  The man who comes out (no pun intended!) best in all this is Julian Clary who, despite being viewed by Samantha Brick as a misogynist, seems to me to be a gentle soul with everyone’s best interests at heart. Ms Brick’s views on love, romance and the male sex would surely have made her Jane Austen’s best friend.

So my question is this – when I get to 70, will I expect allowances to be made – and if I do – should I? My mother is 73 and I doubt very much whether she’d stand more than a couple of days in the House, let alone want to endure any character assassination – as receiver or protagonist.

And, actually, I don’t want to see the reputation of someone who is arguably part of the fabric of the TV landscape being reduced by a collection of people who, perhaps with the exception of Martin Kemp, have very little to brag about.

Celebrity Big Brother – Never Mind Rinsing, Go For The Spin Girls!

Now I always feel like I’ve let myself down a bit by admitting this, but I love to watch Big Brother and am currently glued to Celebrity Big Brother on Channel 5. Having reached the age when shouting at the TV is de rigeur of an evening (if only to irritate Hubby), I have to say this series in particular has given me full opportunity to wallow in gleeful disapproval (tinged, it must be said with slight shades of hypocricy).

 The Celebrity Big Brother eye

Step forward one Danica Thrall, star of the dubious documentary “Sexy, Lies & Rinsing Guys”. Danica’s alleged method of providing for herself is by glamour modelling in exchange for gifts. Her Amazon wishlist shared via a journalist on Twitter [Lord Justice Leveson, hello, are you there?] made fascinating reading (yes I did…).

Danica, and her fellow ‘celeb’, glamour model Rhian Sugden [she of the alleged Vernon Kay ‘oops his finger must have slipped when texting’ scandal] make Samantha Brick look positively shy and retiring. Mrs Brick’s Magnum Opus “Why do women hate me for being beautiful?” was published in the Daily Mail recently and garnered almost international derision and sniffiness from (mainly) women readers.

The girls flirting with the male contestants and the men’s somewhat hilarious teenage angst upon being summarily rejected is, whilst entertaining, a sad commentary on the fragility of the male ego. Let’s not mention Jasmine Lennard and her mother. Seriously. Let’s just not.

It is really not for me to judge these women (which is, of course, the skill of the reality tv producer). We love to judge whilst conveniently parking our own social mores behind a sofa cushion. And actually, it occurs to me that women are encouraged to judge one another more harshly than men are, though by whom I’m not sure.

This is all amusing until I think about my 4-year-old daughter, Caitlin and ponder Society’s (and my) conflicted attitudes about whether a woman should trade off her looks. The Media instils in us daily that the prettiest, the cutest, the bustiest are the true role models. Can’t carry a tune in a bucket? No problem. Daft enough to film yourself in delicto fragrante whilst forging a TV career? Go ahead. Heck, you can even become a reality star by living in the right county (sadly not the Vale of Glamorgan) and tanning yourself till you look like a Wotsit.

We now have a whole generation of young girls who think that the most important skills are looks and a direct line to Max Clifford. Never mind hard work. Never mind ‘working your way up’. To some of these girls, a glass ceiling is something installed by Everest. Wannabe WAGs have given way to Wannabe pop stars, models, chefs, opera stars and conductors. Forget a CV. Just stand on a corner with a big placard saying “Endemol I’m here”.

As for attracting a beau,  why not chase Spencer Matthews round numerous European tourist traps in “The Batchelor” or appear in the Roman amphitheatre of dating via “Take Me Out”?

Look at the spat between A. A. Gill and Mary Beard recently. He said she was “too ugly for TV”. Gill can be tarter than most of the pies he scoffs for a living but this was certainly one jibe too far. Let a woman hold herself up as intelligent (even by action rather than self-promotion) and the focus seems to shift immediately to whether she is pretty enough to warrant that appellation. Go figure (literally).

How refreshing it was, during the Olympics (and I’m sure will be again in the Paralympics) to see positive, healthy female role models. Women who know what it is to want something badly but who understand that it takes hard work, dedication and grit to get it. Perhaps glamour models would argue that it is the same for them.  Is it the old Puritan work ethic? Does success only come from hard work? Do you have to slog your guts out to get anywhere? Helen Gurley Brown (founder of Cosmo magazine) certainly thought so – “mouseburgering” she called it, but equally, Helen understood the power of ‘pretty’.

So what do I tell my daughter?  Darling, if you can, meet a nice man who’ll buy you jewellery and a house in Hampstead” or “Go out into the World and make something of yourself, build something, a company, a business, an empire?”. Here’s my hypocrisy – I feel I ought to say both.

Luckily we’ve plenty of time to redress the balance in TV land before my daughter comes of age.  And I hope that she’ll have more career options open to her than a stint on a reality TV show like Celebrity Big Brother.