I've Become My Fears

I don’t really know what’s going on. I have traditionally eschewed reality TV programmes, pretty much. I tend to see bits of I’m A Celebrity… when it’s on as Ant and Dec are usually good value, I found myself watching some of the first series of Big Brother while it was still a novelty, and I even saw the fag-end of the second series of Fame Academy when my wife got into it; but that is about the end of it. Celebrity Love Island, The Farm, Simply Come Dancing and the rest of them pass me by; or rather I cross over to avoid them.

So what is going on now? First I got hooked on the last series of Celebrity Big Brother, largely I suppose because the evil triumvirate of Galloway, Burns and Rodman held such an awful fascination, and now I am watching, enjoying and even looking forward to the next episode of The Apprentice.

It is a sensation akin to rubbernecking really, I suppose, and I can’t help it. The thing is, I could always see why some people watch the celebrity reality shows; they feature people who you (may) have heard of and who you feel you know. It can be interesting to see another side to some famous faces, and indeed many celebs go on purely to show the public how they “really are”. In the event Celebrity Big Brother surprised me in that I didn’t expect to see another side to George Galloway, I was pretty sure he was happy with his public persona and that we would be subjected to it ad nauseum. I knew that when the series finished I would still think of him as an idiot; I just didn’t expect him to be revealed as also being such a nasty bully.

But why watch The Apprentice? Who cares what a group of unknown egotists get up to as they try and suck up to their would-be boss? Not me, I thought. The only effect the first series had on me was to unleash the mildly irritating Saira Khan into my consciousness, and I thought this new series would hold the same level of interest. However, for lack of anything else on telly I watched the first episode of the second series last week, and I haven’t looked back. I fear I’m hooked.

Yesterday’s episode for example showed the two teams, one of boys and one of girls, designing and selling their own calendars in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. In fairness I reckon that is a tricky challenge, a tough one to get right. The most obvious idea for the calendar, for it to be full of pictures of kids, is too obvious; but the lads went with it anyway, dressing babies up as teachers and policemen and printing a cheap, tatty and unimaginative calendar that looked like it had been run off on a pc with a cheap printer using the nastiest font available. The girls’ calendar was made up of pictures of cats, beautifully photographed and produced, but tragically balls all to do with Great Ormond Street, and with the dates on the calendar so small you needed a magnifying glass to read them. Then both sides pitched to three sets of buyers; the resulting presentations were at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but both utterly awful. Nargis for the girls showed that as a salesperson she makes a great pharmacist; she looked like she had never done any public speaking before, so surely this wasn’t the time and place to start. Her opposite number Mani stated before hand that he was an expert at this sort of thing, and he was, in his own mind. A more cheesy and insincere presentation it is hard to believe, until you realise that Mani is a management consultant, and then it all makes sense. To top it all, neither Nargis nor Mani thought it important to know how much their calendars cost when they went into their respective sales meetings.

It really is fascinating to see how inept (and indeed how downright odd) many of the candidates appear, how they just don’t seem up to it. I am sure doing The Apprentice must be pretty stressful, but it was still bizarre to see a good number of the contestants blubbing away when someone disagreed with them and they couldn’t get their own way. You could understand it if these people are wee youngsters plucked off the streets, all green and wet behind the ears, but they are mainly successful business people in their mid-thirties , old enough, and intelligent enough, to know better. Or so you would think.

They are not all as bad as each other, however; some seem to have a fair idea what they are doing, and in particular the girls appear generally more clued up than the boys. A good example of this was in the first episode where both teams had to pick a name for themselves. The girls apparently decided in a matter of minutes; one suggested “Velocity”, the others said “fine”. That was all that was required. The lads clashed horns for hours on end, agonising over this crucial business decision, before finally deciding on “Invicta”, in the face of solid opposition from Syed who couldn’t see why his suggestion – “The A team” – was shit.

It was high comedy indeed, and as if to prove it Harry Hill tackled the subject on last week’s TV Burp; but to no avail. Try as he might, no matter what he added to the raw material on show, nothing he said could make the situation seem any funnier than it already was. It is early days yet, but so far The Apprentice looks impossible to improve upon.