Archive for the ‘ TELEVISION ’ Category


Black Mirror


Admittedly I had only seen half of one episode in Charlie Brooker’s one off dramas during its first series and being decidedly non-plussed never bothered investigating any further. However last week on a rainy day I decided to check out the first episode of the second series- social media, twittering etc. had, ironically as it turns out, piqued my interest- and was pleasantly surprised by an episode which was eerily disturbing-not unlike a 21sttcentury update on the seventies classic series, fondly held in many hearts including my own, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’- which raised some thought provoking issues as well as asking us to look at ourselves and the way we live our lives today. The black mirror of its title is presumably the reflection we would see if we actually looked at ourselves properly rather than simply gazing at the contrived self conscious image we hope we reflect to others.

The opening episode ‘Be Right Back’ told the tale of a self satisfied couple. Ash and Martha, whose lives and careers are trundling along very nicely indeed although Ash’s addiction to social media infuriates Martha no end, to the point she even throws something at him to ensure he is ‘still solid’. This proves prescient as soon after he is killed in a car accident and overwhelmed with grief she discovers she can obtain a replicant replacement clone-shades of Bladerunner here- who not only looks the part but actually behaves however she wants him to.

The downside is all his responses and reactions are created by his social media profiles-one part how he actually is to nine parts of how he wants to appear- and he becomes the perfect boyfriend; even sexually as his viewing of porn makes the replicant Ash a far superior lover to the real thing who often preferred the self satisfaction followed by the old roll over and snooze routine, but eventually this inevitably becomes frustrating.

It was an intriguing story which not only showed how our emotions are now controlled by how we want to be perceived and learnt rather than felt. It was a sympathetic treatment which constantly lulled the viewer into a false sense of security whilst raising several questions as to where society is heading.

If ‘Be Right Back’ eased the viewer into Brooker’s observations then the second episode ‘The White Bear’ pulled no punches and moved at full throttle  never letting up throughout its duration.

Entering a seemingly totalitarian world where a  girl wakes up from a hazy nightmare where she is pursued seemingly with malevolent intent whilst a crowd films the whole proceedings on their phones. Terrorised and in fear for her life she escapes and is caught time and time again until eventually it transpires that she is actually a prisoner who has been involved in a child’s torture and slaying therefore the confusion, uncertainty,disorientation, pain and terror she is experiencing is perhaps indicative to the horrors she herself has previously inflicted and this is a new form of justice being meted out.

It was certainly an interesting observation on how we have all become voyeurs- Big Brother and The X-Factor auditions immediately sprang to mind- and our entertainment resembles a Coliseum where humiliation is our ritual. It also brought the recent paedophilia allegations concerning Jimmy Savile as well as others such as the Moors Murderers very sharply into focus and showed how we are sickly fascinated and attracted by the ghoulish whilst questioning how and why it has ended up this way. Perhaps it is time to put down our phones, switch off our laptops and relearn basic human emotions again.

Brooker has created an inventive series with ‘Black Mirror’ and although I was initially sceptical have since realised he is putting questions on our screens which don’t really have an answer or a solution as he is presenting things-albeit exaggerated for effect- just as they are or at the very least how they are going. I am not sure what the third episode of ‘Black Mirror’ has in store but guaranteed I am tuning in next Monday just to find out.


Just an Observation Thursday 31st January


 My definite highlight over the last week’s adventures would have to be Homesick Aldo’s amazing and mind-blowing performance at the Miss Spin charity night last Saturday. Billing himself as a cross between Johnny Thunders and John Cooper Clarke- I was already sold at this point- meets Sonny Boy Williamson he more than met these criteria and then some. For anyone who thought the White Stripes were a return to basics and as minimalist as rock and roll got then this boy takes it one step further by being a lone wolf who manages to enrapture, enthral and send an audience into paroxysms of unabated bliss and sheer wonder at his adept skills involving little more than a harmonica and a bluesy wail with the occasional and primal addition of a beating drum or shaking tambourine.

Within thirty seconds of taking the stage he had the whole audience’s attention and within another thirty seconds he had their souls and their devotion. A truly stand out performance and in a world where non-entities on Big Brother and any other talentless show are referred to as ‘Genius’ or ‘Awesome’ with regular inaccuracy here, at last, is someone who deserves such soubriquets cast in his direction.

Opium Kitchen were also on the same bill and their performance once it got underway- initial proceedings were beset by sound problems- also turned in a blistering set which revealed the darker side of their repertoire and captured the slaughter in the air vibe which surrounded their set. Highlight was their closing number ‘The Mayor of Pigalle’ which is a powerhouse of a track which descended/transcended into a dissonant frenzy of feedback and took the form of a musical tantrum. Wonderfully so, I may add.

It certainly awoke me from the slumber of the previous day’s excursion to the cinema where I sat through the twenty four hour marathon that is Lincoln. Actually it is little over more than two hours long but on leaving the cinema I felt as if I had lived through the civil war it depicts in its storyline. It is hard to work out how a film with such major talents behind it manages to be such a bore. It is , of course, beautifully acted and directed- the cinematography is astounding and many scenes could be frozen and placed in an art gallery- but somehow it never fails to ignite and the whole thing drags on and on ad nauseum. Spielberg seems to be labouring under the misapprehension that perfection makes perfect but somehow in his quest for this he also managed to suck the lifeblood out of the whole saga. He actually managed to make a hugely important time in history into little more than a trivial, but beautifully shot, drudge. A full review can be found here.

Far superior is Kathryn Bigelows attempt to capture the recent events regarding the hunt for and eventual assassination of Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. As it details events which are less than two years old there is something knee jerk in its storyline but this spontaneity and lack of studied historical perspective gives it a sense of immediacy and life sadly lacking in Spielberg’s film. Only time will tell how accurate a portrayal this is of these events as it is only one very biased side of the story and could be seen as America getting their version of events out there first but it is nevertheless a well executed-no pun intended- film which although just as long as Lincoln unlike that film does not allow your attention to wander. A full appraisal of this effective work can be found here.

Television highlight of the week for me at the moment has to be Channel 4’s Sunday night offering-in the highly venerated ‘Homeland’ slot- ‘The Hotel’. Featuring a hotel in Torquay which is run by a manager constantly trying out ‘new’ ideas in order to entice more and better class customers in with excruciating results it is an embarrassment and often leaves me believing it is scripted for comedy and shock value. Similarities to the classic British comedy ‘Fawlty Towers’ which also featured a hotel in Torquay run by a manager etc. etc. are inevitable but the main difference is that real life manager, Alan, somehow manages to make the insufferable, racist and snobbery of  his fictional counterpart, Basil Fawlty, seem like a consummate professional.

Last week saw this buffoon’s attempts at organising an Indian night wherein he wore a turban and blacked up his face whilst encouraging his staff to wear saris-one waiter inexplicably  dragged up possibly just to add insult to injury- and despite the protestations of many of his staff refused to believe his actions and ideas were in any way offensive. His reasoning behind his mindset was that ‘The Black and White Minstrel Show’ and Al Jolson-cue toe curling version of ‘Mammy’ which would take the kink out of any afro-  were popular therefore his ideas would be also. At one point I actually believed Ricky Gervais was responsible for this production but as Alan’s blind faith was actually more amusing than offensive I decided to dismiss this possibility. It is despite these misgivings compulsive viewing as it is fascinating to observe exactly what ridiculous notion he will conjure up next.

Alan’s actions were however nowhere  near as offensive as a scene I witnessed quite by accident on Monday night when I tuned in –pre-watershed and with no warnings I hasten to add- and caught Gail from ‘Coronation Street’ engage in full on tonsil tennis with Nigel Havers. Accompanied by a simpering baby voice which can usually only be heard if overdosing on helium and still minus her long lost chin I can only assume the switchboard was logged with complaints from those who were not bent double over their toilets struggling to hold onto their dinners. Enough! Please! This type of television really is not necessary.

This week also sees a new high end fetish and sexually orientated shop called White Rabbit open in Broughton Street. At present I know little about this venture but I am visiting the premises today ahead of their opening tomorrow in order to report back with more information. That is provided there is not so much on offer  there to entice me that I perhaps never leave!

Here to lead you into the weekend is a link leading to a glimpse of the amazing talent which is Homesick Aldo at last Saturday night’s gig.!


The Overdue Demise of the X- Factor



So the X- Factor-X- Crutiating and X-Crement would perhaps be more apt- final was on last night and a winner was announced. Did anyone watch it? Does anyone care who won? Does it feel like a juggernaut which feels as if it has not so much spiralled out of control but instead  run out of petrol and shuddered slowly to an overextended but anticipated uninspired halt? All these are questions which the shows producers should be asking themselves this morning as the show haemorrhaged viewers weekly and suffered the indignity of being overtaken in the ratings by, its arch nemesis and fellow blanded out variety show dominating another main channels weekend schedules, Strictly Come Dancing.

As it stands I never actually watched an episode of this years farce which supposedly attempts to find new musical talent. It really wasn’t necessary to watch it anyway as the media and my Facebook newsfeed told me everything I really didn’t want to know.

Not that I was alone in not tuning in however as it seems a large section of the public have also realised that finding talent has never been part of this shows objectives, Instead it has focussed on finding acts guaranteed to swell the already bulging bank accounts of its founder, Simon Cowell. Another thing which emerged even more aggressively this year was the various mentors’ fragile egos which were even more on display than previously. In fact it became more of a show about them and their ambitions than it ever was about the contestants.

And what an annoying bunch of despicable individuals the not so fab four made up.

There was the over exuberant, totally insincere whoopings and drunk mum dancing of ex-Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger who appeared to be a plastic alien beamed down weekly to create a new language consisting of ridiculous hyperbole. Louis Walsh continued in his role of creepy, dirty old grandfather- a throwback to the seventies and look what happened there- with his bag of worn out clichés obviously garnered by his press team from the weeks media outpourings. Something called a Tulisa seemed to have stumbled in from the set of ‘What Not To Wear’ and emitted no sign of charisma or the much sought after X Factor. As for Gaaaary Baaaarlow- I still maintain it took him longer to say Kiliminjaaaaaro than it took him to climb it- he must surely rate as the most boring public figure in Britain as well as the most precious. His storming off stage when one of his acts was eliminated was pathetic as was his comment about fag ash breath to the thing that calls itself a Tulisa when she dared to critique one of his acts and showed a petulance and megalomania unable to take defeat or show dignity when up against it.

The whole thing was held together by the inane meanderings- and stupid dancing- of the tiresome Dermot O’Weary who is another one who needs to take a long vacation from our screens

Mind you the acts weren’t much cop either were they?

There was the usual novelty act which this year took the form of an orange thing from Essex I thought was called Nylon- I thought this was his name due to the allergic reaction I felt on the brief occasion I witnessed his ‘act’- but later found out was actually called Rylan, Unfortunately his murdering of a Spice Girls medley- yes things got that sophisticated this year- was one of the few moments I caught in this years shows and I was shocked at just how bad it was. I was almost as shocked by the reaction on my Facebook newsfeed when I checked it and saw some people – as a general rule not too many of my ‘friends’ comment on X Factor  which is more down to my being selective about the people I associate with than anything- referring to it as the highlight of their weekend. My finger hovered over the ‘unfriend’ and ‘block’ buttons before deciding everyone is entitled to a lapse in taste. Just the one though.

There was something else which seemed like the unfortunate and unlikely product of a secret mating ritual between Victoria Wood and Kate Nash- as if one of those is not bad enough-which went by the name of Lucy Spraggan. Now that sounds like a pop star doesn’t it? After going through auditions, boot-camp and several live shows she decided X Factor was not for her- hasn’t she seen the show before ?- and put us out of our misery and saved herself the humiliation of being voted out by leaving halfway through.

The big controversy of the year was a scouser Christopher Maloney- phoney baloney were the inevitable and uninspiring monikers- who was there for his ‘Nan’ and who despite all the odds hung in there until very near the end coming in third before throwing a tantrum and being barred from the final. Mind you as his mentor-Baaaarlooooww- was fond of throwing a diva like strop it is easy to see where he picked it up from. Why his success was so surprising is beyond me as he bore a close resemblance to a one man Robson and Jerome, the act which put Cowell on the radar in the first place, so instead it made perfect sense and showed what sort of audience the show now appeals to and in all probability always has.

In many ways the show has come full circle and that is a definite sign that it should bow out before it becomes any more embarrassing. Rumours abound that next year Cowell will return- Barlow having stropped off for one last time- and it will be the last series and those complacent TV executives will have to rethink their weekend schedules and hopefully come up with something which does not take up the bulk of the weekend for nearly a third of the year. We can only live in hope though.

In the end some miserabilist with tattoos looking as if he suffers from a yeast complaint called James Arthur won the show. We will all have forgotten this in about six months and he will be complaining about how X Factor ruined his career and life and he is a serious artist. By that point even the shows greatest supporters will be beyond caring.


Just an Observation Friday October 5th


So one year after his death despite several decades of speculation and rumours a programme focussing on the fact Jimmy Savile may or may not have been a paedophile who abused teenage girls and his position as a respected charity worker. The biggest surprise in all this –to me at least – is that it has taken so long for these allegations to surface and suddenly be worthy of investigation. I, myself, have heard these stories regarding his sexual proclivities for decades, even pre-dating the very real charges brought against, what would now seem to be a co-conspirator in his evil endeavours, Gary Glitter.

I know many will be saying this but there was always something about Jimmy Savile which indicated that his sexual tastes may lie in this unnatural direction. It says a lot against the power of celebrity if this is the main reason he was able to get away with such behaviour for so long. If those who are now making these allegations- and let’s face it there are too many of them with consistent testimonies to be able to deny it any longer- what exactly was it they were scared of? And if the abuse was allowed to continue for several years, as is indicated in some cases, then who was colluding with Savile in covering up his crimes?

Surely some responsibility must lie with parents, friends etc. as the acts cannot have gone unnoticed by everyone. There are simply too many for that to be true and Savile may have been powerful in the media world but why did no-one think to intervene when these stories began to emerge as early as the late nineteen fifties and early sixties.

There is a theory that in order to put some distance between the man and his crimes Savile embarked on charitable works not only to detract from what he was up to but also to assist him in his grooming of potential victims. This is almost as despicable as the crimes themselves and shows quite clearly the evil manipulative nature of this man.

It is ridiculous to think that he managed to get away with this throughout his lifetime with no-one actually challenging him. Especially as it seem there were complaints and tales doing the rounds.

As previously mentioned I had heard these stories years ago and even then never understood how he was able to get away with it. When Louis Theroux questioned him about during his documentary about ten years ago I thought then his denial was wholly unconvincing even though it seems that he had managed to convince himself he wasn’t, in fact, doing anything wrong as witnessed by his answers when asked about his friend Gary Glitter’s convictions. In his twisted way he tried to put forward the reasoning that Glitter was, in fact, a victim himself; apparently some twisted vendetta against celebrity and an elaborate ruse set up by the press to frame him was the cause of his downfall in the world according to Jimmy Savile.

I am not sure what a criminal investigation against Savile will unearth now and he can no longer be held to task for his hideous crimes but surely those who colluded and covered up for him should be brought to book also. It is unfortunate that the man himself cannot be put on trial-or even respond to the allegations- as it would be interesting to see how he would attempt to smarm his way out of them.

It is poignant that the other main news of the week has involved the heart breaking tale of five year old April Jones who at the time of writing has been missing for three days now.  I feel so much for her parents and although a man has been held in connection-though as not yet charged- with her disappearance I am sure the news that monsters like Savile exist and are allowed to get away with crimes against children will, at least, encourage anyone who has any knowledge of her whereabouts to come forward with information.

On a more upbeat note the French film ‘Untouchable’isworth catching although I am not sure whether I agree with the claims about it being the feelgood-how I hate that term- film of the century. If we are talking the 21st century and the last twelve years perhaps, otherwise it is still an excellent film which will stir your emotions and definitely make your day. A full review can be found here.

The last week has seen a successful shifting of venue for Neu! Reekie- full review here– as well as a screening of a new print of the Stanley Kubrick classic’ The Shining’ starring Jack Nicolson. This version is the original American release with restored twenty four minutes of previously unseen footage on these shores. Due to be released in the cinemas in time for Halloween a full review will be published nearer the time but suffice to say a film I have seen only on DVD –or television when the flow is interrupted with adverts- was a revelation in the cinema. It is worth seeing for this experience alone.

I am also curious to see the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ film being screened for the first time since its disastrous reception in 1967. Although I fear it will be little more than a home movie made by over indulged rock stars on LSD at least most people nowadays will be seeing it in colour.  Part of the problem on its initial showing was the vibrant colours were unseen by a nation who were still, in the main, living a black and white existence rendering it little more than a rich men’s folly. I doubt the years will have been kind to it however but I am still curious as to just how bad-or misunderstood even- it will be and will be tuning into BBC2 on Saturday at 8pm specifically to see.

The Street in Picardy Place are celebrating their eighth birthday this Sunday with a party so I will probably be making my way along there to wish Wendy and Louise a happy birthday. It will at least prevent me from watching X-Factor as I succumbed and tuned in half way through last Sundays show and could not believe it when some monstrosity from Essex-do they all have orange skin and dayglo teeth?- had a meltdown-unfortunately not physical- on being told he had got through. The ensuing hysterics were quite unbelievable and I wanted to laugh but somehow what I was witnessing was simply too tragic to allow me to even do that. The hysterics went on for several minutes and disgusted as I was I fear I may be tempted to tune in just to see how he reacts when he gets booted out first-surely this is an inevitability-as if this is how he carries on when he is accepted then how will he react to rejection


Killing Them Softly


This modern cynical look at the messy underworld directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, a professional hitman who supposedly is in possession of scruples and a conscience, offers a new take on the previously glamorised world of crime. The criminals on show here do not have opulent lifestyles and, in fact, few actually make it to the end of the film. Those that do survive are hollow shells of human beings who far from capitalising from a life of crime have instead lost their souls, humanity and any form of dignity they may once have possessed.

The plot revolves around a hold up of a card game by three low rent crooks Johnny Amato ( Vincent Curatola), Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell ( Ben Mendelsohn) in an attempt to not only steal the money but, in the process frame Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) who has previously  pulled off such a scam. Having previous for a similar crime Trattman is the obvious suspect and Jackie Cogan, a reliable assassin, is drafted in to clear up the situation. Not believing Trattman guilty he enlists the services of Mickey(James Gandolfini) to carry out the executions but Mickey has been consumed by addictions to alcohol and prostitutes and is more of a liability than anything so Cogan has to take charge of the situation again.

Cogan’s approach is that of a kindly assassin and Pitt approaches his role like a study of cool-his initial appearance is accompanied by Johnny Cash’s ‘When the Man Comes Around’- and on the surface is all black leather and hair gel. His character has depth though and his inability to kill face to face wherein he can witness his victim’s pleas for mercy shows he is able to put distance between him and his work. He is also working in a recession -2008 would seem to be the films setting as the subplot of Bush and Obama vying for President makes clear- and after haggling over his diminished takings for his hard work at the films denouement delivers the damning indictment that ‘America is not a country it is a business’.

There are several outstanding performances in this film. Pitt, Gandolfini and Liotta deliver what is expected-and then some- of actors of their calibre but McNairy as the hapless Frankie is equally impressive.

The soundtrack is also impressive hosting such classics as the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’ Nico’s ‘Wrap your Trouble in Dreams’ Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ as well as the aforementioned Johnny Cash track. The music is well incorporated with the visuals and Liotta’s death scene is executed like a classy MTV video with musical accompaniment.

Killing Them Softly is a gangster movie which shifts away from cliché and shows the broken down personalities and the cyclical and downward lifestyle such choices engender. There is no witty repartee, charismatic characters or sharp suits but instead shows criminals as stupid, greedy and hopeless. In many ways the film acts as a metaphor for modern America and only Pitt’s Cogan is able to articulate this which he does concisely and without too much heartfelt emotion, which is just how it should be.

 Showing at the Cameo details found here.Whats_On


Drugs Live :The Ecstasy Trial


 For a certain generation-most of whom are probably in their forties now- Ecstasy was the drug of choice and an essential part of a good night out. Heralded as a wonder drug which put you in tune with your emotions, broke down inhibitions, helped you bond with others, enlisted euphoria and helped you dance all night long to repetitive beats as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And for a while it was. This live testing of the drug alongside with tests conducted over previous weeks commissioned by channel 4 claims to be the first serious look at a drug which defined, inspired and changed a whole generation and is still popular amongst the young of today.

Totally legal until the mid eighties the formerly named Empathy was big enough in America but when it hit Britain its popularity exploded and took root in a burgeoning club scene. It would seem the effects of the so called ‘love drug’ when combined with house and techno music brought on a heightened experience which culminated in waves of exuberance which came to be known as ‘rushes’.  These channel 4 experiments aimed to probe the different effects on different people- it is well established that like any other synthesised drug each individual reacts in a different way- and try to discover any similarities alongside any debilitating side effects or advantages to the user.

The programme itself was not wholly reassuring as bad sound and other technical hitches as well as jerky presentation styles did not make for a wholly convincing programme. The inclusion of a psychology expert aptly called Professor David Nutt went someway to redressing the balance and it certainly seemed as if having the aforementioned Nutt dealing with the ‘Nutted’ guinea pigs was some producers idea of a good E joke which didn’t work quite so well when straight.

So what about the experiments then?

First up was Hayley  who responded favourably to her MDMA dosage and came out of the scanner-personally I cannot imagine any way worse to come up on an E than being trapped in a confined metal space-with eyes the size of saucers and a loved up attitude so prevalent you half expected her to approach the camera with a slobbery kiss. If I had been in a room with her I would have shared my water with her, given her a hug and smiled in empathy and comprehension as she waved her white gloved hands complete with glowstick and maracas. A perfect candidate for the ‘Don’t Fight it Feel it’ maxim of the Primal Scream classic, taken from the ’Screamadelica’ album which defined an era, she went with the flow and seemed to be enjoying the experience.

The same cannot be said for the second volunteer Phil , an ex SAS and military man, whose army training meant he remained controlled fought the effects of the drug. He was the epitome of the sort of person you would not want to meet on an Ecstasy experience as he would spoil your high with his rigidity and seriousness.

The whole point of the exercise however was to show the different effects the drug has on certain people and Phil aside most were enthusiastic and open in their approach. New Scientist editor Graham Lawton and novelist Lionel Shriver were among the participants- we were thankfully spared Keith Allen pontificating about the drug but there is always tonight’s follow up for him to do that- with the former submitting quite willingly and Shriver complaining her dosage wasn’t enough-I am sure we have all encountered someone like that- but still being positive whilst remaining totally articulate.

I am not sure whether this programme offered up any new insights but I am curious as to what tonight’s episode will reveal about long term side effects and damage or alternatively any advantages the drug may have. Until then I am away to listen to Underworld’s ‘Dubnobasswithmyheadman’ ‘Screamadelica’ Inner city’s ‘Good Life’, ‘Big Fun’ and the last Crystal Castles album in an attempt to get that Saturday night feeling on a dreary Thursday morning without the input of narcotic influence. It is highly unlikely but the warm memories I have of those heady, halcyon days can take me some way back to that euphoric feeling and remind me why the drug was called Ecstasy in the first place and surely the fact I have memories at all is a good sign. Isn’t it?


The Apprentice-  The Final

So that is it all over then and thank God for that!

If the Apprentice serves just one worthwhile service it is that it acts as a reminder to those not borne of the corporate sector just how fortunate they are. If this is the cream of young British entrepreneurship then, as a country, we are corporately fucked. Deluded self assurance and lack of imagination should have featured strongly on the business plans and CV’s of last night’s four finalists instead of the drivel they came up with. For all the bluster and suited swagger of the last twelve weeks when it came down to it their vision for the future was so underwhelming that the series’ catch phrase shifted from ‘You’re fired’ to- the more suited to the series in general-‘You’re tired’.

Yes, the future of Britain’s corporate structure could come up with little more than Tom’s hedge fund for wine buffs-vile-,Jade’s cold-calling centre- vile and morally reprehensible-, Nick’s online ingredients for recipes- yawn- and Ricky’s recruitment centre for scientists- zzzzz.  So uninspiring were the business plans that for a moment I almost-only almost, mind- felt a pang of sympathy for Sid James doppelganger Sir Lord Sugar for having to choose the least naff idea as the recipient of his £250,000 loose change.

As it was, Jade’s plans for a cold-calling centre was seen as the unfunny joke it was immediately and it was clear that even Sir Lord would never align himself with such an obnoxious scheme. Not publicly or on national television at least. Likewise Nick’s idea for recipes was a non-starter-even if he did believe the initial investment would engender income of £145 million within several years- but it was worth keeping him on just to see whether he grew into his 12 year old haircut or at least work out how to wear it the right way round. It was down to Tom’s posh fund for already rich people or the ridiculously monikered Ricky Martin’s narcolepsy inducing recruitment agency then to claim the booty. In the end Ricky won out and perhaps the first pharmacists he should seek out are those who can create a pill to prevent an audience from falling asleep during overly long and painful to watch reality programmes which have long ago run their course.

Surely this series has proved that the Apprentice is a tired formula and even switching the premise from Lord Sir seeking an employee to a partner has done little to alleviate proceedings. The contestants are too self conscious and well aware that those losing it, backstabbing and bitching paint themselves in a bad light and thus in order to save their skins and stand a chance these traits have been diluted to the point of non-existence. Unfortunately these traits were the main reason for watching-schadenfreude is a national state of being and a source of pride and joy- and without them the programme is basically a bunch of polyester suited corporate cannibals going through the motions which can be observed in any office throughout the country. As noted before; The Apprentice ‘You’re tired!’


The Apprentice Week 9

 It is a rule of thumb-and unimaginative editing- on this programme that as soon as someone offers as their opening gambit that they are feeling positive and expect to smash it then they are about to fail dismally and be taking a taxi by the end of the hour. And so it was last night when perma-irritant Stephen used up his ninth life and put us –and him- out of our misery by ballsing up his task of finding and selecting luxury services for a discount website offering them to their high flying clients thus depriving him of the £250,000 win which, in all honesty, is little compensation for having to work for-or should that be with- Lord Belligerent himself.

He was not alone however as several other contestants failed to make their mark and were a little luckier in avoiding the axe due to highly efficient team mates saving their skin. This whole episode was extremely frustrating and what little charm these wannabe business moguls may have possessed at the beginning is wearing thin whilst there is a sense the series has run its course and the BBC should seriously consider telling the business world’s answer to Sid James to find some other medium for humiliating and bullying budding corporate cannibals other than a TV show.

Back to last night’s episode however and Team Phoenix were led by Jade who decided to favour quality over quantity when securing deals. At least this was the excuse-sorry reason- she offered when it became clear she hadn’t secured quite as many as expected. The failure to secure more deals was down to Tom and Adam who struggled to secure any interest in their proposals and matters were not helped by Adam’s street trader banter with high end businesses. Nick managed to slip under the blame radar yet again-this is perhaps his greatest skill- and by the end of the series he may actually fit into his own hair and lose those plumy tones which seem to have inflicted him with irritable vowel syndrome. Despite these drawbacks the team still managed to secure nearly fourteen thousand pounds in orders which even the old curmudgeon quiz master seemed impressed by.

Team Sterling on the other hand were a shambles from the get-go largely due to the auspice of having Stephen as a project manager. A shambling stressed out buffoon from the off it was pretty obvious he was unlikely to win the task or any commendations from his team in the inevitable board room confrontation. He was not alone in being underwhelming however as Gabrielle-who always sounds on the verge of tears- seemed to have resigned herself to the role of supporting cast member but this is never advisable when the process reaches this stage and there are fewer people to hide behind. Of the three, only Ricky Martin managed to impress and even he failed to secure anywhere as near as he could have if he had been a little sharper.

It was Team Sterling to the boardroom then and one of the more lively spats of the series so far. Stephen sensing he was cornered went immediately on the offensive and babbled and wailed but unfortunately Ricky was able to beat him down and expose him for the useless waste of space he has been for weeks-nine I think it is- meanwhile Gabrielle fought back her tears while standing her ground admirably. It came with a sense of disbelief when Sugar fired her and it seemed as if Stephen had miraculously survived another week. But no! Pausing only long enough for a hint of a smug smile  of relief to appear at the corner of Stephen’s mouth Sir Sugar surprised everyone-not really as he always does it around this stage of the series- by sacking him also, making it a double eviction. At last!

With the main irritant of the series gone there is no-one left to hate and approaching the final weeks we are left with bland and blander. At the moment it is still Nick and Tom who could be the front runners although both have under performed in recent weeks so the game is pretty open; if anyone still cares.


The Apprentice Week 9


With a series which has thus far been more of a whine it was fitting that last nights episode was about the wine. English sparkling wine that is.! It never managed to live up to Team Phoenix’s ad campaign however which promised less fizz and more sparkle represented by a shocking advert which had more the aroma of pungent cheese than an English alternative to Champagne. The episode did clear up one issue which has been troubling me for years however;  why does Alan Sugar think he is a stand up comic? The answer was delivered in an off the cuff remark by the grizzly one himself when he remarked how he may look a bit like Sid James. Immediately the cheap and lame ‘Carry On’ jokes made perfect sense when I realised they were being delivered by his self appointed doppelganger; it doesn’t make them any funnier though!

As I remarked last week this was Tom’s area of expertise and if he failed this task he was definitely on the chopping block. Putting himself up as project manager was also a risky strategy as he had such a narrow escape in the last episode therefore not following the brief closely enough and several cleverly edited shots led us to believe  he thought he had failed the task whilst his face had the expression of a man about to face the electric chair and was preparing himself to bid the game show-sorry, process- au revoir or more correctly, with this being a promote England task, cheerio. It was just clever editing however-the producers obviously felt the need to throw in a red herring to keep the audience interested or perhaps to simply resuscitate them from the coma this series is likely to induce-and Team Sterling’s boring campaign to raise awareness of English sparkling wine trounced Team Phoenix’s cheesy advert.

Led by Ricky Martin team Phoenix felt outclassed from the off and perma-irritant Stephen didn’t help matters much by getting up everyone’s noses more than any aromas of fine wine. Coining the inappropriate strap-line featuring the unappetising thought of luxury oozing from every pore he also thought it would be a classy idea to give the product a French name-Grandeur- despite the criteria being it was essentially an English and not French wine. After it was revealed they had lost the task I was convinced he was definitely homeward bound in the back of that ever present waiting taxi.

It was not to be however and foghorn Jenna- who I have always insisted was in possession of a voice which was a sackable offence in its own right-instead took her place in the cab’s back seat and Stephen was given one last chance to balls up which  in all probability he will next week in his already appointed role as the next project manager of his team.

Hopefully we will see a little more fizz and sparkle than this series has so far delivered and I am placing my money on Tom, Nick and possibly Gabrielle being the three front runners. Mind you Adam has constantly surprised us through this series and his comments made about various wine aromas – like Xmas cake and whopping great whiffs of boil in the bag shepherds pie- provided some much needed comedy relief and allowed Jilly Goolden to sleep a little more soundly. Also I think the Sid James doppelganger sees something of his younger self in him, though if I were Adam I would be worried about this and arrange for a personality transplant pronto.


The Apprentice Week 8


An episode involving the acquiring and subsequent selling of Urban Art- more often referred to as Graffiti- was bound to elicit at least one comment about the writing being on the wall and predictably enough it was left to failed stand up and head quizmaster Alan Sugar to deliver the inevitably cringe-worthy line. Less predictably it didn’t even manage to raise the usual amount of obsequious laughter from the boardroom of polyester suited sycophants. Perhaps this means that even they can no longer pretend to be interested in the tired format and limp jokes being trundled out week after week despite this being one of the better episodes in what is unquestionably the dullest run yet for this series.  The main attraction always involved a sense of superiority over the smug, supercilious cretins prepared to forego their last shred of dignity in trying to impress the curmudgeon-like one but unfortunately-for us the viewers-they seem to have wised up.

Last night saw Tom lead Team Sterling with, what at first, seemed like insiders knowledge of the subject at hand but somehow emerged as arrogance. This is probably his first serious mis-step so even though the writing was on the wall-sorry couldn’t resist it- concerning him securing the art which was going to win the task it was clear he was going to survive the inevitable boardroom bitching. The most surprising thing about this team though was Adam’s method of selling art as if he was still working on a fruit and veg market stall. Cue bad joke by stand-up Sugar about the Turnip Prize. Oh, how we didn’t laugh! Again!

Team Phoenix was led by the shiny happy person Gabrielle and a healthy dose of Prozac if her overly enthusiastic behaviour was anything to go by. It was ironic that her insufferable joie de vivre was used to secure a collection of macabre and brilliant works by an artist trading under the moniker Pure Evil. It was pretty obvious from the outset that this collection was the one which was going to clinch the deal as it not only encapsulated the spirit of the genre but was also extremely commercially viable.

So onto the boardroom and poor Tom there for the second week running and for the first time the stress of this game show was showing. It was one of the more feisty confrontations of this series with each contestant really fighting their corner whilst offering their opponents up as a potential sacrifice. Tom impressed the most however with his ability to finish what he was saying- and never raising his voice nor faulting in his delivery- as the others tried to interject and/or talk over him. It was Laura who eventually took the bullet as claiming sales is her area she failed to deliver and drastically fell behind the rest of the team in this department.

So with the number of contestants markedly depleted it looks as if Tom and Boris Johnson soundalike Nick are the two clear runners although Adam is a potential dark black sheep-or whatever- sneaking up on them from the outside. He is actually surprisingly becoming less irritating as the series goes on but this can all change. The perma-irritant Stephen must be perilously close to the end of the line in this show although the foghorn voiced Jenna-her voice alone is a sackable offence- has been unfeasibly quiet over the last couple of weeks.  Next week sees the teams try and sell sparkling English wine and with this being Tom’s area if he can’t pull it off he is unfortunately the next evictee