Friday, 13 May 2011

Gazing into the Apprentice Abyss

This week has been a week of watersheds, new discoveries and regret.  And all three of these culminated into one moment in time.  The critical point at which my life would change forever came about at 9pm on Wednesday when I wandered into the living room and noticed that the other half had put The Apprentice on the goggle-box.  Up until this time, I had managed to avoid this travestuous excuse for entertainment: I didn’t even know who Stuart Baggs was (although subsequently it pains me to have to for once in my life agree with the purveyor of darkness that is Piers Morgan when he said he had the business brains of a lobotomized aardvark). 

“Welcome to the nadir of your miserable life, ladies and gentlemen.”  The announcer didn’t say.  “please leave your standards at the door and listen to the sounds of souls shattering as they debase themselves before the grand throne solely for the sport of the Dark One himself, Lord Sugar, the twisted evil pubic gnome and his chattering minions.”

But he may as well have done because, as I sank into my seat, I felt the black waters of despair begin to lap about my feet and start to rise with a slow inexorability only seen in the movement of glaciers. 

The line-up was an unprepossessing gaggle of cretins and lickspittles.  I have nothing to really compare them with, having previously taken the policy of jamming my fingers in my ears and shouting “Lalalalalala! Go away!” whenever anyone tried to discuss the toadying lackeys that grasped and clawed at the coattails of the Dark One on previous series, but if the brief was to scrape the bottom of the barrel of humanity I do believe they managed it.

So there I was, stuck on the sofa, watching two groups of people who are allegedly highly successful business wizards with all the mad skills a business ninja requires to be the superest best ever display anything but.   The shambolic nature of, well, everything they did, made me wonder if any of them had ever given a presentation, pitched an idea, worked on a project or, for that matter if any of them knew how to spell the word ‘business’

But on to the task at hand: create an app with a global appeal with the winners being the team whose app has the most global downloads.  With a silent Banzai charge floating around their collective ears and very little going on between aforementioned lugholes, they ran at the project with a level of enthusiastic incompetence that would make Raglan and Lucan of the Light Brigade say “Gosh. Steady on chaps.  Perhaps we should think it through.”

The boys’ room was one giant love-in, with lots of stroking and positive reinforcement and self-congratulation (“Aw we’re brilliant!  Nice one geezer! Go us!  We’re like totally amazing!”) whilst they devised an app of such naffness that only salesmen, readers of redtops, estate agents and recruitment executives would enjoy. Oh and people who buys a certain type of app to then show all their mates:

“Look!  Look!  It’s a pint but on my Iphone.  Brilliant!  But check this out, when I tip it, it’s like I’m like drinking it.  Look! Look! The pint’s emptying.  Awesome.  Wasn’t that cool.  Brilliant.”

The girls were not faring much better, but were working in a far healthier, challenging, confrontational (some might say bloody-minded and argumentative) way:

 “Oo - i had this idea where we can do a thing and get you know, people to, erm, join the thing and it's a thing with, erm, tiddley-faddley rinky-dink bits…”

“Shut up.  Stop talking.  Now.”

“Let me tell you about my idea.  I want to tell you about my idea.  So you’re sitting next to the person and he says, uhh, no wait, he asks you, um like where are we and then you can like, um, no wait, um.”

“Shut it. Don’t test me.”


“No. Can it.”

(Much glaring and planning of epic slagging off session later.)

Stuff happened and people said some stupid things – the default setting, I believe for the cringing whelps desperate to show Dark One their worth by offering up their own dear granny for the trampling over, by stabbing of as many backs as possible and fighting each other to get to the ultimate boot licking position.

And the result? A couple of crappy apps which managed to get the perfect balance of banality and naffness that would get Idiots from around the globe stabbing furiously at their portable devices and one of which even incorporating a side serving of lazy racism – Welsh people, valleys. Geddit? – that would only appeal to a few lobotomized aardvarks across the world.
We also saw a few bloody noses and bruised egos, the beginnings of a few hate campaigns and a raft of mind-meltingly stupid quotes that are already being jotted down and snickered over by the highbrow and lowbrow alike. 

“'I'm not a show pony, or a one-tricky pony. I'm not a jack-ass or a stubborn mule, and I'm definitely not a wild stallion that needs to be tamed. I am the champion thoroughbred that this process requires." 

And there was me, Jim Eastwood, thinking you were an idiot.  Note to self: Champion thoroughbred.  Not nitwit. 

"My positive approach and very good looks make me stand out from the crowd." 

Thank you Vincent Disneur, for your modest self-appraisal. Was that sweat or essence of handsomeness oozing out of your pores when you were tanking your pitch?

As the episode wound up, the Dark One was positively crackling with malevolent glee, as the spineless project manager vacillated between his choices for who was to get the superkicking in the Boardroom (a place that is mentioned in hushed tones, we are on sacred ground doncherknow?) and having delivered his opinions in a manner that put me to thinking of a West Highland Terrier chewing on a dead snail, the Dark One did his mystical pointy finger thing and uttered the magical words:

“You’re fired.”

And, before our very eyes, one sweaty contestant was consigned to the dungheap.  But what of the rest?  A collective mopping of brows, feeble attempts at self-justification and the working out of which fellow-competitor to screw over next.

As the closing credits rolled, my head was buzzing with thoughts and questions. They do all this for a measly quarter of a million?  Is your dignity and professional pride worth £250,000?  What on earth could possibly be the job prospects for an Apprentice reject?  Surely nobody in their right mind would employ a person who not only displays stunning incompetence but also clearly hasn’t got the nous to keep his or her uselessness under wraps?  How can such nincompoopery be permitted in a public forum?  Do I even care? 

As Neitzsche said in Aphorism 146 of Beyond Good and Evil:
“When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”

I’ve watched the Apprentice now, and my soul has been dirtied and some kind of dirty you just can’t scrub clean.

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