My father was an astute cattle-dealer who could gauge the value of an animal and the possibilities for resale with effortless ease. Unfortunately, his buying-and-selling gene wasn’t transmitted to me. When sales people see me headed their way, it’s all they can do to stop breaking into a quick shoe-shuffle of joy. But there are consolations to my haplessness: I don’t have to spend much time with the kind of people who infest TV’s The Apprentice.
I’ll pass lightly over Alan Sugar, a man whose mother must have strained to like him, and focus on the two finalists in last night’s show. Both were women and both had names beginning with L - Derry’s Leah Totton and Essex or somewhere like that’s Luisa Zissman. Leah, who is a qualified doctor, had some idea about making money through a chain of cosmetic surgery places; Luisa wanted to supply bakers with the instruments of their trade.
Oh God.I have no doubt that deep inside, both young women are really nice and may even be highly intelligent. However, over a two-hour period they successfully hid both qualities. Luisa screwed up her presentation cue-cards and then cried off-stage (always good in such a show); Leah didn’t cry at all. She was made up to look like a Barbie doll but with an upper-lip that would have made Angelina Jolie jealous of its plumpness. Oh, and she's a trained doctor.
The interviews with Sugar were ghastly. He’d ask them why he should put £250,000 their way to support their business idea. The response of both women was to use the words ‘Fantastic’ and ‘passionate’ quite a bit, the ‘fantastic’ referring to their cunning plan, the ‘passionate’ to themselves. Both kept assuring the good Lord Sugar that they would make a terrific business partner for him. Instead of laughing openly Sugar nodded thoughtfully, even though he must have been thinking this was the silliest amount of money he had ever squandered. In the course of the interview both women veered from opinionated to obsequious, when they thought it might impress the Sugar man.
The announcing of the winner, with about ten significant pauses and lots of dah-dah-dah-dah music , was unbearably phony. After the decision, both candidates were interviewed by a panel of comedians, which seemed oddly apt.
I'll grant you, it was good to see someone from this statelet win; but it was bad to the point of depressing to see a trained doctor turn her skills not to making sick people well but to parting rich, vain people from their money and, in some cases, their outer layers of facial skin. (Her company, incidentally, was called NIKS. That's 'skin' backways. Clever, eh?)
No, seriously though, tell me it was all a huge send-up, like This Is Spinal Tap or something. Tell me that the shallowness and fakeness and plain dumbness of the show was post-modern irony working at such a subtle level it was invisible to dolts like me. Tell me that, or I’m going to use this baker’s grater to peel the skin from my face and use this rolling pin to hit myself over the head until I'm unconscious.
And they say The Apprentice is a massively popular show. And that universal suffrage is a good idea. Dear God.