The Apprentice, Series 16, Episode 1: Pyjama Selling Tyrant

Images that precede unfortunate events.

It’s quite impressive that they managed to take 16 candidates for The Apprentice on a cruise ship and it not result in anyone wearing a captain’s hat at any point.

After having to take a 1 year hiatus because of the Global Pantaloonery that we’ve been trapped in, The Apprentice makes its… triumphant(?) return. And if you’re wondering how they’re handling the show in The Age of Covid…

aging like milk within 2 seconds of starting.

But don’t worry, they’re apparently still going to be allowed to harangue the general public with a plethora of tasks that are absolutely just reskinned challenges from Challenge Anneka. And they’ve got all the usual characters: Obligatory Cleaning Business Owner, a man who far too readily compares himself to an assault rifle, Eyebrows As Secondary Characters and Slightly Niche Online Business Owner Who I Am Already Obsessed With

It’s not exactly “sells eggs and sweets” but it’ll have to do.

But in new territory, the show is branching out and accepting The Social Mediafication of Television and has cast Navid who is the proud owner of a Nicki Minaj Stan Account over on The Cursed Bird App – and yes, the man does in fact talk like a stan account for Nicki Minaj has become sentient

there’s also a fair few suss tweets that paint him out to be an antivaxxer which is worrying CONSIDERING HE’S A PHARMACIST. But sometimes you do just have to defend you’re fav’s cousin’s best friend’s swollen gonads on #BarbLife.

As usual Lord Sugar is back, he’s never going to let this show go as long as it gives him an ounce of leverage over Piers Morgan. However there is a, presumably temporary, change to The Watchful Duo because Claude Littner had an unfortunate electric bike accident and couldn’t be involved, so this year it will be up to The Incredibly Very Unreasonably Attractive Tim Campbell to keep an eye on the contestants

as for Karren?

Paid dust. You could have said ONE thing.

For the second challenge of the series (the first being the 5 minutes of having to pretend to laugh at Sugar’s jokes) the teams had to create an advertising campaign including a TV advert and a social media teaser (which is what very professional business people are calling TikToks apparently) for a cruise ship. And if you’re wondering “How on earth did the candidates get private access to a cruise ship?” – well, the whole challenge was actually just a stealthy advert for Virgin Voyages and their new ship The Scarlet Lady (there’s a certain delicious irony to The Virgin Scarlet Lady). But apparently Branson wasn’t paying quite enough to get around the BBC advertising regulations so they could only mention Virgin twice.

And yes, the teams were being split along the gender lines – so it’s Fancy London Tailor Window on the right and Elle Magazine’s Annual Power Dressing Issue on the left.

Cruising For a Bouji-ing

With Pyjama Selling Kathryn having experience in selling cruises, and actually having worked for Virgin before, she was a natural choice for Project Manager and in true Apprentice fashion, the power went straight to her head as they tried to decide their target market. Kathryn really wanted to go for a younger friend-based demographic of 25-45 year olds, while Her Nemesis-to-be, Francesca, wanted to just lean into the very pre-established audience of 45+ year olds. Kathryn was having absolutely none of it

All hail the Pyjama Selling Tyrant.

Naturally this leads to Kathryn and Francesca sparring for the entire challenge, and Kathryn had better watch out if Francesca’s very angry intro-walk is anything to go by

that’s a woman who knows how to push someone under a bus without even blinking.

Instead of just lumping Francesca over onto the subteam though, Kathryn was determined to keep her in her sights and instead tasks Brittany, Shama, Shama’s Eyebrows, Harpreet and Jingle Singing Amy with making the TV advert – which very quickly becomes Amy’s passion project and within 5 minutes of holding that camera compares herself to Spielberg like she’s a first year Film and Television Production student who hasn’t had their soul broken yet… Don’t worry, by the end of the challenge she was very much entering her Lars von Trier era.

But before we get to Amy’s cinematic debut-cum-swan-song, there’s the matter of the brand name, which once again is a group discussion in so far as everyone is there because Kathryn, politely lets Sophie give her suggestion of “Diamond Cruises” (which was a terrible name, to be fair) and then just bulldozes in with great potential drag name “Bouji Cruises”

and there was no shifting her on this idea – 1 PM-ing job on a BBC reality TV show and suddenly you’re *insert your historical dictator of choice here*.

There is much confusion about the word “bouji” because apparently they managed to find all three people in the world who don’t know what the word means – none more so than Shama who spent the entire task going on her own Arthurian quest for the meaning of it and got absolutely nowhere by the end of it. But also, as the bartender they talked to for feedback pointed out – it does sound suspiciously like “Booze Cruise” – and honestly Boozy Cruises: Find Out What To Do With a Drunken Sailor would’ve been a great idea.

To be fair, it didn’t help that Kathryn’s own understanding of the word only extended to brunch, cocktails, nice dresses and… socialising but ~fancy~. And to add to the confusion, their logo for Bouji cruises looked like a piece of AI software had studied every vaguely nautical logo to create it

the year 8 PowerPoint title slide of it all is offensively powerful.

Once again, Francesca found herself overruled as she desperately wanted to add a pop of orange to it, as it’s “a very sociable colour” and she has after all studied “colour psychology”

but no, starkly blue and all too corporate it was.

Having creative differences of their own was The Subteam where sadly Amy hadn’t even bothered to give herself a starring role as their cruise line’s own Jane McDonald – if she at no point gets to sit in a recording booth to sing about luxury underwear in the 4 weeks she’ll likely stick around for, then none of this was worth it. Amy’s creative vision for the advert was a lighthearted comedic tone, which Brittany was having absolutely none of – and given that she was going to be starring in the advert, I can kind of respect her for noping out of that lest she be dragged into Pants Man infamy. So instead she and Harpreet mostly just got to sit in a paddling pool while ogling whichever crew members they had managed to convince to take their tops off

there’s worse ways to spend an Apprentice challenge, as Amy’s various facial expressions throughout the creation of this advert will testify to

The advert was rather illustrative of the shortcomings of Kathryn’s idea, because while I think Bouji Cruises was a pretty valid and good idea, if you want to really get it across, you’re going to kind of need to lean into the whole Love Island Fyre Fest of it all and not you know… gal pals playing air hockey?

The Hollywood Bowl arcade is not bouji.

And the lacklustre advert didn’t really get across a sense of lavishness and so the people they were pitching to got really hung up over it and asked such potent questions as “What are bouji activities?” to which I ask “What are Virgin Voyage activities?”. And Kathryn, perhaps in her inexperience at pitching, didn’t give a particularly eloquent answer. What they essentially needed to do was just turn Caroline Calloway’s scam of a Meet and Greet (featuring flower crown making classes, oat milk tea time and mason jar gardening) into a cruise. Meanwhile, on the sidelines, Francesca and her unused wealth of pitching experience, began preparations for the inevitable bus pushing

has anyone ever ascended to Series Villain so quickly? I am obsessed.

Overall, I really don’t think this was as bad an idea as everyone made it out to be – I think the let down was that they had a single afternoon to film their advert which featured a cast of 4 (four) people so couldn’t really get that celebratory atmosphere they wanted – hence the blaring use of Miami 2 Ibiza in a bid to give it any sort of life. It probably would’ve also been better to call it “Lavish Cruises” and have the tagline be something like “Be Bouji”.

Nought But Nautical

The guys were off to a loss right from the moment someone asked “Who has marketing experience?” only to be met by absolute crickets before Akshay, the owner of a Digital Marketing Agency, realised he had to come forward lest he later be accused up ducking responsibilities. Not that he didn’t completely duck responsibilities anyway… As for his Subteam Leader, well Akeem stepped forward claiming marketing experience and when Akshay began throwing marketing jargon at him, he immediately forgot about it and it turned out he just been near a marketing meeting one time but try as he might, he could not weedle his way out of his new responsibilities and was tasked with leading the branding team made up of himself, Harry, Nicki MInaj’s Number 1 Fan and Nick whose defining feature is that he apparently takes the Boris Johnson approach to hair management

do we think Sugar is going to tell him to comb it at any point, or even better, that he might get fired for looking a little bit like he’s been caught napping at work?

Akshay’s big idea for his cruise was to go the Health and Wellbeing route – with the core of his concept being The Three Pillars: Health & Wellbeing, Luxury and The Ultimate Experience. Not to be confused with The Three Pillars of Judaism, of course. Now despite being just about the only one hellbent on wanting to brand the cruise as a seafaring cult, Akshay decided he was absolutely not going to be involved in the branding of the cruise and it does seem a little weird not to have the PM involved in the naming, branding and general creation of the experience and instead having him pissing about trying to film an advert in which Aaron, like Cher in her own personal one woman production of West Side Story (which is an actual real thing), was going to be playing all of the parts.

On the branding side of things, they first had to come up with a name and because “nautical” was the only cruise-related term Akeem could come up with, they had to find a “mindful word” that went with it, and also it had to alliterative… enter “Never Ending Nautical”

the answer is no, it is just word salad – I think we should all just be thankful that they didn’t think of Nautical Namaste, although that might have helped them explain away the logo. AND OH GOD THEIR LOGO

it’s bad enough that the line art looks like Julia Lepetit’s horrifying illustration of a Thomas the Tank Engine character uncoupling it’s human-form from its vehicular prison

(apologies for bringing that to the attention of anyone who doesn’t watch Drawfee. But also, go watch Drawfee on YouTube.)

BUT THEN, apparently in their lack of a degree in Colour Psychology, they decided that THIS was the best colour combination for their liquified yoga instructor

their reasoning being that it’s the colour gradient of a tree and trees are healthy… and also Akshay said this during their 10 minute team briefing

I am absolutely DYING at Conor’s “listening face”.

given that the casting process for The Apprentice absolutely involves an interview to determine who has absolutely no taste at all, it’s not entirely surprising that most of the lads think the baby poo coloured monstrosity is perfectly fine. However, Harry did realise that it looked like a banana gone beyond even being good enough for banana bread. Unfortunately for Harry, he committed a cardinal Apprentice sin in that he voiced a concern and didn’t have an immediate solution to it. Although, that’s not entirely true, he had doodled a Goatse as an alternative logo

I am not responsible for you googling Goatse.

Literally all they had to do to find a better logo was look at their poor sweet graphic designer who was wearing every possible nautical themed symbol around his neck

Mister Branding Team, you could have saved her. I gave you all the clues.

Harry’s logo was inspired by the 7 Chakras, and it might have benefited him to have explained what the Chakras are instead of repeatedly just saying “chakras” to a group of people who evidently had no idea what a Chakra is. It also doesn’t help Harry that he has the disposition of a panicked badger and is extremely easy to bulldoze in any sort of a debate.

And so the team had their cruise name their logo and all that was left to do was unveil it to everyone – and it was a potent logo that had the power to induce only one reaction in a person upon seeing it

they’ve essentially created a semiotic Medusa that seemingly only Francesca is immune to but God do I love that she absolutely lost her shit over their logo.

My absolutely favourite thing was the fact Conor realised the branding team had shat the bed and he was having a great old time knowing that when they inevitably lost, he certainly wouldn’t be on the chop

and this attitude very much continued into the pitch where he basically just openly mocked their TV advert and how it was essentially the Bouji Cruise Logo of cruise adverts in that it looked like an algorithm had stitched it together

but even he couldn’t bring himself to mock the social media teaser because doing so after Nick Animorphed into their logo would’ve felt like kicking a particularly sick puppy

graphic design is nobody’s passion.

While I’m back to talking about the graphic design faults of this team, once they did realise that, you know, you kind of need your brand name on a logo, they added it to the social media teaser and for some reason they chose a non-copyright infringing Lord of the Rings font?

which is certainly better than the quick bit of Papyrus that the other half of the team plastered out in their TV advert

because apparently they decided to name the boat “Seaquility” and with the lack of business branding, I’m shocked none of the people they were pitching to got confused about what their brand name actually was.

Over all, just an absolute clusterfuck of a team, and most of it because Akshay came up with the entire concept that nobody else really wanted to do and then promptly excused himself from being part of the team that elaborated upon his idea. Then he couldn’t even be bothered to try and defend it during the pitching because, and I quote, “I didn’t want to blag.” – does he realise which show he’s on? The name of the game is blagging.

Boardroom Blitz

Given that there was no actual selling involved the result can’t be numerically decided, meaning the winner was essentially decided by the fact Kathryn’s team remembered to put their brand name on the logo, and as a reward for their win they get to go to the luxury apartment and drink champagne where Francesca makes an interesting observation

and Kathryn looms in the background very much thinking that Francesca really suddenly knows what Bouji means… Perhaps the bouji was the enemies we made along the way.

This does of course mean that it’s the boys in the boardroom and Akshay has to make a decision as to who to drag back in alongside him – Akeem being subteam leader was of course an obligatory option and then because he’d be the easiest to steamroll in the situation, he brings back Harry despite the fact that for about 80% of the time, Harry was actually correct but I suppose that’s easy to paint as “being subordinate”… Which exactly what they do and Harry, in full panicked badger mode, has no choice but to just do his best to appeal to the idea that Project Manager should always be fired for losing a task. And while I do think Akshay should have been fired for not taking more control of the branding, Harry being so unsubtle about it was only ever going to end up with him having to wear a coat and scarf and swelter in the back of a taxi because this was filmed in July

I don’t really think Harry would have added anything to the competition but I do think he wasn’t the right choice for a firing in this case.

And so, we’re left with 15 contestants

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