The Apprentice 2023, Week 3: Fricative Tennis

Welcome to the end times, we have no fun and no games.

Who needs hands when you’ve got friends like these?

This week’s early riser was Rochelle and I am a little disappointed nobody seemed to have thought to buy a pair of Katherine’s pyjamas for the show

I just really miss this leopard’s face

the horror that Yogita could have been… but I’m getting ahead of myself because the phonecall was for the candidates to meet at Regent Street Cinema for the premier of Sugar & Friends

and by “friends” we do mean a series of BBC employees doing voiceover work at gunpoint

which EVERYONE was confused by, it took several minutes for them to give the first even vague pity laugh and Rochelle seemed to be rolling her eyes at most of it

perhaps she could see where this was all going, as the task at hand was to create a 25 second cartoon for kids aged 2 to 4 – I imagine the 25 second time limit was to spare the graphic designers and animators at least a few braincells, but it did mean that there was a scant view milliseconds of plot to be found in either of the two “stories”.

After 2 weeks of towing the gender line, it was time to mix up the groups with the teams being:

Reece, Gregory, Rochelle, Joseph, Megan, Simba, Denisha and Victoria:

with the oher team being Avi, Bradley, Sohail, Mark, Dani, Marnie, Shazia:

which also meant TEAM NAMES! And from the velvet bag of pre-approved corporate jargon buzzwords came the words “Affinity” for Team Avi and “Apex” for Team Reece – with Rochelle attempting to name them Excelsior

I am quite glad I don’t have to try and remember how to spell “Excelsior” every week though – not that the team names ever matter anymore, gone are the day of people trying to sell baffled customers a cup of Eclipse Coffee.

You’re Having A Giraffe!

Avi and Sohail were both eager to be the PM for this challenge, with Sohail owning a martial arts business aimed at kids that he was swinging around like a threat that Avi should start sleeping with one eye open

Avi, completely oblivious to the brick break heading his way in the near future blindly persisted with his bid for PM, his qualification being that his dad runs a nursery and he may have at one point spoken to a child. Naturally everyone instantly elects Avi as PM, leaving Sohail to quietly seethe through the entire episode

no matter what he’s wearing

oh, we’ll get to the pitching outits.

The team instantly decided that they wanted to theme the entire thing around the idea of inclusivity and in order to make that palatable for preschoolers, they wanted their characters to be animals – settling on Dani’s giraffe after rejecting Marnie’s Grumpy Humpy Camel under the guise that the moral of the story might suggest that kids get what they want if they moan and gripe about things, but I’ve watched just enough Bing to know that that happens quite regularly anyway.

In a deranged move that only The Apprentice is capable of, the teams had to be split in two – one team would be on Character design duty while the second was on storyline duty – both evolving completely separately from one another… Avi choosing to lead the character design team and almost immediately being ousted because Marnie had clearly been sketching a giraffe in the taxi while it went over a few speed bumps

to be fair, I do think the final character design for the giraffe was actually quite cute and I could see it being on an incredibly cheaply made YouTube series produced by a cereal company

and of course she (and we know she’s a girl because the bow is pink) needed a name, step forward Shazia, extremely keen on the idea of inclusivity wanted the giraffe to have an Indian name, her suggestion being Yogita – which is a couple of syllables too many for the average 3 year old BUT! I did find just about everyone’s balking, confused reactions to the name Yogita incredibly uncomfortable

of course, the right thing to do here would be to ask Shazia if perhaps there was an Indian name that was a little shorter, but they did not and I do wonder if Shazia would have taken the advice anyway considering she was so set on the name Yogita and now I do worry that everyone was being so disparaging of the name and it might be the name of her daughter.

Meanwhile on the storyline side of things, theIR idea of inclusivity and diversity was focusing on size and shape with the giraffe worrying that she’s too tall – so this is just Netflix’s Tall Girl but for babies but as a 6 foot woman, I for appreciate any representation. They were struggling to fit the whole story into 25 seconds, and by “story” I do mean, Dani’s version of a Lin Manuel Miranda mumble rap as she shaved off millisecond after millisecond of deadspace after each word to fit it in

she became a songwriter in this moment, practically treating this what-I-shall-generously-call-a-song about a socially anxious giraffe like Adele getting ready to drop the next big Sad Commute Banger

Shazia however was disappointed that they were focusing on something like height (do preschoolers even have a concept of height?)

her concern being that this had been done before and that inclusivity, nowadays, should focus on race, gender or sexual orientation and I did honestly think that they were about to randomly decide that Yogita the Giraffe was a lesbian

I support her journey.

In order to decide who would win this challenge, the teams had to pitch to a series of industry experts, including a director from Aardman, a CBeebies commissioner and Angellica Bell all summoned to the Dragons Den set

but first they had to do market research, which we saw very little of because Mark was talking to children with an energy I have only seen committed to film when Christian Bale played Patrick Bateman

they’re the same man.

In order to liven up the pitch and really hammer home the animal theme, the pitching group had decided they’d dress up as animals and while Marnie got away with wrapping a snake around her shoulders and calling it a day – the fact it perfectly matched her dress is extra camp

Avi was significantly less fortunate and looked like he was being kidnapped by an albino baboon

that’s a spoiler for episode 2 of Yogita the Giraffe.

You will notice that Shazia is not part of the pitching group, she was unfortunately perma-benched as a punishment for trying to claim Dani’s giraffe baby as her own

this giraffe awoke something primal inside of Shazia and she was going to protect it with her ENTIRE life and will be taking to Dani to court over custody of her ungulate daughter.

The experts’ response to Yogita wasn’t overwhelmingly positive, they got very hung up on the pink bow which sure, it’s a slight issue that it’s the only visual symboliser of the character’s gender but at the end of the day they had like an hour to pull this character out of thin air so they were literally having to resort to the shortest of shorthand.

Speaking of short hands, on to Team Apex!

It’s OK To Be Faye

Reece was an easy pick for PM as he owns Scotland’s leading performing arts school [citation needed] and this team was also going down the diversity and inclusion route but they were going to be much more straightforward with it – there were no ungulate gay icons here – and instead they would be featuring two children: a black boy and a girl in a wheelchair. It is a concept that is a The Apprentice Minefield on hard mode and nobody was winning

Once again, the team was split in twain with Denisha leading Simba, Victoria and Megan on character design while Reese, Gregory, Rochelle and Ol’ James Bond did the script work.

For some reason, the character design team decided to lead with naming the characters deciding on alliterative Fs (in chat) – the boy being Femi and the girl’s name causing a great deal of consternation as Denisha wanted Faye and Victoria wanted Fifi with the two battling it out like a game of fricative tennis

with Denisha declaring Fifi “a pet’s name” and settling for Faye – the chances of Fifi being one of Victoria’s planned baby names being INCREDIBLY high

what did you just call my daughter?

This did not leave them with a great deal of time to create their characters, which is why they looked like something a college student made to pass their animation BTEC module

AND I WOULD KNOW, I was the soul creator of Space Cat: Felines IN SPAAAAAACE!

it was both an animated short and a Flash game which is no longer supported on the internet. Gone but never forgotten oh brave Space Cat, the feline that made me realise I would never pursue a job as an animator. I got a distinction grade for it because I had an actual cat and not something that looks like someone shaved Garfield

Femi has an intense inner Five Nights at Freddy’s energy that fills me with a deep dread.

So while they create their background South Park characters, Reese, Rochelle, Joseph and Gregory-in-physicality-alone were on story duty which is where this whole thing takes a dramatic turn down Yikes Avenue as their big show of inclusion involved Femi feeling a little bit sorry for Faye, the wheelchair using girl, not being able to use the slide in the park and Femi having to resort to playing “a clapping game” with her and this is where the separated teams were thoroughly stitched up because the characters did not have hands and upon hearing the word “clapping” – Victoria looked like she was staring into the abyss

and while she had an internal breakdown, the graphic designer sitting next to Reese was loving every second of Denisha insisting that these two handless characters could indeed clap – to be fair “we didn’t have enough time to put the hands on” is one of the funniest sentences I’ve ever heard on this show

meanwhile Joseph’s soul had well and truly vacated the premesis

however, the storyline team were not immune to graphic design failings of their own as they got to design the background and while the other team designed a lush, fun jungle school that filled the frame entirely and looked passably like a cartoon’s background

Femi and Faye found themselves stranded on a desolate landscape punctuated only by a slide and a singular tree

IMMEDIATELY one of my favourite descriptions from a book swam to the forefront of my mind: “The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring.” and if you’re thinking that sounds horrific and dystopian – IT IS, it’s from The Book Thief and it is describing a World War 2 bomb site.

The entire thing went down incredibly badly with the industry experts, a palpable sense of sadness permeating the room more and more intensely with every passing second of Femi being an absolute menace to Faye

of course they immediately pointed out that the way in which Faye was treated was incredibly patronising and antithetical to the way in which wheelchair users and people with visible disabilities want to be treated – not that the team saw this coming because they looked pretty damn pleased with themselves

Victoria’s enthusiasm coming crashing to the ground the moment they asked “Why doesn’t Femi have feet?”

EVEN THE ANXIOUS GAY GIRAFFE HAD SHOES GUYS

The lack of feet is actually to avoid unsavoury fan art, his full name is No Feet-pics Femi we purposefully designed him to be as unTumblr-friendly as possible.
The lack of hands was also an issue because, well, when your arms are merely flesh noodles, this is what clapping looks like

and it does indeed look like the Monica vs Rachel slap fight from Friends

Faye and Femi were also imaginably fighting over Jean-Claude van Damme, it’s my favourite game to play in the post-apocalyptic playground as the sun sets on our infant lives.

The Boardroom Blitz

I admire both teams for wanting to make something a little worthy and diverse and if anything, I hope that the cataclysmic failure of both of these projects at least makes people appreciate the work that actual inclusion and diversity specialists do and how necessary they are to a project – Aesop could only dream of this cautionary tale.

The only way to decide the winner was to have the industry experts select the better team, with Yogita The Giraffe winning just for being both more marketable and not leaving everyone with a deeply unsettling feeling in their stomach after watching it – their reward being to go to a novelty bar that looks like the inside of a pinball machine

this of course meant that Femi and Faye had been dealt a losing hand with Reese deciding that he’d bring Denisha in for losing track of the time and appendages as well as Gregory for the fact his only contribution to the project was some basic astrology

Hey! Even Galileo was a baby once upon a time.

This did feel like it could be a very early double (or even triple) firing because the visuals and the narrative very much felt like they were equal in failure and I can only imagine that Sugar really likes Denisha’s and Reese’s business plans because somehow they were both spared the firing with Denisha being compulsory PM next week meaning the third candidate to be fired was sadly Gregory

I would have been so excited to see him running around Brighton looking for nonsensical tat.

And so 14 candidates remain

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