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Dear Dragons Den

Dear Dragons Den, (BBC1, Sundays @ 9pm)

I’m really glad to see you back, I wasn’t sure whether you would return or if you’d been merged with The Apprentice and the stinking, fetid remains dispatched to Channel 4 for use in Four Rooms, but here you are and a very welcome sight you are too. Please pass on my sincerest and warmest welcome to the new dragon Hilary Devey who, despite appearances, is bloody awesome.

Little did Cruella DeVille realise, but she was only going to be offered 20% equity in the dalmations...

I must admit that her being awesome was not my first thought upon seeing her. No, in all honesty my first thought was “They’ve replaced someone who occasionally tries to buy babies with someone who definitely eats them on a regular basis.” and whilst that still might very well be the case – I believe all the dragons to be beasts of the netherworld – she is far more interesting, intelligent and pleasant than her ‘she mistook Quentin Blake’s drawings in Roald Dahl’s The Witches for a clothing catalogue’ look would ever have you believe. I truly did judge this book by its cover, and I was wrong to do so. There should be a saying about how that’s wrong. I’m going to invent one now –

Do not try to ascertain the qualities of a work or an individual merely by virtue of their external appearance, for this will sometimes lead to an inaccurate conclusion.

A book you can judge by it's cover. Or can you?

Catchy don’t you think? I certainly don’t think it could have been put more succinctly or in a more memorable fashion. It’s accurate too, because on probably 50% of all occasions you can save yourself a lot of bother by judging people by how they look: If they look like they’re hiding an incredibly dark secret, like an urge to kill, then it’s probably best not to accept the offer of a lift; if they look like they have to wear a bib to eat and a nappy to bed then you’d do well to not make yourselves unelectable by making them your party leader; and if they appear to have a borderline personality and the propensity to jump into bed with anyone that says hello to them then you should probably trust that and not get into an 18 month relationship with them…

Okay, I’ve made this a bit awkward now. Maybe you’re friends with her, maybe you took her side, I don’t know, doesn’t matter. Pretend I never said anything. The point is that sometimes, roughly half the time, judging a book by its cover (some might call it instinct) is a useful timesaver, on other occasions it can leave you looking a proper tit – as it did with myself and Hilary.

So any way, how do you think you got on? Pretty well? I’d agree, it’s pretty much same old same old really isn’t it. Yeah, you’ve got a slightly jazzed up title sequence where all the Dragons are either:

a) Surveying all they own like a Middle Ages land baron, or

b) Contemplating suicide like a mid 80’s stockbroker

Either way it’s just as wanky as all the previous ones and will continue to feed us the same guff it’s been feeding us for years – Duncan Bannatyne proprietor of Health Clubs and the biggest misery factory in Scotland (and that’s really saying something), Peter Jones rich because of crap BT ads, playing tennis and being tall yada yada yada. We get it, they’re rich, they’re self-made – I think you’re labouring the point a little.

Then you’ve stuck with the peculiar Evan Davis hosting, which is fine, there’s nothing all that wrong with him, he just looks like he’s owned by one of the Dragons who keeps him locked away in a cellar, bereft of sunlight and feeding him just enough gruel to survive. Little else could explain his gaunt appearance or seemingly endless excitement at even the briefest moments of human interaction. Thankfully you seem to have done away with all those peculiar crash zooms that accompanied him (I think the proprietor of those now works on Neighbours) and replaced them with simpler cutaways that are a lot easier to take.

Evan 'relaxes' at 'home'

Staying with Evan for a minute, can you please ask him (or indeed order him) to stop asking me questions that I couldn’t possibly hope to answer: “Will that seeTheo make an offer?” I haven’t got the foggiest idea Evan, nor could I hope to have. I could hazard a guess, but what would be the point, it would only distract me from enjoying the show. Surely that’s the sort of question I – someone who wasn’t at all involved in the process of making the show – should be asking you, the host? It’s a nonsense. Whilst we’re at it, please tell him to buy a dictionary. This week he chose to describe the chairs as “infamous”. Now, I’m no expert on chairs, but I think

Have you seen these chairs? They're wanted in connection with the brutal murder of a sofa and the kidnap of a chaise lounge

I’d remember if a chair, or any item of furniture for that matter, had been found guilty of genocide, or even a lesser charge that might lead to it gaining ‘infamy’. I understand that part of Evans job is to use some ludicrous hyperbole to ratchet up the tension and add some fabricated jeopardy, and that’s fine when he’s trying to convince us that Geoff who makes kids toys out of dog shit might have a chance of getting investment, but when he’s misappropriating the English language to lend the props some social weight that they simply haven’t earned? Well that gets my goat sir. The only ‘infamous’ chair I can even think of is man Mao, and that’s not even a chair, but a Chinese dictator who uses chair as the first part of his name. Don’t do it again.

Everything else seems the same, to me at least, you’ve still got the same mix of brilliant entrepreneurs with excellent scalable businesses followed by blundering incompetents who, in less prosperous times, would have proudly worn the floppy hat and giddy face of the village idiot, larking around for pennies rather than proposing deals for tens of thousands.

"What I do is...well it's like...kids...birthdays...erm...ahh...money please."

Likewise you’ve still got the cruel rules that mean no notes can be taken in to help with your pitch (just like in the real world!) leading to situations like that poor cow who went on first. By God that was awkward – got to love it though, it may be false jeopardy, but it’s helped make you what you are. You’re still a very entertaining show, frustrating at times when you see the Dragons gang rape a brilliant business to get an extra 5% equity from the poor bastard who’s put their heart and soul (and savings) in to it for ten years, but you’ve stuck to another old adage – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  – and that’s one that the likes of Simon Cowell must have wished he’d paid attention to.

As for the Dragons? Well, that’s a whole different letter – I believe I’ve found an ancient manuscript that reveals the key to success with them. I’ll write next week with it.

In the meantime I’ve got stuff to be getting on with, and for that reason…

I’m out!

R x

PS – I write Letters to Television Shows, I’d like £50,000 for 4% equity.

PPS – I’ve not made a profit, and don’t expect to.

PPPS – I just want some money. Thanks in advance.

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Dear Show Me The Funny

Dear Show Me The Funny, (ITV1, Mondays @9pm)

First of all I’d like to say welcome, and thank you for trying to bring stand-up comedy back to the fore on mainstream British TV, the idea of it is very welcome and it’s so nice to see comedy presented in some way other than a panel show. So yes, thank you for trying. Sincerely. Now on to the multitude of reasons why you’ve already failed.

Enough about the Merengue, did you find the fluffy dice?

You know the bit in Strictly Come Dancing where the contestants go around Cheltenham on a scavenger hunt – desperately scrambling around trying to find a wooden leg, a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat and a rape alarm – and the first team back with all the stuff gets to choose between the Bolero and the Lambada (yes, the Forbidden Dance!)?

You don’t?

"If dreams were wings you know, I would have flown away from you, you bitch"

Well surely you must be familiar with the show ‘A Place in the Sun’ where couples who are desperate to flee Britain seek property abroad hoping to get away from their mentally unstable exes and believing, wrongly, that being in a sunnier climate will somehow rescue them from the misery their sham of a marriage has become? Yes? Excellent. Well you know the bit right at the beginning where there’s three couples and only the pair who manages to give the best performance of Kylie and Jason hit ‘Especially For You’ gets the free trip to Greece where they almost certainly won’t buy any property?

No?

I don’t know what to say. Oh yes, that’s right. You don’t know of these because they’re fictional. You see, for some reason the producers of these incredibly succesful formats have kept things simple. I know, buffoons eh? They’re under the impression that someone tuning into a show called ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is, primarly, interested in seeing what the celebrities are like at dancing, sure they throw a bit of a training montage in there, but the general theme remains on the dancing. Likewise ‘A Place in the Sun’ tends to focus on the properties, with only a small dose of the general dismay at the route of the fleeing couples flight of fancy – there’s quite literally no mention of any of their duetting prowess.

Why am I waffling on about all this you’re probably thinking, well it’s because you lack focus. If you were focused the point I was making would have been obvious about 150 words ago.

Yes, so I tuned in, excited to watch ten working comics fighting tooth and nail to deliver the best five minutes of new material they could muster for their specific audience. “That…” I thought to myself whilst making a pre-broadcast cup of tea (white, one sugar) “…is a strong format. This…” I continued to think, having accidentally poured water from the kettle straight into the sugar bowl because I was thinking too much about your show and, ironically enough, not focusing on the matter in hand “…should be good.” then I stopped thinking and cleared up.

A nice cup of tea - surprisingly easy to mess up.

You can, I’m sure, imagine my surprise when the first part came and went without any stand up whatsoever. Fair enough, or at least it would be if you’d spent any time at all introducing these ten comedians to me (for the sake of accuracy I’m going to presume that I’m the only person in Britain that watched the entire show, so ‘me’ = your audience), but you didn’t do that did you? No, you paired them up and sent them on a series of dull and meaningless fools errands around Liverpool. Don’t get me wrong, if there was a show called “Shitty City Centre Shit Search” I’d Sky+ the bastard faster than you can hilariously say “Are you called Michelle?”, I’m sure that show would be an unending rollercoaster of excitement, lurching from one dull hunt to the next and looping the loop of banality.

There isn’t a show called that. There isn’t a show like that – and do you now why? It’s because even for those doing these ‘tasks’ it’s an exercise in utter futility, a waste of time and energy almost beyond compare. The fact that this shit storm took up the whole first half of the show was, at best, bewildering and at worst a cry for help from the producer. The fact that it was so arse clenchingly bad that I kept jabbing myself with a compass just to make sure I could still feel something – anything – is unforgivable. “When are they going to show the stand up? For God’s sake when?” I found I had carved into my forearm, losing quite a lot of blood in the process.

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long for the answer: Never.

Your human senses might not be sensitive enough to detect it, but this is actually the film we saw of Alfie Moore's act

Yes, technically you showed a bit of each of them: An intro from the opening act that clearly was not ‘all new material’; nearly a minute from the pretty woman; the opening line from police officer Alfie (who I’ve seen, and I know is funny) and a few lines here and there from others – some clearly written for this audience, others clearly not – and then a long and painful stint from the Fred and Rose West of comedy (i.e. they spotted comedy on the street, took it home, made it watch whilst they performed unspeakable sex acts on one another, killed it, buried it in the garden, and somehow got away without capture for years) Prince ‘being London-centric is funny, apparently’ Abdi and Ignacio ‘couldn’t gauge the mood at an autopsy’ Lopez. I’d like to say that these two were comfortably the worst, but I don’t know because:

a) I didn’t see enough of the others to make any kind of judgement

b) I actually heard more from Jason ‘can’t believe he used his own twitter account’ Manford, and

c) I’m not prepared to take Alan Davies word for it when it comes to stand-up

So before I knew it the stand-up had come and gone, two we didn’t really see got praised, two we didn’t really see got chastised and marginally the lesser of two evils got given a belt, a stool and was sent back to his cell to ‘have a think’.

That was it. I looked everywhere, fully expecting there to be something more, and found nothing. A whole TV hour about stand-up comedy, featuring 10 of the best ‘undiscovered’ comics in the country and it featured about five minutes of people standing up and telling ‘jokes’. Look in the mirror and tell me that you’re proud of that. Seriously.

Jason Manford (pictured here as the more talented Peter Kay) is surprisingly quite good as a host

ITV have given you a big pot of cash and (I think it’s fair to presume) a pretty blank canvas and said “Go forth, brave Chief Big Talk, and bring me some comedy!” and this stinking, confused pile is what you manage? Pardon my French, but how fucking pathetic is that? You had not only an amazing opportunity, but a responsibility here and you blew them both. Here are your faults and their solutions. It’s nothing insightful, it’s all obvious, and how you managed to miss them is a mystery to me.

Fault – The Tasks – nobody cares. They’re pointless. People did not tune in to this show to see a shitty watered down version of the worst episode of The Apprentice.

Solution – Just let them draw straws to see who goes where. Or take it in turns. Nobody cares. Immediately I’ve freed up about 25 minutes that you could spend letting us get to know the people or, I don’t know, making us laugh.

Judge Alan Davies in his stand-up days

Fault – The ‘Specific’ Audience – this one’s two fold, because firstly we don’t actually get to learn enough about why the comics are going to find it difficult (we get snippets, but that’s not enough) and secondly because it would seem that some of the comics can just choose to ignore the “Write a new 5 minute set” and just regurgitate old stuff.

Solution – Spend some of that extra time with a bit of a tutorial on why audiences are difficult to write for, how routines get written and worked on and so forth. On the second point, any comic who doesn’t show sufficient focus to new material should get a yellow card – three yellows and you leave the process (I went to the Graham Poll school of refereeing)

Fault – The Performances – surely the main point of the show? No, clearly just a minor inconvenience to you, showing – on average – about 20 seconds of each routine.

Solution – Lose all the superfluous crap that litters your show like dog shit pn a football pitch and show more of the routines. Show at least one in it’s entirety and actual highlights (at least a full minute) from each of the others. It’s why we tune in. It’s what we’re interested in. It’s what will have people at home picking their favourites and caring in the slightest about tuning in again. Mores the point it’s what the show is about. Stand up. Comedy. People telling jokes. Jesus, this is simple stuff.

Judge Kate Copstick seems strangely familiar

Fault – Jason Manford – normally this would be followed by some snidey comments about how he annoys me, which he does, but there is no question that on this subject he knows his onions, and his insights on the process were not only interesting and informative but also very welcome. So why have you made nothing of them? Why is he lurking by the stage door like a middle aged Take That fan hoping to stroke Gary’s crotch as he hurries passed?

Solution – It’s a simple thing that you might have heard of, it’s called structure. Throw a VT or two into the show where Jason and/or Alan and possibly even old Chopsticks tells us a few of the tricks of the trades or some of their anecdotes from their many years as professional comedians. That’d be brilliant.

So it’s either do some of that, or change the name of your show to “(We’re Not Going To) Show You The Funny, Here’s Some Pointless Crap Instead”

I deserve better, stand-up deserves better and the nine remaining giant balled bastards who put the very centre of their being on the line every time they get up on that stage? Well they deserve a hell of a lot better than you’re giving them.

Seriously, get your act together.

R

PS – I had a Ploughman’s lunch the other day. He wasn’t very happy. (Tommy Cooper)

 

Dear Lovely Tom (Yes, it’s another Apprentice one, what of it?)

Dear The Apprentice, (Not on any more, finished for now)

So you were reading! That’s a relief, I’d started to think that I must look a little peculiar, but as you followed my instructions in the final – practically to the letter – there can be no doubt that you saw my advice as sage and onion, sorry, was just thinking about roast dinners. You clearly recognised sage advice when you saw it and acted accordingly. If only I’d been around when you invented the emailer.

Any way, looking back over the course of the series it’s actually been clear from the off that you were going to choose Tom, a cynic might even say that the entire series was a 7 minute Dragons Den segment extended to a quite remarkable 12 hours. Fortunately  for you, I am not such a cynic, I’d never suggest that a quarter of a million quid is an incredibly cheap way to invest in someone who already has a successful invention and an ‘in’ at the worlds biggest retailer. I’d certainly never imply that, with the backing of Petty Officer Sugar’s henchmen and number crunchers, the money invested will almost certainly be recouped within the first six months of trading, and I’d certainly never insinuate that the business plans became an utter irrelevance the minute Sugar Daddy was informed that one of the applicants had created, patented, marketed and successfully sold an invention entirely of their own to the aforementioned worlds biggest retailer. No, only a cynic would suggest any of these things, and I am not a cynic – I am a crackpot – and the two are very very different.

So, let’s have a look at why none of the others stood any more chance of winning the contest than I do of winning the dressage gold medal at next years olympics – an award I won’t win for three reasons:

  1. Dressage - why not just give Olympic medals for flower arranging or hairdressing?

    Dressage isn’t a real thing. Horses wearing hairbands dancing sideways?  It’s like awarding people gold medals for sculpting their hedges or getting their dog to fetch the paper – quite impressive, but not a sport. Topiary. That’s what the hedge thing is, topiary.

  2. I’m not a horse. Let’s be honest, if any bugger’s going to get a medal for this farce then it should be the one doing all the work, not Zara bloody Phillips whose job basically consists of putting on jodpurs, looking good and sitting there.
  3. I fear horses. Not because they’re particularly sinister or anything, but they weigh a ton and can run faster than me, jump over my head and kill a man with a single kick. Not only that but they get spooked and kick out over practically anything: thunder, dogs, cars, ghosts – there was even that one who leapt over a shadow thinking it was a fence. They’re huge and they’re muscular and they’re stupid – not a good combo. Also there was that one who could talk, though that might have just been on Rent-a-Ghost.
I digress, the basic point I was attempting to make is that – when you have a proper look at it – none of the others were ever going to win, thus making the 12 episodes – whilst incredibly entertaining – a bit superfluous. So, here’s why they were never going to win (in the order they were eliminated)

The group of people assembled to make going in to business with Tom more interesting

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Edward “It’s all there” Hunter (Accountant) – Whilst Edward might not have ‘fit the mould’ for accountants, he was still an accountant. As much as I would have loved him to stay in just so I could hear every single non-sequitur he had in his armoury, the truth is that his fate was sealed the second he wrote ‘accountant’ on the form.
Reason – He’s a service provider. And he talks gibberish.
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A Foxtons 'twat tank', they don't even have the decency to hide from the public.

Alex “I look suspiciously Californian” Cabral (Estate Agent) – Whilst estate agent’s might not be the purest form of evil on the planet they are pretty f**king close. I’m sure there was a time when estate agents did something to actually earn their money, but now it’s just become a systematic wallet raping machine. To para-phrase Sugar Pie – what estate agents know about anything other than greed and hair gel is f*ck all. If you need someone who can’t make anything and whose only role is to introduce someone who wants to sell something to someone who wants to buy it and somehow make them both feel utterly cheated in the process then call Alex or one of the identikit shitpots at Foxtons, just don’t expect to leave with your dignity intact.

Reason – He’s (technically at least) a service provider, the primary service being making you feel a little bit better about the choices you made in life.
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Gavin “I’m the Scouser” Winstanley (Online Retailer) – Hands up who honestly thought that La Sucre was ever going to hire a Scouser? Seriously now. There’s always a Scouser and they never win – why? Well it could have something to do with the fact that every ticket tout in the world is a Scouser, so when you hear that accent you can’t help but picture the speaker outside the Hammersmith Apollo offering you an overpriced ticket for Kings of Leon, or offering you a fiver for the one you paid £30 for.
Reason – He’s a shop keeper and as such doesn’t make anything. And I think he actually told people to ‘calm down’. Unforgivable.
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Felicity “Oooh, Arty” Jackson (Creative Arts sort) – Do you really need me to write anything here? I mean she’s a creative arts entrepreneur! You’d have

If the phrase "You're fired!" was a movement it would look a little like this...

thought she’d have workshopped the possible scenarios in which she might win The Apprentice and, upon seeing that they all involved all the other contestants dying in a minibus crash/monkey attack/Die Hard scenario she would have realised that never in a million years is Executive Producer Sugar going to give so much as a shiny shit about the business of creative arts.

Reason – He’s an electronics magnate, she gets people to use creative movement to interpret what sadness might look like – you figure it out.
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Ellie “The Northern Bird” Reed (Building Recruitment) – I’m Northern myself – and proud of it – so I say this with a sense of regret and with no malice. Ellie has accomplished a great deal and is, I’m sure, very intelligent – but by Geoffrey Boycott’s lady beating stick she doesn’t sound it. Unfortunately she’s from a band of the country (stretching from Hull to Blackpool) where even if you have a PhD in incredibly difficult sums you’re going to sound like you’d struggle with the complexities of working behind the counter at Gregg’s. It’s a curse.
Reason – She’s a service provider. Is it me or is a pattern developing here?
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" I'm fired? What a dreadful bore!"

Vincent “Disney Store” Dinosaur (Telecom Sales Manager) – I loved Vincent. Not for any good reason of course, more in an ironic way. He looked and acted like a panto villain and he looked greasier than a cast member of the musical Grease eating at a greasy spoon on holiday in Greece – and it made him brilliantly entertaining. He was also, of course, comically inept, but that’s not necessarily a bar to success. The main problems for Vince lay in the fact that, whilst looking a bit like David Niven, he had the business acumen of reptile fan David Icke and the charisma of Michelangelo’s David.

Reason – He’s a salesman. he produces nothing. Getting a bit predictable? I think it might be.
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Edna “The Three Degrees” Agharba (Business Psychologist) – In the world of service providers there is a hierarchy: Those who actually provide a service sit proudly at the top (IT technicians and the like), then it’s those who don’t really provide a service, but talk a lot to people who do (Consultants and that sort) and then, sitting at the bottom you’ve got those who don’t provide an actual service and talk a lot to other people who also don’t provide a service (Edna). It’s role creation taken to the nth degree – a job that is impossible to both understand or defend and unnecessary in every way imaginable (or yet to be imagined).
Reason – She masquerades as a service provider, which is even worse than actually being a service provider.
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Glenn “I’ve reserved you a bed in the Emergency” Ward (Design Engineer) – Glenn was a funny one, a bit like Marlon Brando he coulda been a contender but it all went wrong. Why? Well it wasn’t the fact that he had the cold dead eyes of a killer, it wasn’t his performances – he showed creativity and ingenuity – no, it was his job description. By calling himself a design engineer rather than an inventor he shot himself in the face with a gun loaded with Sugar and prejudice. Big Al don’t think engineers can be creative.
Reason – Bad luck and poor research, Glenn actually did fit the brief on this one.
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Leon “I’ve got a girlfriend” Doyle (Fast Food Entrepreneur) – Leon’s another one with a made up job. Ronald McDonald and Wimpy are fast food entrepreneurs. Colonel Sanders took the time not only to achieve

Colonel Sanders - never heard of Leon. Also, not a real Colonel.

his lofty rank, but to perfect his secret recipe for delicious and fattening chicken, he too was a fast food entrepreneur. Leon, on the other hand, is a man who has a website. You can’t eat a website any more than you can properly digest a Big Mac. He is a fast food entrepreneur in the same way as I am the star of Channel 4’s mythical shitfest Camelot – i.e. not at all, but I have mentioned him on a website.

Reason – Not even a service provider. A non-service provider. It’s getting pretty obvious where this is going now.
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Zoe “Monotone” Beresford (Project Manager, Drinks Industry) – Zoe is possibly the dullest enigma in the history of television. She always seemed to have something about her – from the moment she utterly dominated Susan to her appearance as a stewardess on ‘You’re Fired’ you were always waiting for that moment when she’d spring out of her shell and reveal herself to be something. Anything – brilliantly creative, convicted killer, sexual predator. But nothing ever materialised. She was just wall paper, background noise to the interesting stuff.
Reason – There was simply no reason to ever contemplate hiring her. I doubt her business plan of ‘Belittling Susan until she cries’ would have generated much income any way.
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Melody “The Name Dropper” Hossaini (Bullshit Consultant) – Melody, half of the league of evil, talked more than all the other candidates put together, but despite this she never actually said anything. She talked herself up constantly, talked about her business, how Jesus himself taught her how to play tennis and how she’s spoken to every child in the Western world about what they want to do after school, and yet no-one knows what she does. Genuinely, hand on heart, do you know what she does? One things for certain – it has the word ‘consultant’ in it!
Reason – If she provides anything at all (other than a Melody Hossaini promotion service) then it’s a SERVICE! You’re really not getting this at all are you?
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I think it's cute, you think it's cute. Natasha thinks it's breakfast.

Natasha “Puppy Killer” Scribbins (Recruitment Manager/Demon) – Completing the league of evil, Natasha took noise generation to a new level. With Melody you could be fairly sure that what she was saying was geared to promoting herself, whatever Natasha was saying was anybody’s guess. The only times she was ever direct and to the point involved her repeating something someone more intelligent and less sinister had just said or when she was blaming others for her own failings. A genuinely unpleasant human being (based on every nonsensical word she uttered).

Reason – Other than the evil? Well, guess what she does? She doesn’t make anything does she, so what is it? That’s right, she’s a service provider.
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Jim “Puppet Master” Eastwood (Sales and Marketing Manager) – No-one could deny Jim’s rating as ‘most charming man in Britain’ and he could probably sell Hugh Grant an evening of chat and ginger sex with Rebekah Brooks such is his talent in that field, but get beyond people skills and what do you have? Seldom did Jim come up with any great ideas, and a business plan that revolves around a business that Sugar (they’re close, he can call him that) already has is an interesting approach. Like most charming men he was always going to lose out in the end – that’s why I’m never charming.
Reason – He’s a salesman. That’s the start of it, and the end of it. He could be the best salesman in the world – maybe he is – but he couldn’t sell himself (ooh, deep)
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Susan “100% Organic” Ma (Skincare Entrepreneur) – Having already explained in some depth my irritation at Susan’s immaturity I will forego the pleasure of repeating myself and instead go on to the small matter of her business plan. the most obvious business plan in the brief history of ‘guessing the business plan’, a game that’s only just been invented with this series. Her plan consisted of doing what she’s already doing, but more. The only problem with that being it’s just about the most congested and competitive marketplace in the entire world. Otherwise excellent.
Reason – Naivety. A great thing if you’re trying to talk a 21-year-old in to bed, a bad thing if you’re investing a quarter mill in their business.
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So let me get this straight, she's intelligent, beautiful and she works for Gregg's The Bakers? I'm in!

Helen “How sexy did I look on You’re Hired?” Milligan (Executive PA) – All the wins in the world couldn’t hide the simple fact that Helen is just an organiser. When I say ‘just’ I don’t mean it derogatively – if I wanted someone to run my business she’d be right up there – but ‘being organised’ isn’t a great business plan and that’s essentially all she brought to the table. She’s confident and capable and polished and good with people and assertive and organised and organised and boy is she organised – but she’s not creative. I doubt anything new will ever come from Helen, which is a shame.
Reason – She’s a service provider really, it’s just hers is a very personal service – and you can’t turn that into a mass market thing.
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So there you go. A sea of service providers, pseudo-service providers and sales people – a lot of the sort of people who you employ, not the sort of people you go into business with. If you were asked at the start of this process what kind of person Lord Sugar would have been looking for you would have given the answer “an ideas person” or “a creator” and really, truthfully and honestly speaking there were only ever two people in the competition who stood a chance – Tom and Glenn (I discount Susan on the basis of £250k is a drop in that ocean) – and Tom was so far ahead of Glenn in every department that really the contest was over long before Glenn got the boot.
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So yes, maybe I am a cynic, but I’d argue that the job was Tom’s from the moment he was cast, because looking back I can’t envisage it going to anyone else. Now that’s hindsight (a trait that Tom has never ever demonstrated, he showed quiet foresight).
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Thanks for the fun,
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R xxx
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PS – Next series maybe include a few viable candidates – it’ll be obvious if you do this again.
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PPS – Also next series can you replace “You’re fired!” with “Thanks for your participation, but you’re no longer part of this process.” as, technically speaking, you have to employ someone to fire them, and even then you have to give them written warnings and all that. Except in cases of gross misconduct of course, but that doesn’t cover ‘being inept’.
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PPPS – Also, “You’re hired!” bit of a patronising way to greet an equal partner isn’t it? Don’t be so condescending. How about “So, do you fancy going in to business with me?” it’s not as catchy, but it would make you seem like less of a presumptuous tit.

Dear The Melody-less Apprentice

Dear The Apprentice (you know where and when, don’t pretend you don’t)

So, I promised you I’d provide you with a unifying theory didn’t I, and I was going to, honest, but the nodding dog ate my homework. No, in all seriousness there are two reasons – and three sub-reasons – why you’re going to have to wait a little bit longer for the full scientific explanation as to why going in to business with any of these people is a guaranteed disaster and they are:

  1. Flubber is a damn lie. Science isn't fun and doesn't have hilarious consequences. Mind you, neither does Flubber...

    Science is a lot harder than I gave it credit for. I’ve had the fire brigade round four times already this week, I seem to have created a wormhole in the fridge (either that or my girlfriend keeps eating my chocolate) and the glasses I wear to make me look more sciencey give me a headache.

  2. Way way way too much happened this week. I had my works and along came you just flinging spanners into them willy nilly (this is where the sub-reasons come in):
               a) The battle of good vs evil finally took a back seat as Satans two earthly representatives came together in a titanic duel to the death.
               b) Susan, when she wasn’t napping, made some bold decisions and actually looked half decent – and she defended herself without saying “That’s so unfair.”
               c) Helen lost. I’m going to say that again. Helen. Lost.

After becoming soiled by defeat, 'damaged goods' Helen tried to win me over by doing her sexy Shania Twain impression. It didn't impress me much.

As I’m sure you can imagine, Helen losing (yes, it’s true, Helen lost. Yes, that Helen!) provided the biggest spanner of them all as much of the theory was based on the belief that she was invincible. Now that further probing has revealed her to be, erm, vincible, we’re looking at a page one re-write.

Melody as personally painted by Picasso

So yes, science is going to have to wait for now, I’m very sorry. Instead, let me first congratulate you on dispensing with Melody who can now add “I’ve been personally fired by Lord Sugar.” to her list that already includes being taught to cry by Sinead O’Connor and learning decency and respect from Rebekah Brooks, she can at least be happy that she escaped the process without once being punched in the face. Judging by the looks of her that is not something that can be said for Natasha, who seems to permanently sport the look of someone being given a thorough and particularly vigorous body cavity search by a customs woman with big hands and long nails. I’m in little doubt that you hold the princess of darkness in similarly low regard to me, however you’ve been rendered impotent by her quite astounding run of success. She is clearly in league with far higher powers than even Detective Chief Inspector Sugar – nothing else can explain her continued absence, not only from the boardroom but even from the losing team.

You see what has become painfully apparent over the course of the series is that business acumen, intelligence, common sense, decency or the ability to listen to and then act upon even the most simple and explicit instructions will play no part whatsoever in determining which of these candidates will have the opportunity to flush Big Al’s cash straight down the toilet. Only one thing matters. Luck. It’s far and away the single most important factor in this years process. Tom, for example, has none. I didn’t actually see him hit a magpie into a mirror using a black cat as a bat, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was walking on all the cracks under a ladder whilst he did it. If Tom dropped a penny when he bent down to pick it up he’d get hit by a truck carrying syringes, razor blades and dog poo. If he fell into a barrel full of tits he’d come out sucking a vial of the Ebola virus. If he… I’m sure you get the point. Poor Tom, every week making the right calls, every week getting ignored. Literally the only thing standing between Tom and his dream of setting up a Battlestar Galactica Theme Park for cats is luck.

The Roller-Toaster is one of Tom's less ambitious ideas for the theme park

And if Tom personifies misfortune then who’s been slipping fivers to Lady Luck and getting a peek up her night-dress? Why it’s the face of evil herself, Natasha. She’s the most out of her depth by such a distance that she’s actually lapped all the other candidates. The fact that she’s inept doesn’t actually make her stand out in the current menagerie of window lickers, but  she could be the most inept figure at a chimps faeces throwing party, you’d find her sat in the corner, not throwing her poo but eating it and pulling that face she pulls with every mouthful. Fortunately for her though she had awesome back up this week. Susan appeared from nowhere to show

Natasha's business mentor is delighted by her progress

some actual business acumen and even some balls, whereas Jim – Team Jim – blew everyone’s socks off. In a bizarre twist old bulldog nettle face decided to attack the pair who’d saved her from almost certain execution – having spent most of the task projecting her own insecurities onto her team mates, she obviously decided that her self-loathing was also best used as a weapon. Strange girl. That was that, curtains (alas not duvet covers) for Melody and a huge blot on Helen’s perfectly presented Record of Achievement.In terms of the wrong team or the least shit team winning? Well I think on this occasion you have to say that the right team won, but no thanks to strategy, leadership or planning. So as I have to go off and call the fire brigade again I’ll leave you with these things that I have learnt this week about your whole process:

  1. Any idiot can make money. In fact it appears to help if you’re an idiot, the level of income is in a direct inverse relationship to the common sense applied.
  2. Doing the sensible thing is almost certainly never an option in business.
  3. Doing every single thing you can imagine wrongly is no bar to success.
  4. Winning or losing has nothing to do with what you actually do. The wrong team wins more often than not, and in the absence of a ‘wrong’ team (ie When all members of both teams deserve to be tied up in a sack, beaten with sticks and thrown in the canal (ie almost every week)) it just comes down to luck. Luck or signing a contract with Satan.
Right, back to the lab!
R x

Dear Dirty Sexy Things,

Dear Dirty Sexy Things, (E4, Mondays @10pm)

I’m so sorry that it’s taken me until now to write to you, according to my doctors I fell into a banality induced coma about halfway through your debut on Monday. I did regain consciousness for a short while on Tuesday and watched the second half of the

How I believed I looked in my catatonic state - note the beautiful lilac plumage which is very in this season. Who's a pretty boy?


show, but in an effort to protect me from myself my brain went into overdrive and I became convinced I was a budgie. I’ve spent the last 24 hours staring into a mirror and eating the odd seed (ironic really, I’d probably fit right in with your lot) but now I have regained my senses, promised my brain I will never put it through such traumas again, and in return it has promised to help me write this letter begging you to stop.

Yes, normally I’d write with a few helpful hints as to how to get a show back on track (I’m generous like that) but once in a while there comes a show so utterly beyond hope that you just have to hold your hands up and say “What the f**k am I supposed to do? These people think Zoolander is a documentary.”.

I mean seriously, from top to bottom what are you about? It’s a genuine question, because although you filled my screen for an hour (and will continue to fill my nightmares for months to come) there was maybe 90 seconds of content. Digital storage space may be cheap and easily available these days, but that’s still no excuse for you to be such a grotesque waste of it. Hang on, I’m thinking about you too much, I’ve gone all feathery…

Trill - a delicious treat. If you're a bird. Which I'm not.

I’m back. Right, obviously this could result in a serious and permanent mental funk if I think about you for too long, so I’m just going to go down the old-fashioned route and list the most obvious faults I can think of, beg you to stop again and then go spend the evening ringing my bell and eating some trill. Pizza, I mean pizza. Right, have to be quick.

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  • Dirty Sexy Things? Eh? What? Are you competing for the most stupid name in TV history? It means literally nothing and is of no real relevance to the show. You may as well have called yourself ‘Model Train Set’, it would have meant just as much. The only thing I can think is that it’s a play on either a) The little watched marginally entertaining C4 show ‘Dirty Sexy Money’ or b) The little watched band fronted by original Pete Doherty robbery victim Carl Barat – ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ you know, they did that one song that got used on everything for a while. Maybe it’s a mix of the two, either way I suggest a change of name – ‘Pointless Shitpots’ sounds good to me. Go for that.

The 'Pointless Shitpots' from L to R - Lord Hunk of Beefcake, Fun Time Frankie, Gladriel, Little Miss Chaste, Johnny Cheekbones, Apprentice Candidate, Nick Grimshaw and Miss Council Estate 2011

  • Perou? Eh? What? Continuing the theme of ‘what sort of f**king name is that?’ is this jug eared photogratwat who’s obviously mistaken himself for a Brazilian footballer when deciding upon his moniker and mistaken his ability to press the shutter button on a fancy camera that does a lot of the work for you for the ability to cure cancer just by looking at it. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it takes a lot of hard work to be a good photographer, I have no doubt it’s a real talent…ooof…sorry I just tripped over one of the umpteen names that Pernod dropped. Where was I? Oh yes, he’s skilled, obviously, but it’s not the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is it? Which brings me on to…

Perou (yes, that's what he calls himself) contemplates the true meaning of 'Being a Twat'

  • Eight photos? Seriously, that’s the foundation for this mess is it? Eight super special magical earth shattering photos of models? Wow, you might just have found the flimsiest premise for a show since someone at the Beeb said “You know walls? Well what if you cut a whole in one stuck Darren Gough in a leotard and shoved him through it?” on the plus side though they at least didn’t take themselves too seriously – Perou takes himself so seriously he’s in danger of becoming a one man human centipede, and those Pet Shop Boys inspired shades…
  • The models:
  1. You keep referring to ‘the beautiful people’ but I seem to be watching a different show, one that’s filled with six fairly average looking people, an elf and Nick Grimshaw.
  2. It was made very clear that they were being selected because of their personalities – it’s so important in a model don’t you know – so I have to ask where you got that magic camera? You know, the one that can tell you everything you want to know about someone’s personality based on three photos. It’s either that, or they were selected base on their looks. Which would make more sense. Because they’re models.
  3. I think it tells you all you need to know about a group of people when they consider ‘walking’ to be ‘tricky’. I’ll admit that I once found it difficult – for the first eight months of my life. Since then it’s not provided me with too many challenges and I’m quite confident that I could walk equally well in London, Paris or Milan and in a wide variety of clothes…

    A model makes the fatal error of thinking whilst already walking and wearing clothes

  4. Basically can you please ask them to stop insinuating that being a model is difficult? That’s not to say it’s not hard, I’m sure they have a lot of demands placed on them and they might sometimes be a bit cold or uncomfortable, like a homeless person but with more expensive ill-fitting and ridiculous looking clothes. However anyone who believes that wearing clothes and ‘looking’ at the same time is – in any way – difficult, must surely have to sit down every time they’re asked a question. I know I’d be fearful of falling over if I upset that delicate balance.
  • The content. There wasn’t any. We learned that hunky beefcake man likes to workout, didn’t see that coming, Nick Grimshaw will throw up if you call him fatty gaylord, and that blonde snooty chops won’t get her non-existent tits out. That’s pretty much it. Oh, and that not every model gets selected for every job. Insightful. An hour and that’s all we get.  You may have missed the memo, but you never get a second chance to make a first impression and your is a mind-numbing fog of dullness almost beyond comprehension. How you will fill another seven hours without being engulfed with self-loathing is beyond me. Thankfully I shall not be finding out.
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So, I thank you for further lowering a bar of shallow and vapid programming that was already interfering with the Wombles headroom, and I ask that you look in the mirror (glass not newspaper) smash it and take a jagged piece to whichever dipshit commissioned you – it’s they who truly deserve my wrath.
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Yours with contempt,
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R
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PS – Seriously, watch Zoolander again, you’ll see that what Ben Stiller’s actually doing is taking the piss out of you.
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PPS – Sunglasses are generally used to deflect sun from your eyes, not to help self-appointed demigods avoid the gaze of mere mortals
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PPPS – Why did nobody tell Perou (seriously, I can’t get over that name, didn’t he play for Benfica?) that a calendar needs twelve pictures? I mean he’s going to look like a right twat when he approaches WHSmith with a calendar missing September through December.

Dear The (Delicious and Crunchy) Apprentice

Dear The Apprentice, (If you don’t know when and where by now there’s little point telling you)

I know you’re getting these letters, I also know that you’re reading them, so I’m going to take your refusal to respond as a sign that you’re ashamed that someone of Head Dinner Lady Sugars business accumen needs telling about his candidates by me, a humble internet crackpot. I understand, and rest assured that neither of my personalities take it personally.

Any way, as you’ve almost certainly said before (and probably after a dramatic entrance like emerging through a cloud of smoke from a secret entrance in the floor or something), to business! Week 9 really taught us almost nothing new: people like biscuits; almost everyone who applied for this years show is (at least on some level) comically inept; Natasha looks like she’s sucking a dog turd covered lemon whenever she’s listening to people; Melody looks like she’s talking whenever she’s supposed to be listening to people; and Jim really does have some magical mystical mind control powers and thus no need to listen to people. So far, so familiar.

Bunsen and Beaker have some controversial theories about partcile physics...

I have, however, been watching Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (I haven’t been watching it with Morgan Freeman, that’s the name of the show, I don’t know him and besides he’d probably talk over it all and I’d get captivated by his voice. Any way, I’ve mostly watched it by myself) and it’s brought out the scientist in me. More accurately it’s brought out the delusion in me that I think in the same way as Nobel Prize winning physicists, cosmologists and maths dweebs – so what I’ve been doing is searching for meaningful patterns to try to formulate a ‘Complete Theory of The Apprentice’ that will hopefully help you make the right decision and let Tom win. Making a case for this is very difficult on a statistical basis.

So, here comes the sciencey bit! Sort of.

In order to properly ‘do’ science, you first have to establish the parameters and what you have observed, because I’m sure there’s some nonsense about how we all observe things differently and that the mere act of observing changes something – or not. I don’t care. Any way, to prevent my research being unduly criticised, I’m going to present to you the evidence on which I’ve based my findings – next week I’ll unleash my theorem and we’ll see what’s what yeah? Yeah!

Right, first of all let’s dispense with the theory that yours is a show determined to find the best and brightest business mind in the country. That would only serve to completely ignore the fact that, this series at least, the weekly results have fallen in to two categories:

  1. The wrong team won (as in the team that made the most wrong decisions. I know they won, so obviously in that respect they’re not the wrong team. Chill out.)
  2. The marginally less shit team won
Often these two acted together – a deadly combination. So, here’s the breakdown.
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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit - insight into teenage sexuality, or instruction to Logic when going to the market?

Week 1 – Fruit and Veg

What Happened     Logic went, quite sensibly, for freshly squeezed OJ and simple tomato soup and targeted it at the wealthy city types around Liverpool St Station, Venture, on the other hand, opted for an overpriced fruit salad and pasta salad combo and targeted the vagrants, drug addicts and prostitutes commonly found near Euston Station in the not yet improved Kings Cross area of London.
Who Won      Venture, of course.
Why     Well, either it was down to Logic only squeezing a third of their oranges (and not thinking to sell the rest) or it was because crack whores really like pasta.
Reason  The wrong team won because they were marginally less shit
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Week 2 – Mobile Phone App
What Happened    Venture played to type and made a bewildering application that consisted of Melody talking  and other noises that tried, but failed, to be equally annoying. An App for those who want to finish the day by killing themselves – Ampi Apps. Logic saw a gap in the bad impressions market and decided that what everyone actually wanted was a posho doing a poor impression of a Welshman via a picture of a shouting black man with a flat cap on. Despite this being a Sophie’s Choice of shite, Slang-a-Tang was clearly the better idea, and better thought out.
Who Won      Of course it was Venture
Why     Because people hate themselves? No, it basically all came down to one self-righteous prick who declared that Slang-a-Tang was racist. It wasn’t. It was shit, but not racist. Also, proving that mobile phones definitely give everyone who owns one a massive dose of brain cancer, Ampi Apps was downloaded over ten thousand times. Unbelievable Geoff.
Reason The wrong team won because one man mistakenly chose the greater of two evils.
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Top Cat was not on the list

Week 3 – The Savoy  

What Happened    Mysteriously, one of the worlds greatest hotels had forgotten to buy some very important things like Top Hats, brass signs indicating wine, and light bulbs – all of which were desperately needed before opening. Inexplicably they decided to dispense with their normal, sensible, procurement procedure and send two teams of people they didn’t know to each get the entire list, with no specific direction on quality, sizes or colour. Best case scenario they have two of everything and some of it might be right. No wonder the rooms cost so much if this is the slap-dash fashion they go about their business.
Who Won      Guess. Yes, it was Venture.
Why  Because in a competition to prove who could fail most miserably at a seemingly (and actually) simple task Logic went the extra 12 miles across London to buy some gravy boats or something.
Reason    Venture were £8 less shit. They tried though, they really tried.
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Week 4 – Beauty Treatments
What Happened    Venture sensibly chose the flashy out-of-town shopping centre and the customer base with large disposable incomes, cleverly spotted the large treatment room it had, and enthusiastically went after the spray tan kit with its huge profit margins. Logic, in a bold display of ignoring both common sense and Tom that has yet to be matched, chose the more poverty-stricken surroundings of Birmingham’s Bullring, where Goth’s hang out and where there are such high-end shops as Primark and Iceland – nothing wrong with those, but you ain’t gonna shift a lot of £20 beauty treatments in there. Their folly was compounded by placing their tiny treatment room in Norwich, and the fact that they lost the spray tan simply by ‘not looking like they gave a shit’ and mistaking that for enthusiasm.
Who Won      Four in a row. Boom.
Why Because despite trying really hard to not do it well once they were on location they had made the right decisions early on, meaning even their massive personality issues couldn’t derail this.
Reason    The right team won (hooray) because they were marginally less shit (boo).
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Week 5 – Pet Food
What Happened    Challenged to produce and market a new pet food, both Logic and Venture immediately set about defying both common sense and the focus group who had somewhat foolishly believed they were present to offer a valuable opinion. Venture went for ‘Cat-Size’, a bag of flavoured cat poison with the flawed-in-so-many-ways-it-must-be-intentional tag line of ‘See their light’ (note, not ‘See they’re light’, oh no, that might have made a little sense). Never to be outdone, Logic proved they could ignore good advice even better than their rivals and plumped for ‘Every Dog’ a combo of horse entrails and sawdust that suits every dog in the world, because they’re like, all the same yeah? Venture backed up their poorly chosen tag line with displays of pitching and advertorial ineptitude beyond compare. Logic, and particularly Natasha’s ‘vision’ came across surprisingly well – seeing as that was also cringeworthingly awful.
Who Won      Team Clawed Balls somehow managed the win.
Why Despite the fact that Venture went out of their way to level the playing field by making an advert that merely made the point ‘cat’s eat’ and gamely getting Leon drunk before he pitched, they successfully appealed to an owners desire for a thinner, sexier cat. Logic’s refusal to acknowledge that a St Bernard is the equivalent of 23 Pugs and a Jack Russell was admirable, but cost them in the end.
Reason    The wrong team won when they were equally shit.

If you don't see all these dogs as the same then you're a racist. There. I said it.

Week 6 – Rubbish 
What Happened    Nothing really. Yes, there were some meetings and some bidding and some arguments and some trying to steal a barbecue, but this episode really was pointless. Actually, that’s not true, it did demonstrate that if you put any group of people into an incredibly specialised business they know nothing about then they’ll struggle, but this is a group of people who have struggled to impress in every area of business so far, so you may as well have made it more entertaining. Your task is to establish, market and run a team of Special Forces Commandos, operating in the Los Angeles underground as Soldiers of Fortune – that sounds like it could be fun…
Who Won      Logic finally made it onto the scoresheet
Why Why not? Essentially because they didn’t do what they should have done and charged to take stuff away.
Reason    Really, the wrong team won. Logic shouldn’t have taken stuff away for free – it’s not how the business works. This one, though, was the toss of a coin – or paper, scissors, stone eh Tom?
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Kurt Cobain - also alive and well in 1994

Week 7 – Freemium Magazines

What Happened    Venture, using skills seldom seen in this process – namely insight, common sense and listening to experts –  targeted a largely untapped market with a huge stack of cash to spend: the over 60’s. Logic, went the opposite way, listened to no-one other than Liam Gallagher and stuck their fingers in their ears and sang Blur’s ‘Country House’ while common sense was talking as they, or more accurately Natsha, targeted 1994. Both magazines were abominations. HIP Replacement continued the themes of shocking puns and ignoring focus groups and managed to end up looking like a Dignitas Catalogue, whilst Covered, although possessing a great name, continued the theme of ignoring the task and your team mates and producing something actually worse than you had originally imagined having seen the trailer. I can think of nothing less likely to make me want to ‘blow my load’ than Natasha and her look of permanently squinting at something she doesn’t like very much.
Who Won      Logic. Yes, seriously, that Logic, the ones who did a lads mag. In 2011. Them.
Why Because Natasha found the only other imbecile in Britain who thought Covered was hitting the mark, and he had sixty grand he needed to get rid of sharpish. Possibly dodgy cash. Yes, HIP Replacement was undeniably badly done, but it was the better idea.
Reason    The wrong team won. They were the wrong team by a distance, and they won by a distance.
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Week 8 – Foo La Fa Fa 
What Happened    There was one product that had a chance of selling in huge numbers, the baby seat, and Venture got it. Tom, leading Logic, wanted it but was beaten down by his team. In fairness, Melody had done intensive market research by asking four people at a Metro station if they used the car and, shockingly for people who’d just got off a train,they all said no. She followed this up by asking if they thought a baby seat that becomes a back pack was a good idea, and they all said yes. However none of this mattered as she didn’t like it so she told Tom that the French hated him. She then proceeded to form her own team, Team Melody, that was sufficiently aggressive to finish second in the task. Elsewhere, Helen did the best pitch of the series, and their was a lot of running around speaking English loudly  in a French accent.
Who Won      Seriously? Venture.
Why Because of the car seat. You’re really not paying attention are you? Mind you, I have gone on a bit.
Reason    The best team won, for the right reasons! Finally.
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Week 9 – Biscuits 

A host of things that aren't biscuits that Logic could apparently have used to win the task...

What Happened    In an attempt to get the entire nation wanting a biscuit after the shops had closed, you had them design a new biscuit. Venture decided not to bother and instead made a flapjack, which isn’t a biscuit, topped with chocolate, which also isn’t a biscuit. Sticking so rigidly to the rules that they actually doubled up, Logic opted for a biscuit within a biscuit! And half of it was plain and half covered in chocolate! And you could split it in half and share it! Apart from the fact it tasted like gravel dipped in soy sauce, Bix-Mix was so far and away the better idea it wasn’t funny. Special Stars had so many problems it was difficult to imagine how they’d not deliberately set out to sabotage themselves:

  1. Special Stars – I have no problem at all with mentally disabled people, but Special Stars does have the ring of the Sunshine Bus to it.
  2. Any time is treat time – No, no it isn’t. That’s how you get a nation of morbidly obese kids who eat their parents, get diabetes at 7 and have heart attacks in the middle of the GCSE’s that they have to take sat at a specially widened desk on a strengthened chair in a portacabin outside the main exam hall because their mobility scooter won’t get through the door.
  3. £1.99 – You can get three packets of Wagon Wheels for that. If you’re going to give kids unhealthy treats you at least want them to be cheap.
  4. Flapjack and Chocolate – It’s not a f**king biscuit. Tom may as well have designed a muffin with £1.50 in cash on top of it if we’re just going to ignore the rules like that.
Who Won      Of course team bloody flapjack won.
Why Because sometimes life isn’t fair, the world isn’t fair, and if you give people a hit of sugar and a wedge of chocolate it makes them happy and they’ll buy 800,000 anythings after that.
Reason    The wrong team won. Simple as that.
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If you’ve made it to the end in one sitting then you have both my admiration and my pity – surely a busy TV show like you must have far better things to do? I would apologise, but full disclosure is important if you’re to take my theory seriously next week, so I assure you it was time well wasted. Spent. I mean spent.
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Yours, with a certain scientific dignity and a professorial beard,
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R
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PS – Next time can you put a warning on before the show, explaining the explicit biscuity images and warning that viewers of a snacky disposition might want to go and get some before watching.

Dear Columbo

Dear Columbo, (Loads of Channels, 1968 – 2003)

This is something of a first for me, a letter that is both entirely heartfelt and somewhat posthumous, I hope you don’t mind if at times it’s a little bit less than serious.

Basically I just wanted to say how saddened I am that Detective Columbo has now shuffled off this mortal coil, to know that the next time I see a detective he (or indeed she, for these are the times we are living in) will almost certainly have two functioning eyes fills me with both trepidation and an intense sensation of boredom.

Columbo - f**king ace!

In the last forty odd years there have been so many cop shows that it’s impossible to count. Actually that’s nonsense, it’s perfectly possible to count them, but it’s Friday night and I can’t be bothered. The point remains, however, that you can count the number of cop shows that lasted longer than you, Columbo, on the fingers of a dolphin. Or a jellyfish. Or a budgie. Basically you can count the number of cop shows that have lasted longer than the 35 years you have managed on the fingers of any creature that doesn’t possess fingers. It’s zero. None. Nada.

I should maybe acknowledge that I haven’t researched this, so it actually might not be true – I can’t think of a cop show that has lasted longer and do you know what, I don’t care. Columbo’s just died, if I want to say his was the longest running cop show in history I will. You can’t stop me.

Excuse my waffling, I’m emotional.

I’m one of the three billion people in the world (again not researched, sue me) who were born after your show began, so I feel like I’ve known you all my life. In a huge sea of cop shows that came and went, everyone knew Columbo and everybody, at least on some level, loved you. Yes we had our passing dalliances with others: the pastel shaded speedboat excitement of Miami Vice, they offered a glamour you simply never attempted; the tropical intrigue of Magnum who sported a moustache you couldn’t match; and the hokey old school warmth of Jessica Fletcher – who was also blessed with impressive facial hair. We fooled around with them, even loved them, but when they were gone we came back to you Columbo. We came back not just because you were there, but because we loved you.

Thomas Magnum - Sexy and undoubted owner of impressive lip upholstery, but a bit of a show off.

Why did we love you? How typically modest that you should ask you scruffy one-eyed midget. Well let me tell you why:

  • You possessed a natural charm that other shows simply couldn’t match, and trying to match it would have been a fool’s errand – because they didn’t have Peter Falk.
  • You drove a battered old car that looked ready for the scrap yard. Whilst Magnum and Miami Vice tried to engage the Yuppie audience with their flashy Ferraris you were realistic about your main audience: stoners and the unemployed. They don’t care about Ferrari’s, they don’t particularly aspire to own them – seeing a successful detective drive the sort of car they could afford was all they ever needed – and you supplied it!

He drove the sort of car that no-one ever aspires to. He was one of us.

  • Mrs Columbo. We almost never saw her, you made sure of that (we certainly never watched the ill thought out show that was Mrs Columbo), but boy we loved her – we knew all her little foibles you see, Columbo used to tell us all about them. The best character never to appear? Quite possibly.

Mrs Columbo. Yes, it was a real show.

  • The dirty Mac. Maybe my memory’s playing tricks on me, but whatever the weather, be it chilly (what’s that in LA? Low teens Celsius??) or if it was sweltering heat, you were wearing that Mac. I believe I’m right in saying that this also means you’re the only man ever to wear a Mac that often and never be caught masturbating in a public place. Bravo for that.
  • You had a glass eye! That’s cool enough, but the fact that you never got drunk, popped it out and dropped it in your bosses drink? That puts you a class above.

And they are the reasons I love you, I believe they are the main reasons that we – a couple of generations right around the world – love you, and why we’re very sad to see you go. The world is a poorer place now, but I will leave you all to your grief.

Sincere Condolences, and much love

R

Peter Falk - Legend

Oh, and just one more thing – you’re a one trick pony, but what a f**king trick! We knew who did it, we knew that you knew who did it, we knew exactly how you were going to pin them down but it was exciting every single time you did it. Just as you were getting to the door, or into your car, or as they were about to leave – it didn’t matter – you’d just toss it out there, all casual, like it was an after thought, like it meant nothing “Just one more thing…” and they were nailed, you had a piece of information, evidence or just a bloody hunch that they couldn’t escape from. Like Chris Waddle with his shoulder drop, it was the only trick you had, but you forged an incredible career out of it. It was brilliant.

That one more thing is why we loved, sorry love, you Columbo, and a big part of the reason that we will miss the awesome actor and human being that was Peter Falk.

RIP Columbo and Grandad out of The Princess Bride, you will be missed.

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