Location, location, location; That is usually the mantra of property sellers and estate agents but for the past two nights it has also been the deciding factor in the preliminary tasks for this years The Apprentice. On Tuesday, Jaz Ampaw Farr was fired when she decided to walk the streets, attempting to sell lucky cats to anyone who would give her the time of day, and on Wednesday, boyish Tim Stillwell failed to put the foot down and instead gave in to popular demand. Indeed, The Apprentice is back and this year’s bunch of hopefuls brought the crazy by the bucket load.
For once, however, it isn’t the females who are loud and backstabbing. It is the men who have proven to be the most derisive and haughty this time around. Truthfully, I was actually rather impressed that so many of the girls actively leapt to Tim’s defence when the failure of their beer brewing task was pinned on him. If that had been the men, they would have thrown him under the bus before he could apologise, no matter how rapidly he speaks. The award for arrogance definitely goes to Neil Clough, whose every other breath is him taking credit for something, no matter how small or trivial. I realise this is a competition and that you not only need to make yourself heard but also need to make Lord Sugar aware of your contributions, however, he doesn’t need to tell the group or the camera what he did or did not come up with. We already know. We saw it happen. And ‘A Bitter This’ is nothing to be proud of.
Coming in close second to Neil for arrogance though was Kurt Wilson. He was so narrow-minded that he refused to even listen to the side team on two separate occasions. First, he ignored complaints that the manufacturing team that none of them actually liked or drank beer and secondly, rather than listening to their suggestions, he dictated the ingredients to them. There wasn’t any consideration at all for what they were saying; he just completely shut them down. Also, he should have accepted some responsibility for not sending samples with the sub-team. They probably should have asked but as manager it was his role to make certain they had samples.
Honestly, I am completely surprised that the male dominated team as managed to win the first two tasks in a row. Miles Mordaunt, Welshman Alex Mills and Zeeshaan Shah are all extremely loud and aggressive. It is fair enough to assume that, in this kind of competitive business situation, one might need to speak up in order to be heard but these guys, along with Kurt and Neil, are rather two-faced. They will say one thing and then conspire with the others that such and such is a terrible candidate or a horrible leader. Usually, we have to wait until a team loses and heads into the boardroom to hear what they really think but the men are so vindictive that as soon as Lord Sugar asks a question they are already zeroing in on who to target.
It seems as though a lot of the men are playing a long game in this show but I have a feeling that will only last as long as they keep winning. When it comes to the boardroom, Lord Sugar, Karen Brady and Nick Hewer can usually sniff out when someone is playing a game and those kinds of people never win this show. In fact, if season seven’s Tom Pellereau is anything to go by, Jason Leech may be a dark horse. I’m kidding because I really won’t be surprised if he will be the first to go when the men finally lose a task. Partly because everyone will throw him under the bus but also because, as Ed Byrne stated on the after show The Apprentice: You’re Fired, he has good business ethics but no actual business skills.
Despite the Endeavour’s horrible team, they have managed to not really work together and still pull out two consecutive wins. It is easy to see where Evolve went wrong in the first task. They didn’t sell all of their stock and the main team, led by project manager Jaz Ampaw Farr, failed to pre-decide locations where they could sell their wares. The second task is less clear. Location was undoubtedly a major part of it, as Rebecca Slater certainly did press the idea of the Kent Beer Festival but no one really spoke out against her and not strongly enough. And the beer festival is an honest mistake. I would have chosen it over the fresh fruits festival and it was simply unfortunate that the festival was smaller than anticipated. However, Evolve was able to sell their kegs to bars and other such establishments for almost twenty pounds more than Endeavour did. One must wonder that, if Francesca Macduff hadn’t fluffed the numbers twice, would have had more kegs to sell? Of course, the blame can’t fall entirely on Francesca. There was an entire manufacturing team in the room and if Tim Stillwell assigned her to the figures then perhaps he should have checked that she was actually capable at maths beforehand.
One of the most impressive candidates so far has to be Leah Totton. Originally from Northern Ireland but now living in London and working as a Doctor, Leah was the sub-team leader for the first task and efficiently organised the team into different roles. Thanks to that strategy, Evolve’s failure in the first task wasn’t a complete disaster. She also impressed in sales during the beer task although she didn’t quite match Rebecca. Another candidate that I think could end up stealing the show is Luisa Zissman. Sure, she is the loudest and most catty of all the females but she’s also a real dark horse. A lot of people seem to underestimate her but she has proved on both tasks that she can sell. I’ll be interested to see if she can lead when she becomes project manager because that will tip the scales.
And with that The Apprentice is back with a bang. Reports are that this season’s premiere is down in ratings but these two episodes have actually been the most enjoyable within recent memory. Not since Susan Ma’s ‘Do the French love their children?’ has it been this much fun to watch people torpedo their careers on national television.
P.S. I was rather surprised that it was Angie who was eliminated from American Idol this week but I’m also glad Kree Harrison remained in the competition as I think, out of those two, she has the most potential for world wide success. Candice Glover is still the favourite to win. It was no surprise that Randy Jackson is leaving, though I hope rumours that the entire panel is to be replaced are false. Let Mariah Carey go and keep Nicki and Keith.
Tis the season for disappointing premieres it would appear. In recent weeks, Doctor Who brought us a good, action orientated episode but it definitely felt lacking in the science and villain areas while Game of Thrones returned with a good episode that seemed unusually unfocused. This week it was the turn of AMC’s Mad Men to deliver an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying viewing experience. Unlike, Game of Thrones, which didn’t make the most of its valuable screen time in the premiere, Mad Men really just seemed to have too much time to fill.
A lot of what happened in The Doorway felt like meaningless distractions and catch up. One by one we were reintroduced to the characters and their lives. Megan Draper is now a television sensation on a daytime soap, happily signing autographs and gleefully relating scenes where she pushes men down stairs. Bert continues to shuffle around the offices. Joan is as buxom as ever. Pete is still as cocky as ever and trying to be everyone’s best friend. They have some new employees, as one might have expected, and a second floor. Harry Crane is clearly becoming weary of how he’s treated in the office as he climbs the stairs amidst a photo shoot and tells them to keep it down. Peggy is as brash and cold as she ever has been. Sally has a new friend. Betty has a disturbing new found sense of humour and Roger is in therapy. All interesting little facts but really it all just seems like a distraction. Perhaps Matthew Weiner was intentionally trying to lull us into a deep sleep just so that we could be shook awake.
Honestly, the entire gist of this episode could be captured by watching the first twenty minutes and the last ten. That might be a little facetious but in terms of plot there wasn’t really much going on. Enough to fill a single episode but not a two hour premiere. Sally’s friend confides in Betty about not getting into Juilliard and then promptly runs away. Betty heads off to find her, doesn’t find her and dyes her hair. There might be something in there about Betty letting go and accepting herself or realising just how well off she now is but it was really hard to care about those scenes because I had only just met Sally’s friend two scenes ago. Even then she was rude and disrespectful to Betty, who was only being helpful, so the character wasn’t particularly likeable or relatable. It feels like that storyline was meant to be more profound but it just fell flat.
Another major storyline involved the death of Roger’s mother. I don’t believe we ever met her but it was a progressive step in Roger’s increasing irrelevancy within the company and even in life. His family and friends are leaving him, he doesn’t really have any clients at the firm anymore and between two ex-wives and financing his son-in-law’s schemes his money is probably dwindling too. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Roger was revealed to be bankrupt this season given that he spent most of last season shelling out money to Harry and Peggy. However, Roger’s story this year seems to be, like Don, more existential. He is directionless and without purpose, much the same as this episode.
In fact, Roger’s story ran parallel to Don’s in these episodes. In therapy, Roger says that life is a bunch of bridges and doors and windows which people go through and expect to be changed. But at the end they look back and all they see are the doorways and nothing has changed. Roger hasn’t changed much from the beginning of the show. This episode basically displayed just how much Don hasn’t changed or has reverted since the efforts he made in season 5. He is still deeply conflicted about who he is, he still gets drunk and throws up at important events and, spoiler, he is still cheating on his wife.
Do I really need to put a spoiler before I declare that Don is cheating anymore? Don has been cheating with women since the beginning of the series and it was more surprising last season when he was exclusive. It would have been a biggest shock in this opening episode to find out that Don wasn’t having an affair. I guess that Don was feeling lonely with Megan always being away. Roger warned him last season to go home and remind her that there was a routine but it’s Don that needs the routine more than anything. It certainly isn’t a creative thing. Don did some of his best work last year when he was with Megan, although in fairness it was undermined by pimping out Joan. The creative concepts in this episode weren’t his best but they were interesting. Everyone else was just able to see what he couldn’t: it was about death. For Don, death will be a release from anxiety and the pressure of constantly being someone else.
Though it had some interesting themes and the structure of the episode felt very artistic, most of the episode felt dull and didn’t engage with the viewer. It was two hours of build up to a rather disappointing twist. I don’t mind that it was a very theme heavy episode. Weiner has done thematically heavy episodes before but they have always come out smoother and have been more interesting.
This episode set up good foundations for the rest of the season but it didn’t really satisfy my appetite for Mad Men. Season 5 had a two hour premiere and it was a stronger, more focused episode than The Doorway, even though Betty didn’t even appear until the third episode. It was like going into a restaurant and ordering something which sounds amazing but when you get it and taste it, it is bland and unfulfilling. That said, both Doctor Who and Game of Thrones improved with their second episodes The Rings of Akhaten and Dark Wings, Dark Words respectively. Both were more focused and polished experiences. Perhaps Don Draper and co. can follow suit.
Winter has come and went and finally the time that we have all waited for has arrived. The hugely anticipated premiere of the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones hit screens on Sunday, or Monday for those of you in the U.K., and though it was only a year the wait has felt like much longer. Now we can go back to cursing the weeks for being so long because it is a whole seven days before the next dose is due.
The real question is whether the new episode lived up to expectations. The answer, however, really depends on the angle that you’re approaching the show from. If you have never read the books then maybe you would have had zero expectations for this episode and would have found it to be extremely interesting. Even then though, it would seem that anyone who has watched the first two seasons would have had pretty high expectations for this third season. When the show left us last June, an army of White Walkers had descended upon the Night’s Watch beyond the Wall. There was a great sense of peril instilled in the viewer at the end of the second seasons and it didn’t seem that great peril was followed up on as well as it could have been.
It was a good episode. There is little doubt about that, but in a series that has become known for great episodes, good episodes are always going to feel a little lacklustre. It isn’t that the episode required more action or theatrics. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have always understood, as George R.R. Martin does, that the politics of war can be just as exciting as the battles themselves. It is unfortunate though that they seemed to have chosen the conversations that added little to the overall story as possible. Take for instance an early scene between Tyrion and Cersei Lannister. While it is always a pleasure to watch Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey, the scene didn’t really add anything to the ongoing story other than to remind us that Tyrion and Cersei do not like each other and that their father hadn’t come to visit Tyrion once since the battle of Blackwater. The latter point was brought up when Tyrion met with his father. Conversely, that scene felt like it actually meant something. Tyrion clearly wanted his father’s respect for successfully holding the city against Stannis Baratheon but when Tywin refused him even that he demanded his rights to Casterly Rock be acknowledged.
Another example of stories falling flat would be Ser Davos Seaworths’s reunion with Stannis at Dragonstone. Something about the entire portrayal of this story just felt off to me. His being rescued by Salladhor Saan was one of the better scenes but it just felt too soon. In A Storm of Swords, the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire series, Davos spends days, perhaps even a week trying to fend for himself on the rock that he washed up on before a ship comes anywhere close. It would have created a greater sense of danger for the character had the viewer seen him sucking the last remnants of fallen rain from rock pools or attempting to fell a gull with a rock. It might even have been a little humorous to watch him scramble up the rock to avoid the tide. I would rather have seen those feeble attempts to survive and reserved the actual rescue for the second or third episode.
Unlike the book, the television show didn’t take the time to really invest in these characters in this opening episode, which is unusual. Until now, the show was great at picking up on those little character moments that really captured the circumstances that plagued the characters. Sticking with Davos, when he later argues with Melisandre and she makes some rather compelling points, his reaction is to lunge at her with a knife. Granted, it was his intention all along but it paints Davos as rash and thoughtless since he has seen others attempt to kill her before and fail. He has even seen her willingly drink poison and suffer no ill effects. Why would a knife be more effective? In the novel, he is arrested before he even gets close to Stannis because Melisandre foresees his intent to kill her. That is a much more effective way of showing just how out of his league Davos is.
It is frustrating though because Benioff and Weiss have chosen to show a lot of needless conversations that don’t add anything to the over arcing story and instead cut interesting parts out such as Davos’ Bear Gyrlls impersonation. Even the grand reveal at the end of the episode with Ser Barristan Selmy was more effective in the novel as the retired Knight had been in Daenerys’ company since the end of the second book and his true identity wasn’t revealed until nearer the end of the third. It is understandable that television is a visual medium and therefore it might be less believable that Daenerys or Jorah Mormont wouldn’t recognise Barristan Selmy. However, it was clearly demonstrated through the opening battle sounds on a black screen that the creators understand that no everything needs to be seen. Selmy reveal wasn’t really strong enough to end the episode on either. Personally, I would have save the Lord Commander Jeor Mormont’s questioning of Sam and his speech until the end. It would have been a stronger close to the show and would have left viewers in a state of unknown about the condition of the Night’s Watch throughout the duration of the episode.
Perhaps the difference this time around is that I have read the books. During the year long break I read the first three books in the series and have recently begun the fourth. However, the show has changed things before and cut scenes or added their own and never before did it feel like they compromised so much. Despite being a little saddened by the exclusion of some interesting scenes, obviously they have some of their own ideas for the show this season and I am excited to see how it will all play out. One thing is certain though; it won’t involve Warwick Davis.