With Christmas just around the corner and both The Apprentice and The X-Factor ending soon, this is a good opportunity to assess how their respective finals are shaping up. I’ve done this in years past, just not at the same time. However, The Apprentice was shifted to a winter timeslot to avoid clashing with World Cup and the Commonwealth Games, which means, in the festive spirit, this week’s blog will be a two for one deal. First up are the Apprentice’s Final Five who will have their business plans dissected by Lord Sugar’s advisors; Claude Littner, Mike Soutar, Claudine Collins and series 8 winner, Ricky Martin. That’s right folks, for the second time in Apprentice history Margaret Mountford has left us. Will Ricky Martin channel some of his wrestling background to strike fear into the candidates? I certainly hope so.

Bianca Miller

I’m sorry but Bianca once sold six boardgames to a small retailer and allowed them exclusive rights to sell the game within Westminster. I feel like that hasn’t been brought up again and that it needs to be. I was legitimately surprised Lord Sugar didn’t fire her on the spot for that error. While Bianca hasn’t made any major mistakes since week six, and even led her team to victory in week seven, I don’t think she has really stood out either. That isn’t necessarily a sign of her demise, because Lord Sugar is looking for a business partner, not a character. But the success of other candidates might outshine her middling progress. An argument could be made for her business plan being where she will truly shine but after selling six board games exclusively to a small shop in London her business plan will probably have a big pothole when it comes to the numbers.

Daniel Lassman

Every year there are candidates who make wild boasts about themselves. More often than not these boasts are not backed up by the candidate’s actions on the show. This years’ resident over confident candidate is Daniel and true to form when it came time to sell Daniel’s sales figures didn’t match his mouth. But I believe it’s a matter of perspective. On the high street, on a personal basis, Daniel can’t sell. In professional pitches though? That’s a different story. In that environment, he’s generally been better received (though telling potential clients that he wouldn’t wear their wearable technology in week two was a notable slip). Nick even remarked this past week that the supermarkets liked Daniel’s pitching style when it came to shilling their premium puddings. Not that anyone is willing to let him show it. After those early mistakes, it seemed like all of the other candidates repeatedly pushed him to the side in tasks. Lord Sugar must see something in him to keep him around and I think Daniel has shown that he can change and grow. When it comes to winning though, I think there are stronger candidates.

From right to left, Roisin Hogan, Bianca Miller, Solomon Akhtar and Daniel Lassman pitch their tea inspired cheesecakes on the 2014 series of The Apprentice.

Roisin loathed Daniel’s deviation from the plan from the supermarkets liked it.

Mark Wright

This guy is a favourite for a lot of people but I really don’t like his style of business. I haven’t seen a task yet where he wasn’t underhanded and manipulative and the pudding task showed that it’s not just towards Daniel. Daniel has gotten some criticism for lacking integrity but I think there’s far less honour in Mark’s style. From what I’ve seen, I think he’s a better seller when it’s one on one with people but hasn’t always been the best in pitches. He’s been known to lie as well,  such as fluffing up his actual job, which leads me to wonder how sound his business plan is. His track record says that he might have a chance of winning but I hope not.

Roisin Hogan

Roisin was my favourite. She is still my pick to win but I’ve gone off her business style lightly after watching her play down Daniel and Solomon’s accomplishments in the boardroom following the pudding task. Her comments weren’t terribly derisive but watch her face when Nick and Karen undercut her and you’ll see what I mean. I don’t know if she’s intentionally trying to sabotage their chances or if she just doesn’t like them. And while she is very productive and to the point, sometimes her organisation and strictness can be a detriment. Its notable that the one pitch where they didn’t sell any puddings was the one without the guys with just Roisin and Bianca. I think she needs to relax a bit but this is a stressful competition so I can’t blame her really for trying to get things done right. At the moment I’d say she has the best odds but her business plan will really decide whether she sinks or swims with Lord Sugar.

Solomon Akhtar

Otherwise known as a poor man’s Tom Pellereau. Solomon has made himself out to be an idea man whose strengths lie in branding but his abilities haven’t stood out in the same way that Pellereau’s did. But I don’t think Solomon has any major weaknesses either. His track record for just about everything is decent. That may make him a jack of all trades and a master of none. The larger concern for Lord Sugar will be the business plan as that’s where it will become clear whether Solomon can focus those various abilities into a successful concept. There are stronger candidates but Solomon is the dark horse of this years final five.

The X Factor 2014 finalist Fleur East performing on stage.

Singer, Rapper and Dancer: Fleur East continues to impress.

On to The X-Factor final now. Andrea Faustini took third place in the episode last night so we’re now down to Ben Haenow and Fleur East. Either way, Simon Cowell has mentored the winning act. Speaking of the judges, as much as I dislike her style and generally disagree with her assessment, it was a pity that Mel B couldn’t be there for Andrea. I was glad to see Tulisa Contostavlos return, though I have to say, in an ironic turn, she was prettier before the beauty work. On to the finalists….

Ben Haenow

I like Ben Haenow. I don’t like that everyone, especially Mel B, seemed to be forcing him into a soft rock route despite that blatantly not being the kind of singer that he wanted to be. His voice was good too, though some songs could be hit and miss. It is his likeable personality that has kept him in the competition when his singing hasn’t always been up to scratch. He’s a good contestant but at the end of the day, he’s just a contestant.

Fleur East

The unique selling point for Fleur is that she has taken her performances to the next level. Yes she can sing decently, and rap sufficiently, but she dances and has stage presences that the other contestants just don’t have yet. Maybe it will develop later for them but Fleur in recent weeks has shown that she can do concert worthy performances. I would say that Fleur’s solo performance from last night was better than Meghan Trainer’s performance of her son ‘All About That Bass’. Winner or not, she’s ready for a career in this music industry.

So there we have it. My picks for the winners are Roisin Hogan and Fleur East. If you disagree with any of my comments or choices, voice your opinion in the comment section below.  Tonight we find out if Fleur takes the top prize X Factor but viewers will have to wait a full week to see if Roisin becomes Lord Sugar’s next business partner. And then it’s only four days until Christmas.


And now for the rebuttal:

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