The Apprentice series 5: episode 1

And finally: See you all next week (you can of course stick around and read my normal blog in between). Subscribe using the links on the right if you want to be updated with new articles every day.

Serious irrationality count this week: only 2. Surprising. I will keep a closer watch next time.

10:32 I am really not going to blog the whole of Newsnight just to wait for Raef to come on. You can watch that yourself.

10:30 The highlight of the last half hour (apart from Anita's new slimline figure): a trailer for The Wire, starting next Monday. If you've never seen it, you must watch. I can recommend the Guardian organgrinder blog (home of the infamous Anna Pickard) for lots of discussion of it. But watch the show first.

10:29 A very un-economic programme, You're Fired, relying on assertion and jokes to make most of its points with no numbers and no incentives to make the right choices. I think we need to rely on the real show for the hard-edged decisions.

10:28 Anita's little highlight sequence - at a disadvantage with very little footage to show, but they manage to nearly salvage her. Well, not really.

10:27 Anita got stuck with the 'budget' tag by Nick and all three of the panel think the wrong person was fired. Not sure if the audience agrees, but Adrian is kind to Anita by saying they do.

10:26 A moment from each of Nick and Margaret (somehow I managed to mix them up at 9:17).

10:25 Rufus nails it again. "One of his mates rang him up the night before he was due to go on. 'Wait, you're going to be on telly? But you're a right tit.'"

10:24 A little sequence on Adam Freeman, the guy who dropped out. He makes himself look slightly silly, but a lot less silly than he'd eventually look if he stayed on.

10:23 "There's no question what is the quote of the week this week. There was tough competition."

10:22 There's not much less attractive on TV than Carol Vorderman pretending to be a cat.

10:21 So is Rufus Hound, if he sticks around.

10:20 Philip is clearly going to be a hilarious turn on this series.

10:18 Anita is not playing Adrian's and Rufus's game of throwing insults at the other candidates. But then again, she now has to go back to being a professional lawyer. Good move.

10:17 In complaining about Debra's hypocrisy, Carol shows exactly why Debra was successful. She didn't take the risk of being project manager but immediately afterwards, stood up and started asserting herself from a low-risk position.

10:16 Shoe shining for 8 hours would have brought in around £500 revenue. With less than half of one team! Over £1000 if all seven did it. What were they thinking?!

10:15 I can't see any rationality in the product of the Comic Relief team. Perhaps that is the point.

10:13 A nice editing job showing the range of utter disagreements within the Ignite team. The lessons of this programme for me are twofold:
  1. Shoe shining brings in more money than car cleaning (and is easier)
  2. The teams don't understand why that makes it a better thing to do
10:10 Despite Adrian's assertion that "the customer is always right", the women on Ignite saw through the customer's claims of paying £20 a time for valeting. In price setting, you need to understand the other party's motivations for everything they say.

10:07 Rufus Hound seems to get the game theory of the Apprentice better than everyone else at the table.

10:05 A handy explanation from Carol Vorderman: profit is what you have left when you take costs away from revenue. That's why she's the cleverest woman in...well, in Carol Vorderman.

10:03 She is much better looking in the studio. Make-up perhaps, or just the six months between filming episode 1 and doing this interview.

10:02 Who are these little repeat sequences for? Who do they think is watching this that did not see the episode two minutes ago?

10:00 And, time to switch over to BBC2 for the no-tension, slightly naff debate. See you there.

9:59 Anita agrees with me about Surallan's attitude to lawyers. But then again, isn't Margaret one?

9:58 I am always bored by the little housemate shots while they wait for the survivors to come back. A couple of useless business cliches ("turnover is vanity, profit is sanity") do not lighten the mood.

9:58 She did look nice in the taxi shot as it pulled away.

9:57 And Anita is fired.

9:56 Debra nearly gets fired but he was just pretending.

9:56 Anita did not show initiative.

9:55 Mona has shown spirit; that's a good thing from Surallan.

9:53 Maybe I was slightly controversial in accusing Anita of being attractive. From some angles she is; from others, not so much.

9:51 The rational action in this situation does seem to be for two team members to create a convincing narrative in Surallan's mind about the third, but without appearing aggressive. None of them have quite managed to do this, but Anita is walking on thin ice by defending herself instead of attacking. She sends a signal to the other two candidates that she's the one to gang up on.

9:50 Debra is being called out for being dishonest - which seems to be the editors' theme for her. There's always one. Mona doesn't sound authoritative in making the accusation, though.

9:49 Mona seems a bit nervous and quivery. I don't rate her chances of staying in. I feel Anita hasn't done enough to be fired, but she's on notice.

9:47 Debra has been chosen too, as head of the second subteam. She does a clever job of pretending to support Anita while sticking the knife in her. She should survive for future snake value.

9:46 Yep, Anita is definitely going in the boardroom. Denial of responsibility for letting the costs run up.

9:43 I realise one aspect of the rules was not clear; were they allowed to go back to the van afterwards? If so, they could have kept costs low at first and retained flexibility, then gone back for new supplies when they were needed. And then they'd have known which supplies were required for whatever work there was demand for.

9:42 Debra blames the project manager for everything. But the narrative of "too much cost" is being written to get Anita in the boardroom - she was responsible for tracking the amount of money spent.

9:41 More faux confidence from the contestants: I guess it's in the contract that they have to say stuff like this about each other. "If she doesn't take me into the boardroom it's a waste of a good suit". Yeah right.

9:40 Rationality from the programme makers: non-financial rewards (the house) which have a lot more impact than the equivalent money divided between 15 people.

9:38 Shouty arguments between the women in the greasy spoon, but it is immaterial now. The only rationality issue is that this is a time to build alliances - a clever candidate would make sure they provide noticeable support to at least five or six of their teammates here - even if they had to sacrifice a scapegoat in order to do it.

9:35 Ignite profits about £160. Empire profits £239 - so the boys win. There was no need to argue after all! I am not quite as surprised as the boys' team themselves, but I don't think they deserved the win. Then again, it was a relatively stable performance given it's the first episode.

9:33 Mixed messages from the men and the women. Generally I find women to be more loyal than men on this show: that's borne out in this episode at least. Lots of fighting within Empire.

9:32 A bit of pre-emptive bitching from, or about, the project managers - not very useful because it's to camera instead of to the rest of the team or to Surallan ( (c) Anna Pickard 2007). But fun for us.

9:31 I am never sure whether the teams actually get better during the tasks or if it's the editing; but Ignite at least seemed to get a little bit more momentum towards the end.

9:30 If this were on ITV, there would be a commercial break for me to get another beer. As it is, I may have to miss 12 seconds of gormlessness to reach the fridge.

9:26 Empire: The profitable shoe cleaners have showed up to share the low-value work with the other minicab-cleaning half of the team. I am still gobsmacked by this. It's doubly ironic that it's at a taxi office - this habit is a classic failing of taxi drivers, who set a fixed financial target for the day and then stop work. Meaning that on profitable days, they stop work when there's money still out there; while on dreadful days they have to work 14-hour shifts.

9:25 Half of the girls seem to have hit on a slightly better approach - a roadside carwash. While the other half are polishing four classic cars at £20 each. In three hours they have finished four, unsatisfactorily, and don't get the rest of the job. This is described to the project manager as "a change of plan".

9:24 Numbers! £60-70 in an hour of shoe polishing; much more profitable than the cars. And the shoe polishers stop work to go and lose money on the cars! Utterly irrational. Irrationality count: 2

9:22 The boys are polishing shoes now. I wonder if anyone is going to evaluate the margins - and the time it's going to take to clean shoes versus cars. One non-customer claims that the price (£4) is far too high, but hopefully the team won't listen. He isn't representative of the likely buyers. Meanwhile, they aren't valeting the cars very well. It's going to take a lot longer than they thought.

9:19 Both teams have decided to wash cars. The girls are making the same mistake as one of the teams in the cleaning task of the last series - vastly overpricing the service. Cleaning is a hard, competitive, commodity task and the obvious customers already have a supplier they've negotiated hard with. And of course, the customer has every incentive to lie about the price they are currently charged. Not irrationality as such this time, just naivety.

9:17 Welcome to any Guardian readers popping over. Nick has complained about the girls wasting time talking over each other instead of solving the task. But this might just be the difference between individual and collective rationality. You don't need your team to win as long as you make yourself look good (though not too good).

9:11 Project manager. Is it rational to volunteer? There's been some game theory done on this in the past, and the consensus seems to be no. One of the guys does, but none of the women want to.

9:10 Team names. One of the guys wants "Strike" which, it's pointed out, reminds us of Arthur Scargill. Someone suggests "Carp Diem" [sic] but fortunately they don't make a fool of themselves by picking that. "Empire" seems to be the boys' choice and "Ignite" the girls' (hopefully BT Ignite won't be suing).

9:08 Anita Shah is a trained lawyer. Despite the quote from another candidate "I don't think there's any background that gives anyone an advantage", lawyers have traditionally not done well in this show. Usually there seems to be at least one attractive Asian woman in the show, and Anita qualifies - but I am not sure I expect her to stay in long.

9:07 First task: create and run a cleaning business. Nice simple rules for once - one of the ongoing frustrations of this series is when the candidates are subject to rules which we don't know. Without knowing the whole picture, it's hard to understand some of the decisions. But this game seems simple: sell some kind of cleaning service, buy the materials and collect the money.

9:05 As widely trailed, one of the candidates has already dropped out. Not very rational, that. Even if he thought he'd be fired, he had an option to play which is worth something. Irrationality count: 1

9:04 The usual ominous music in the background while the candidates wait to be summoned into the boardroom. It's a little artificial when we know nobody is being fired yet. But no doubt Alan will have some suitable insults.

9:03 Beekeeping.

9:02 We get some near-spoilers with shots of people in the boardroom. Fortunately we don't recognise anyone yet so it's pretty hard to remember who we're seeing in what combinations.

9:00 And it's on! The candidates are telling us how much testosterone they have. Quite rational so far: game theory and signalling.

8:58 Waterloo Road is finished and we are nearly ready to start. Hurry up. Funny to see a Friends episode before Chandler and Monica...wait, haven't you watched that bit yet? Sorry, no spoilers intended.

8:56 Ross and Rachel said 'I love you' and kissed. Meanwhile, the Guardian also has a live blog this evening.

8:45 Friends: Ross is trying to teach his son to say 'dada'. Rachel and he are disagreeing about whether or not to have children and move to Scarsdale.

8:44 Perhaps I will blog the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday. Hurry up Sir Alan, we're waiting for you.

8:43 Watching The Real Hustle in the meantime. Not very interesting. President Obama is on Channel 4 News, that's a bit better. And Spandau Ballet are reforming. Alan Sugar should remember them, though I doubt any of the contestants do.

 A couple of links to get you started: The Apprentice Forum and the official BBC1 site. Only half an hour to go...


Anonymous said…
Well frankly you didn't add anything to the experience.
Clare Evans said…
Having a missed the first half hour of the show I got a brief summary here and the little repeat sequences are useful for those of us that missed most of the main show - although doesn't look as I missed much other than a string of business cliches.

Perhaps you can add a 'cliche' count.
Anonymous said…
Very nice, I think there's two things you've overlooked economically though:

1. Anita was fired because the BBC has an incentive to keep the more attractive contestants in the game.

2. "were they allowed to go back to the van afterwards? If so, they could have kept costs low at first and retained flexibility, then gone back for new supplies when they were needed. And then they'd have known which supplies were required for whatever work there was demand for." -- Or drive around in the van looking for work in the first place. Sir Alan mentioned he'd be impressed if they rented out the van, so I'd expect that the van could have been moved.
Patrick said…
I was under the impression that they could only go to the van once, at the beginning of the day. I will rewatch on my sky to see if thats the case, maybe though even Surallan had said this.

If not, then they would have just bought as they went along and there would be no business acumen required in terms of stock control and pricing vs equipment cost.

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