The Apprentice Episode 2 Review: Keeping Up App-earances

THE APPRENTICE: Wednesday 11th May, BBC1, 9pm

So after Edward got his marching orders in the first episode of this year’s Apprentice, the boys were under pressure to sort themselves out and prove that they deserved to be there. This episode’s task was to design an app for smart phones which, obviously, could be anything from a game, to something that would actually be useful, to the sort of thing that would just annoy the hell out of anyone in its vicinity. No surprises for guessing which one both teams chose.

On the way to some generic office space that the boys are using for planning, Glenn took it upon himself to give a little pep talk. “Gotta get ourselves heard this time, gotta put ourselves on the map gotta prove why we are here,â€? he says in a depressing list of cliché and metaphor. But it seems to work. Brainstorming then commences and seems to be say-the-first-thing-that-comes-into-your-head day; “traffic lights,â€? blurts Tom, before admitting “I didn’t really think it through more than that.â€? Idiot. Project manager Leon settles on Glenn’s idea of a soundboard app that will let people hear stereotypical phrases said in different regional accents called SlangATang. If these are the finest business minds on offer in the UK, it’s not surprise we’re in a recession.

Over with the girls, Susan is making an amusing bid to be crowned the most inarticulate person in Britain with a pitch for an app that begins “um, er, um, so you’re you and I’m me,â€? to which team leader Edna tells her to shut up. Surely Susan will let this go quickly? Will she heck. They decide on a similar sort of app called Ampi Apps that plays various sounds for people but seems a little more universally applicable than SlangATang. Both these gimmicky apps are being aimed at the youth market, but are the youth stupid enough to want them? Nick Hewer sums up the situation nicely, saying “I didn’t get it. It was bland and meaningless to me. Unless, of course, I’m too old and it’s all terribly clever and just over my head.â€? Brilliant.

Next, they have to pitch their apps to three different websites to persuade them to publicise them. Step forward Vincent Disneur who says he’ll go in, turn on the charisma and get a result. Except he doesn’t. He crashes and burns. It turns out he couldn’t sell wind in the doldrums and Jim has to step in and save him. Brilliant TV though, it’s why we all watch The Apprentice anyway; when things go right it’s okay but when they go wrong it’s fantastic. They also seem bemused when a guy from Wired magazine questions whether their app might be offensive – but no one has ever been offended by stereotypes though, surely?

Both teams also have to sell their app at an expo and this is where the boys thrive. Their pitch is a fantastic application of the ‘brute force and ignorance’ approach combined with remembering to tell people how they can download the app – something that Edna forgets when giving the girls’ presentation. It turns out that whilst the boys have managed to get featured on two of the three websites, the girls got the big one with Wired magazine so everybody heads into the boardroom unsure of their fate (except Leon, who says he’s very confident of victory).

After the usual squabbling, moaning and plenty of finger-pointing from Lord Sugar, it turns out that the boys outsold the girls comfortably in the first six hours, but after the app became available worldwide they got thrashed 10,667 downloads to 3951. Apparently the world cares less for British cultural stereotypes than the Brits themselves. Leon then has to choose who to bring in with him to face elimination and chooses Jim and Alex. But then Jim manages to talk himself out of it and doormat Leon changes him mind to Glenn and Alex.

Ultimately, though, despite the fact that Glenn’s idea was crap and Leon displayed all the leadership ability expected of Inspector Clouseau it’s Alex that gets fired because he’s done, well, nothing. So there you go, it’s better to be lucky than good, and it’s better to be visible than useful. Words to live by.