The Apprentice is back

By now you would have thought that Lord Sugar would have found his perfect business partner, yet every year he gets the BBC to commission another series of The Apprentice. And every year he seems to find 16 businessmen and women who are as useless as the previous lot. Nevertheless we are stuck with them now, so we should make the best of it.

As it is only week one all the contestants are eager to point out why they are brilliant, and rather than just saying why they come up with pointless phrases. Last night’s example of this was one contestant, called Ricky Martin, declared that he is “the reflection of perfection”. That’s nice dear.

Their first task was to create their own printed goods, so they had to come up with a design and print it onto some blank products. As it is early days in the show they split of into a group of boys and a group of girls and come up with their names. The boys went for Phoenix, so if they went wrong and put it right they could rise from the ashes and the girls went for Sterling, because one of them had a dream about it.

Early on it seemed that the girls had the advantage as one of the contestants, Gabrielle Omar, has started her own print company. So whilst the boys came up with awe inspiring products like a teddy bear with a union flag t shirt on and a tote bag with “This is a” written on it with a picture of a bus to complete the sentence and in the process of managed to colour almost all the bag with the dye, apart from where the design was supposed to be. But the girls knew what they were doing as far as making their baby themed products which had a picture of a rough sketch of some zoo animals.

Although this is where any advantages the girls team had quickly disappeared. For some reason the women started bickering and pointing fingers at who wasn’t doing their work rather than doing their work. Meanwhile the boys were knowingly selling crap products to people for a ridiculously high price. Although they did get picked up on this as someone who had bought ten of their bags for stock in their shop pointed out the imperfections, so the boys sheepishly gave them a refund.

However, the girls who for some reason spent time at the zoo in attempt to sell to anyone then started walking the long back streets of London led by Bilyana Apostolova who insisted she knew where she was going. Eventually they arrived at some shops where the staff weren’t really interested in their products, and ended up getting the hard sell from the entire group leading to them being told off. Honestly if these are the best entrepreneurs we’ve got then we should stop trying to make Britain a place to do business.

After their long, hard day of selling they all met up in the boardroom to be given a dressing down by Lord Sugar. And this is what really annoys me about the show, the boys who didn’t know what they were doing but could sell a broken vacuum cleaner as if it was brand new and just off the shelf won this week’s task, whilst the girls who made a better product lost.

So the boys went off for celebratory cocktails and the girls argued about who should go. Now to be honest I skipped most of this to get a bowl of ice cream. But from what I can tell Bilyana, who walked them round London for no reason, talked herself into a bit of a hole and was the first of the series to be pointed at by Sugar and told that she’s fired.

The whittling down of contestants continues next week on BBC1 at 9pm where they will be making a new household gadget. In the meantime you can catch up with this episode on iPlayer.

Dirk Gently’s holistic hour

Despite BBC Four’s huge cutbacks resulting in most of its programming now just archive footage, somehow Dirk Gently slipped onto the airwaves.

Loosely based on the books by Douglas Adams, Stephen Mangan has stepped into the shoes of main character Dirk who runs his very own holistic detective agency. There was a trial run of the series back in December 2010 which was fantastic and it is good to see it wangled its way back. Darren Boyd is also back to play Dirk’s assistant, Richard MacDuff who seems to have decided that it is a sensible career move to work at the detective agency which has a lack a paying customers.

There has been some talk that Dirk Gently would suffer in a post Moffat Sherlock world because that has the perfect twosome with a knack for solving crimes, but these comparisons are missing the point. There are similarities; the fantastic music sounds similar, it focuses on two men and they are usually in the middle of some dangerous hijinks. However, the show is more like a drama rather than a detective show. Dirk’s logic to solving crime is his gift that no one else gets. Instead the fun comes from watching Dirk and everyone’s responses to his unusual behaviour.

The real comparison which is hard for the show is the books. There are so many things happening which can be expressed well in a book but sort of lose their meaning and end up confusing when put on the television. So I think the show has done well to retain the essence of Dirk whilst also still making sense.

There are also some great lines, one of my favourite that I will now be using whenever I am having a bad day is: “I believe we are having one those days were even Mother Theresa would kick babies.”

Fingers crossed another series slips onto the BBC Four before anyone realises that it is something that costs money on that channel. Catch up with the series on BBC iPlayer.

Kony satire, commuting woes, phone sex and 3D sheep

With a host of channels broadcasting 24 hours of programming every day you could have easily missed some of the televisual highlights of the week. But have no fear as TV Talk helps out by pinpointing the shows you should have watched this week.

10 O’Clock Live

Whilst I suggest that you should watch this show each week anyway, Charlie Brooker was at his best this week with his satirical rant about the Kony2012 campaign. The rant was sparked off by a 30 minute video encouraging people to get Ugandan leader Joseph Kony out of power. Although this seemed like a good cause it was eventually revealed that a lot of the information was dubious at best and the group behind the video spent more time and resources campaigning about doing good than being good.

Anyway Brooker says it better, so catch up on this week’s take on the news on 4OD.

The Tube

You might think nothing of your daily commute to work, but the BBC’s series The Tube shows what really happens at tube stations all the time.

Whilst showing the in jokes had by workers on the underground, such as the numbering for system for the various things that might need to be cleaned up instead of announcing what really needs to be cleaned up over the tannoy.

Yet it also deals with the harsh reality of train driving too, most notably deaths. This part of the show really demonstrates how when you are travelling if something gets in the way with your destination then most in the heat of the moment don’t really care if it is because somebody was just run over by a train.

It’s also interesting because no matter whereabouts in the country you live you will more than likely have been on some part of the underground network. So when one episode focused on upgrading the Metropolitan Line at Harrow on the Hill it made me think of home as I pass that station to get home.

You can catch up with the whole series so far on iPlayer.

My Phone Sex Secrets

An unexpectedly amazing show and don’t be put off by the title as the show is the furthest thing away from smut imaginable. The documentary looked at people who make a living from doing the naughty talking on sex phone lines. And it is completely different to what you expect – middle aged ladies having a laugh and students needing a bit of cash.
Whilst being an interesting topic it is also worth it to see nonchalant women doing mundane things like making a cup of tea manage to make men … very excited.

Watch the show here on 4OD.

Shaun the Sheep 3D shorts

Now this one is unfortunately limited to just people with Nintendo’s 3DS, but each week Aardman is releasing a free minute or so long 3D video of what Shaun and his farmyard friends get up to behind the scenes.

So far two of these short and fun videos have been released on the gaming device which allows you to see 3D without the need for those ridiculous glasses. But there are another thirteen videos to come out allowing fans of the show to see what Shaun, Timmy, Blitzer and the farmer get up to when the cameras are turned off.

And the winner of Let’s Dance is…

There has been weeks of preparation and more than likely most of that was spent by celebrities worrying about what they were doing with their careers. It was all for the final of Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and I found it hard to pick a winner as they were all worthy of getting to this stage.

But before the show could begin there was a royal opening as Queen Elizabeth II herself (or maybe a lookalike, I am never sure about these things) cut the ribbon and declared the phone lines open.

First up was Eddie the Eagle, where it was predicted that if Britain’s best ski jumping loser finally won something then it would prove the Mayans right and the world would self destruct. Nevertheless Eddie got up on stage to pay homage to Austin Powers in his energetic and fun performance.

Next performing to win the trophy was comedian Terry Alderton who donned his red, frilly dress and his gurning facial expression to become Tina Turner. He definitely gave it gusto but it didn’t feel like the winning performance, but full marks go to the face. Likewise The Cuban  Brothers and Fatima Whitbread with their rubbery tribute to The Bee Gees was enjoyable and silly but the standard was high for this finale.

Actor and comedian Omid Djalili, who impressed with his dance to a mash up of Singin’ In The Rain and Fight The Power, pulled it out the bag again. I liked the fact that the performance did also tell a story with a few cheeky references to the London riots and looters stealing rice. He also impressed  by having a VT that was funny as he spoofed X Factor contestants who experience something dramatic in the run up to their performance. It led to the producers sadly telling Djalili that having laryngitis did not affect his ability to dance.

Tyger and Dani, the stars from Outnumbered and Tracy Beaker respectively, wowed with their Bugsy Malone number as they made performing in a musical look easier. They also had a slightly embarrassing moment as the 16-year-old Tyger’s voice sounded as though it broke live on air, made worse as he explained that in fact his voice has broken many years ago. Ignoring that, a good performance which made some of the earlier performances look unworthy of being in the final.

Now the wildcard act, Radio 4 favourite Miles Jupp who luckily got into the final with his take on Firestarter. His hell raising performance seemed to visibly shock judge Arlene Philips who had to be explained the joke fellow judges Rhod Gilbert and Frank Skinner. Although I feel happy that Jupp got into the final it seemed clear that the joke wasn’t enough for Jupp to get his hands on the trophy.

Although Roland Rivron is relatively unknown now, although I do remember him fondly as the chef in 90s kids show Cats Eyes, it didn’t matter as he pulled it out the bag with an amazing re-enactment of Christopher Walken’s dance in the Fatboy Slim video Weapon of Choice. Frankly it was incredible, although his hairdo did make him look a bit like Piers Morgan.

And finally, the almost forgotten about Tameka and Laurie from Eastenders with their unique take on Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s Telephone. The latter half of contestants definitely made me think the beginning of the show was maybe a bit of a let down, apart from Eddie the Eagle of course. And this was reflected in the result as Rivron was handed the trophy from last year’s winners Charlie Baker and James Thornton.

Overall there were a number of great performances this year, and all for a good cause. It was good to see the show move away from half the contestants being male comedians dressed as women, but also good not to lose them completely. And if you want to see more fun and japes like this then tune into BBC1 next weekend for a whole night of Sport Relief entertainment. In the meantime catch up with the show on iPlayer.

Mary Portas: pants to unemployment

Mary Portas has decided that as she is now the Queen of the High Street she will now turn her hand to reviving British manufacturing by creating a knicker factory in Middleton.

The Bottom Line , her new programme for Channel 4, brings together her passion for improving shopping with her need to understand people and isn’t as patronising as I thought it would be about the current employment situation in the UK. In fact she seems genuinely moved to want to change it all, and then realises that her small pants factory isn’t enough.

Portas has eight jobs to offer and is worried that not enough people will turn up for the roles. On the day only a mere 300 people turn up for the small number of positions available. Even if you would expect that most of these people wouldn’t be able to string a sentence together, the majority were normal people who would be a pleasure in the workplace just some of them had never attempted sewing before.

But once Portas had got her eight it became sort of Big Brother-esque as all the new employees got given a personality according to what Portas thinks about them. The main two are Lauren and Andrew.

Lauren is the wildcard choice who only got the job because Portas sees herself in her, whilst everyone else seems to be seeing someone who doesn’t listen and isn’t prepared to learn. On the other hand we have Andrew, who is willing to learn and better himself for the sake of his son. It was an adorable sight to see a man, who looked hardly a day over 12, wearing his friend’s suit which was several sizes too big for him, talk about wanting to do this for his son. And unexpectedly Andrew was the best one at sewing in the whole group.

The problem with these types of shows is they would have been filmed months ago and part of the drama is knowing whether it will work out or not. This is slightly spoilt by the fact that you can go and buy the pants right now if you wish. But saying that it is a good show and optimistic about the talent of the unemployed people in Britain and wanting to do something about it, rather than ignoring it.

Catch up on 4OD or watch the show on Thursday, 9pm on Channel 4.

Slash, Ferraris and why motorsport is better than golf…

I was a bit worried when Jeremy announced ‘I need a slash’ on the final episode of Top Gear. I mean he’s getting on a bit now so you never know. Luckily it turned out he was referring to The Slash, who it seems is known by everyone in the world except me (but then I was also unaware of the advances of the jet pack) who was the last Star in the C Apostrophe D of the series.

Dressed in his rubber top hat, sunglasses and leather trousers, I was expecting the former Guns N Roses frontman to be a bit wild. Instead he proved himself to be nice but rather…dare I say it…dull? We learned that he is a clothes thief and used to own in excess of 90 snakes, but apart from that. His lap didn’t set the world on fire (1.49.8) but it was wet and he beat Alice Cooper so Slash was happy.

What got everyone talking was his serenade at the end of the show, playing ‘Jessica’ and proving, wow, he really is some guitarist.

Slash rocks out at the end of the show

As well as Slash we were treated to an interview with the effortlessly funny man-of-few-words Kimi Raikkonen  announcing (in his own way) that he’s returning to racing in a Lotus Renault sponsored by an anti-dandruff product. His lap in the Suzuki Liana was remarkable in that he appeared to be nonchalantly gazing out of the window for most of it admiring a helicopter parked nearby. Despite this and the fact the track was wet, the calm as a cucumber approach saw him beat both Mark Webber and Damon Hill on the F1 drivers’ board with a time of 1.46.1.

The rest of the episode felt a little jumbled to me, as though they’d had lots of good ideas but had run out of time and had to pack them all into the final show. The opening BMW M5 review with Hammond, for example, left me slightly puzzled. Sure it’s a car show so they should be able to discuss any car they choose without a particular reason why but I thought the item seemed a bit rushed and wasn’t sure what they were trying to say about it, other than it was good and more like the original. Yay?!

James’ trip to visit Chris Evans’ Ferrari collection seemed slightly off-key too, but I suppose they were grabbing the opportunity to showcase such a rare car that most of us plebs would never get to see otherwise. And I must admit, I’m very glad they did. I thought I was in love with the Bentley last week, but no! The Ferrari  250 GT California is just stunning and lucky James, in a bold choice of jumper which more than made up for the car’s lack of colour, got to drive it.

The final item was one for the Golf Widows. Categorical proof that golf is stupid. Okay… maybe that’s not quite what was said but the boys were out to prove that at the very least, that motorsport can be cheaper than golf.

For the same price as membership to the golf club, the freemasons and a set of ‘bats’ the boys managed to equip themselves with rally cross cars and took to Lydden Hill Track to compete in a race. The point was proven, the rest was just typical Top Gear fun.

James in his Toyota MR2 came, typically, last in 2/3 of his races. Jeremy did pretty badly in the Modified 2 litre class in his BMW 328 but then won the ‘Spanner Final’ and somehow ended up in the proper final. Hammond, on the other hand did extremely well, getting two 3rd places in his Citroen Saxo in the stock hatch class and ending up in the proper final against Jeremy.

I defy anyone to understand the rules. Hammond’s approach, ‘I’m just going to drive round the track as fast as I can,’ seemed the best in the circumstances and seemed to work! Meeting in the final the boys battled it out but Hammond beat Jeremy, gaining a respectable second, whilst Jeremy bagged third. Pretty impressive really.

And on that bombshell (and on Slash’s guitar shredding) series 18 ended. Come on Top Gear, you’ve got to at least make it up to a nice round 20! Bring on the next series.

If you missed it http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01dljnx/Top_Gear_Series_18_Episode_7/

Come dating with Dave Lamb

If you are a fan of Come Dine With Me, then you are probably not going to be a fan of Come Date With Me. I mean it still involves food, some guests coming round to your house and those all-important score cards but it feels like it has been mashed up with ITV’s Take Me Out.

The premise is essentially a dating show but to make it less in your face it takes place in the comfy confines of Come Dine With Me. But this means the rules are quite confusing, yet really mean nothing. So the week begins with four men and one lucky lady (I say lucky, I more likely mean unfortunate). To start off with she cooks for them but come the end of the evening she has to choose which man has not impressed so far so will not continue with them on their journey of love. I mean sure it is embarrassing but the guy is forgotten about in a matter of minutes.

So now that the three men are head over heels in love with this week’s lady (I say in love, I mean in lust and that is being polite) they get a chance to impress her. And it is not only with dinner, which the other two guys get to sit in on, but also a date, which they are alone on. These are all clichéd dates such as a spa day or a romantic picnic where the fellas try to get a kiss or get their date naked.

Then in the evening they cook – which is the only segment similar to Come Dine With Me but it doesn’t really. I mean they cook and that is it. And only the lady courting the three men gets to score; a score out of ten for the date and a score out of ten for the meal.

At the end of the week whoever has the most out of twenty she gets to spend the rest of her life with (I say spend the rest of her life with, I mean spend one awkward date with). Except it is all rendered pointless because she can change her scores at the end of the week.

However pointless it all sounds, it is strangely enjoyable all because of Dave Lamb. Whenever a guy says something desperate and cringe-worthy then good ol’ Dave Lamb is there to point fun at and generally make them look like a fool. This is the sole thing that makes it different to other dating shows, there is no pretence that this will lead to romance.

Overall though the thing I found quite disappointing about it was everyone was too similar. On its parent show they will have a vegetarian or someone who won’t drink alcohol to cause some tension within the group. Whereas everyone on this show has the same thing in mind and they will only cause trouble by making fun of each other’s chat up lines.

Ice skating, drag and Louie Spence- it’s got to be Let’s Dance for Sport Relief

Just one act into Episode 4 of Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and we’d already been treated to Jo Brand, Lee Nelson, Russell Kane and a man in drag dressed as Rhianna.

That man was comedian Patrick Monahan, wearing a pink wig, sparkly crop top and flowery skirt, finished off nicely by regular flashes of hairy armpits. He capered around sexily to Rhianna’s ‘Only Girl in the World’. It was fun, although hampered slightly by the fact I had no idea who he was. Somehow it’s ok when our TV favourites make themselves look like prats. Russell Kane and Noel Fielding can totally get away with it but less well known types can seem just a little bit cringey. Just to redeem it…or to make it worse, I’m not sure…Louie Spence was revealed as one of Patrick’s backing dancers.

Next up was Roland Rivron who danced to ‘Weapon of Choice’ by Fatboy Slim. Full credit to Roland, he was pretty good, doing lots of proper choreography, complete with ballet leaps and pirouettes and spinning about on a concierge trolley. It lacked polish but he sure tried hard. As Russell pointed out, ‘It was like someone had fed one of my uncles a bottle of cod liver oil.’ And it was. In a good way of course.

Third were comedy duo, Watson and Oliver, who, bizarrely decided to skate their routine! Transformed for their act only into an ice rink, the girls took to the stage dressed as Torvill and Dean in their iconic ‘Bolero’ outfits and proceeded to perform an (almost) proper figure skating routine to Ravel’s classic with just a little comedy twist. It wasn’t quite olympic standard, as it seemed that only one of them was a good skater but it was impressive. It did leave me wondering…why? But then it’s usually best not to question Let’s Dance.

TV presenters Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley from the Gadget Show were the next contestants dancing with a latin twist to Ricky Martin’s ‘Viva la Vida Loca’. They both looked the part and the choreography was good but they (Suzi in particular), didn’t seem like natural dancers.

Last up was Fatima Whitbread backed by the Cuban Brothers bopping to ‘You Should be Dancing’ by The Bee Gees. The Cuban Brothers opened the routine, showcasing their amazingly flexible bodies in a sequence of amazing disco moves before Fatima sashayed on, looking very feminine in a long red dress. She wasn’t quite up to their standard but she gave it her all.

After the usual filler, chatter and music by Will Young and LMFAO it was results time. The excellent Roland Rivron deservedly received the highest public vote and pranced like a middle-aged Billy Elliot through to the final. It was announced that skating wannabes Watson and Oliver and Patrick Monahan were going home.

That left the judges to decide the fate of Fatima and her Cuban Brothers and Ortis and Suzi. Russell Kane went with Fatima despite the ‘sexual chemistry’ of the other pair. Lee Nelson on the other hand ‘voted with his pants’ for Suzi and went with her and Ortis. With the deciding vote Jo Brand wasted no time in plumping for Fatima and The Cuban Brothers.

And so Fatima will dance in the final later this month, alongside stars including Miles Jupp, Omid Djalili, Eddie ‘The Eagle’, Dani Harmer and Tyger Drew Honey.

Catch up on tonight’s episode http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01dlr8j/Lets_Dance_for_Sport_Relief_2012_Episode_4/

Make more like China

Documentaries about the the east are usually a hit in the western world. The bizarre marriage of modern buildings, gadgets and clothes we recognise from home combined with crazy ancient traditions, primitive working conditions and some pretty alien attitudes and values makes for compelling viewing. Gok Wan’s one-off travel documentary ‘Made in China’ for Channel 4 was certainly a fascinating watch.

Everyone’s favourite half-Chinese fashionista went to discover more about his heritage. Despite having ‘Made in China’ tattooed on the back of his neck, Gok confessed that he knew very little about where his family originated from.

So here was, back to try and understand his roots, visit his father’s village and run a little errand for him. The errand, as it turned out was rather interesting. Armed with instructions Gok set off for a ‘paper shop’ to buy an air conditioning unit for his deceased grandmother.

As astonished by the place as his viewers Gok explained that paper shops were where the Chinese can buy a 3D scale version of practically anything, from designer watches to items of food which are designed to then be burned. This ritual burning is supposed to deliver the actual item to the dead, as a gift to a lost loved one. Gok’s dad was worried his mum might be too hot in the afterlife, hence the air con.

Armed with an assortment of items for all sorts of people Gok went to burn them all in front of his family’s shrine in his father’s village. It was a very frank and sweet moment, although he did come quite close to trashing the area and setting fire to himself.

Next Gok went to take a look in a factory that makes jeans, discovering that absolutely every job was done by hand, from cutting pattern after pattern to ironing every single finished pair, 60 every hour. Gok wasn’t too impressed to visit the canteen along with the 3000 workers to find they had no choice of meal whatsoever and had to eat what they were given. As a vegetarian he wasn’t delighted with his pork belly.

gok wan made in china

China's in Gok's jeans

His final trips included a visit to the studio of an up-and-coming fashion designer, as well as Thames Town – a whole place built to look like a traditional English settlement, complete with mock-Tudor buildings and an exact replica of a church in Bristol. Fascinating but freakishly off-key, Gok seemed to find it very soulless and ironically it made him feel very far from home.

This was a very enjoyable little travelogue, not deep but a lot of fun. I’ve always quite liked Gok Wan but I never realised how amusing he is. Mincing about unashamedly, cracking jokes and talking to everyone in English then wondering why they were ignoring him, he was a very entertaining host but also shared some quite touching moments with the viewer, which was nice.

The only thing that’s a real shame is that they only made one programme.  As Gok said, 7 days isn’t enough to get to know an entire country. China is such an interesting place with so many facets and so much history, they wasted the opportunity to make a whole series.

If you missed it, check out Gok Wan: Made in China on 4OD: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/gok-wan-made-in-china/4od