Posted by: Paul | December 20, 2010

The Apprentice – The Final!

“We come to it at last.”

Sorry, wrong epic. But this year’s Apprentice has much in common with the Lord of the Rings saga – if you watch every episode it runs to about 12 hours, there’s much conflict, everyone’s getting bored by the end and the whole thing is presided over by a Dark Lord. Ahem.

So with those twelve hours now up and two candidates standing it’s time for the final showdown – Chris Bates vs Stella English, in a battle to see who can come up with the most convincing brand of new alcoholic drink.

What struck me last night, more than any other year, is the absolute irrelevance of the ‘final task’. Sure, it’s fun, especially with the reintroduction of ten of the failed candidates to help / hinder the final two (delete as appropriate). But does it have any bearing on Lord Shoogah’s final decision? Almost certainly not. With no real ‘winner’ of this task – the final outcome is almost entirely subjective – it’s not the case that whoever wins this last round gets the job, rendering it meaningless. Ho hum. In any case I think the big fella had likely made up his mind beforehand anyway. Had it been between Stella and Liz…well. That might have been a different story, but a certain individual put paid to that…

On with the show, starting with the playground-style picking of team-mates. Perhaps surprisingly, crazy Melissa Cohen and her mad haircut aren’t left kicking disconsolately at the pebbles at the end, and it was pushy Aussie Paloma. Bet that never happened to her at Primary School. The teams shook down as follows: Chris-Liz-Shibby-Alex-Jamie, and Stella-Jo-Paloma-Melissa-Christopher.

“You’ve both done incredibly well,” said Lord Shoogah. I’m surprised he didn’t add “except for you, Chris” to the end of that sentence, as it’s a wonder he was in the final at all with his win-loss ratio. If Chris was a football team, he’d be Wigan Athletic – can usually be relied on to lose, but occasionally comes out with moments of brilliance (like beating Tottenham at White Hart Lane. Grrr). Stella, on the other hand, came into the final having won more tasks than anyone else and putting in some impressive performances along the way.

So this final, irrelevant task was along the lines of the previous final, irrelevant tasks – design something, make up a marketing campaign for it including another TV advert, and then give a 20-minute presentation in front of a room full of bigwigs for that particular industry, and respond to them deconstructing your idea at the end. Of all the candidates to be talked at for 20 minutes though, I can’t imagine a worse two than Chris and Stella – Chris, who was nicknamed ‘the low flying bomber’ by his own contemporaries during the show, and Stella who, for all her plus points, does not have the most engaging presentation style in the world!

Both finalists struggled with the idea initially – Chris having to pull an all-nighter in order to come up with the TV concept and Stella relying on a moment of inspiration in a cab two minutes from her design meeting. But they both ended up with striking products – Chris in particular, with a bottle that really could have someone’s eye out. I was reminded of Timothy Dalton’s impalement in the model village at the end of Hot Fuzz!

Stella opted for Urbon, ‘a new way to drink Bourbon’ – in a glass, maybe, rather than straight out of the bottle? And Chris a pink drink called ‘Prism’ that it was OK for men to drink. Erm…really? Incidentally, prisms refract rather than reflect – I thought this guy was supposed to be a ‘genius’? Genius bullshitter, maybe.

Brand identities established, it was time for the speeches. And to be fair to them, they both acquitted themselves very well – Chris had taken some lessons in public speaking from Jamie, and Stella peppered her speech with Tony Blair-style pauses for effect. It seemed to work. And at the end, when asked ‘Does Urbon exclude our country-living cousins?’ she answered ‘Well, I hope not, as I hope to move to the country myself when this is over…’ Was that an incredibly witty and clever remark or a massive gaffe? You be the judge.

With all the necessary gubbins out of the way, it was time for the final analysis. There was much praise all round, and the only blemish was Stella’s rather unfair calling into question Chris’ abilities in her final ‘hire me’ plea. Chris, to his very great credit, refused to get involved in such things, but his own speech was not enough to give him victory. And, as I said above, I think Lord Shoogah had probably already made up his mind – this year, there was none of the usual ‘this is the hardest decision I’ve had to make in this series’, and he tells it like it is.

“Stella – you’re hired!”

Well, that’s it for another year. On balance, I think the best person won. I liked Stella from a very early stage – she was clearly head and shoulders above most of the other candidates in terms of her ability, her work ethic and her professionalism (or ‘professionality’, as Melissa might say). She fought her corner when necessary, didn’t get drawn into bitching (I personally think the TV editing played up the feuds between her and Liz and Stuart to make it appear more interesting), and she seemed like she both really wanted the job, and would also be prepared to stick at it rather than being lured away by other things like most of the previous winners have been. Read the Wikipedia entry for the show – it’s quite staggering how the previous winning candidates have been so blasé with their good luck!

I wish her luck in her new career, and I hope not to read Wikipedia in time for the next series to see ‘Stella left her job at the company in 2011’. But I rather think that won’t be the case.

If you’ve been following these posts, thanks very much for reading! They were a lot of fun to write, but I have to say I’m glad it’s over. Not long to go now until my year of blogging every day is at an end!



  1. In truth, the final task has always been largely irrelevant, hasn’t it? It’s no accident that you can never quantifiably “win” the final task – there are no order books, no sales and profit numbers. Merely some presentations and Sugar pretending that he hadn’t already made up his mind. After all, he will have seen far more over the 11 preceding weeks than any other recruiter will of a potential candidate.

    Nonetheless, the right person won. Chris had potential, but was a risk and would have taken at least 12-18 months to be productive given his inexperience. Stella will deliver from day one. Given that no previous Apprentice has lasted more than 2 years with Sugar, it seems unlikely that he would have hired a wet-behind-the-years guy (albeit a smart one) with a lot to learn, knowing that he would swan off to his next job just as he started to become useful. Stella will just get the job done – which, given that the “job” will be related to managing contracts at Viglen rather than this hypothetical “entrepreneurial” job to create new business ventures that Sugar had waffled on about, she will be very well suited to excelling in.

    So that’s it. It’s all over. Roll on the next series (Junior Apprentice?)

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