WEB EXCLUSIVE: Couch Potato on The Apprentice, Red Dwarf and Phillip Schofield’s squeaky puppet

Sir Alan Sugar
Sir Alan Sugar
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Our Sunday web columnist takes a wry look at the week’s TV:

That great philosopher and scholar Whitney Houston once sang: “I believe the children are our future.”

Based on the latest evidence from BBC1, let’s hope for the sake of mankind she was much mistaken.

Because, fighting tooth and nail for £25,000 from Lord Sugar, a dozen of the backstabbing little blighters have put on their oversized Burton suits and assembled for the third and final series of Young Apprentice.

Voiceover man casually describes them as: “Britain’s youngest aspiring entrepreneurs.”

They’re Britain’s youngest uninspiring bozos, to be more accurate, who think launderette tumble dryers are washing machines, treat good advice as a personal affront, and were challenged on Thursday night to produce a cookbook, with disastrous results.

Team Odyssey’s post-feminism handbook for Amsterdam window girls, I think, titled: “The Professional Woman: Fresh, Quick and Easy,” that offends men and women in equal measure was narrowly beaten by Team Platinum’s typo-packed comic that will “probably give you food poisoning”.

That’s about this year’s standard. But if I’m honest, two episodes in, it’s the best junior line-up this show has had.

Sugar has delivered some great lines, like his dismissal of camp fashion designer Patrick’s scuba diver/kimono combo: “What’s this for? A cocktail party on the Titanic?”

And Nick Hewer attempting to understand the concept of “this hashtag business”, being told by spotty Steven: “If you hashtag a word or phrase then that will start to trend,” left him chewing his pen, none the wiser. Classic stuff.

But all this is not enough. Young Apprentice is fundamentally flawed, a fact the BBC realised and axed it, and the show belongs anywhere but a midweek primetime slot, which the kiddie version of MasterChef, on CBBC mid-afternoons, readily acknowledges.

In his opening address, His Sugarness, a fearsome, ball-busting, bladdy beast on the brilliant adult series, told the teens: “You don’t want to make me angry,” like he’s The Incredible Sulk.

But Sugar is inescapably impotent here because he has to take it easier on the youngsters, and so has all the intimidation of a half-empty packet of Werther’s Originals.

The fact he’s suddenly changed the age at which he started his own business (17 now, not 16, apparently) also doesn’t add up.

But, while we’re at it, we may as well play along one last time and check out the radar-registering candidates who, as of week one’s firing, no longer include the most promising character of all, clothes folder Maximilian Joseph Antony Semasko Grodecki who talks as if he’s a University Challenge contestant buzzing in too early and “enjoys the pre-Socratics philosophers”.

As do we all, Max.

Weak-minded Sean, fired on Thursday, looks like a Grange Hill character who got lost on the Hogwarts Express.

Arrogant David boasts: “I’m academic, I’m social, I’m economical, I’m philosophical, everything you can think of, I am.”

Oh, I don’t dispute it, Davey boy. I can think of a lot.

Patrick pitches for business like a Church of England vicar giving a eulogy at the funeral of Betty, 89, from the local retirement home

Professional Yorkshire lass Ashleigh, from t’Barnsley, belittled her parents with her first sentence. Amy has the sales manner of a praying mantis. And Navdeep (Mountain High) is a “public speaker”, Cockney rhyming slang for “job seeker”.

Only Andrew, Lucy and Steven seem to have their heads screwed on, unlike Belfast steamroller Maria who reckons she’s: “Creative, like a firework,” (eh?) and announced her arrival by saying: “To underestimate me could be the most silly thing somebody could do.”

No, Maria. The most silly thing somebody could do would be to have commissioned a fourth series of Young Apprentice.

Actually, scratch that. It would be to volunteer to spend three weeks in the Australian jungle while serving as a sitting MP.

Now THAT’S a proper reality TV show. Roll on, Sunday night, ITV1.


BBC3’s Some Girls?

The Grimbetweeners.


This week’s Couch Potato Spudulike awards go to:

BBC2’s Space Dive.

Red Dwarf, on Dave, and the channel’s 30th anniversary special Comic Strip... Five Go To Rehab.

C4’s Homeland providing the best 70 minutes of television you will see all year last Sunday (and no, I won’t stop banging on about this show).

Rod Stewart openly weeping with joy in the stands as his beloved Celtic beat the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League on Sky Sports.

The name of the West Midlands Police traffic officer on Monday’s This Morning who gave a drink-driver a breath test, PC Jack Daniels.

The very real prospect of cruise-ship menace Christopher Maloney winning The X Factor and blowing the show to kingdom come once and for all.

Lucy, one half of Two Shoes, cheering on Rylan Clark in The X Factor audience, serving as a timely reminder of where this year’s hopefuls will be in 12 months.

Fox News turning into the most hilarious parody of a news channel on US Election night (it is a parody, right?).

The laughter that greeted some self-regarding twonk on the panel of BBC3’s Free Speech: US Election Special when he described himself as an: “Anarcho-libertarian.”

And the fantastic start to C4 political thriller Secret State, in which Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Byrne is left in charge of the country when the PM dies in a plane accident.

The only disappointment being that they didn’t call it Crash and Byrne.


Phillip Schofield. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

For weeks now, ITV1’s This Morning has been like a dog with a bone over the Jimmy Savile scandal and wider child-abuse allegations.

Holly and Phil have interviewed everyone and their mum about it on that sofa – victims, friends, journalists, detectives, Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe’s younger brother Carl, Daybreak’s Matt Barbet, Max Clifford... everyone.

And I got the feeling that until there was some form of closure on the story, it was all going to end in tears for what should be a light-hearted daytime show, albeit one that’s featured, in recent months, “Amsterdam’s oldest twin prostitutes”, “the woman with the world’s largest breasts”, and “the man with the world’s largest penis”.

Unfortunately, the producers thought they were working on ITV1’s Exposure and, as I’m sure you know, Schofield, while ambushing David Cameron on Thursday with a list of alleged Tory paedophiles he’d found on the internet, inadvertently showed it to viewers because of a “misjudged camera angle”, the TV equivalent of British Rail’s wrong kind of snow and leaves on the line.

The programme could face the wrath of Ofcom and defamation suits from those named, and Downing Street denounced the presenter’s actions as: “A silly stunt.”

At least, I think that’s what they said.

So I have one simple, heartfelt plea to the producers of This Morning and Phillip Schofield, a man who found fame talking to a dumb, squeaky puppet and, in a twist of fate, now presents alongside Holly Willoughby.

Stick to the boobs and willies, guys. It’s what you’re best at.


This week’s Couch Potato Spuduhate awards go to:

An overkill of MasterChef spin-offs across the BBC.

Channel 4 not bothering with the 30th anniversary of Comic Strip.

ITV1’s through-the-night US Election coverage reaching new depths of time-filling, at 2.40am, when Emma Murphy reported on the condition and whereabouts of the Obama and Romney cardboard cut-outs at the US Embassy in London.

Louis Walsh’s X Factor music critiques amounting to: “You’ve had a new haircut.”

And Piers Morgan, for the second time in two weeks, suggesting on ITV1’s Golden Rules of TV that he’s a better chat-show host than Michael Parkinson, adding: “But I’m a different guy than Parky.”

There are two differences I can see. The first is that Parky is a superior chat-show host.

The second? About 16 stone.