This week were introduced to a group of soulless autonyms who obeyed their master’s orders; but all the time we wondered “are they really human?” But more about The Apprentice candidates later, the big US import to hit our screens this week was Westworld, JJ Abrams’ reboot of a 1970’s classic movie. (I say classic, like many films from that early 1970’s era, it does feel a little creaky when you re-watch it. Budget; what budget?) The premise is a simple one; what would happen if the animatronics at Disneyland rebelled? The Westworld in question is a theme park inhabited with super life-like robots (the hosts) that are visited by guests to live out their fantasies. Once the hosts have played their parts in this digital drama, they have their memories wiped (or do they?) and are rebooted for the next set of visitors. Anthony Hopkins plays the creator of the theme park (actually Anthony Hopkins plays Anthony Hopkins. He always plays Anthony Hopkins) and has tweaked the software so they can remember snippets from previous builds leading to them becoming more “responsive” and human.
The hosts are programmed so they can hurt each other but not the visitors. The underlying question then is “will the machines rebel and rise up against their masters?” (Spoiler alert: lets hope so as I don’t fancy a series about rich people just shooting, killing and getting jiggy with robots.) We also have Ed Norris as a visitor who has been coming to Westworld for the last 30 years and wants to know if there is something deeper to this place (or is he a sentient robot? Discuss). We know there is something more to it as when there was a painful scene between an English actor who couldn’t act swearing with an American actress who couldn’t act smoking, that told us this fact. The other thing we learned from the behind the scene scenes is that unlike in the original film, the robots aren’t fixed in brightly lit labs with men in white coats, but in glass walled rooms by men and women all dressed in black and the robots in the nude. Nothing gratuitous there guvnor.
The behind the scenes scenes are actually the weak link in an otherwise brilliant drama. (Presumably the “making of” programme of this sequence will be the “behind scene scenes of the behind the scene scenes”. Snappy.) At the end of episode one we are not sure if we should be rooting for the humans or the robots. There is no such ambiguity with the current batch of apprentices. I want shot of the lot of them. Remember how as a kid you would stick your tongue on the top of a PP9 battery to get a little shock? You knew it was going to hurt, but you did it anyway. That’s what watching The Apprentice is like. It’s a heady mix of pain and pleasure. We have 18 new candidates who have more confidence than sense and absolutely no self-awareness. It’s always tricky on week one of these shows to work out who is who, so it’s lucky that they have been edited to help us. 90% of the action is taken up by 40% of the candidates. The others just get to say “Yes Lord Sugar” in the boardroom. The characters highlighted for our amusement this week were:
- Michelle – who looked like a cross between Michelle from EastEnders and Droopy the Dog.
- Jessica – the love child of Tess Daly and Alan Partridge. Looks stunning when she is silent, then shatters it all when she opens her mouth (which she does a lot).
- Rebecca – who always looked to be on the verge of tears.
- Alana – who turns her head so quickly when she’s affronted, I’m surprised she doesn’t get whiplash.
- Karthick – the Big K – use your imagination for what the K stands for.
- Olly – the sausage man, which amused the Lord as he could make lots of sausage jokes at his expense.
- Mukai – who wears a bow tie.
- Paul – who was the project manager and….errrr…that’s all I can remember about him really.
The first job was to decide a team name and the boys came up with “Titans” (Hmmm, that could never be changed into a derogative name could it?) and the girls went with “Nebulus” (a gassy dust cloud. Scriptwriters, put aside the sausage gags for a moment, we have a new rich vein of Lord Sugar put-downs with this one). They may as well have just gone with the name “Team Turgid” and “Team Flatulent”.
The challenge this week was to sell a load of stuff from one of Lord Sugars lock ups (glad to see he kept hold of them from his market stall days). Apparently there were some treasures amongst the tat and the apprentices (or is it apprentici? Lets just go with idiots, that seems a more suitable collective noun) had to decide which was which. True to form, they missed the gems and ended up selling a £300 set of vases for £15, went to the wrong place and lost their van full of merchandise. Looks like your quarter of a million pound investment is safe with this bunch Lord Sugar?
There are a few things about The Apprentice that happen every season and always intrigued me:
- Why are there never enough seats in reception and the boardroom for each of the to sit?
- Why do they all insist on wearing suits when they know they are going to be working on a market stall?
- Why do they use a mobile phone like a mouth organ?
- Why are there never enough sockets near mirrors for the girls to do their hair?
The girls lost the task, turned on each other and Michelle, Rebecca and Alana (or grumpy, worried and bemused to give them their Spice Girls names) came back into the boardroom. Project manager Michelle was given the heave-ho and the other two returned to the Big Brother, sorry, The Apprentice house. One down, seventeen to go. It’s going to be a long slog to Christmas at this rate.