Friday, June 24, 2011

Business Acu(wo)men [1 of 2]

WARNING! Spoilers be ahead - or at least, they are if you aren't up-to-date with BBC One series THE APPRENTICE. I accept no responsibility if you choose to read on.

The Apprentice - or should I say the BBC's annual parade for the megalomaniacal - is back on our screens, bringing us another bunch of bright young entrepreneurs to goggle at on a weekly basis (and a few so fresh-faced they look like they've been dropped into the boardroom straight from the womb).

Now, I'm aware that saying "I think there's going to be a few bigheads in this series" is akin to saying "I think the Pope might be of the Catholic faith", but I guess the sort of characters that would apply for a high-profile position under the wing of a massive household name such as S'rAlan Sug sorry, Lord Sugar are bound to be confident, prepossessing, enthusiastic...and of course there are bound to be those to which the prefix "over-" applies to all of those adjectives. Let's have a look at some of these quotes, taken from the 'talking heads' section of Series Seven:

"To be honest, I am pretty great." (this candidate was fired early on)
"I'm like a really, really fine-tuned switch; if I need to tone it down, then I tone it down. If I need to tone it up, then I tone it up."
"I'm a Leon-trepreneur."
"Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon."

And that last quote can be attributed to this young lady: Melody Hossaini. Now, before I go any further with her, I'd like to state why I am bringing her to your attention.

Anyone remember this chap from last year? Yes, "The Brand" was young and very foolish, but after his Baptism of Fire in the interviews stage during which he was eaten alive by Margaret Mountford and co., he went on to gain redemption after his appearance on You're Fired and a subsequent column in Heat magazine. He has become a caricature of himself and, love him or hate him, you have to admit that he has earned himself a bit of a break.

So what did Stuart do that was so terrible? Well, he lied his way out of (and eventually into) trouble, he twisted information around to suit his views before presenting it to his colleagues, he tried to muscle in and take over tasks assigned to others. He did all of this over the course of the series, while Melody did all of that and more during the latest episode.

This week, the teams were sent to sell British products in France. A sub-team from each was sent off to do some brand research in order to pitch to French retailers, one of which was La Redoute. While the sub-team did this, the rest of the team had a look at a range of British homeware and technology products which would be brand new to the French market. Instead of doing the research project manager Tom asked Melody to do concerning La Redoute, she decided to conduct a street survey to garner opinion on one of the products, a children's car seat that folded away into a backpack. Despite not having seen the product, she took a dislike to it and decided that she didn't want it to make the shortlist.

What we, the viewers saw were a group of French people expressing an interest in the product - several people told Melody and team member Leon that it was a good idea, despite explaining that a lot of families use the Metro system. Melody took this to mean that the product wouldn't be well received, and used this information along with her initial dislike of the product to convince Tom to go for another item; a kitsch-y teapot-shaped hanging light. Quite rightly, Tom explained "Well I'd be an idiot to push three people to sell something they really didn't want to."

Melody almost redeemed herself with her sales - almost. While Leon tagged along like a moth hanging around a lightbulb, whining that he couldn't speak French (or in fact speak at all), Melody made some great sales. She set up meetings with companies, and then she decided that she was the only one entitled to pitch to them. Her reluctance to back the backpack/car seat bit her on the arse in the boardroom, where it turned out Helen, who had done her research on La Redoute, had done an amazing stonking pitch to them and got them to place an order of 214,000 Euros (a boardroom record). Melody, Tom and Leon were brought back into the boardroom: Tom because he was PM (and didn't make any sales, which serious jeopardised his position), Melody because of her lack of team-play and Leon because...well, he did nothing this time.

And Lord Sugar loved her. Of course he did, despite Nick pointing out her fibbing and lack of motivation to do what her team wanted over what she wanted to do. Now, Lord S admittedly would have loved her if she had been a bloke, but how would everyone else have reacted to her?

Let's look at 'Jedi' Jim Eastwood shall we? A few weeks back he ripped into youngest candidate Susan Ma, calling her "a mouse" and accusing her of only speaking up when it suited her. Quite rightly, he was told to shut up in no uncertain terms by Lord Sugar and Susan was given a chance to speak. Jim has also garnered to perfection a technique I like to call "The Symbiote" - he sticks to another male candidate, coaxes them into doing what is beneficial to him and then drops all confederacy in the boardroom.

Melody isn't doing exactly what Jim did to the letter: she's not a bully, though she did nearly go into spiteful hysterics in the boardroom. She doesn't form alliances; in fact quite the opposite, but you can still use the same words to describe them both: manipulative, self-serving, untruthful.

Why does Melody get away with it? As a viewer, she made me very angry; even angrier than Jim did when he shouted Susan down. Jim and Melody both have Lord Sugar's respect, but Jim is tarred with a black brush. Melody gets off scot-free in the boardroom (admittedly, according to many social networks she is not very popular). She doesn't need to redeem herself, a la The Brand. She is a "tiger", not a "liar".

And now the big question: is it because she is a woman?

Please let me know what your comments are on this - I will be using them in a follow-up post to this one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Best F R I E N D S: Phoebe Buffay

"I'm like, playing the field. You know; juggling two guys, sowing my wild oats. I'm like this oat-sowing, field-playing juggler."

Princess Consuela Banana-Hammock - er, sorry, Phoebe Buffay is next. Are you the kooky one of your friends?

- Phoebe grew up on the city streets, therefore she is bereft of a 'normal' childhood. She misses out on aspects of growing up and she deals with a lot of adult issues before she is  fully grown.

By the end of the series, we learn that Phoebe's life has been far from usual. She lost her mother and father at a young age, and had a tough upbringing on the streets. You might not have had such a mad upbringing but whatever it was that disrupted your childhood, it has left you known as the underpriviledged or 'naive one'. You are pretty straight-forward and take things a face value but this does not make you dumb: you possess 'street smarts' that your peers and friends may not. You don't let your past get caught up with your future
, but sometimes you remind others of your misfortune to get your own way. Be careful, as over time your friends will indulge you less!

- Because Phoebe is used to being 'different' (and somewhat enjoys it), she doesn't believe she will ever be happily married. She is also the most promiscuous of the girls, and has a lot of casual sex.

Whether or not your reluctance to conform is coupled with an unusual family life or not, like Phoebe you may not view marriage or relationships in the same way as your friends. Eventually Phoebe does realise marriage and kids are her kind of thing, but only once she finds the right man. Maybe you won't come to the same conclusion that Phoebe does (it IS a sitcom after all!)

- Phoebe does non-conformational things out of nobility and generosity: such as marrying her gay friend to give him a chance at his dreams and being a surrogate for her brother and his wife.

Although Phoebe didn't have a chance at a 'normal' beginning in life, the choices she has made into adulthood have been non-conventional. She seems to enjoy her lifestyle choices; being a vegetarian, working as a masseuse, not having a college education like her friends. Despite shaky beginnings, she is by no means lesser to her peers, and she is able to match wits with all of them. If you're like Phoebe, maybe you'll do things that are different just to try out a change in lifestyle. Even if you think you're doing the right thing, you will appreciate your friends and not preach to them.

Phoebe's Best Moment: [SEASON 4 EP. 11 "The One with Phoebe's Uterus"]
Frank and Alice, Phoebe's half-brother and his wife, are trying to have a baby and need a surrogate. Step in, Phoebe. As she considers the idea, her birth mother, who herself gave Phoebe up for adoption, gives her a puppy to take care of for a few days to allow Phoebe to experience what it is like to give away something she falls in love with. Eventually the time comes to give the puppy back and Phoebe is upset. Frank and Alice come in and she lets them hold the puppy: they are overjoyed, so she allows them to keep it. Upon seeing how happy her gift makes them, she realises that she is able to become their surrogate. (What a shame that the puppy belonged to Phoebe's mother!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Best F R I E N D S: Joey Tribbiani

"...I'm a Tribbiani, and that's what we do! We may not be great thinkers or world leaders...but damn it, we can EAT!"

Ever met the guy in the bar who swaggers up to ask you "How you doin'?" Go on, admit it. You are actually that guy in the bar aren't you? Congrats if you are; you're a Joey.

- Joey is more famous for his womanising ways than he is for his acting. He seems to think nothing of cheating, and has many tricks up his sleeves to entice women into sleeping with him.

If you're like Joey, you enjoy female company and unlike your friends you have never had a problem on the social scene. While many women fall for you, you can be guilty of upsetting a few in the long run simply by not being specific about what you expect from your romantic liaisons. Joey eventually learns to let his conquests know what to expect, therefore holding up his end of the bargain.

- Joey comes from a predominantly female family. As a result, he is very protective towards the women he is close to.

You may not go as far as proposing to your pregnant single friend (which Joey manages to do twice); but whether she's a friend, sister or cousin, you'll be looking out for her. Joey reacts immediately with anger when his best friend fools around with his sister, and like him you can sometimes be a little quick to jump to conclusions.  However you'll get plenty of recognition and appreciation for being such a gent.

- Joey isn't known for his smarts, relying more on his ability to chat up women than his intellect.

Like their Italian-American counterpart, 'Joey's have a focused strength in a certain area. Joey Tribbiani's area happens to be pulling power. As a Joey, you may not be as slow-witted as he is, but you may be lacking in a certain area, such as common sense or sensitivity. However, you are a useful person to know for your talents: friends come to you for advice, and your reputation precedes you (be careful where your talents lie - this can be a negative thing!)

Joey's Best Moment: [SEASON 4 EP. 16 "The One With The Fake Party"]
Pregnant vegetarian Phoebe is expecting triplets and craving meat in a big way. However, she is incredibly moralistic and the thought of animals suffering just for her craving upsets her. Enter Joey, otherwise known as the carnivore. Despite his love of all things smoked, cured, breadcrumbed or stuffed into a submarine sandwich, he agrees to give up eating meat for the duration of Phoebe's pregnancy, to stop any 'extra' animals being killed. In another episode, he also gave the lucky blonde a smacker on the lips after she claimed to have never had "the perfect kiss".

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Best F R I E N D S: Rachel Green

"I cannot believe I have to walk down the aisle in front of 200 people looking like something you drink when you're nauseous."

Rachel: girls wanted to be her, to the extent that women were taking pictures of her to the salons and demanding a 'Rachel'. But what are 'Rachels' really like?

- When we first meet Rachel, she has just walked out of her wedding after realising that she wanted her wedding gifts more than she wanted her husband.

Rachel comes from a rich family: her mother was a wealthy socialite who married her surgeon father and it seems Rachel is expected to do the same with her orthodontist fiance Barry. The fact that she gives up a financially 'safe' yet loveless marriage to pursue a worthwhile relationship and an independent life conveys her maturity above other girls of her upbringing; such as her spoilt sisters, Jill and Amy. Girls like Rachel may have had a privileged start in life either financially or otherwise, but they yearn for something more and often 'fly the nest'.

- Rachel is the most image-conscious Friend, and as a result of her mild vanity she undervalues domesticity and knows little about it. She is also a little arrogant, getting surprised when men fail to show interest in her.

Few women could make a trifle with beef without realising that something is wrong. Whether you started preening at a young age or maybe you simply preferred Textiles to Home Ec. in school, like Rachel you are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to home-making. Having said that you lack some qualities that can scare men off in the early stages, such as a more relaxed approach to housework and chores or initially low interest in starting a family. This may however need addressing when you get to a certain point in a relationship. There's no crime in wanting to look good and embrace popularity like Rachel, but like her you will learn to draw the line between taking care of yourself and becoming too self-absorbed.

- Rachel is often vague and a bit self-righteous in relationships. She fails to specify the terms of a 'break' early in her relationship with Ross, leading to the repeated refrain: "WE WERE ON A BREAK!!"

Despite the best efforts of the other friends, Rachel goes to a lot of time and trouble trying to tell Ross how she feels in an attempt to stop him marrying Emily. She isn't swayed by the fact that she has missed her chance; how she might not achieve anything except hurt and confusion, or the depth of Ross's feelings for Emily. As a Rachel, you can sometimes struggle to empathise with others and see things from their point of view. You can be a little stubborn, often not satisfied until you have got your point across. Sometimes you can resort to dirty tricks, like Rachel convincing one of Ross's girlfriend to shave her head so he would find her less attractive. On the other hand, Rachel has a lot of assertiveness which takes her from a poorly-paid waitressing job to a high-power career in fashion. And let's not forget, Rachel patiently pursues a relationship with Ross until they reconcile in time for a happy ending, just as the audience hoped. Aaaaw.

Rachel's Best Moment: [SEASON 10 FINALE "The Last One"]
"I got off the plane." Enough said.