The brilliance of The Apprentice stems from its ability continually to supply its audience with the unpredictable. It is a winning formula as far as I am concerned.
But at the risk of sounding like the dull science teacher Noorul Chaudhary, that formula seems to have been tampered with.
This week’s task set by Sir Alan was all about product identity and advertising. These types of challenges always rely on the candidates displaying enough creativity to produce a strong brand coupled with an entertaining promotional campaign.
When Elsbeth Juda and I arrived in Skibbereen, Ireland, in 2004, for the 60th birthday party of a mutual friend, it was after a gruelling delayed flight, a reroute through Dublin, a wait for a second plane to Cork, and a car journey. Asked whether she would prefer to rest, she replied no, she would like to take a walk around the loch — which, at 7pm at night, to my horror, we did. At the time, Elsbeth was 93 years old.
It is always difficult to pick the favourites in a fierce competition like The Apprentice. Believe me, there is no set trend when it comes to surviving through to the final weeks. The candidates are subjected to such severe pressure that it can make them behave erractically, with their performances varying from programme to programme.
Making it even more tricky to choose a winner is the fact that you are trying to second-guess Sir Alan and, as he often says, you can never second-guess him.
Still, I will give it a go and select the three candidates I fancy to get to the final act.
At 19, I wanted to be Donald Zec. He was a journalist doing all the things I wanted to do. He was a top writer on the Daily Mirror; I was a junior reporter on The Luton News. He was spending all his time jetting to and from Hollywood; I was going to council meetings.
He seemed to have the perfect life. I have since done my share of jet-setting and have discovered that in Tinseltown, all that glitters is not gold. But I am not sure that for Donald Zec, 90 years old this month, that was ever the case.
If you have not already taken in the latest Ben Uri exhibition, it is well worth making the trip to St John’s Wood to see works by 24 of the 300-odd painters, sculptors and graphic artists who settled in the UK between 1933-45 as refugees from the Nazis and who went on to make a significant contribution to British culture.
Most of the 24 were Jewish — the ones who were not had to flee Germany because of their political beliefs or their “degenerate” artistic practice.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. When I look back on my time on The Apprentice last year, I wish I had done things differently. But then again, I realise now that my mistakes were mostly down to a lack of experience; something, I think, for which I can be forgiven.
What connects contemporary British artist Marcus Coates and the mayor of the Israeli city of Holon? The answer can be found in an extraordinary short film currently being shown at Tate Britain in London.
Through his work, Coates seeks solutions to challenging scenarios facing local communities — a previous project included focusing on the residents of a Liverpool housing estate whose homes were due to be demolished.
Feliks Topolski liked to think big. The Polish-born artist spent 14 years creating a 600ft long, 20ft high mural under railway arches on London’s South Bank. His subject was nothing less than the 20th century, and how his life had intersected with its major events and significant figures.
This week London Mayor Boris Johnson officially reopened the Topolski Century gallery close to the Royal Festival Hall, following a two-year, £3 million redevelopment to create a venue that is set to become a landmark on the capital’s art scene.
As soon as I saw the third series of The Apprentice [in spring 2007] I thought, this is for me; I’ve got to apply. I was at work at a telesales company and I was looking at the BBC Apprentice website. Our secretary came up to me and said: “Why don’t you go for it?” I thought: “Do you know what? I’m going to do it.”
You have to apply online while the previous series is on. It’s a quick Q&A where they ask you rudimentary questions such as your name, age and why you think you should be in the show.