Was the Apprentice Comic Relief?

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Tonight we had the first part of Comic Relief Does The Apprentice, a special edition of the UK Apprentice with a mixed bag of ten celebrities taking part, including pop star Cheryl Cole, sacked newspaper editor Piers Morgan, former Downing Street Director of Communications Alistair Campbell, actress and comedienne Maureen Lipman and TV fashion guru Trinny Woodall amongst others. Actor Rupert Everett lasted mere hours into the challenge before he walked off, to be later replaced by Tim Campbell winner of the first series of the real programme.

The celebrities were split into boys and girls teams, and given 48 hours to organise a fund-raising evening based around a fun fair. There was a fixed set of eight attractions, which the two teams had to divide between them, and in addition each team had a food stall, and then could do whatever else they wanted to raise money. A big part of that comes down to who had the most generous celebrity pals – Trinny Woodall managed to sell one ticket to a friend for £150,000 (and yes I have got the right number of 0’s there), much to the amazement of Maureen Lipman and Cheryl Cole. Other tickets go for tens of thousands of pounds.

It has to be said that, in most cases the celebrities seemed to be doing it for a laugh – however as often happens with the fund raising versions of the programmes, others take it really seriously. Campbell and Morgan especially seemed to be having a wail of a time, pretty well right from the start. For example in the opening board room, you got the usual silent round table pause where Alan Sugar is apparently psyching out the candidates. However the moment is broken by Morgan telling Sugar to get on with it, and being met by a swift “Shut up Morganâ€? in return. Piers Morgan also makes a number of Cash for Honours jokes in the direction of Alistair Campbell all the way through – although Sugar gets the first Cash for Honours jibe within the first few minutes of the programme.

Their double act gets quite amusing at times, especially when it transpires that neither are actually able to refill a stapler! Campbell admits that he doesn’t know how, whilst Piers tries, only to have to have Tim have to sort it out afterwards when he tries to use the stapler. Tim incidentally, as he did in the original show, just quietly and efficiently gets on with the work without complaining – quite amazing considering that he is about the only one on the boys team with any real business experience, and is largely relegated to being a PA for Campbell and Morgan.

Things however take a rather dark turn though when the hotel in which both teams are based, accidentally tells the boys team that a chef sent by another friend of Trinny Woodall to help the girls out has arrived. Campbell and Morgan basically think it’s quite a laugh to play along, and have the hotel send the chef up to their room, and start discussing menus. Certainly the impression I got was that it was primarily to make mischief as anything else. However Trinny is one of the ones taking it seriously, and really doesn’t see it that way. She is absolutely steaming at the boys having, in her eyes, kidnapped their chef. Bear in mind also, that the boys team had come out much the better in the negotiations over the choice of fairground rides when Campbell had forced the girls team to give up everything else for the dodgems.

What happens next is quite amazing for a show that is going out as part of Comic Relief. After a little bit of listening at the door, Trinny comes steaming in demanding her chef. Campbell and Morgan however, carry on with the mischief making, totally misjudging the state Trinny is in, and say that since the chef arrived in their room, he belongs to them, and try and stop the chef from leaving. She then tries to drag the chef out of the room, with Campbell and Morgan blocking the way. There is then a good deal of shoving, and she then proceeds to attack the back of Campbell’s shirt with a marker pen. At one point Campbell and Morgan even manage to get the chef locked in the bathroom! At this point Trinny then threatens the chef saying that she will get him the sack if he doesn’t fight his way past Campbell and Morgan!

Things don’t get much better later on with Trinny either as when working with an increasingly amazed Cheryl Cole she seems at times hyperactive, for example demonstrating a detox routine taught to her by a Russian who lives in Austria, and then almost obsessive as she makes an absolute mountain out of a molehill in a phone call with Maureen Lipman about Maureen’s guests. Trinny is meticulously checking off people against tickets, whilst Lipman is part way through the very messy process of making 400 portions of Chicken Satay. Lipman gets more and more annoyed with Trinny obsessing, and her refusal to wait and discuss it when Lipman has finished the Chicken. Eventually Lipman just hangs up the phone, and Cole is left trying to sort out Trinny.

Ultimately on the night the boys seem to make the best of their attractions, but it is the big spending celebrity pals of the girls that swing it. We are left to wait until tomorrow to find out which one of the boys gets fired, but from the clips, it looks like Campbell and Morgan get quite heated in the board room, so I’m betting it will be one of them who gets it. However, the endearing impressions I got from the whole programme were firstly quite how on edge and unpredictable Trinny is throughout the programme. I’m guessing that she is probably someone who is fiercely competitive, however when faced with Campbell and Morgan – who were basically playing it like a game, it definitely produced some fireworks. Campbell and Morgan probably didn’t do that much for their reputations – or maybe they just confirmed what everybody thought anyway – especially considering how much a simple stapler foxed the two of them. Having said that, it was all worthwhile in terms of the purpose of the exercise – between them the teams managed to raise over £1 million for Comic Relief.

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