There were two ways of watching last night’s show.
The first is a full editor’s cut depicting in all its gruesome glory the tragic self-destruction of a flawed superhero.
Or, a highlights version - which begins with Sir Alan charging the troops with creating a brand identity based around a character for a new breakfast cereal, as well as its packaging and advert, then jumps to Philip, aka PantsMan, performing a David Brent-style dance, before jumping back to Suralan demanding ‘who is responsible for this pile of rubbish?’
Let’s look at the highs before we jump to the apocalyptic.
Empire, led by licensing development manager Kate, nailed this challenge. Kate asserted herself impressively, uniting previously dissident candidates Ben and James into a team that definitely contained no ‘I’. No ‘I’ except for Kate, of course, who decisively settled on parrot character Mr Squawk, offered clarity in product design and didn’t think twice about making last-minute changes to other’s work.
Empire got all the basics right: a strong idea, clear branding, strong packaging, briefed clearly and monitored progress, used experts to plug skills gaps and didn’t get distracted. Bravo and much credit to Kate, even if you suspect Ben and James thought it wise to keep their heads down for a week.
Which would be sage advice for Philip. Oh, Philip. Clearly a confident guy, Philip has partly lived up to his self-billing as favourite with some impressive displays. But last night the ego imploded – and turned crazed control-freak.
He picked the fights he really didn’t need to have, and completely overshadowed the team’s ‘leader’, marketing ‘expert’ Kimberly, who, if we’re honest, has been non-existent all series so it’s no surprise she was so easily brushed aside on her big opportunity to be noticed.
So to the Philip show.
The idea to base a family cereal around a superhero’s right to wear pants on the outside is just so lame, on so many levels, it’s almost impossible to critique. If you’re struggling to conceptualise this, we apologise, but it’s really not our fault. There’s no miscommunication here; there never was any logic. For the sake of journalistic integrity, we’ll quote verbatim from Mona’s presentation to marketing giants McCann Erickson:
“Our slogan is put your pants on the right way, not like a superhero because he’s the only one who’s able to get away with it, because you won’t dress up like pants man because you’re not pants man, only pants man gets away with it’.”
So, in short, Philip came up with this genius, bullied the others into it, then bounded into a recording studio to write, sing and record the pantsman ditty all by himself. The Apprentice’s answer to Dennis Waterman ('write the themetune, sing the themetune'), had no problem telling the professional recording staff, 'look, I’ve just done your job for you,' who in recognition of such raw talent quipped back: 'I think he might think he’s Bono.'
Recording an adult showing off his pants to pyjama-clad children somehow avoided the Brass Eye-esque controversy it promised, although I did half expect Louis Theroux to turn up with a disapproving smirk at any point.
Sir Alan was seriously unimpressed and it looked every bit like Philip was about to become this series’ Raef, who fell on his own sword on the same challenge last year.
Unsurprisingly unmoved by our superhero’s explanation that to achieve great things you have to ‘think outside the box’, ‘push the boundaries’ and ‘spout tiresome clichés’ (sorry, that last one was ours), Sir Alan looked set to wield the axe.
Philip was the chief contributor to a ‘total garbage’ idea, he should learn that ‘sometimes you should just shut up’ and know he’s ‘certainly no marketing guru’ and, finally, that Sir Alan isn’t looking for someone ‘who’s cocksure and gets things done by bulldozing people’.
‘Philip, you’re fired’ was sure to follow.
Except it didn’t. Partly, we suspect, because like all good movie directors, Sir Alan can see the commercial value in a sequel where the superhero attempts to reclaim his lost powers and prove his detractors wrong.
Instead, for now, the subplot prevailed and the axe landed on a more easily expendable character nobody will miss, Kimberly. It’s hard to care (the same could be said for fellow bystanders Noorul, Mona and Howard) and the only thing she didn’t deserve was such a superlative one-liner for her exit:
'You remind me of the final scene from the Wizard of Oz - you look very impressive but behind the iron curtain there’s nothing there. Kimberly, you’re fired!'