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Mighty mouths and monikers

The Apprentice Wednesday, BBC 1 Touch Tuesday, Sky 1 The Works Thursday, RTE 1

In today's competitive labour market it's important to have a good nickname. Azhar, a competitor in the new season of The Apprentice UK, has one. "They call me the Master Puppeteer," he says, "because I've a habit of pulling people's strings."

It's not a very likely nickname. Nobody has ever said: "I'm off down the pub with Gaz and The Master Puppeteer."

I suspect that Azhar really got his name when he put socks on his hands and mumbled: "You are the master puppeteer!" in a funny voice, and, "I agree!", in a different funny voice.

Also angling for a cool name is Katie.

"I call myself 'The Blonde Assassin'," she says. "I let people underestimate me so that I can then blow them out of the water," she explains.

But this would only be a good explanation if she called herself "The Underestimated Water Pest".


Then again, logic goes out the window when performing humiliating tasks for the approval of a crinkly old misanthrope.

If Alan Sugar wanted a waterpark instead of an apprentice, he should hire self-confessed alpha male Ricky.

"When it comes to business, I'm like a shark," he said. "I'm right at the top of the food chain."

This could be a coded way of saying: "I like to eat a lot." But maybe he's trying to say: "Like a shark, I can't read a balance sheet and I'm helpless on dry land," or "Like a shark, I have a very poor grasp of compound interest."

Fellow contestant Gabrielle also likes animal metaphors. "When it comes to business, I can be like an animal," she says. "I will literally roar my way to the top." I was very excited by this. At last, something to differentiate this series from the others.

"RAAAAGH!" I expected Gabrielle to say on meeting Sir Alan in the boardroom.

"RAAAAGH!" I expected her to say as she chose a team name. (Or possibly, "Quaaaaack!" if the animal she has in mind was a duck).

Sadly, Gabrielle doesn't literally roar (or quack) her way to the top. Even figuratively, her animal powers only roar her into the bottom three.

Indeed, Master Puppeteers, Blonde Assassins, sharks and roaring animals are probably not the best people to screen-print T-shirts and sell them at market stalls (this week's task). So they bicker and fail.

Soon "The Underestimated Water Pest", "Roaring Animal" and Bilyana, a pushy capitalist convert from Bulgaria, are facing smug Alan Sugar and his scowling lackeys.

Bilyana is ousted ... probably because she has no nickname.


If Jake, the autistic youngster at the centre of Touch had a nickname, it would be Telecommunications Lad, for he has the power to connect to mobile telephony.

In the past, pitches for high-concept drama programmes were snappy: a cheerleader fights vampires (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), the FBI investigates the paranormal (The X-Files), a wise old wizard induces insomnia in a worried nation (Tonight with Vincent Browne). But US television producers have increasingly been putting the "high" into high concept.

Lost was about a time-travelling, ruin-infested island (sounds familiar). Flash/Forward was the story of how everyone fell asleep for an hour and dreamed of the future.

And Touch is about a mute boy who transmits numerical messages from the ether so his dad (Kiefer Sutherland) can go punch people. "My Son, the Communications Aerial" was the original title.

The Works is a quality arts programme which airs after 11pm. Apparently arts programmes can't be aired earlier because of the many imported sitcoms fulfiling RTE's public service remit.

Who cares that it has become a very enjoyable, well-paced and inventively shot oasis for the arts (this week's highlight was a report on Once's Broadway debut)? Artistic urges should be repressed, scheduled late in the evening, or used to devise nicknames for The Apprentice.

The Apprentice HHIII


The Works HHHHI