Thursday, March 27, 2008

Let us now praise Nancy Banks-Smith

I stopped watching "The Apprentice" some while ago. I loved the early series but the central problem, that no talented, ambitious person without a serious personality disorder would really want a job with Amstrad, now gets in the way of my enjoyment of the programme's genuine insight into how teams function. I take my pleasure second hand now via the peerless Nancy Banks-Smith whose review in The Guardian today combines bone-dryness and stiletto acuity in scientifically calculated amounts. Here she is on the contestants and their hilariously inflated job titles:

This year's crop are not crippled by false modesty. "I rate myself as probably the best salesperson in Europe" (Jenny). "There's nobody at my age who has achieved what I have" (Lindi). "People come up to me and say, 'You're arrogant!'. I say, 'You are 100% right. What are you going to do about it?'" (Michael). And, my particular favourite, "I don't play games. Every-body wants me on their team" (Simon).

They all had jobs which, like the peace of God, passeth all understanding. Helena, for instance, was a global pricing leader, which probably trumps
Sara, an international car sales strategist.

I can see them now.


  1. I would never put myself in the same bracket as Banks-Smith, but if you want to read a weekly review of the entire series, you might check in at my blog. It's something of an annual tradition and acts as a water pump around which meet those who follow the show and, like yourself, Dave, don't.

    First episode reviewed here.

  2. Anonymous4:06 pm

    I'll have a slice of that...

    My blog's a bit like Andrew's but with more swearing and less insight.

    Have a gander.

  3. Nancy Banks-Smith is the best writer on the Guardian by a country mile and has been since I started reading the paper 20-odd years ago. I hope she's never sidelined in the interests of youth demographics, but it's probably only a matter of time.

  4. Anonymous6:34 pm

    It always gives a little lift when i see it's N B-S, rather than Sam Woolaston doing the TV review in the Guardian. Try this - - and read the second paragraph. I didn't see the programme, though I had intended to, but I can't imagine enjoying more than I did this review.
    The comments on the blog contained some un-gallant comments about whether the word 'sole' was a senior moment, or a deliberate pun. I think the latter, but no-one suggested a subbing error.

  5. Never taken to N.B-S - or in fact very much any TV reviewers, with the exception of Clive James' column, which was the only thing I can remember of The Observer when my parents took it back in the 70's. And that was probably because I hadn't actually seen any of the things which he was writing about.

    There's a fundamental problem for me with TV crits in the modern age - very little of my watching is in real time, and so I'm either reading about stuff I haven't yet seen, or have no interest in seeing. As a result, and as I've noticed, more of the reviewer's output is concerned with telling the reader actually what happened. Which rather puts the kibosh on their ability to be funny about it.

  6. The unfortunate thing about the TV critic is that it's not a vocation. No qualification is required other than "I watch a bit of telly." Imagine if the opera critic only "watched a bit of opera". Or if the art critic had "seen a few paintings". This is the fate, sadly, of what is still - despite the valiant efforts of Mark Lawson - considered a "low" artform. It's rare you'll see a newspaper's TV critic last longer than a couple of years. At the New Statesman, it's a matter of months. I can hear the cry, somewhere on Fleet Street, right now: "Hands up who wants to be TV critic?"

  7. Loom at how long it's taken to have a TV show ("screen wipes) dedicated just to looking TV, there's been countless book shows, films shows, art doo- dahs but show about the box I can't think of one before Charlie Brooker. If tv got covered it was clip shows, or complaints shows, Tarrant on Tv is just an excuse to show ad agencies promo reels.

  8. It's this sort of thing that makes me glad I don't live in England anymore.

    You expect this sort of attitude from Americans but how in God's name did England give birth to such horrors in just one generation?

  9. I was in a room full of the last lot (around 200+ of them in suits), while they were waiting to be interviewed by a team of amphetamine-fuelled TV types in a hotel room just off Oxford St.

    It was like being in the set of Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love video(but with mainly men).

  10. Anonymous12:17 am

    I'm with you on NBS over Sam Woolaston. A few weeks ago he reviewed one of my programmes, and I was hunting it for adjectives I could use on my CV or website, and after describing the content he ended it with ". . . it was dead interesting". I spent 8 months making the film, and he managed to come up with the kind of analysis I'd expect of an 8-year-old.