An Apprentice who loves cannons? He’ll be getting fired

EXCITING news, telly fans. The medium has a brand new irritant, thanks to the good offices of Lord Alan Sugar and BBC1.

His name is Gregory Ebbs, he is obsessed with cannons, has the rather unfortunate appearance of a Ronnie Corbett/Michael McIntyre fusion and is an elected representative of the Liberal Democrat party. And is quite possibly their leader, for all I know.

Cannon enthusiast Gregory EbbsCredit: PA

South African safari guide Joseph

South African safari guide JosephCredit: PA

Gregory’s also got a motto that’s entirely at odds with the fact he looks like a seven-year-old boy: “Life is a waste of time and time is a waste of life. So if you get wasted all the time, you’ll have the time of your life.”

Not to mention bladder incontinence, memory loss, the shakes, paranoia and no friends.

It goes almost without saying then, he’s also one of the new contestants on series 17 of The Apprentice, which began last night with Sugar attempting to flag up and take down the biggest bellends as quickly as possible.

An unofficial contest that was effortlessly won by Gregory and South African safari guide Joseph, the self-styled “James Bond of business”, who reckoned: “The only thing I’ve ever been convicted of is being devilishly handsome.”

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As would you, I suppose, if you spent your professional life gawping at warthogs

They’re not alone, obviously.

There are six other alphas, including one called Simba (the lion of business) as well as eight pouting clones spouting similar guff on the female side, but the background vibe to the whole “process” this year is “economic uncertainty”, which made what happened next all the more surprising.

Sugar announced: “I’m sending you to the magnificent Caribbean island of Antigua.”

Yeah. While you freeze your nuts off in a cost-of-living crisis, the least deserving people on telly are frolicking, drinking, bickering and talking over each other in paradise, trying to flog historical tours and snorkelling trips to unwilling or invisible tourists.

In a right and proper TV universe, of course, it would all have ended in total humiliation, a lot of cannon-firing puns and Joseph heading home in a taxi.

But it didn’t, and the entire task actually seemed to swing on an exchange at Fort Berkeley, where one holidaymaker asked him: “Could you tell us what we’re looking at here?”

Panic, terror, desperation, defeat, you name it, but it was awkward silence, mainly.

As luck or production trickery would have it though, there was also a sodding cannon at hand and suddenly Gregory was off telling them everything they never wanted to know about his favourite subject on the planet, including their range (roughly 800 metres), personnel (six to eight) and even reloading times (about a minute).

The tourists were charmed, the girls all fell out with each other, the boys won and it was Emma who got fired.

You wondered immediately, of course, how such a happy coincidence could occur.

It wasn’t until the entire rather underwhelming episode had played out, however, that I realised why they’d sent them to Antigua.

Someone at The Apprentice clearly thinks it’s living on borrowed time.

The whiff of the familiar is already strong and without the stunning Caribbean backdrop the sensation that you’d seen it all before would probably have become overpowering.

Even with those stunning visuals, the annual bandwagon to axe The Apprentice will start rolling again, but it’s not one I’ll be jumping aboard, for two very familiar reasons.

The first is blind loyalty to a show that has given me more laughs over the last 18 years than any BBC comedy and would undoubtedly still be 100 times better than whatever nurturing, inclusive, diverse, passive-aggressive bollocks the BBC chose to put in its place.

The second is Sugar himself, who is now practically the last person on television who recognises the concept of personal responsibility and definitely the only one that calls out youthful stupidity, arrogance, laziness, deceit and all those other flaws that would stop these naive young fools living up to their idle boasts.

Its best days may be behind it and I reserve the right to change my mind before the end of the series, but right now I can’t think of any public service more important or unique than the one provided by this show and its narky old sod (The Apprentice, BBC1, Thursday, 9pm).

IT was impossible to watch ITV’s drama/comedy Stonehouse, I discovered, without wistfully regretting the fact he died far too soon for I’m A Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!

For here was natural jungle fodder, a politician who combined Matt Hancock’s misplaced vanity with Boris Johnson’s hormones and quirky relationship with the truth.

Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse and Keeley Hawes as wife Barbara

Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse and Keeley Hawes as wife BarbaraCredit: ITV

MTV’s Ex On The Beach should name a trophy in his honour as well because, at the height of his fame, John Stonehouse faked his own death on a Florida beach before surfacing in Melbourne, where he attempted a reconciliation with both his wife and lover.

So you can see why ITV was so smitten, even if it didn’t quite stretch to the budget, which meant his exit point couldn’t have looked less like Miami Beach if there were donkey rides going on in the background.

The production was saved, thankfully, by John Preston’s funny script and a superb cast, including Keeley Hawes playing wife Barbara, Kevin McNally going “the full Parky” as Harold Wilson, and Emer Heatley, who made an absolute virtue of Sheila Buckley’s Pythonesque speech impediment: “Wap your arms awound me, John.”

The ultimate triumph, though, belonged to Matthew Macfadyen who pitched his Stonehouse somewhere between Simon Callow and Richard Madeley and was so good in the role he could leave you feeling both scornful and sympathetic towards a man who paid the ultimate price for his cowardice and stupidity.

Back in the 1970s, this meant living out the rest of his life in obscurity, doing charitable works.

Now? He’d have been gorging on kangaroo vaginas until the public could take no more.

My, how far we’ve come . . .

CELEBRITY Weakest Link, Romesh Ranganathan: “Which foodstuff consisting of pastry filled with a fruit mixture is Cockney rhyming slang for eyes?”

Tasha Ghouri: “Germany.”

Romesh: “In international relations, what E is the official residence of an ambassador and the office where they work?”
Max George: “Envelope.”

Romesh: “In informal English, what B is an old, worn-out car, a music track with a strong beat and the common term for a sausage?”

Amy Dowden: “Volkswagen Beetle.”

MIRIAM MARGOLYES taking one whole patronising hour to realise she was the only snob within several thousand miles of Australia Unmasked.

BBC1 bringing back Waterloo Road just to shove all its laziest woke propaganda back down our throats.

The Masked Singer’s costume depart- ment giving up the ghost with Chris Kamara’s bedsheet outfit.

And 2022 staggering to its long overdue grave in the company of BBC1’s utterly unsalvageable That’s My Jam and host Mo Gilligan, who warned us: “There’s still a long way to go.”

He wasn’t kidding, either.

INCIDENTALLY, I was going to give a prize for the year’s most homoerotic sports commentary, but it was won, on January 1, by World’s Strongest Man’s Colin Bryce with: “Big Tom has some incredible power.

“He’s slightly different from the others, he really is measured on the way down. He’s got that little bit of baby oil and that’s when you slap it up the thighs.

“He gave everything, big Tom. What Luke lacked, Tom had.”

GREAT TV lies and ­delusions of the week. BBC1 continuity: “This is Miriam Margolyes Down Under and unmasked. How we all love her.”

Celebrity MasterChef, Gregg Wallace: “Kitty [Scott-Claus], it’s always a great pleasure to have you here.”       

Celeb Masterchef's Kitty Scott-Claus

Celeb Masterchef’s Kitty Scott-ClausCredit: BBC

Britain Get Singing, Jason Manford to the Love Island gang: “It was like watching Wham! with four George Michaels and two Andrew Ridgeleys.”

Six Andrew Ridgeleys.

PAUL MERSON: “The way Messi gets the ball on his left foot is memorising.”

Steve Wilson: “It’s a good job keeper Wayne Hennessey is six foot 15.”

Danny Murphy: “I thought there should be eight or nine minutes added. Not that I thought there should be.”

(Compiled by Graham Wray)

THE deadpan brilliance of Sarah Lancashire swiftly re-establishing BBC1’s Happy Valley as the best thing on TV.

The perfect combination of Tony Curran and Martin Compston illuminating Mayflies, on BBC1.

The Masked Singer’s Jacket Potato costume

The Masked Singer’s Jacket Potato costumeCredit: ITV

Channel 4’s mesmerising 2022: The Year From Space.

Olly Lambert’s BBC2 master- piece Ukraine: The People’s Fight.

And The Masked Singer’s Jacket Potato costume unless, for some unfath- omable reason, it’s filled with someone other than East 17’s Brian Harvey.

In which case, there will be hell to pay.

RE: The Masked Singer. For all those of you wondering why Otter’s performance was accom-panied by a large hamster in a ring, let’s rule out nothing and no one.

Except Richard Gere.

THIS week’s winner is Michael McIntyre and the parent from Bao, a short Pixar film, apparently.

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Emailed in by Reenie E.

The parent from Bao, and Michael McIntyre, right

The parent from Bao, and Michael McIntyre, rightCredit: Supplied

Picture research: Amy Reading


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