After much sniggering at the very idea of it, two weeks ago I finally sat down to watch episode one of
The Italian Apprentice. The heavily publicised trailer, with the contestants in designer eyewear bopping around in a Milanese boardroom to BTO's " Takin Care of Business", had left me wondering if the programme would stick to the usual formula. As the series opened, 15 minutes later than advertised,
the intro by the Apprentice Inventor, Donald Trump, led me to believe it just might.
The prize, as ever, a six-figure salary working for one of the nation's billionaires, in this case the colourful, "Billionaire" brand-stretcher Flavio Briatore. Once the manager of the Renault Formula 1 until he was expelled from the sport for racing fixing, Briatore is now the owner of a big ugly boat where he lives in Italian waters, with his trophy wife and baby, all of whom were recently turfed onto dry land as the Guardia di Finanza ( Italian tax police) sequestered the vessel amidst accusations of tax evasion, namely claiming back houseboat fuel as a business expense. Possibly as a result of this, Briatore is retracting his "Billionaire" brand from Italy starting with his mega successful Sardinian " Billionaire Club" which is being relocated in Marbella.
For some strange reason, the programme is being televised two episodes back-to-back on Tuesday evenings, probably to get a series about "work" off the screens as soon as possible. Having mentioned it to a number of Romans, I now realise they aren't watching because they seriously dislike the arrogant, charmless Milanese Briatore, who may have caused them offence and confusion when he warned the contestants that the winning candidate would be hired based solely on their own ability and not because a friend of a friend owes your grandmother a favour as is the normal recruitment routine down here in Rome.
Episode one to three were pretty uneventful. The usual casualties, arrogant innumerate person,
arrogant lawyer, arrogant Phd student, all were fired for their arrogance or maybe their insanity as
" Sei Fuori" (You're fired!) also means you are crazy." Sei fuori come un citofono", You are out (of
your mind) like the buzzer on your building! Anyway just as I was beginning to think Italian Apprentice was just a poorly edited version of Lord Sugar's finest hour, in episode four, Briatore reverted to form and started to run amock. Contestants were given not the usual average 500 Euros but 10,000 to spend, not for a money laundering task but a buying selling one. Predictably, it all goes badly. Goats are insulted, the losing project manager changes his glasses, hoping not to be recognised in the boardroom. Simone di Dio, Simon of God who has been clearly running on "angel favours" up to now, is booted out of the losing team for spending the whole task biro-scrawling the word "gelato" across a clothes shop wall but not before Briatore has another attack of " how dare you be more arrogant than me!" and fires the project leader of the winning team. She then screams at her fellow teammates as they exit the boardroom, celebrating her big win.
I can't help but wonder if Italian Apprentice will make it to the final episode without a call from Trump, ordering Briatore to stop making a mockery of his business brainchild. Another arrogance war would surely erupt and Briatore would probably end up "fuori" himself, replaced by Italy's other arrogant, dodgy billionaire politician-businessman currently desperate to get back in the limelight. And then goodness knows where the eventual winner of the series would end up working, hopefully not in