Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blame Canada

I can just imagine the casting conference at Mark Burnett's office when they were setting the lineup for The Apprentice.

Burnett: Well boys I love this idea of having people from different nations on the show. We hit a gold mine last time with Alla the millionaire Ukrainian stripper. The one thing I'm worried about is who we'll get to be the jerk this season. Also, we don't have a Canadian. We have a Russian, a Cuban and an Englishman but no Canadian. Get on the ball people

Flunky 1: Well the Russian guy's a bit of a jerk.

Flunky 2: And as for Canadians, well our research shows that no one can tell the difference between a Canadian and an American. A Canadian and a canoe, yes - Canadians don't tip - but a Canadian and an American no.

Burnett: Look you pinheads. First of all the Russian isn't jerky enough. We have standards to uphold and this guy isn't an Omarosa, a Stacie J., a Danny, a Markus. You know, someone we can get rid of early and people will cheer. As for having a Canadian, I'll have you know that the Canadians love this show more than Americans do. It's their third favourite reality show.

Flunky 2: What's the first? It's
Survivor, or is The Amazing Race

Burnett: You said the name of that show!!! You're fired!

Flunky 3 (very stunned and weak voice - obsequious even): Mr. Burnett sir, bringer of our fat cushy jobs that help pay for our Jags and Porsches, what if we made the Canadian the jerk?

Burnett: I like your thinking son. You're now Flunky 1. But who will we get?

Flunky 2 (formerly Flunky 1): There's this guy at the bottom of the earliest reject pile that would be just perfect. Brent something or other from Toronto although he's living in Fort Lauderdale right now.

Trump (poking his head in for a moment): Hey guys I just wanted to let you know that if there's a Jewish guy from New York, he's going to win. Especially if he's not from Manhattan. I want someone from the boroughs, George wants a Jewish guy and Carolyn, well Carolyn would like Kelly Perdew but her husband won't let her set him up in an love nest.

I think that can be the only explanation as to why Brent Buckman was put on the show. Even looking at the cast picture the guy stands out. In a sea of Cassii ("Beware yon Cassius. He hath a lean and hungry look.") he's this overweight sloppy looking schlub. And that was before he opened his mouth. The guy was loud and brash and almost as soon as he opened his mouth with an idea he was shouted down by the other members of Synergy the team that had picked him last (he was the only guy left and they had to pick a man). Yes, like Survivor they went with the "School Yard Pick" system of grouping teams this year and as always the fat kid was picked last. The knives were out for Brent from the first conference for the first task of the season, when Brent suggested a karaoke machine for the Sam's Club promotion. Immediately he was marginalised for the idea although even with that it was better than anything that Gold Rush came up with. For the second day of that challenge they stuck Brent in the Goodyear Blimp - something I'm sure they got a good laugh about - because they didn't want him to have any contact at all with the public. Something about it not projecting the right image.

It only got worse. In the second episode, the one in which they were trying to promote a new generation of Gillette razors using text messaging, Brent was interrupted and stopped by the other members of his team practically any time he opened his mouth. Again, his ideas could hardly have been worse than what his team actually came up with, which was standing in the middle of Times Square, wearing bathrobes and handing out fliers. Brent's efforts to improve things consisted of hamming it up and acting like a clown - he had training in high school theatrical classes in improvisation, mime, mask, and clown - which got him roundly criticised by the other members of his team,although the show didn't mention whether text messages with their "word" went up after he went into his act or not. This week of the show featured a confrontation between Brent and Stacy, who had been the one most often interrupting and shouting down his ideas. She said he "threatened" her although the video doesn't seem to back that up. In the end Pepi, the project manager was fired (for not controlling Brent, and generally poor management skills as well as getting a late start on the task) as was Stacy for not being strong enough to stand up to Brent. In the third challenge, which Synergy won, the team decided to "manage" him by giving him grunt work to do. It's pretty hard to mess up a challenge when the only thing they ask of you is that you set out garbage cans - and then second guess the way you do that, which they did (one of the female candidates actually followed him around telling him where he should and shouldn't put the cans.

Brent was fired during the fourth episode, on Monday night. The task was to design a banner or billboard for Post Grape Nuts Trail Mix cereal. As usual Brent was marginalised - his part of the task was to check the clothing of the people presenting to the Post executives. The campaign was too wordy for a billboard - not Brent's fault - and the image of an older man and a younger woman that they chose not eye-catching enough. In fact Trump said that the man playing the father in the image - who was in his 40s - looked more like her boyfriend rather her father (but then he recently said that if Ivanka Trump wasn't his daughter he'd date her). Again this was something that Brent wasn't involved in; his idea for the campaign, which was shot down within minutes of him suggesting it focused on weight loss. Brent wanted to present but the team said that they were selling a "healthy image" and Brent's weight didn't project that; the person chosen to present stuttered throughout. Based on performance of the task Brent shouldn't have been fired because he hadn't been allowed to do anything that would actually contribute to the loss, which Ivanka Trump even commented on during the task, and even some of the other members of his team expressed that "privately". In the boardroom however they're a united front. Brent has got to go: he's obnoxious and disliked you know that's true(and a no-prize to anyone who knows that reference), which they say is disruptive. And if Brent hadn't made a vindictive and anger filled response to these criticisms which included telling Trump that the team's project manager "stunk" he still might have gone but it probably wouldn't have been as easy for The Donald. If he had said something like "Mr. Trump, how can I be that disruptive? They don't allow me to do anything substantial in the tasks. I come up with ideas and I don't even get the chance to finish my thought before they are telling me to be quiet. In this task I was told to choose the wardrobe for the people presenting the pitch. In the previous task they had me setting out garbage cans. They are messing up these tasks on their own and using me as a scapegoat." he'd have been telling the truth and expressing his frustrations in a civilized manner. Instead he came out swinging, aggressive and insulting and was fired "on the spot

Despite being a Canadian with the same first name as him, I don't disagree that Brent Buckman should have been fired. From the first episode Trump recognised him as a disaster in the making and actually said that he couldn't understand why he was on the show, and I agree. Surely there must have been other Canadian applicants who were smart intelligent and not jerks, but I'm convinced that the producers wanted at least one major jerk and Brent was chosen for that reason. Any problem that I have with the firing has to do with the fact that, based on performance, he didn't deserve to be fired on this task because he was so peripheral to it. He wasn't involved in the creative side and he wasn't involved in the presentation side at the insistence of his team mates. It would have been better to see him fired for screwing up rather than just for being a fat, angry, egotistical schlub amongst a horde of lean and hungry Casii.

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