December 7, 2015

Bankstone News has been literally besieved this week by hurt and angry readers complaining they’ve been forced to watch multiple episodes of Insurance Ache’s bewildering Broken Apprentice webcast talent show without the benefit of our usual commentaries to help them make sense of it all.

If you haven’t already read our in-depth analysis of the scene setting Ep 1, you can do so here (although we would probably advise against it). Meanwhile, please find below our belated attempt to catch up with Ep 2, which sees teams Perspire and Ee Volve parachuted in to Wimbledon High Street to do some free publicity work for low-tech insurance brokers A Plan.

First a warning. Don’t believe the hype: this episode contains no Wombling whatsoever. Not so much as a hint of it. Very disappointing. Tristan, one irresistibly feels, would have made a truly outstanding Madame Chaud-Lait. Or what about Jonathan Swift as Great Uncle Bulge Area? A tragically wasted opportunity.

Anyway… The voiceover intro tells us that Wimbledon in South West London is famous for tennis, a crazy gang (less a gang, more a couple of sturdy lasses, to judge by the statue of them featured here), a common, and a theatre (which although apparently new, already appears to be undergoing major repairs to its highly convincing Victorian facade).

Wimbledon is also home to the aforementioned A Plan, whose distinctively different service proposition appears to involve lining their staff up behind a travel agent style desk and seating customer facing away from the counter. How this ‘adds value’ is not immediately apparent. Perhaps they are attempting to create the kind of undistracted interaction psychiatrists achieve by sitting at the head-end of a couch on which their clients recline.

The task facing teams Perspire and Ee Volve is telling people why they should use a broker (and hopefully drumming up a few leads for A Plan in the process). The morning session of the teams’ suburban day trip sees Team Ee Volve (Charlie, Dan and Virginia) standing around outside the A Plan office sporting red branded fleeces, while Team Perspire (Emma, Tristan and Nicky) are tasked with finding Wimbledon’s ‘town centre’ (good luck with that!) and talking to whoever they meet there.

Clearly struggling with this fool’s errand of a quest, the Perspirers wander aimlessly, looking for someone, anyone, who’ll give them a hearing. Emma makes the seemingly whimsical suggestion they should just go and speak to the forest. Clearly, less fanciful counsels prevail, as we next see the trio in conversation with a man selling flowers, and then with a mobile sausage monger. This is obviously going nowhere. So Tris cheekily encourages Nicky to try his famous “estate agent approach.” A visibly embarrassed Nick mumbles that he doesn’t want to.

“The team does not have a good start,” voiceover lady explains needlessly. This is possibly because several team members have the uncomfortable feeling that they are being asked to ‘sell something.’ What they need, it seems, is a new strategy. We then learn that they have a new strategy. What this new strategy is we never really find out, but it’s clearly working because Nicky soon finds himself invited on a sun-soaked winter getaway by the female half of an octogenarian couple he accosts. Meanwhile, Emma has also found someone to talk to and is seen confiding that she’s had some bad experiences ‘going around the houses.’

Reviewing Perspire’s morning performance, Judge Michael Orrance of L0v= Insurance observes that Team Perspire set out with a plan (as opposed to A Plan). This plan, he says, involved going round executing people with a scattergun. But then, he says, they “seemed to get their enthusiasm over the top of their plan,” a point he illustrates by rolling his head like an Indian dancer and mugging mild bewilderment.

Things started going better for Team Perspire after they listened to some feedback, Mike notes. A bit like 80s rockers the Jesus and Mary Chain, who went overnight from unlistenable semi-acoustic Ronettes tribute band to (briefly) revered indie noise-sculptors when they plugged their guitars into a batch of defective amps they picked up second hand.

Meanwhile outside A Plan, Charlie and Virginia (particularly the latter) start bringing the local populace under the irresistible influence of their magnetic personal charm. Ginny even lures one woman inside the A Plan offices (to seat her, doubtless, salon-hairwash style, facing away from her intermediary interlocutor). “I’ve got a lady here that just wants to speak about insurance,” she announces. Sounds like the perfect customer for A Plan.

An increasingly forlorn Daniel, meanwhile, “struggles to find people who want to talk to him”. Maybe it’s the beard. Although, if they find Dan’s modest facial adornment scary, wait til they get a load of Judge Jon Swift’s flourishing ginger face hedge, an appendage fully worthy of some artisan acolyte of Arts and Crafts bloke William Morris.

In the afternoon the teams swap over. Outside the A Plan office, Tristan comes into his own: a flamboyant combination of daytime gameshow host and David Brent, he soon has the public quite literally eating sweeties off a tray.

But with Judge Em Kenning unimpressed with Team Perspire’s obsession with handing out chocolates, a new strategy is clearly called for. Tris suggests they should give up and “just go to some cheeky shops.” Whatever can he mean? But, as the voiceover lady explains, they end up deciding to “regroup” and start taking names and numbers. This, Mike L Orrance likes.

Outside the station, Team Ee Volve are bothering passers by. With mixed results. Still clad in red and now toting a pair of balloons on sticks, Ginny once again proves the most outgoing, while the boys hunt as a pack (or possibly Charlie hunts solo, with Dan tagging along). Analysing their efforts, LoV£ Insurance’s Mike Rain says Charlie has been having some quite good conversations, which Dan has been “struggling to break into.”

That’s pretty much it. We’re off to the local pub now, where Jonathan Swift and his fine shrublike beard get stuck into a foaming pint of ale, and the judges convene to declare a winner, plumping, after what they claim was lengthy deliberation, for team Perspire.

Why Team Perspire? To be honest, it’s kind of hard to tell. There’s lots of talk about strategies and the changing thereof – but it’s never terribly clear what these strategies were in the first place or how they subsequently changed. Perspire probably won because they drummed up “a bunch of leads” for A Plan and because – although lacking a Virginia – they also didn’t have a Dan.

Perspire’s Emma reveals in the wrap-up interviews that she’s learned she can go out and talk to people. Dan has presumably learned something else. But there’s plenty of time yet for him to shine. What’s more – as his face-to-face summing up reveals – based on what he’s learned today, Dan now has a plan (as opposed to A Plan, clearly). The team that is ultimately going to win, he asserts, is the one that can come up with something the other team is not expecting.

How will he surprise his rivals next time out? We’ll have to watch Ep 3 and see.

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