Monday, July 9, 2007 by

Justin’s in the back of Peter Jones’ limo. “I’m now the boss of Tycoon Towers,” he says, in that nervy lilt. “Yeah, feeling on top of the world. I’m really excited about the challenge. So, bring it on … Elizabeth’s going to be a pain in the arse, though”.

After a week in the corner, Tycoon‘s back, rubber-stamped as a failure, and ordered to spend the rest of its time on ITV1 making as little noise as possible in its new 10pm, half-hour slot. From the off, there’s been something implausibly listless about the show. There’s Peter’s meaningless declaration that, “We will make a tycoon in this country for the first time on television”, the shapeless working week, and the promise that in this evening’s episode, “Peter will close down another business if they don’t perform” (or, by implication if they do, then he won’t).

Tonight, Page 3 model and one-time Royal squeeze Lauren was suddenly doing deals with a partner in tow, while ex-karate champion and dotting husband Justin – who two weeks ago couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag – was now clinching deals to sell 250,000 of them. In Tycoon stuff just happens.

For this episode, Peter decided to promote one of the hopefuls to the role of Temporary Jones, while he nipped off overseas. “I don’t believe my role is that easy,” he declared, pointing the finger at Justin. But why do it at all?

“I think he’s going to throw the cat amongst the pigeons,” was the boss’ reasoning. “And maybe we’ll get a chance to see the real Justin.” Mumsy gardener Cathy quite rightly complained, “We’re not here to be managed by Justin, so he’s going to have a problem with respect … you don’t want to be told by one of your peers what to do and when to do it”.

Utter nonsense in business terms (and this is a show in which its participants deliver regular bon mots prefaced, “In business …”) it did at least make for some fun at Tycoon Travel Lodge. Cello player and Frukka-turned-V:Tox magnate Elizabeth “Make it happen” Hackford was the one making the running, her mobile phone interrupting Justin’s meeting. The perspiring Welsh wannabe was full of half formed sentences. “Can you turn that off, please? … It’s only for a few minutes … It was mid-Cathy talking. It’s a little bit rude when people are …”

Then, later, as Elizabeth met with potential V:Tox frontperson Grace-off-of-last-year’s-Big Brother, Justin buzzed some more: “We need to have a meeting with everyone about targets and updates, sooner rather than later.” His employee’s unwillingness to break off the engagement only served to frustrate. “That’s okay,” he murmured ineffectually. “I’ll just communicate that back to Peter … your unwillingness to sort of … we’ve all got pressures.”

But still there was more. A later contretemps showed the man coming out of his shell by miming the actions of an outraged purse-clutching lady and declaring, “handbags!” to camera. All of this culminated in a further, final meeting. Here temporary boss met intemperate staff, the latter of whom turned on the waterworks, prompting a gloriously stiffened display of body language as Justin laid a comforting hand on her heaving shoulder. “All I just wanted was a little bit of cooperation … I haven’t got it. It’s been noticed by everybody. Don’t, er … that’s okay. That’s fine. So … why are you getting emotional?”

“In business you’ve got to get on with all types of people” declared Elizabeth in an earlier piece to camera. It’s these standfirsts that have defined Tycoon‘s most enjoyably unhinged competitor. She can talk it up, but on the shop floor, she’s rubbish. On a visit to a bottling plant labeling up her drink, she watched a fleet of wrongly coloured product wind past.

“That’s not very good is it? This is the wrong colour. It’s not pineapple. ‘Oh yes, pea-green, that must have pineapple in it!’ This is our showpiece to get sales! It’s looks really amateur.” What to do? “I just hope it gets better,” she sighed.

It didn’t. With the sense the show is hurriedly being compacted into the smallest thing possible, we saw Liz dodge dismissal (“Thank you very much, I think that’s the right decision”) and then – in a clearly staged coda for the camera – fall on her sword in the final minute. With the word “fragile” plastered across her forehead for no explained reason, she laid in the plot to Ian. “I’ve just discovered that I can’t use the name V:Tox”.

And that was it. A quick look at the pleasure boats from the Pier of Fear, and Ms Hackford was moving her dreams out of Peter Jones’ Thameside romper room, sent home in disgrace.

This is Tycoon. It’s all over the shop, frankly – a fan-made version of The Apprentice, without the expertise, the wit, but some time-lapsed footage of the City, so that’s okay. It’s a show hamstrung by its ambition, and one that’s failed to the collective delight of everyone who saw it coming. You undercut Sir Alan Sugar at your peril.

As for Elizabeth, she’s still a believer. I’ve just looked at her blog. The drink’s got a new name (Take 2), and you can contact her on her hotmail address “makemountainsmove”.


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