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ON THE BOX BOX.

Byline: NATHAN BEVAN

"NEXT up, a date with Lord Alan Sugar," threatened the continuity voiceover lady just prior to the screening of last week's installment of The Apprentice.

As tempting proposals go, it was right up there with the offer of an early January morning's appointment with the proctologist (one who forgoes preparatory hand warming) or being trapped in an under-stairs cupboard with a 20-stone bloke whose hobby is collecting his own bottom burps in a jar.

Luckily though, the online dating episode of the BBC's long-running corporate Carry On was a gem, showcasing the kind of forehead-slapping numptidom which makes this show such an infuriatingly compulsive watch.

And, tasked with coming up with new ideas about making money from the massive UK lonely hearts market, Team Hopeless came up with targeting romantically disenfranchised office workers who are married to their jobs and barely have time for lunch, let alone rumpy-pumpy.

Called Cufflinks, it was the brainchild (actually, that should probably read 'the lobotomised offspring') of Welsh eyebrow enthusiast Alex who put himself forward to appear in the team's TV ad as 'Herbert', the walking personification of every bad date you've ever had.

Ringing his eyes with a dark kohl pencil, flattening his hair into a train spotter-ish centre parting and wearing black patent slip-on shoes and indecently high-cut denim shorts, he looked like a cross between Gary Numan and The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Miraculously though, even an infamous, bearded humour vacuum like His Lordship managed to see the funny side.

"You went down the humorous route then - there's a lot to be said for it, I suppose," he grumped begrudgingly, meaning that by the time he got round to assessing Team Useless' efforts his teaspoon-shallow goodwill reserves had well and truly run dry.

Then again, Team Useless' targeting of over-50s looking love was so fundamentally flawed it would have had Barbara Cartland dropping a few 'F-bombs.' Christened Friendship & Flowers, it was pitched as a vibrant and exciting outlet for bus pass-wielding singletons, but the ad campaign ended up looking more like one of those commercials for walk-in baths that June Whitfield does the voice-over for.

So woeful was it in its depiction of one's twilight years as a romantic graveyard of denture glue and cataracts that an appalled Lord Sugar - clearly, at 66, a man who still knows where everything goes - had no hesitation in declaring them the losers.

Which meant it was the plummy, but largely harmless Oxford graduate Jason who got the boot, even though he'd abdicated his role as project manager to Luisa, who'd brow-beaten him with her incessant nagging. And, bless him, he looked positively relieved to be going, having previously announced how starring on the show was like being in "a nest of vipers."

Sadly though, Luisa wasn't fired too. I dunno about vipers, but I've definitely 'adder' 'nuff of her.

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Welsh contestant Alex as bad date 'Herbert'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 23, 2013
Words:490
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