|Polizzi - business bastard|
Three East End brothers need desperately to fix up their independent curtain shop, Alf Onnie, before a grand re-opening, imposed on them by Alex Polizzi. A wholly artificial conceit the deadline may be, but the woman formally known as the Hotel Inspector on Channel 5 is going to camp up the bogus ticking clock for all its worth.
“I'm worried that we aren't going to finish in time,” she bleats ad infinitum, as if the old ladies in next door's Oxfam shop are going to set fire to the place if the signage hasn't been changed by deadline day. “I'm really cross,” she goes on as she heads back to East Ham to bash the brothers' heads together over their stubborn unwillingness to do everything she tells them.
At least Ramsey pushes his victims around using his own ideas about how to run a restaurant. Polizzi commissions teams of painfully cool interior designers, shop fitters and marketing bastards to do her dirty work for her. The boys don't like it. Well fuck you, boys. Your shop's going to look better than the neighbouring Subways, Sports Directs and fried chicken shops whether you like it or not.
The shop does look streets better by the end. Alf Onnie has a nice little bit of publicity. And Polizzi will one day get to write a worthless report on saving independent shops for a craven government trying to associate itself with celebrity – no matter how awful. “Darling I feel a little tear behind my eye,” she says as she sees the newly refurbished store for the first time. (As if she hasn’t already sold her tear ducts to manufacturers of swimming pools for drowning children in.)
If you are searching for words for your sentence and decide “dynamic” and “inspirational” are the best options, stop writing. Stop working. Have a long hard think. You are writing a company mission statement. You are a manager at a lacklustre business. And you are one of the least inspirational people anyone knows.
You are not alone. Uninspirational business leaders in lacklustre companies exist anywhere you find Marks and Spencer shirt-and-tie combos. Steve Newland, the boss of East Coast Trains, lover of visions and professional business idiot, is just unfortunate he’s been exposed on television.
London’s Kings Cross was the setting for the first of six episodes of The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track (Tuesday, BBC2 9pm). Newland was only the most burlesque of the characters in this fly on the wall, which also featured terrific old school union bastards who loath the company as much as the company loathes its passengers, and cartoon angry passengers with hilarious haircuts shouting nonsensically at unmoved staff replying with things like “well that's your prerogative sir.”
The programme veered between meta-parody (apparently lampooning programmes like The Airport, which parody programmes like The Railway), and pathos as the staff who people the station reveal aspects of their sometimes tragic lives.
While box tickers seeking to implement Newland’s “vision” were asking staff to remember an occasion when they had delivered excellent customer service or worked in an effective team, here was the cleaner, “who often goes unnoticed”; “removes the rubbish, vomit and worse” from the trains, but cannot imagine ever going on a long journey herself. Here too is the retiring guard of 37 years’ service, who hands over the keys and manuals from his locker to a young kid cracking wise while the older man fights back tears.
In the most moving part of the programme, a customer service worker told frustrated passengers that a person had earlier thrown himself under a train. She later recalled the final conversation she’d had with a similar victim and his father who had sought her out. “He wanted to know who he’d had his final conversation with,” she said.
It had nothing to do with “creating a dynamic team with inspirational leadership,” Or “championing a 'just do it' approach to delivering what we call a five star quality service” but it was moving television and a clue that this programme might have some legs.