PICTURE the scene: Sir Alan, curtains drawn, feet up, one hand in a family pack of Monster Munch, the other flicking between home shopping channels, looking for a pair of diamonique earrings for his good lady wife. Yes, this week, he got his teams time on some sub-QVC teleshopping channel, shifting tomorrow’s charity shop donations to the bored, the unemployed and the masochistic.<br /><br /> He says it’s his favourite challenge. But he’s probably just scouting for outlets to offload a warehouse full of unsold Amstrad crap.<br /><br />After last week’s misadventure with the £2,000 rocking horse, Empire kept it cheap and cheerless, with a remote control car, tacky hair accessories and a pashmina-headscarf that could be worn in a dozen different ways, none of them flattering.<br /><br />Bizarrely, despite having managed to alienate Nick, Margaret and anyone who’s worked with her, Debra was a natural in front of the camera, exuding a charm and easygoing approach she’s not previously shown. Even fellow team-member James got into it (“Stop spying and start buying!”) and became an unlikely pin-up, receiving a fan letter from Lonely of Lancashire.<br /><br /> The other team weren’t such pros. Despite a grin that makes Kate Garraway look like a toothless guttersnipe, our Kate didn’t shine on screen. According to fellow team mate Lorraine, she lacked personality and flair, which is a bit like being told you’re greedy by your MP. In her defence, it’s hard to exude grace and enthusiasm while stuffing sequins onto a polystyrene cat. The bad-taste theme continued with Howard’s other picks from the little TV shop of horrors, including a deep-fat fryer and a “designer” polyester jacket with gold leather leaves attached – an outfit that Liberace would have considered a bit naff.<br /><br /> Unsurprisingly, the jacket didn’t sell, though given that Lorraine was modelling it, it never really had a chance. This is a woman that could wear the entire Tiffany catalogue and still look like a frump. Howard’s main contribution was a spot of car-crash on-screen flirting with Lorraine.<br /><br /> Avid viewer Sir Alan wasn’t impressed but couldn’t decide who to blame. Nick was more certain, telling Howard, “Your actions lack ambition, you’re not a big guy, you don’t take the big chance”, lines he must have borrowed from a second-rate gangster film. Still, it was enough to make the boss think he was just a bit too ordinary to succeed and, with that, Howard was going, going gone.