Howard's way wasn't good enough for Sir Alan

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&rsquo;s charity shop donations to the bored, the unemployed and the masochistic.<br /><br /> He says it&rsquo;s his favourite challenge. But he&rsquo;s probably just scouting for outlets to offload a warehouse full of unsold Amstrad crap.<br /><br />After last week&rsquo;s misadventure with the &pound;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&rsquo;s worked with her, Debra was a natural in front of the camera, exuding a charm and easygoing approach she&rsquo;s not previously shown. Even fellow team-member James got into it (&ldquo;Stop spying and start buying!&rdquo;) and became an unlikely pin-up, receiving a fan letter from Lonely of Lancashire.<br /><br /> The other team weren&rsquo;t such pros. Despite a grin that makes Kate Garraway look like a toothless guttersnipe, our Kate didn&rsquo;t shine on screen. According to fellow team mate Lorraine, she lacked personality and flair, which is a bit like being told you&rsquo;re greedy by your MP. In her defence, it&rsquo;s hard to exude grace and enthusiasm while stuffing sequins onto a polystyrene cat. The bad-taste theme continued with Howard&rsquo;s other picks from the little TV shop of horrors, including a deep-fat fryer and a &ldquo;designer&rdquo; polyester jacket with gold leather leaves attached &ndash; an outfit that Liberace would have considered a bit naff.<br /><br /> Unsurprisingly, the jacket didn&rsquo;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&rsquo;s main contribution was a spot of car-crash on-screen flirting with Lorraine.<br /><br /> Avid viewer Sir Alan wasn&rsquo;t impressed but couldn&rsquo;t decide who to blame. Nick was more certain, telling Howard, &ldquo;Your actions lack ambition, you&rsquo;re not a big guy, you don&rsquo;t take the big chance&rdquo;, 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.