The trouble with telly in the summer is that there’s generally a dearth of decent new series, with all the really good stuff traditionally held back until the autumn and even shows that have dominated the season (step forward Big Brother) not as big a draw as they once were (strangely, last week bucked the trend). So it’s a pleasure to see the return of Dragons’ Den slap bang in the middle of July (although it has done very well out of a summer slot in recent years), plugging that Wednesday evening void left when The Apprentice finished and at least giving us some kind of compelling reality TV to become hooked on until the likes of The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing hone into view.
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And the good news is that it is business as usual in the den, with the good old reliable format remaining exactly as it has been series after series. Well if it ain’t broke why fix it? The five dragons are back in force, being regaled with more weird and, just occasionally, wonderful business propositions that they might want to invest in. The majority of course go home empty-handed but for the select few there are business big bucks to be had.
The first show of the new series bookended this week’s successful candidates with a bunch of frankly odd pitches – from the East Europeans trying to flog luxury vodka to the market (whose attempt to ask for a higher investment consisted largely of “Can I have a million pounds?” accompanied by a somewhat hopeful look) to the group trying to put on a “horror experience” for those people willing to pay to be scared (they had a concept, to say nothing of some very good stage make-up, but there was no viable business to be seen). Although my personal favourite was the man trying to sell his special ‘cat collar’ which he demonstrated it by strapping it to the least realistic looking cat in TV history.
There were some obvious successes though – notably stuttering Rupert Sweet-Escott and his rather complicated hang-glider – he got off to a rocky start when he was forced to admit to the dragons that he hadn’t actually sold any yet, but things gradually improved and he actually wound up with a deal, courtesy of James Caan.
And Steve Smith, the man behind the Truecall device (a small box which basically filters out nuisance phone calls) caused such a commotion in the den that all five dragons found themselves in a bidding war to invest. James waded in, Deborah Meaden offered more, Duncan Bannatyne aligned himself to Peter Jones, and Theo Paphitis remained curiously silent throughout while he finalised his own offer. In the end it was Jones, with his telecommunications background, who struck the much-sought-after deal.
The great thing about Dragon’s Den of course is that it does afford the opportunity for the viewer to come across new consumer products which otherwise you might not even know existed – but watching the less successful flounder and fail offers the same kind of compulsive viewing experience as, say, something like the X Factor – you’re left cringing at the worst auditions, you know you really shouldn’t be watching their misfortune but somehow you can’t turn away. It’s a relief to see that in spite of the show’s success the makers have made no effort to tinker with the format, and from that point of view it works as well as it ever has done. Provided there are people willing to air their wares on TV, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t keep going for years.Join TVScoop on Facebook for exclusive competitions and gossip