It’s time to catch up with some of this week’s shows old and new alike.
And one of those has been on forever. Yes Dragon’s Den returned once again for what I believe is Series 9. Despite numerous pretenders including Fortune and Britain’s Next Big Thing there’s only one Dragon’s Den. I have to say that the programme has never been covered in detail on the blog and so I saw this as an ideal opportunity as we have a new dragon joining the bunch in haulage magnate Hilary Devey. Devey is quite a presence on the panel with her massive 1980s style shoulder-pads and fierce fingernails painted in a bright red polish which the camera decides to close-up a lot during the programme. She sits alongside Scottish meanie Duncan Bannatyne, sour-face Debra Meaden, Greek entrepreneur Theo Papitas and Peter Jones who I can only describe as very tall. I don’t imagine there’s anybody who’s unfamiliar with the concept of the show but briefly people with business ideas meet the dragons who all have bundles of cash and pitch their idea if they like it they’ll make an offer and how much percentage of the business they want. From what I’ve seen before, including in this episode, it usually seems that only the pitchers at the start and end of the show are the only ones who get any money even if they completely fluff their pitch which was the case for Georgette Hewitt. Luckily Georgette’s idea, a website for parents to pre-book presents for their child’s party, was a good one and two of the dragons wanted in so she went into business with both Peter and Theo probably because they thought she was attractive and wanted to spend more time with her. Former bodybuilder Chris Hopkins had already found some success with his energy saving roof panels and everybody, bar Peter, wanted to go into business with him. At one point there was a catfight between Hilary and Debra then it became Debra and Theo Vs Hilary and Duncan before Bannatyne became annoyed and pulled out letting Theo and Debra seal the deal even though I would’ve gone with Hilary. as she was offering a whole team to help Chris with marketing and such. In between these main segments we saw a man pitch a ball you stuck down the toilet to prevent splashback and a Latino human cannonball who wanted money to improve his human cannon amazingly neither of these got the cash they wanted. One of the things I notice about the show is the amount of shaky camera and edits that are employed from close-up shots of Theo’s pen and Hilary’s nails to the quick cuts during hosts Evan Davis’ interviews with the people entering the den. I also like how every multi-millionaire now has to stand on a roof before their programme as the dragon’s get a rooftop each similarly to Lord Sugar’s opening stance in the opening of this year’s Apprentice series. Dragon’s Den doesn’t really need to drastically change but it feels a little fresher thanks to Ms. Devey. I also feel that Hilary slipped in very well to the panel she was very encouraging to most of those who entered the den, even the splashback man and the woman who wanted to warm horns, but at the same time got cross with a massage chair man when he didn’t have exact figures for her. She has down-to-Earth northern twang which fits in well with the poshos, Greek and Scot and it seems that the BBC are finally investing in presenting a relatable Northern character on a programme even if she is a real person.
Yes that is yet another dig at the BBC who have produced shows such as Sugartown and Candy Cabs which they feel are accurate depictions of Northern characters. Trying to usurp them Sky1 who over the next couple of months are seving up several Northern-based sitcoms and comedy dramas including Mount Pleasant and Cafe. But first up is Trollied a fast-paced sitcom set in the Warrington branch of fictional supermarket Valco. The centre of the piece is Jane Horrocks’ interim deputy manager Julie a jargon-spouting dragon with major insecurities about both her personal and professional life in the first episode she worries that she has achieved nothing as she approaches her 43rd birthday. Her boss, Gavin, is played by Jason Watkins who has to deal with a disruptive staff and in particular Margaret a grandmother who has been bought into Valco as part of the getting the elderly back to work campaign. Also at the supermarket is Mark Addy’s butcher Andy and his assistant Kieran who playfully flirts with checkout girl Katie who but as he already has a girlfriend it’s a sort of reverse Tim and Dawn from The Office, with which Trollied draws comparison but more on that later. In addition to these characters there’s the robbing shelf-stacker, the dirty women who do the customer announcements and the airhead personal shopper. First things first I did laugh a few times during the first two episodes of Trollied but this was mainly down to the little moments of observational humour provided by the customers trying to undo bags to put fruit and veg in or trying to reach a high shelf. The funniest characters are the ones who are just there to deliver fast gags such as the announcement girls or the foul-mouth checkout assistant. To be fair Rita May is hilarious as Margaret but she played a very similar character in the far superior Early Doors but she is a delightful actress and good here. The main problem for me is that Trollied feels like a sketch show with the same characters in each episode as I made The Office comparison earlier the great thing about that, and other brilliant Brit sitcoms, is that we knew the characters we cared about the Tim and Dawn romance and felt sorry for Brent here there are far too many personalities that you don’t spend enough time with anyone long enough to get to know them it’s like the writer wants to speed ahead to the finale without introducing us to anyone first. Basically I think Trollied is funny but we need a lot more character development if we are to care about those who are delivering the jokes otherwise it’s not really a successful sitcom.
Staying with regional humour the BBC have recommissioned John Bishop’s Britain a programme which garnered mixed reviews from my friends and family when it aired last summer. The basic format sees a different topic being discussed each week and Bishop does a bit of stand-up about it as well as providing some talking heads and introducing a couple of sketches to illustrate his longer stories. This week we had music and fashion so this let Bishop do a lot of stand-up about cassette tapes, taping things of the radio, the school disco and tracksuits. The talking head section is performed by a cross-section of Britain’s best and weirdest as well as a selection of celebrities from Freddie Flintoff to Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford and indeed one of the best jokes came when watching these talking heads after Louise Redknapp appeared and her job title was given as ‘broadcaster’. There was no real surprises here the classical conductor hated rap and goofed off to Gilbert and Sullivan and Eammon didn’t consider himself fashionable but it still provided a few titters within the audience. Bishop was at his best when providing his long stories – one about saving poverty at a U2 gig and the other about getting an erection in a tracksuit while kissing Ronnie Ancona in Skins, the latter of which he already told when he was on Alan Carr’s chat show last year. My biggest problem was that these stories had to be illustrated with silly sketches which probably took a lot of money to recreate, especially the U2 gig, but seemed a bit unnecessary it seems to me that the BBC never has face in a straight live stand-up show and has to do these little gimmicks like everybody watching has ADD and can’t manage to watch one person talking for half an hour. I do like Bishop and feel he is a likeable presence and this show is very good for summer weekends as it is basic fun and lets Bishop help people reminisce to their past by doing a good job remembering songs. It’s never going to set the world on fire but it bobs along at a good pace and I always like the BBC showcasing a comic, as long as it’s not Michael McIntyre.
And I’m afraid we’re ending here already with a quite brilliant documentary that I watched because there was nothing else on that being the Natural World special – My Life as a Turkey. The programme recreated biologist Joe Hutto’s year living with and raising thirteen wild turkeys and provided a fascinating insight into natural behaviour as Joe basically became their mother and father and they all became family. The film was well made using exerts from Joe’s book and an actor narrating his words while everything was recreated using stunt turkeys who had to pretend to be finished off by falcons and rattlesnakes. Joe gives his turkeys name such as Sweetpea the littlest of the brood and Turkey Boy the first one of the males to start displaying. Throughout the piece there is a good narrative about family unity, Joe learns to speak turkey and almost becomes one himself but realises that as the turkeys get wilder they will leave him and one by one this happens with only Sweetpea left. The film gets very emotional when Sweet Pea leaves and then Joe discovers that she has been killed while nesting and her eggs have been destroyed then Turkey Boy returns and becomes Joe’s brother for eighteen months before the two get into a fight and Turkey Boy leaves never to be seen again. Obviously this programme has been dumped in the wasteland of summer T.V. as it wasn’t advertised at all yet it is one of the best documentaries that have been on this year alongside 24 Hours in A & E and Small Teen Bigger World. This was a story of real human emotion and explored themes of what it means to be in a family and wildlife protection, I’m not normally one for wildlife programmes but this one struck a chord with me and I’m very glad that I was able to catch it when it was on as I usually just associate turkeys with Christmas T.V.
O.K. that’s it remember to give me your thoughts on the new dragon, the new sitcom and turkeys plus anything else you’ve enjoyed this week
Next Week: Who Do You Think You Are?, Village SOS and Shooting Stars