Last night's television: Dreams burned at the stake

Dragons' Den BBC2 Brat Camp C4

"THESE FIVE people are worth over pounds 500,000,000," says Evan Davis, introducing the panel in Dragons' Den, a surprisingly watchable series that aims to introduce underfunded inventors and entrepreneurs to people with enough loose change to finance their expansion plans. Naturally, the panel didn't get to be worth half a billion pounds by being careless with their loose change, so the penniless suitors have to successfully pitch their ideas first, gabbling out the unique selling points and market potential in the hope that enough of the dragons will be tempted into having a flutter. There is only one rule: if they don't raise the entire sum they've nominated, they don't get anything, even if one of the panel is prepared to go halfway.

The profit margin in suffering fools gladly is notoriously poor, which means that the potential investors aren't exactly models of patient sympathy. Indeed, only the early rounds of Pop Idol can beat Dragons' Den for the speed and ruthlessness with which long-cherished dreams are crushed. First up last night was John, who was pinning his hopes on a "revolutionary" computer design. Sadly, it was apparent to everyone present except John that what he'd invented was like a Soviet-bloc copy of an Apple G5, made out of recycled floorboards and aluminium siding. It can't be easy to hear someone say that your baby is fat and ugly, and John understandably blinked a bit rapidly when Doug Richards, a Californian IT millionaire, did just that. But Doug was a model of tact compared to Peter Jones: "You mentioned you're a doctor," he said, "I think you actually need one."

Ade, pitching a new plant-watering product, initially did much better, luring several of the panel into putting up the pounds 100,000 he needed to market it. Unfortunately, he jibbed at the size of the stake they wanted in return, did an unexpected bodyswerve on the US rights and wiped out with the suddenness of a downhill skier catching an edge on a critical turn. "Ade. Look me in the eyes," said Simon Woodruff, founder of Yo! Sushi, "I don't trust you." Ade can console himself by calculating the marketing value of 10 minutes of product-placement on BBC2 at prime-time, but such remarks must have stung a little. And the only participant to secure the money she was after appeared to confirm that emotional chemistry is just as important as detailed financial projections.

Elizabeth, a jeweller looking to take her couture business off the peg, arrived with a giant, golden cockroach around her neck, an example of her "flamboyant" design style. What swung it for her wasn't the gilded bug, though, but her virtuoso performance in blowing her own trumpet and the breathtaking mark-ups of the jewellery business. Rapacious appetite for profit, absence of inhibition, blushless self-promotion: they liked what they saw, and by the end Elizabeth had cashed in 30 per cent of her pipe dream for pounds 110,000.

Brat Camp is back, bringing symptomatic relief to harassed parents everywhere with a powerful double-action analgesic. They show you teenagers so horrible that your own appear paragons by comparison, and then they torture the ones they've got, offering you the unseemly - but potent - satisfiction of vicarious revenge. Last time, the delinquent youths were marooned in Utah with New Age guardians called Rhythm Otter and Stone Bear. This time they've been exiled to Turn-About Ranch, where men such as Wayne visit a full range of Guantanamo Bay brainwashing techniques on them, from sleep deprivation to silent isolation. What they are after is mindless, unquestioning obedience to the rules of the regime, and in any other circumstance it would be impossible to watch without rooting for the rebels and the outlaws. It says something about how ghastly these adolescents are that often you end up cheering on their gaolers instead.

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