Britain's Next Big Thing, BBC2, Tuesday
If Walls Could Talk, BBC4, Wednesday

It seemed like a good idea on paper, but 'Britain's New Big Thing' failed to live up to its title

When Ridley Scott set out to sell his concept for the 1979 film Alien, he pitched it with three words that have gone down in Hollywood history as a masterclass in how to sell an idea. Alien, he told studio execs, was going to be "Jaws in space".

Likewise, when BBC big-wigs gave the green light to a show that promised to cross Britain's Got Talent with Dragons' Den, there must have been hearty slaps on the back all round.

The resulting programme, Britain's Next Big Thing, was itself all about the pitching of ideas. The format is simple: all over the UK people are devising new products. Team them up with retail buyers from Liberty, Boots and Habitat and film the consequences. Simple. Genius. What could possibly go wrong?

Week one of seven saw 600 people queuing from dawn for an "open call" at the venerable London department store. But before the action could commence, viewers were served the now familiar background footage in an effort to crank up the drama and get us to invest in the people Liberty was most likely to invest in.

There was Tom Hopkins Gibson and his grainy bowls carved from driftwood. There was Charlotte Sale and her underwater-inspired glassware. And there was Professor Richard Weston and his mineral-print fabrics. There was also the unmistakable fact that all of these people produced things that few people can afford, no one really needs, and which, at the very least, owed half of any future royalties to Mother Nature.

But for all the talk of once in a lifetime opportunities and journeys undertaken – hopefuls stopped just short of adding the now obligatory "This is my time to shine" – Britain's Next Big Thing was strangely lacking in drama. It can take months for a product to make it from pitch to shelf. The process involves meetings, more meetings, and much talk of costs, profit margins and lead times. Those who made it through the first pitch were handed nothing more exciting than the chance to give it another go in front of Liberty's buying director, Ed Burstell. It quickly became clear that there were not going to be any Susan Boyle moments here.

It is, though, to the programme-makers credit that we were spared the buyers' reaction to some of the more outlandish products. Instead, it was left to Dragons' Den's Theo Paphitis to walk up and down the snaking line in search of some excitement. "What exactly is that?" he asked one woman. "It's a prototype pigeon," she answered. "What does it do?" Paphitis persevered. "It's a decorative, lovable character." Of course it is.

Another woman was keen to explain how her "3D" necklace was made out of a Victorian cigarette case, the top of a 1920s umbrella, the bottom of a candlestick and a host of other objects. Her finished product had all the aesthetic charm of a child's macaroni collage. It was left to another jewellery designer to come up with the show's best line: "I want to make jewellery for women who sometimes whisper, sometimes shout with joy, but never mumble." Which could also be the secret of the perfect pitch.

Such moments of gentle humour were juxtaposed against Paphitis's spiel about the inventiveness of the British public. And inventive we surely are. Because the brutal truth is that the majority of the people standing outside Liberty have as much chance of being Britain's next big thing as Britain's Next Big Thing.

The perfect pitch, then, does not always result in the perfect programme, so it was left to the relatively unknown Lucy Worsley, "a historian who stumbled into TV", to whisper and shout with joy in If Walls Could Talk: The History of the Home.

Episode one, "The Living Room", promised nothing more than a look at the way homes have changed from "the medieval great hall to the gaming and leisure centre of the 21st century". That it delivered so much more was largely down to Worsley, who could no more say a dull thing than she could pwonounce her Rs.

How lightly she dropped the origin of phrases such as "burning the candle at both ends" and "daylight robbery". How deftly she recited Walpole. Her pitch got her hidden away on BBC4. Her performance could make her Britain's next big thing.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015