Del Boys and Dealers, TV review: A wheeler-dealer documentary that's the genuine article

 

No income tax? No VAT? One couldn't possibly speculate how accurately the wheeler-dealers in four-part series Del Boys and Dealers (BBC1) fill in their returns, but, like Del, they're fun to spend time with.

So much fun, in fact, that you can almost hear the commissioning editor's hum of satisfaction over the opening credits. DB&Ds followed the stories of a rag-tag (rag-and-bone-tag?) bunch of traders who frequent auctions in what the narrator euphemistically called the "trash and treasure market". Less Christie's and Sotheby's in St James's and Mayfair and more Greasby's in Tooting.

Out of nowhere, this was glorious TV. An hour that made me laugh as much as any sitcom I've watched this week, but produced with a deft enough touch to make it clear that its main characters are in on any jokes.

Among the dealers hoping to find their own version of Del's Harrison watch were Richie and Nikki, a young London couple; rag-and-boner Brian Greenaway; Sharon and Al from Essex and poor old Ieuan in Newport.

Ieuan, whose day job is at Iceland (he lists its CEO Malcolm Walker as a hero, and dreams of one day opening his own retail emporium called "Ieauland"), thought he'd stumbled upon a Harrison at a Welsh auction house when he nabbed a pair of watches for £26. One of them looked very, very much like a Rolex Oyster, worth over £2,500 – enough to get a business off the ground. Ieuan pored over watch websites, cradled his find like a newborn and told the viewers about the finer points of Rolexual authenticity. As he drove to a local watch expert to find out its true worth, I found myself, watching in an empty office, mouthing "come on" in the hope it was genuine.

Alas. Alas... it was about as Swiss as a banana. Next time, Ieuan. Next time.

Richie and Nikki had a bit more luck. Richie is about as close to being a proper Del Boy as anyone featured here. A geezer with an eye for a bit of a "tickle" he was trying to rustle up some funds to inject into his fledgling car-spraying business called, er, Autocare & Sons.

The pair had stumbled – well, actually Nikki had – upon a box of old drawings and prints for about £30. An art dealer then valued the lot at about £2,500. Result. Rather than thank his partner for spotting it, Richie was reflective: "I would never ever, ever, EVER have bought that," he mused. He ended up doing a quick sell for about a grand, rather than wait for a specialist art auction. Still, good bit of tickle.

Best of all were Al and Sharon. They'd both given up work to trade full time and had made, in two years, £3,000 profit.

One hopes that they've got other funds as they don't seem particularly astute. At one point, Sharon bought 231 bags of polystyrene snowballs for £14.16. She did make a profit by selling two on eBay but was then left with 229 packets of polystyrene snowballs to shift. They later bought a knackered 1984 hearse with flames painted on the bonnet. For some reason they struggled to sell it on.

This, frankly, is the wonderful side of capitalism. The title might be a cynical way of luring in Only Fools fans, but it's also not without reason. We loved Derek Trotter because he liked, in Richie's phrase "a bit of a tickle". Del might have sold you a dodgy vacuum cleaner, but he would never have, say, used leverage to buy your favourite football club, or invested your life savings into a Ponzi scheme, or bunga-bungaed your pension into junk bonds. It's why God blessed Hooky Street, and not Wall Street. More!

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