Gems TV, ITV, review: How one family and a shedload of Tanzanite made Gems TV a winner
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Wednesday 03 September 2014
Documentaries don't have to be angry, hypocrisy-exposing investigations to hold our interest. Gems TV (ITV) was an entertaining hour, soothingly soundtracked by 1950s easy listening. If you've ever wondered why people watch those shopping channels, here was your answer: they're happily hypnotised.
Gems TV UK is one of three jewellery auction channels headed up by tycoon Steve Bennett and his extended family, including second wife, Sarah, his son and soon-to-be son-in-law. In essence, it's a family business operated out of a shed in Birmingham, but not many family businesses boast an annual turnover of more than £100m. While traditional jewellers sell only a few items a year with a high mark-up, the Bennetts' business model is based on selling thousands of pieces a day, sourced direct from the mines and at bargain basement prices.
Admittedly, it's not rubies or emeralds that are flying out the warehouse, but stones that most people have never heard of. Tanzanite, a blue-purple gem originating in the Mererani Hills of northern Tanzania, is so popular they've nearly run out, so Steve was off to Africa, to personally source a new seam. It was a bit like scene out of the 2006 blockbuster Blood Diamond, only there was no mention here of the environmental or ethical impact of precious stone mining and no mention at any point of Gems TV's recent scandal involving a presenter sacked for making a rude gesture live on air.
That's the kind of grit that might dull a stone's sparkle, and Steve Bennett knows it. Which is why when he returned home with only a cheesy Wotsits-coloured gem called "spessartite", he quickly went about renaming it "tulelei" and creating a backstory that would capture the imaginations of his viewer-customers. They call it "romancing the stones".
This may not be the whole, uncensored story of Gems TV, but with David Brent's disciples so plentiful in other business documentaries, a display of competence makes for a refreshing change. Here was a businessman who actually seemed to understand people as well as products. Selling jewellery is "never about price, it's only about the perceived value", said Steve and his theories were confirmed by interviews with Gems TV's happily bejewelled customers. These Liz Taylors of Leeds, Princess Graces of Macclesfield and Miss Havishams of Hammersmith were all interesting enough to warrant a documentary of their own.
Grace Dent on TVtv
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 4 Tennis fan suing Australian Open organisers for 'failing to shade spectators' during Murray match
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Photographer Matt Lankes' portraits of the cast of Boyhood influenced the film's storyline
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
David Cameron says anyone criticising Eric Pickles' letter to Muslims 'really has a problem'