Last Night's Television:
Gerry's big decision, Channel 4
My Best Friend's Murder, BBC3
Here's to you, Mr Robinson
Friday 10 July 2009
There's something rather cruel about Gerry's Big Decision. It's sort of like The Apprentice, but with far greater consequences – or Dragons' Den, with added despair. Every week, Sir Gerry Robinson is presented with two businesses on the verge of bankruptcy and picks one to save. But, unlike The Apprentice, there's no real prize – just the possibility of a lifeline. It's the last-chance saloon. Look, you can see the desperation in their eyes. They really need this, and need it bad.
Good thing Sir Gerry's so nice. They couldn't really have picked a better millionaire: he's loaded and lovely – even more so than Stuart Rose, that other Benevolent Businessman. He listens while the contestants pour out there hearts, frowning sympathetically, humming and hawing. This week, he lavished attention on Andrew Berry and Simon Bryon-Edmond, the respective owners of H J Berry, the oldest chair manufacturers in the country, and Chunk of Devon, a new(ish) pie-making business.
To be honest, the prospects weren't great. At least Berry has a profitable history. The problem nowadays is the management. The owner, Andrew, wanted to be a gamekeeper, but went into the family business for the sake of his dad. He recently brought in management consultant John to oversee operations, since things weren't going to well under his watch. The only catch is... they loathe each other. Properly loathe. They can't even hold a conversation, let alone a meeting. My heart's on team Andrew, I think. John seems like a bit of a prat, part David Brent, part whingeing schoolkid, and Andrew's really lovely, though my brain's not so sure. If Andrew hates John so much, why doesn't he fire him? Or do the job himself? Or... anything. Anything but dither and walk on the moors in his Barbour jacket. Gerry seemed to feel the same, though he did take John down to London to pitch a contract with House of Fraser. He did all right, actually, give or take the odd leather/pleather confusion, and gets the gig, promptly bursting in to tears on camera. Not that it matters, though. He quits shortly afterwards, leaving Andrew to do it alone.
At Chunk of Devon, things aren't much better. In fact, they're worse. Husband and wife Simon and Suzi set up the business several years ago and they've never turned a profit, though they did win pie of the year last year, which counts for something. Doesn't it? Maybe not. Business-wise, I can't see why Sir Gerry would help these two out, but they've remortgaged their house and everything, so they're properly desperate. Please, Sir Gerry, their eyes pleaded. Please give us your millions. The problem here – or one of them anyway – is that they don't even seem to try and sell pies. Simon wafted in and out of the factory, picking at his pastry rolling (or something), and left the selling to the rest of his staff. The rest of his staff, meanwhile, are too busy on the shop floor, rolling pasty, to go out and about. So they never get anywhere.
If I were Sir Gerry, I'd get out of there as soon as possible. He didn't, though. In fact, he hung around, dithering over who to give the money to. In the end, he decided to give them both some money. Hang on – isn't that cheating? Where's the despair? Alas, nowhere to be found. Sir Gerry's far too nice for that.
No such pleasantries over on BBC3. Distressingly, My Best Friend's Murder wasn't supposed to be what it was – a portrait of life after death. Instead, it was planned as a run-of-the-mill documentary on knife crime. Then, Stephen Lewis, the 15-year-old star of the show was stabbed shortly before filming. He died in hospital hours later. Overtaken by their subject matter, the film's crew decided instead to chronicle the consequences of knife crime, profiling Stephen's family and friends as they come to terms with his death.
In all, it was an insightful, if a somewhat static, profile – and more than a little depressing. Stephen's death, at least, appears to have shocked those around him to make changes in their lives: his mother, brother and girlfriend all talk of what they want to achieve, how they want to distance themselves from their environment. Not so the other teenagers whose lives and deaths were featured last night. When Kodjo Yenga died in west London, his friends were still there a week later, hanging around on street corners, rapping about gang life, showing off their bullet-proof vests. It's awful, really. They're only kids with bikes in some crummy corner of some suburb in England and they're trying to be 50 Cent. Take them out of their element and they're as vulnerable as anyone else. "Do you think the public understand you?" asked one of the camera crew. "Are things really that bad?" The boys just laughed. "They're badder than that. Way badder."
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