The Weekend's TV: Dragons' Den, Sun, BBC2
419: The Internet Romance Scam, Fri, Channel 4
John Bishop's Britain, Sat, BBC1
Monday 01 August 2011
"You would make my foot itch, mate. I am not amused. I'm angry." An amusing Northern variation on Queen Victoria's words, delivered by Hilary Devey in gravelly Lancashire tones and accompanied by an angry tremble of vast white shoulder-pads.
The man trying to sell his therapeutic chairs that can "help you lose weight" (Sit and Slim) looked crushed. The other Dragons were left pretty speechless, too.
So hailed the arrival of the wonderfully plain-speaking Devey, a 54-year-old multi-millionaire CEO of a freight haulage firm and latest replacement for the unremarkable James Caan, who left the Dragons' Den line-up in the last series.
A power-dressed vision of "1980s boardroom" perfection (Alexis Carrington crossed with "late era" Margaret Thatcher), Devey was not just honest but also warm. Her flash of outrage at the man with the chair was the only moment in the first episode of the ninth series that the debut Dragon bared her (bright-red) talons.
Having had a previous TV profile – she was the subject of Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire and featured in Channel 5's The Business Inspector – she looked natural and relaxed, showing no nerves or stiffness in front of the camera. Her voice was overwhelmingly a caring, helpful one, which encouraged and advised rather than sniped and jeered. She reassured a panicked entrepreneur who had clammed up at the beginning of her pitch. "You're doing OK, tell us," while the other Dragons looked on silently ("well done," she said to the woman at the end, even as she declined to invest). She also let a human cannonball down gently and gave warm words to a woman selling oven gloves ("It's not going to make you a lot of profit, love").
The show came most alive – as it always does – when the Dragons began salivating over a business opportunity, which was, in this instance, a solar-panelling enterprise. The Darwinian competition between them ramped up tension and made for exciting viewing. Duncan Bannatyne showed an allegiance towards Devey (after stating that he had "no interest" in teaming up with the other female Dragon, Deborah Meaden, or Theo Paphitis). One senses that Devey's strong personality will show on the shifting dynamics between Dragons and make for ever entertaining viewing in the coming weeks.
419: the Internet Romance Scam documented the phenomenon of internet fraud on online dating sites, the nexus of which was traced to Lagos. While engaging enough, its focus was narrow and slightly unsatisfying. Perhaps it is the case that the short format for the First Cut strand leaves an investigation such as this one stunted in scale. The half-hour was built on the stories of three people, one former perpetrator in Lagos and two white, middle-aged British women who had looked for love and unwittingly become entangled with men from the Nigerian city, who exploited the internet's virtuality by posing as white men. In the first instance, a former air stewardess sent over an unbelievable sum of over £50,000 to a man she thought was Dutch, but who had apparently fallen on hard times after a series of unfortunate accidents and emergencies. "Like a gambler chasing an investment in this man and his daughter, I risked the money," she reflected afterwards, chiding herself for her gullibility. The second case was more complex and showed how once a victim's judgement might become skewed, and stay skewed, once they get sucked in. Caroline, a 55-year-old furniture painter from Tunbridge Wells, had sent all her inheritance to a man she met on the internet, who had later confessed to being black, not the white man of Greek origin he had initially pretended to be. Choosing to meet her "scammer" face to face after he had come clean, she found she had fallen in love with him. Somewhere along the line, she sent him £30,000 for an "oil deal". Carolyn was filmed speaking tenderly about him, yet the obvious concern – was he playing her or had he really fallen in love? – hung heavy in the air.
The second series of John Bishop's Britain was, like the first, an excruciatingly anodyne blend of cheesy jokes and mildly risqué allusions that somehow manages to keep a Saturday night audience amused, or amused enough not to change the channel. The Liverpudlian comedian rolled out a set based on nostalgia comedy – remember how women threw knickers at Tom Jones, remember when we "copped off to Shalamar". One might be tempted to add another to his list of bygone things: remember the once-great Saturday night TV comedy show.
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