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Dear Dragons Den

Dear Dragons Den, (BBC1, Sundays @ 9pm)

I’m really glad to see you back, I wasn’t sure whether you would return or if you’d been merged with The Apprentice and the stinking, fetid remains dispatched to Channel 4 for use in Four Rooms, but here you are and a very welcome sight you are too. Please pass on my sincerest and warmest welcome to the new dragon Hilary Devey who, despite appearances, is bloody awesome.

Little did Cruella DeVille realise, but she was only going to be offered 20% equity in the dalmations...

I must admit that her being awesome was not my first thought upon seeing her. No, in all honesty my first thought was “They’ve replaced someone who occasionally tries to buy babies with someone who definitely eats them on a regular basis.” and whilst that still might very well be the case – I believe all the dragons to be beasts of the netherworld – she is far more interesting, intelligent and pleasant than her ‘she mistook Quentin Blake’s drawings in Roald Dahl’s The Witches for a clothing catalogue’ look would ever have you believe. I truly did judge this book by its cover, and I was wrong to do so. There should be a saying about how that’s wrong. I’m going to invent one now –

Do not try to ascertain the qualities of a work or an individual merely by virtue of their external appearance, for this will sometimes lead to an inaccurate conclusion.

A book you can judge by it's cover. Or can you?

Catchy don’t you think? I certainly don’t think it could have been put more succinctly or in a more memorable fashion. It’s accurate too, because on probably 50% of all occasions you can save yourself a lot of bother by judging people by how they look: If they look like they’re hiding an incredibly dark secret, like an urge to kill, then it’s probably best not to accept the offer of a lift; if they look like they have to wear a bib to eat and a nappy to bed then you’d do well to not make yourselves unelectable by making them your party leader; and if they appear to have a borderline personality and the propensity to jump into bed with anyone that says hello to them then you should probably trust that and not get into an 18 month relationship with them…

Okay, I’ve made this a bit awkward now. Maybe you’re friends with her, maybe you took her side, I don’t know, doesn’t matter. Pretend I never said anything. The point is that sometimes, roughly half the time, judging a book by its cover (some might call it instinct) is a useful timesaver, on other occasions it can leave you looking a proper tit – as it did with myself and Hilary.

So any way, how do you think you got on? Pretty well? I’d agree, it’s pretty much same old same old really isn’t it. Yeah, you’ve got a slightly jazzed up title sequence where all the Dragons are either:

a) Surveying all they own like a Middle Ages land baron, or

b) Contemplating suicide like a mid 80’s stockbroker

Either way it’s just as wanky as all the previous ones and will continue to feed us the same guff it’s been feeding us for years – Duncan Bannatyne proprietor of Health Clubs and the biggest misery factory in Scotland (and that’s really saying something), Peter Jones rich because of crap BT ads, playing tennis and being tall yada yada yada. We get it, they’re rich, they’re self-made – I think you’re labouring the point a little.

Then you’ve stuck with the peculiar Evan Davis hosting, which is fine, there’s nothing all that wrong with him, he just looks like he’s owned by one of the Dragons who keeps him locked away in a cellar, bereft of sunlight and feeding him just enough gruel to survive. Little else could explain his gaunt appearance or seemingly endless excitement at even the briefest moments of human interaction. Thankfully you seem to have done away with all those peculiar crash zooms that accompanied him (I think the proprietor of those now works on Neighbours) and replaced them with simpler cutaways that are a lot easier to take.

Evan 'relaxes' at 'home'

Staying with Evan for a minute, can you please ask him (or indeed order him) to stop asking me questions that I couldn’t possibly hope to answer: “Will that seeTheo make an offer?” I haven’t got the foggiest idea Evan, nor could I hope to have. I could hazard a guess, but what would be the point, it would only distract me from enjoying the show. Surely that’s the sort of question I – someone who wasn’t at all involved in the process of making the show – should be asking you, the host? It’s a nonsense. Whilst we’re at it, please tell him to buy a dictionary. This week he chose to describe the chairs as “infamous”. Now, I’m no expert on chairs, but I think

Have you seen these chairs? They're wanted in connection with the brutal murder of a sofa and the kidnap of a chaise lounge

I’d remember if a chair, or any item of furniture for that matter, had been found guilty of genocide, or even a lesser charge that might lead to it gaining ‘infamy’. I understand that part of Evans job is to use some ludicrous hyperbole to ratchet up the tension and add some fabricated jeopardy, and that’s fine when he’s trying to convince us that Geoff who makes kids toys out of dog shit might have a chance of getting investment, but when he’s misappropriating the English language to lend the props some social weight that they simply haven’t earned? Well that gets my goat sir. The only ‘infamous’ chair I can even think of is man Mao, and that’s not even a chair, but a Chinese dictator who uses chair as the first part of his name. Don’t do it again.

Everything else seems the same, to me at least, you’ve still got the same mix of brilliant entrepreneurs with excellent scalable businesses followed by blundering incompetents who, in less prosperous times, would have proudly worn the floppy hat and giddy face of the village idiot, larking around for pennies rather than proposing deals for tens of thousands.

"What I do is...well it's like...kids...birthdays...erm...ahh...money please."

Likewise you’ve still got the cruel rules that mean no notes can be taken in to help with your pitch (just like in the real world!) leading to situations like that poor cow who went on first. By God that was awkward – got to love it though, it may be false jeopardy, but it’s helped make you what you are. You’re still a very entertaining show, frustrating at times when you see the Dragons gang rape a brilliant business to get an extra 5% equity from the poor bastard who’s put their heart and soul (and savings) in to it for ten years, but you’ve stuck to another old adage – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  – and that’s one that the likes of Simon Cowell must have wished he’d paid attention to.

As for the Dragons? Well, that’s a whole different letter – I believe I’ve found an ancient manuscript that reveals the key to success with them. I’ll write next week with it.

In the meantime I’ve got stuff to be getting on with, and for that reason…

I’m out!

R x

PS – I write Letters to Television Shows, I’d like £50,000 for 4% equity.

PPS – I’ve not made a profit, and don’t expect to.

PPPS – I just want some money. Thanks in advance.

Dear Four Rooms

Dear Four Rooms, (Channel 4, Tuesdays @8pm)

Still to come in this letter:

  • I’ll be mocking the style choices, personalities and mannerisms of the buyers
  • I’ll cast doubt on whether they’d have reacted like that to the Hitler bust if cameras weren’t there
  • and I’ll make some (hopefully) witty comments about the guy with the pink hair
Do you see what I’ve done there Four Rooms? I’ve taken a perfectly good letter that might have even been interesting and I’ve told you everything that’s in it. Do you think it works? I’m not so sure that it does, but just in case the previous, linear, method of letter writing that’s been sufficient for hundreds of years isn’t up to scratch I think I’ll keep doing it. I mean, who needs a narrative any more? Not in this day and age, people who watch – or indeed read – stuff simply don’t have the mental capacity to remember what’s happening or why they’re doing it so it’s absolutely imperative that you must keep reminding them. All the time. In fact, best do that now.
  • This is a letter to Four Rooms. In Four Rooms people with stuff to sell go into Four Rooms. In those Four Rooms are three multi-zillionaire ponces and Sporty Spice (during her leather phase) who will each make an offer – the punter can either accept or reject the offer, but if they leave one of the Four Rooms they cannot go back, and that offer is gone forever. That’s what happens on Four Rooms, and this is a letter to Four Rooms.

Four Rooms is the first album by new 'supergroup' Rich Wankers feat. Mel C and three guys from mediocre 80's synth groups

You see left to their own devices people might have thought that they were watching a really shit version of ‘The Matrix’, featuring Sporty Spice as Trinity, Albert Finney as Morpheus, Christopher Biggins as a scarf wearing and unnecessarily threatening Oracle and a geography teacher in one of Jonathan Ross’s discarded suits as Agent Smith. I suppose Neo would have been Johnny ‘Pink Hair’ Fancy-Table (this might not be his real name). Thankfully every time I started thinking that I was indeed watching a Hollywood blockbuster I was swiftly snapped out of it by being told information I’d been fully furnished with not five minutes before – time and time and time again – and of course the obligatory mention of the name of the show…Five Sheds was it? Three Cupboards? Which reminds me.
  • This is a letter to Four Rooms. In Four Rooms people with stuff to sell go into Four Rooms. In those Four Rooms are a collection of failed Bond villains, each less villainous than the one before, who will each make an offer – the punter can either accept or reject the offer, but if they leave one of the Four Rooms they cannot go back, and that offer is gone forever. It sounds like a great format and I really wanted it to work, but by making an hour long show out of ten 5 minute trailers you’ve ballsed it up and made it utterly unwatchable. That’s what’s happened on Four Rooms, and this is a letter to Four Rooms.
But still to come in this letter:
  • I will question whether or not the dealers would have actually got quite excited by the Hitler bust if it weren’t for the cameras.
  • I’ll ask why they took the one moment of genuine drama and ruined it by trailing it immediately before showing it.
  • and I’ll ask if the entire production team previously worked on Dragons Den.

"You've stumbled into the wrong room my darling, now brace yourself 'cos this is gnna make your eyes water."

So, here’s a question for you, did your entire production team previously work on Dragons Den? I only ask because the incessant describing of what’s happened, is happening right in front of our very eyes (and we’d be able to pay attention to if you’d just shut up for a second) and what’s about to happen quite literally any second now is something that seems rather reminiscent of that. What they’ve done at ‘the den’ though that you failed miserably to do, is edit the footage in such a way as to make it still a bit of a surprise when stuff happens. They’ve played with timelines, used clever camera angles, used mis-direction. It’s all rather clever. What you’ve done, somewhat conversely, is shown us what’s about to happen (I’m talking specifically about Mr Fancy-Table rejecting a big cash offer) and then show it happening in the exact same way. No tension, no drama, no interest. No, “Wow, he’s being offered way more than he wanted, I wonder if he’ll take it.”  nope, none of that because we’ve already seen him reject it. Good move Four Rooms. I mean you already had so many ‘can’t tear myself away’ moments that you really didn’t need another one. Oh christ, nearly forgot…

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  • This is a letter to Four Rooms. In Four Rooms people with stuff to sell go into Four Rooms. In those Four Rooms are three rich gits and a girl who looks suspiciously like a robot sent from the future to kill John Connor, who will each make an offer – the punter can either accept or reject the offer and you’ll know well in advance either way, but if they leave one of the Four Rooms they cannot go back, and that offer is gone forever. That’s pretty much all that happens on Four Rooms, and it’s made a very promising format dull and a chore to watch. This is a letter to Four Rooms.
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Finally, Hitler. I think it’s pretty much agreed that Hitler was a bad man. We all agreed on that? Good. He did, however, exist, and to anyone with even the slightest interest in modern history the partially destroyed bust of him brought in by Clive Dunn’s older brother was fascinating and certainly worth a damn sight more than the grand he walked out with. The dealers’ concerns over who might end up owning the piece are justified and honourable, but just how much of it was playing up for your cameras? You don’t get rich by having a massive conscience and all four of these ever so moral guardians of the fabric of what’s good and true are stinkingly, offensively and pant wettingly rich and so it’s fair to presume morality is a flexible term to them and that they’ve each – in the process of fixing a ‘fair’ price of course – shafted many a pensioner out of thousands of pounds to line their own pockets. They each knew they could make a lot of money from that piece shifting it on to a private (and legitimate, non-Nazi) collector, and I have little doubt that if the same negotiations were to take place in private the results would have been very different. I think it’s ended up at the right place in the Holocaust Museum, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t buy the act for a moment and in the absence of entertainment – and there was a real absence – a touch of honesty wouldn’t have gone amiss.
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So, summing up, an hour long show is not a trailer. No individual section of an hour long show is a trailer – it’s a show. If you haven’t got enough material to make a show then don’t bother, and if you must underestimate, nay insult the intelligence of an audience tuning in – by choice – to a show about the buying and selling of antiques then don’t be surprised when they move to a different room. Like the kitchen to watch a potato bake, or the bathroom to watch their bath fill up, or their… you get the point.

Dragons' Den - a bit like Four Rooms, but well executed and entertaining

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You’ve taken a potentially great format and made it fragmented, dull and predictable. No, predictable’s the wrong word. You’ve told us exactly what’s about to happen and ruined it, like sitting next to an idiot at the cinema “Oh you’ll love this bit, he turns down the offer gets all smug and talks about being greedy” – I have a tendency to punch these people in the face. Please consider this a written face punch. Turn to the nearest person and ask them if they’ll punch you – don’t worry, you deserve it.
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So there’s only one thing left to say.
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  • This was a letter to Four Rooms. In Four Rooms people with stuff to sell went into Four Rooms. In those Four Rooms are a low rent upper class UK version of the X-Men who will each make an offer – the punter can either accept or reject the offer, but if they leave one of the Four Rooms they cannot go back, and that offer is gone forever. That’s what happened on Four Rooms, and it was crap. This was a letter to Four Rooms.
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Bye
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R
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PS – I can’t wait for next weeks episode when two guys with a 4 tonne wall with a Banksy painting on it get offered £12,000, £40,000, £60,000 and £240,000 and probably still turn it down because they go for millions at auction.
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PPS – Do you see how I already know way too much about the next episode?
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PPPS – Seriously, learn the difference between TRAILER and EPISODE – you’ll be surprised.
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