Thursday 22 March 2018

Dragons make for a hard sell

Dragons' den (rte1, sun) I'm a pop star! (BBC2, sat)

IT'S A cruel irony, really. Sean Gallagher's row with RTE over its handling of the bogus tweet that wrecked his presidential ambitions dominates the weekend's newspapers, while the show he helped make a success, Dragons' Den, sails blithely into a fourth series without him.

More to the point, it does so looking slightly the better for not having him on board.

In truth, I've never been a huge fan of RTE's take on Dragons' Den. It's always been a little bit too blokey, too golf-clubby in a way the British and American versions aren't.

But the addition of Gallagher's replacement, Irish-American technology entrepreneur Sean O'Sullivan, who presenter Richard Curran informed us is "a pioneer in the field of internet mapping", has injected a little colour into the proceedings.

And not just because of O'Sullivan's luxuriant red thatch -- although that does significantly shift the follicle power balance on the studio floor. The replacement of Gallagher with O'Sullivan means the totally bald Dragons are now outnumbered three to two.

He's frank without being callous, comfortable in front of a TV camera and exudes confidence (as I suppose any of us would if our business portfolio included a $200m software company, along with pieces of Netflix and Harmonix, the company behind Guitar Hero).

That said, any episode of Dragons' Den is only going to be as good as the people coming through the door to pitch their business ideas and last night's made for a fairly dull bunch.

There's only so much entertainment mileage to be squeezed out of a man offering a share in a golf club-rental business (no takers), a couple of old hippies looking for backing for speakers housed in recycled tyres (ditto), and a chap seeking €25,000 of the Dragons' money to market little pouches you pop into your shoes to prevent them getting smelly -- another dud and one that took up inordinate amount of screen time.

In the middle of a crippling recession, when the only things moving in the economy seem to be young people on the road to Dublin Airport, Dragons' Den's hardest sell this year might well be itself.

Failure makes for more interesting stories than success, a fact recognised and embraced by I'm a Pop Star!, the last in a series of documentaries that had already dealt with boy and girl bands.

This instalment, though, was far and away the best, chiefly because it featured people whose fast rise to the top was exceeded only by their even faster descent first into pop's bargain bin, and then into the swamp of obscurity from which they'd been plucked and groomed.

Rick Astley, an obnoxious presence when clogging up the charts in the 1980s as part of the Stock, Aitken, Waterman empire, was positively endearing here.

"I wish someone had styled me," he said, explaining how he'd had to hastily buy an off-the-peg jacket several sizes too big for an appearance on Top of the Pops, a fateful purchase that sealed his naffness.

Nik Kershaw, on the other hand, did have a stylist -- and there was an incriminating TOTP video of him arsing around his keyboard in a white denim jacket, yellow prototype snood and fingerless Albert Steptoe gloves to prove it. "I thought, 'I must look absolutely the business'," he recalled. Indeed he did; just the wrong business.

The film was at its best when showing us the lengths to which these poor saps were pushed in order to promote their records: Adam Ant cosying up to glove puppet Gordon the Gopher; a post-Police Sting grumpily refusing to play a foolish game on a Saturday morning kids' show.

It was nice to hear, too, that Peter Andre once imagined himself as the Jean Claude Van Damme of pop.

Whatever went wrong, Pete?

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