Dragon’s Den Review: Sympathy? Not On Jones’ Watch

DRAGON’S DEN: Sunday 31st August, BBC2, 9pm

A new dragon shows us her teeth, Deborah Meaden struggles to cope with toilet ‘splash-back’ and Duncan Ballantine throws his toys out the pram. It can only be the new series of Dragon’s Den, with the entrepreneurial business investment show premiering its ninth series last night.

Following the suspicious retirement of James Caan from the show for what the BBC calls ‘unconfirmed reasons’, self-made multi-millionaire northern lass Hilary Devey steps up to the table as the fifth dragon, making her debut in shoulder pads more in your face than one of Deborah’s scowls.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen the business mogul on TV, with Hilary also featuring on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire in 2008. This time round however, the millionairess certainly isn’t in a mood for charity cases and profit is very much the name of the game.

Pitching to the dragons has never been an easy task for hordes of Britain’s ‘budding entrepreneurs’ that have appeared over the last nine series of the programme and even though they’re in their vintage years, the dragons still refuse to suffer fools lightly.

First to walk up into the famous attic is Georgette Hewitt, a bubbly blond whose pitch for £60,000 rapidly falls to pieces as she forgets her words. ‘Oh god’ she’s says, as she stands there in silence whilst the dragons twitch their pens and thumb their money, in a scene so cringe-worthy it wouldn’t look out of place in The Office.

Luckily for this entrepreneur however, new girl Hilary steps in and ends the misery, reassuring and inspiring the worried woman to continue saying ‘you’re doing ok’. “Sympathy!? In Dragon’s Den” I hear you say? Not on Peter Jones’ watch and his personal words of encouragement extend to ‘your presentation was appalling’. Normal business in the den is resumed.

Next up is an inventor who could give Thomas Edison a run for his money with his ‘anti-splash-back’ device for toilets. Using a combination of lucazade and banana pieces, the entrepreneur re-enacts a scene we can all relate to when nature calls, showing how his device counters spray from the toilet bowl. An astonished Deborah hides behind her hands, Theo’s in stitches of laughter and Peter just looks bemused.

Billy-bullshit is perhaps an appropriate definition of the next entrepreneur who, with his range of massage chairs that supposedly make you lose weight, dodged so many questions he came across looking like David Cameron at PMQ’s. This slippery approach didn’t sit well with the dragons, leading to new girl Hilary tearing him to pieces, much to the wry amusement of her fellow business moguls. “You would make my foot itch mate, and im not amused, I’m out” she screamed. Cue narrator Evan Davis: “The relaxed atmosphere is long gone”. You can say that again.

Lastly, we see an ex-roofer who has his sights set on taking over Britain with his solar panel business. Subject to huge government investment and tax breaks, this is a rapidly increasing market and one that makes the dragons see pound signs before their eyes. This leads to a battle that splits the room, with an enraged Duncan eventually throwing a temper tantrum and recalling his offer, much to Deborah and Theo’s glee and astonishment. Hilary attempts to make an offer, but is shut down by the established Deborah who wins over the entrepreneur with her contacts.

In an entertaining first episode of this ninth series, we certainly get an initial glimpse into what we can expect from Hilary Devey, with viewers seeing a number of sides to the haulage company owner. The multi-millionaire entrepreneur will have learnt a few things too, one point being that there are no friends in the den despite the painted on smiles and jokes. Coming across as a very kind and likeable person, she’s certainly ‘salt of the earth’, and should be a welcome addition to a established group of business people that have often have a tendency to squabble like a group of teenagers.