Dragons’ Den: Enter the dragon lady

I’m generally speaking a bit ‘meh’ about Dragons’ Den. Evan Davis is a nice chap, I have a soft spot for Theo Paphitis, and find myself curiously interested in Peter Jones’ choice of sock. He always brings to mind a 6ft 7inch five year old boy. But other than that, it can be too cringey for pleasure. If one of that scary panel pounded me with questions about my finances, I’d shriek like a cartoon girl and jump into Evan Davis’ arms (from which I fear he’d never recover). And I cannot stand Duncan Bannatyne, he really gives me the willies.

But I caught some of the latest series after noticing Grace Dent’s high praise for new addition to the dentists’ waiting room panel of big-bucks-wielding dragons. And Ms Dent is right (of course she is). Hilary Devey is bloody marvellous. I might tune in just for her. Visually, there’s something of a Dynasty vibe about her. Gravelly of voice and a bit feline around the eyes. She brings to mind a curious mixture of Bet Lynch, Kate O’Mara and Elsie Tanner. She takes absolutely no crap, but is fair, reasonable, and helpful when appropriate. But fools beware. She’ll chew you up and make you into a huge shoulder pad.

The first person to try their luck was a woman with an idea for a website where people can contribute money towards kids’ presents. She totally lost her confidence and couldn’t deliver her pitch at all. The dragons were kind, but it was Hilary who was really warm, which allowed the woman to regain her poise. It then transpired that she was extremely smart and capable – she left school at 15 and became the youngest woman on the Futures selling floor (no, I have no idea what that means either, but it sounds impressive).

Duncan ‘the beast’ Bannatyne was unnecessarily vicious with his “I’m out” speech, because his kids always take proper wrapped real presents to parties. Well, nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh. I bet they are bought and wrapped by his wife (or member of staff) rather than him. But Hilary’s intervention led to the woman getting not one, but two, dragons. The cute Little and Large team of Theo and Peter.

Other less successful pitches included: a floaty ball for toilets to stop unpleasant ‘splashback’, demonstrated with a bit of banana and orange squash chucked down a clear-walled bog. The Japanese are light years ahead with their techobogs of ultra cleanliness and bottom joy. No splashback there. Or bananas. Also – little jackets for brass instruments when the weather is brass monkeys and a massage chair that is supposed to encourage you to lose weight (“get up off the chair you slob”?). The chair guy was waffly and unclear, and got savaged by Hilary for being unprepared in a way that brought to mind the fiercest, cane-wielding headmistress.

Another great moment occurred with a guy (successfully) pitching his solar panels. The Dragon panel turned on each other like a pack of hyenas. Not pretty, but very funny. Duncan B had a little ego related hissy fit and the rest just carried on horse trading. Glorious stuff.

 Posted by Inkface


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5 responses to “Dragons’ Den: Enter the dragon lady

  1. Tim

    I warmed to Hilary Devey. She calls a spade a spade and doesn’t brag on about how she’s the world’s foremost marketing guru – which, Deborah, you really aren’t. I do miss James Caan, but Hilary looks like a fine addition. In a Cruella De Vil kinda way.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who tunes in to see what outrageously garish socks Peter Jones is wearing!

  2. inkface

    And they must have to be extra long too. The man is a giant.

    The reaction shots of the rest of the panel to Hilary’s plain speaking were excellent too.

    • Tim

      It’s always funny to see Peter standing next to Deborah!

      I think Hilary will add an interesting dynamic to the programme. It looked to me like the producers were particularly trying to play up some friction between Hilary and Deborah. As the new – and therefore unknown – Dragon, she will have to push doubly hard to secure her investments, which will liven things up.

      I did love Duncan’s diva strop, which was so clearly an attempt to save face once he realised that the solar panel bloke was going to opt for Theo & Deborah’s offer over his own and Hilary’s. The sad thing is that Deborah was so dismissive about Hilary offering a team to support, whereas I suspect that was exactly what that business needs as it scales up. Ah well.

      • inkface

        I’d go with Hilary every time over Deborah, with my (entirely fantasy) business. I don’t like Deborah at all really.

  3. Tim

    Me neither. I know all the Dragons are hard-nosed businesspeople and therefore pretty robust personalities, but I’ve never really found anything about Deborah to warm to. I’m also suspicious of her often trumpeted credentials as a marketing/branding guru. She is certainly a shrewd businesswoman who has a basic grasp of marketing, but an expert? She wouldn’t last five minutes in the same room as some of the consumer goods marketers I’ve worked with.

    In the back of my mind I’ve always wondered whether Deborah would ever have been made a Dragon had the producers not desperately needed another woman after the sudden departure of Rachel Elnaugh. She at least was a true entrepreneur like the male Dragons, whereas Deborah made her money by selling a business rather than building one up from scratch.

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