Dragons' Den (BBC1)
A week is a long time in television, as Harold Wilson might have said if he'd spent his days chained to a sofa watching reality TV rather than running the country. The new series of Dragons' Den began a few days before Duncan Bannatyne turned Twitter vigilante, offering £50k to anyone who could capture and mildly maim a mysterious Russian who'd threatened his daughter. After that, wondering whether a guy with a device to combat toilet splash-back would persuade the Dragons to invest didn't seem quite so dramatic.
In its ninth series, Dragons' Den has rearranged its reptiles, pushing out James Caan in favour of multi-millionaire queen of logistics, Hilary Devey. It is unquestionably a good move. Caan was boring and Devey is anything but. For a kick off, she looks like the result of an experiment by an insane geneticist to splice Dot Cotton together with Joan Collins in her Dynasty prime. Her shoulder pads are so large they should surely require planning permission.
She's even better when she starts talking in her flat Bolton tones. While the rest of the Dragons tend to offer one note - Bannatyne is dour, Peter Jones is supercilious, Deborah Meaden is haughty, Theo Paphitis is smug - Devey actually seems to experience real human emotions and has great turn of phrase.
When the first entrepreneur to pitch collapsed into a babbling mess, unable to deliver her presentation, Devey showed actual kindness, a concept usually scorned in the Den. She repeated that throughout the programme, daring to offer up advice to failed candidates rather than just a cutting quip.
When she advised one that "where there's muck there's luck", I could hear the publishers preparing Devey's Little Book Of Wisdom. That's not to say she's a total pushover. She destroyed an irritating chancer who rocked up with a chair he promised could cure obesity with the killer line: "You would make my foot itch, mate!"
Watching how Devey acclimatised to the warehouse drug deal surroundings of the show was really what kept the episode interesting. There are still many elements of the format that are painfully irritating. The camera work zooms in and out as if the director has delegated the edit to a toddler and Evan Davis remains on the sidelines providing commentary designed for the hard of thinking.
On Dragons' Den, nothing can happen without Davis first telling us that it is about to occur and then, when it has, instantly recapping it. Davis: "Peter Jones is about to weigh in..." Peter Jones says something in a mildly irritable manner. Davis: "Peter Jones is not impressed."
Now The Apprentice has swiped its main premise and stretched it out into a twelve-week epic of boneheadedness, Dragons' Den feels even more formulaic. We know that all but two of the contestants each week will be awful, that Bannatyne will sulk and shake his head like a bulldog trying to get shot of a wasp and that Paphitis will disconcertingly pet his piles of cash. As mad as it sounds, a few more decent inventions would be a really welcome addition.
The Secret Life Of Buildings (Channel 4)
"You can't leave things out. You will disturb the feeling of the house." I'm genuinely concerned about the inhabitant of the Lost House, a creation by architect David Adjaye, which has entirely black walls and no windows. All its light is supplied by three light wells and the owner expressed her fear of messing up the work of art she just happened to be living in.
It was like something from an episode of Doctor Who, a woman enslaved by her house. I half-expected the Lost House to start grumbling to itself when presenter and critic, Tom Dyckhoff, scuffed its floors and left his goggles lying on the side of its swimming pool.
Dyckhoff is a really likeable presenter and incredibly willing to experiment on himself to prove his thesis that British people are being short-changed by the buildings we live in. If the darkness and sterility of the Lost House was worrying, the dimness of the average British home was much worse. Most of us are essentially scurrying about in the murk, like hamsters in a cage at the back of the garage.
Dyckhoff illustrated the problem by allowing the windows of his own light, airy flat to be boarded up to the UK minimum size. By the end of the week, lack of natural light had left him depressed and borderline diabetic.
If that wasn't enough of a downer, he travelled to Denmark and Holland to show how they manage to live in dwellings that are brighter, cheaper and better than ours. By the end of the episode I was attempting to build an extension with parcel tape and piles of old magazines and brandishing a hacksaw to crudely cut a skylight into the living room ceiling.
As crushing as it is, The Secret Life Of Buildings is a great piece of clever, opinionated television and the forthcoming instalments where Dyckhoff will challenge architects about their design decisions and how offices are set up are well worth catching.
Watch this weekend
The Rob Brydon Show, tonight, 9pm, ITV1
With Parkinson long put out to pasture and Jonathan Ross not yet back in a chat-show chair, Rob Brydon has quietly taken up the mantle. The second series of The Rob Brydon Show really hits its stride this week as the host actually manages to make an interview with Bruce Forsyth funny and duets with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Stand By Your Man and, more improbably, The Wheels On The Bus.
Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain, Saturday, 9pm, ITV1
If you were wondering why Ronnie Corbett has been in the press this week bemoaning the rudeness of Frankie Boyle, here's why: he's got a two part history of comedy to promote. It's a gentle trot from the past to the present with Corbett chatting to some modern comics he does like. Miranda Hart pops to Croydon with him, he goes punting with David Mitchell and has an embarrassing moment when he plays Vicky Pollard for Matt Lucas. It's all very chummy but actually quite charming at the same time.
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