This is vintage ‘car wreck’ television. The majority of the applicants are out of their depth and you almost physically cringe with embarrassment watching them, yet it is compelling viewing.
The one woman among the five dragons, Rachel Elnaugh, founded Red Letter Days, the events company. She was an accountant with Arthur Andersen, but got out well before the rot set in.
Although the format is different, the programme is a continuation of the type of show popularised by former ICI chairman Sir John Harvey-Jones.
His Troubleshooter series involved barging into companies and telling the bosses what they were doing wrong. Many of the candidates went from bad to worse, but this did little to dent Sir John’s status as a business guru.
A recent variation saw Gerry Robinson, the former Granada chairman, ruminating on business themes in I’ll Show You Who’s Boss. One of his victims, a Scottish hotelier, complained that the show brought in no extra business, while a fly-on-the-wall piece about the Adelphi in Liverpool (think Faulty Towers) saw bookings double. That’s the British public for you.
Surely it’s time accountants got in on the act? And who better than Lord Sharman to front a TV series in which the gloves really come off.
The former KPMG supremo has the personality and the knowledge – and has never been one to suffer fools. He’d make the Dragons look like a bunch of sissies. We could be on to something here.
Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.