Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Dragon’s Den Fit for Brits; A Shark’s Tank Full of Hollywood

Tickled by those Brit TV judges
TV Reviews: Dragon's Den and Shark Tank
Perhaps it was they who first linked “nasty” to “critic.” Over there, that would be in Big Ben Land, they dispense criticism as spectator sport. Over here, they, or their American act-alikes, do much the same as the common man (or actor portraying such) pitches talents and/or ideas, hoping to reap fame and fortune

“What will Simon say” or “what did Simon say?” — that’s really what American Idol is all about. Oh, sure, pick up your phone and vote. Nice egalitarian exercise. After each singer sings, who really cares about what the Randy pandy guy or poor dear Paula (now history) thinks. We all turn to that sour puss from bonnie England. Strange, his reactions don’t vary much, but now and then he lands a nasty zinger, and everyone acts shocked. Just shocked. How dare he say such a thing! But, please do, get on with the next singer so we can hear what Simon’s has to say. (If only it was that simple, if only there wasn’t so much bloat to wade through, I’d spend more time with Idol; I’ll wait, instead, for the “Best of Simon” on DVD.)

Those snitty Brits do have a way of dismissing ambition fast enough for it to make a quick effortless exit. Fast enough for the pain to go down in a hurry. Judging by our reality shows, either we suffer an inferiority complex, or we lack what they have. And so they come over here to puff us up and knock us down. Sock it to us, you nasty sassy sassinacks!

Comes now yet another Hollywood television spin off of another popular British TV show, Dragon's Den, the premise originally presented on Japanese TV. The American version, renamed Shark Tank, and which launched a couple of Sunday nights ago on ABC, is closely based on the BBC model, which, luckily I ran into a few months ago, finally feeling nailed by something on BBC America. There, across the precious pond, inventors present their ideas to a prickly panel of rich Brit industrialists, and are questioned. Some reap the investment money asked for. Many meet the gloomy spectacle of pouty Brit lips locking up on them, each in turn uttering the official kiss-off, “I’m out.”

The judges' facial expressions, all quite properly understated, of course, amuse me to no end. Their cringes and wary looks of disbelief between each other can be classic; you get five Simons in one. Sometimes you’ll get a warm smile hinting at partial provisional positivity, perhaps, per chance? Sometimes one or two dragons will reveal an unexpected hand at the count of nine, offering true Dickensonian support in their dour den for the inventor’s big idea — an idea just thoroughly discredited by their cooler-headed colleagues.

I’ve given their American counterparts — the Sharks, and, oddly, not a Brit among them — a chance, but their behavior in the tank strikes me as definitely more scripted than real. Such as one ‘inventor,” there along with his son, getting into a very New Yorkish shout-out with a Donald Trump type judge. The Trumpy Shark had made a counter offer, not accepted, and he acted as if he himself had ended up in the tank and was about to be eaten alive. Out he lashed, “You’re dead!” Oh, sure. Oh, never would such an untoward threat be delivered in the Dragons’ Den.

During the last episode of Tank, all of the sharks started tossing insults at one of the inventors, and it seemed a tad too theatrically contrived, and so to my TV screen said I, "I'm out."

Oh, did it feel good. Now, if they could get Simon Cowell and Piers Morgan into the tank, maybe I’d reverse my righteous reservations, and sigh shamelessly, “I’m back.”

(Dragons' Den airs on BBC America, Tuesday night at 9; Shark Tank on ABC, Sunday at 9)

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