Has Dragons’ Den (BBC One) always been unhinged? It’s been a while since I tuned in. This week there were six dragons – the usual five, plus, for one week only, Gary Neville as a “guest dragon”. Perhaps the thrill of having Gary in the room went to everyone’s heads, because by the end of the episode they’d backed a man who “stumbled across a cacao shaman in Guatemala”, and thrown money at a woman selling “ear seeds”.
We’ll come back to them. First, the couple who pitched their Cosy Cinema rental concept: a sort of windowless shed with a bed and a giant TV screen in it. A good idea for a kids’ party, maybe, even if Peter Jones noted that it looked “like a boarded-up skip” and Steven Bartlett said: “You are paying £160 to watch Netflix in a shipping container.”
But Neville – footballer-turned-entrepreneur – wanted to know something else. Could people live in them? Neville is interested in cracking the issue of affordable housing, you see, and thinks that an upgraded boarded-up skip could be just the thing. Neville and fellow Dragon Touker Suleyman were in.
Now, ear seeds. They are “acupuncture without the needles”, essentially stick-on beads you put on your ears. They cost £3 to make and sell for – wait for it – £30. Gwyneth Paltrow recommends them, you’ll be unsurprised to hear. Neville jumped at the opportunity to invest in this because: “I live in a family predominantly of women and if I went home and said that I’d not invested in you, my mum, my sister, my wife, my two girls, I don’t think they’d ever forgive me.”
Things went fully delirious with the arrival of Liam Browne and his cacao. Liam looked and spoke like Howard from Take That, if Howard had taken a lot of ayahuasca. He brought a “goddess” with him (a woman in white robes who seemed on the verge of bursting out laughing) and sang to his cacao while banging a drum to give it a “heightened vibration”.
“Honestly, you live in a very different space to me,” said Deborah Meaden. “I live in a council house in Withington, so probably, yeah,” replied Liam. Quite a character. He is now in partnership with three Dragons. Neville called him an “incredible ambassador” for Manchester.
It was a generous, feelgood episode. Except for the first pitch. Spare a thought for the nice young man who ran a memorabilia business selling boots worn by famous footballers, and must have thought it was his lucky day when he heard Gary Neville was on the panel. Alas, Neville turned him down on the grounds that footballers would be uncomfortable with the idea of their donated boots being sold for profit. Footballers: they’re all heart.