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Dragons in need of more eccentrics

There's only one reason for watching Dragons' Den and it's not to see some brilliant entrepreneur whose dazzlingly original and ingenious invention will act like catnip to the Dragons, arousing their predatory instincts and triggering a battle to see which of them can prise open their gold-plated wallets first.

We watch Dragons' Den for the loons and the loopers, the weirdos and wackos -- the clueless clowns with ideas so daft and deranged you'd want to be as mad as a March hare on a motorbike to give them a red cent.

We want to see a guy pitching a glass-headed hammer (so you can see exactly where your finger and thumb are when banging in nails) or someone who has invented a pair of rubber skis, which can be neatly folded up and tucked away in your pocket as the ambulance whisks you away to hospital.

Anything more sane is just hard-headed business. And in spite of the curious 21st century phenomenon whereby even rich capitalists in pinstripe suits can become TV stars, hard-headed business tends to make for boring television.

I've always felt RTE, perhaps smarting slightly from the success of TV3's The Apprentice, rushed into picking up Dragons' Den. Last night's series opener erred on the dull side.

The closest we got to a genuine eccentric was a man looking for €80,000 to fund an eco-friendly clothes dryer, which looked like something he'd knocked together in his garage using a clothes horse and bits of an old electric cooker.

He wasn't trying to sell hot air so much as room-temperature air.

And then there was the pair of chancers who tried to persuade the Dragons to give them €200,000 towards setting up some vague, half-baked scheme involving finding people gifts over the internet. That's what you call trying to sell fresh air.

Ironically, the most entertaining element of last night's show was provided, for a change, by one of the winners: Herbie, an utterly lovely German man who's been working as a tiler in Donegal for over 20 years and dreamt up a simple but ingenious plastic ring that fits around the base of toilet pipes, taking the half-finished look off the tile work.

Herbie charmed the Dragons -- even the normally glacial Sarah Newman -- and extracted €25,000 for a 20pc stake from gruff Gavin Duffy. It was a nice moment, but a scant return on an investment of an hour.

To paraphrase Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, to lose one husband may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose four looks like carelessness.

Poor old Gail in Coronation Street has lost four: Brian (stabbed to death), Martin (ran off with a Geordie nurse who called him "Mutton"), Richard (drowned while trying to drown her and the kids) and now Joe (drowned while faking his own death). Gail really needs to heed her son David's wise words last night: "I'm not coming down on you, mum, but look at the wrong decisions you've made. Do you not think it might be better if you did the opposite to what you're thinking?"

TOMORROW: Pat reviews The Other Michael Jackson (C4) and tucks his napkin in for Michael Winner's Dining Stars (ITV)


Dragons' Den **

Coronation Street ***