The concept is simple, ingenious and almost infinitely addictive. A group of ragingly wealthy business leaders sit in a row and listen to nervous, generally quite sweaty-looking entrepreneurs desperate for investment in their fledgling businesses. Cue awkward questions, ridiculous business ideas, terrified pauses and the ruthless, amused crushing of long-cherished dreams. Yep, the millionaires aren't called Dragons for nothing.
Another source of great amusement is trying to predict the characteristic response of each Dragon. For example, it's fairly certain that surly Scot Duncan Bannatyne will be slumped with his face resting on his hand, looking like a bored headmaster who's hearing some stuttering pupil's excuse for the umpteenth time. So predictable is his irritation that you could even play a sort of Duncan drinking game – just down a shot whenever he uses the phrase "It’s ridiculous". (And down three when he says "It's ridiculous, ridiculous, ridiculous".)
Deborah Meaden tends to grin incredulously and seems to relish being shocked at how dumb the entrepreneurs are. Peter Jones, meanwhile, likes to come across as sober and businesslike, asking scalpel-sharp questions before suddenly twisting the knife just when the entrepreneur thinks they're in with a chance. Theo often appears to be the friendliest, even playing devil's advocate at times, until he remembers his children's inheritance and decides to shoot the entrepreneur down (not literally – but that's a good idea for some future, Running Man-esque version of Dragons' Den).
And then there's the Nice Dragon, as played by Richard Farleigh, James Caan and most recently Hilary Devey. They're the ones who nod reasonably, smile a lot and resist the urge to take cheap shots at the sweaty heap of nerves they see before them. There must, however, be some kind of Nice Dragon jinx, because whoever holds that position doesn't tend to stick around that long.
Of course, Dragons' Den would be nothing without the entrepreneurs themselves. When it comes to success stories, one name leaps to mind: Levi Roots. Oh, how he made us all cringe when he strolled into the Den with his guitar, good-naturedly singing a ditty in praise of hot, hot sauce. How we braced ourselves for his demolition by the Dragons – would Duncan lose his patience and smack him over the head with his own guitar? Not a bit of it – Levi's since become a true star, with a food empire and his own telly show to boot.
But for every Levi Roots there are quite literally dozens upon dozens of failures – and let's face it, most of them thoroughly deserve it. We're thinking of the couple who pitched a bedsheet with a line down the middle, so you know which side of the bed is yours. We haven't heard an idea that bad since… well, since the cucumber cap. Which, as Theo Paphitis accurately surmised, was basically a condom for cucumbers.
Let's also remember the table which had a television screen in it – a product whose awfulness was out-rubbished only by the pitch itself (few will forget the sight of the visibly terrified entrepreneur claiming that his product was aimed at the "disconcerning home professional"). Ah, we'd weep for them, if they weren't so flabbergastingly dreadful. Still, at least Dragons' Den has proved that the innovative, capitalistic spirit is alive and well in Blighty – even if it does result in the creation of a driving glove to be worn on one hand in foreign countries to remind you what side of the road you should be on. Yes, that did happen.