Dragons’ Den – Fighting Fire (part 2)


Today, I read a second, and even more negative, review of the Dragons Den in the Globe and Mail by John Doyle called “The Nine: best new network drama this fall”. (Read more about the first review here.) This second review upset me enough to write an email to the editors and John at The Globe and Mail. (And I highly encourage you to contact The Globe and Mail team by emails and/or by phone calls (I have linked their contact info here for you), if you think John’s article was either wrong, inaccurate or unfair. If you agree with John, please also let both me and John know. I like to learn from you.) It took me almost two hours to craft the first letter and probably another hour to craft my reply to John’s respond to my first letter. I will attach both of my letters below. I decided not to include John’s email out of respect for his privacy. But hopefully, even with his letter not included, I hope to be able to fairly represent the key points in the discussion.

Of course, these emails are from my own prospective so readers be warned. And I am warning you that these are very long and detailed emails. You may fall asleep reading them. (smile)

I have decided to take the open and transparent approach and proceed from there. If you think I’ve made a mistake, please let me know as soon as you can. If I realize I have indeed made a mistake, I promise to correct myself as fast as I make these mistakes and apologize as soon as I can.

As an aside, I love the quote, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And a few days ago, I might have an unconfirmed case of “A-little-bit of power corrupts a-little-bit-ly”. So if you think I’ve made a mistake here, I most probably have. So please kindly let me know and I will try to correct myself. Thanks.

First letter to The Globe and Mail Editor-in-chief, TV editor, and John


Subject: My lost of trust in G&M – Re: The Nine: best new network drama this fall
Dear Edward, Andy and John,

I will defend Freedom of the Press at almost all cost and price. And if the price is to see an article like John’s review of CBC’s Dragons’ Den in “The Nine: best new network drama this fall” appear in the Oct 4th edition of the Globe and Mail, I will gladly pay the price. But I will not pay willingly nor sitting down quietly. And this is why I am writing to you all.

First of all, I am one of the blogger that has the pleasure to preview CBC’s Dragons’ Den. So I’ve seen the show and I am speaking from my own experience. And I am not paid by CBC. I love the show but I also have my shares of critiques of the shows. You can read all my blog entries related to Dragons’ Den here,
— Blog: http://kempton.ideasRevolution.com/tag/dragons-den/

Now onto the reason for this email,

Point #1
It is John’s right to call Dragons’ Den “cheesy, unimaginative and far from engaging” even I totally disagree with him. What trouble me the most is that Dragons’ Den is NOT “Apprentice-style reality TV” at all.

Apprentice-style reality TV” has some or all of the following elements:
– a fixed number of people are casted by the show creators and people will be eliminated from this group one by one and the final person left is the winner
– there is a prize money
– the tasks/challenges are all contrived and created by the show creators

Dragons’ Den has none of the “Apprentice-style” elements listed above
– all Dragons’ Den are true entrepreneurs no matter how good or bad their ideas. (Look back 20-30 years, selling home computer seems like bad business and so does home-made cookies. But we have Apple computer and Mrs. Fields’ cookies now!)
– the money is investment dollars from the dragons and an investment returns is expected.

Note: I have not read CBC’s press release or press kit, if CBC has described Dragons’ Den as “Apprentice-style reality TV”, then it is a most unfortunate description that can be given. And my apologies for criticizing John here. Mind you, a careful viewing of the show should still have made the above listed difference very clear. But if CBC made this mistake, I can see why John wrote “Apprentice-style reality TV”.

Point #2
And what makes me angry the most is reading the following quoted section. Can John at least have the decency to not spoil the fun for people that may disagree with him? The least he can do is not tell his reader how each entrepreneur’s pitch will turn out? In a sense, John is missing the point that even bad pitches or businesses have things to be learned by aspiring business entrepreneurs or just Canadians.

A bad review is not a review that trash a show but it is a review that insist on telling you all the important plot points as if to ensure you don’t go to watch it for yourself.

“In tonight’s program, the nervous entrepreneurs are a sad lot, for the most part. First, there’s a chap who has some home-exercise gizmo that looks like every other cheap exercise gizmo. There is also an engineer whose plans clearly aren’t understood by the Dragons. And the Dragons don’t like to admit that they don’t get it. The one person who does get their money is the one with the most obvious, safe idea. No drama there.”

Point #3
“The worst aspect is the horrible dungeon-like set. “
This is John’s view but I disagree with him completely. If John has seen any episode of the very successful UK BBC Dragons’ Den series, he will have seen the BBC set looks just as “horrible”. In fact, the cut-aways between pitches show rusty clock, run-down warehouse, very not “business-like” nor pretty.

Even though I am not a TV reviewer like John, I try to watch TV shows from around the world if I can. Just to get an idea of what some cutting-edge shows look like. After all, what makes CBC weak sometimes, IMHO, is may be their lack of willingness to look to the world and learn from it. Copy from others. Learn from others. One day, like Japan, Canada may learn enough from copying others and create our own cutting-edge products or TV shows that we can export to the world. That day may come sooner than people think.

Of course, with John’s kind of reviews that are full of spoilers which guarantees his readers have no fun watching the shows, I am sure CBC will remain in the dark dungeon inside The Globe and Mail for as long as John wish to keep CBC there.

My concluding bull shiitake
As I said in beginning, I will defend freedom of press at almost all cost and price, including whatever John decides to write and your newspaper decides to print.

I wish The Globe and Mail the best of luck in reaching for the quality or standard that it used to have. At the same time, please be aware that fact-checking is the foundation of a good newspaper. What Stephen Glass did to The New Republic and what Jayson Blair did to The New York Times may have been beyond repair. (Kempton: I have apologize to John to make him feel that I equate him to Glass or Blair. See my full apology in my second email reply.) For The New York Times, a 130+ years of reputation was tarnished by Mr. Blair and it will take years to rebuild the lost trust. For now, the NYT has a comprehensive program to put checks and balance in an attempt to remotely rebuild that lost trust, it is too early [to tell] if they will ever succeed.

I am not a professional writer so please excuse my awful writing but this is what I feel.

Yours sincerely,


Second letter in respond to John’s reply to the above email

Note: John’s email was not included out of respect for his privacy.


Subject: Re: My lost of trust in G&M – Re: The Nine: best new network drama this fall

Dear John,

Thanks for your reply. And please allow me to address a few of our disagreements.

First of all, I stand corrected for saying that winners of The Apprentice shows get a prize. The winners get a job. Sorry for my ignorant of the show as I felt it too degrading for the participants to watch.

I agree with you that “The Apprentice” is the best known “business” (in the most general and generous sense) show. But I will put “The Apprentice” and “Dragons’ Den” in very very different genre because,

– In “The Apprentice”, the “reality” bit is that all the contestants are running around town like rats toyed by their human masters (aka the show producers) to perform stupid tricks
– In “Dragons’ Den”, the entrepreneurs pitch their business/idea in a room. The entrepreneurs don’t go outside to perform contrived “tasks”.

– In “The Apprentice” the tasks/challenges are all contrived and created by the show creators.
– In “Dragons’ Den” all the businesses are the entrepreneurs own business ideas and products. They have one idea/project to pitch.

– In “The Apprentice” there is one “winner” per season
– In “Dragons’ Den”, every one can get invested, if the entrepreneurs’ businesses are good enough or if the Dragons see something that makes the business investable

– In “The Apprentice”, the contestants is one group. And then they get eliminated one by one and the one left is the “winner”.
– In “Dragons’ Den”, each entrepreneur is on his/her own. They each get invested or not by their own strength.

I will submit that calling Dragons’ Den an “Apprentice-style” series a very very poor and unfortunate journalistic shorthand way summarizing the show. For most readers, When G&M readers read “Apprentice-style” reality series, will you at least agree with me that they expect
– tasks/challenges (contrived or not)
– there are power dynamics BETWEEN the contestants (in Dragons’ Den, who gives a sh*t about the other contestants, because each entrepreneur has to win his/her own investment on his/her own strength)
– a single winner at the end of the whole series

I will have to disagree with you that “There are NO spoilers in my review.” A spoiler is, by definition, something that spoil people’s fun. You are right that you follow the letter of the law and didn’t give out the ideas, names or even the gender of the entrepreneur. But to me, even I also have advance access to the show, I applied the much more strict limit to myself in order not to spoil anyones’ fun. For me, the following are fun stuff that were spoiled by applying some simple logic after reading your review.

– 1) “In tonight’s program, the nervous entrepreneurs are a sad lot, for the most part. ”
No shit. The ideas by these entrepreneurs have been pre-judged for the viewers that they are no good. But again. Can any thing be learned from a bad business pitch? Do we need an advance telegraph to tell us that this is a “sad lot, for the most part”. I have the highest respect for all the entrepreneurs on the show. Because they tried. Many failed but they tried to make their dreams come true. Some are more solid business than others. I have much to learn from them. This is just me.
– 2) “The one person who does get their money is the one with the most obvious, safe idea. No drama there.” <<<<=== Only one person gets invested. This is spoiler because the show format allow EVERYONE to get invested. Not just one person. The fact that one person got investment in this episode is privileged thus spoiler information.
– 3) “First, there’s a chap who has some home-exercise gizmo that looks like every other cheap exercise gizmo.” It is not a big step to guess that this “home-exercise gizmo” person didn’t get the money (so when that person comes out, it is down hill from there, no surprise.) You see, the guy initially look quite sharp in suit, talked nice, etc. Thanks to the review, we get advance notice (that is spoiler info) that this “home-exercise gizmo” person won’t get his/her money. Next.
– 4) “an engineer whose plans clearly aren’t understood by the Dragons. And the Dragons don’t like to admit that they don’t get it.” Well, will it be another surprise to the readers that this person doesn’t get the money?

My apologies to you if I made you feel like I am equating you to Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair. I never intended to say you fabricate facts, etc. My point was that may be some proper fact-checking could have eliminated your claim of Dragons’ Den to be remotely like “Apprentice-style” reality series. But then I am not a newspaper professional and not sure where does fact-checking begins and the journalist own view or opinions end.

I hope you understand my anger of your article partly due to the unfair negatively reviews but much more importantly, your unintended but still very much spoiler informations of the show. As I said, Dragons Den is a great show in UK. And it has helped many entrepreneurs that appeared on the show and even those simply learn to be better entrepreneurs by simply watching the show. And, for that, I love CBC Dragons’ Den for its potential to entertain and educate Canadians.

Again, I support your strong view even though I maintain it is a very misguided and unfortunate view with respect to Dragons’ Den.

Finally, as an aside, I suppose it is not enough to have the “NHL Season opener of Maple Leafs vs Senators” beat the crap out of Dragons’ Den (the air time overlaps). We now have an awful review of Dragons’ Den in your fine article and in your fine newspaper. Oh man, this sucks big time for a Dragons’ Den fan. Incidentally, I am also becoming a big “Lost” fan too. Do I get bonus point for that. (smile)

Now, seriously, I will defend Dragons’ Den against wrong, inaccurate, or unfair comments any time of the day. It is my pleasure to do the least I can to help Dragons’ Den to stay healthy in Canada.


5 Responses to Dragons’ Den – Fighting Fire (part 2)

  1. […] Now episode 1 of CBC’s Dragons’ Den has aired, I just want to say again, I love the show. And I can now blog all I want and give episode #1 a full analysis. You can read my analysis of episode #1 here. And I have also been fighting some Dragons’ Den fires here and a seriously negative and inaccurate review of Dragons’ Den here (see if you agree). […]

  2. Hi, I’m a student at Dundee university studying innovative product design and have read this blog as the dragons den interests me.
    Your first point of the dragon’s den and apprentice being linked together as being the same sort of programme is a valid one. There is a clear difference between the apprentice and the dragons den in that the part of business shown is totally different. one is the starting stage and the other is the fundamentals of business. The apprentice is ideal for business studies students and the dragons den more suited to product designers.
    Your second point of spoiling the fun is also valid. But i think it grabs the readers attention more as people (not just women) like to gossip. Men gossip about different things but to know something before anyone else gives the person a sence of exclusivity and power within the group. Hence in order to gain readers this goes on with almost everything. Hence things like previews, trailers, romours etc
    The last point of the dragons den set being dark and dingy is only a cover. In industry especially Manchester (i’m from Bolton) Factories and warehouses are the place of business for manufacturers and wholesalers hence a factory like studio. But it has been converted. Did you know mos of the important decision making of this countries economy (industrial reveloution) Were made in these factories and still are (in china)!
    Just wanted to tell you that. Visit my team’s blog…We are to post comments everyweek on our lectures and i have done my first one…..so happy reading (http://imdipd.blogspot.com/)
    Dear Imran,
    Thanks for taking time to provide me with a detailed feedback.
    Sorry Imran, I think The Apprentice is a contirved game-like setting that treats human like lab-rats, and for that I am allergic to shows like The Apprentice. Which is also why it upset me so much to see Dragons’ Den be quoted as “Apprentice-style”. It is close to calling the colour Red, “Black-like”. Well, they are both colours, aren’t they?
    Will visit your blog next.
    Like your Andy Warhol style pix in your blog. And I have been to your blog and will be there some more and leave you a comment there. I love to work with young and eager students from around the world. As a start, check out David Kelley of IDEO. Simply search for David Kelley in my blog and you will find some like. He and his IDEO is one of the most innovative product designer in the world. And if you and your friends/classmates haven’t read James Dyson’s Autobiography “Against the Odds”, you all should. I love the book and it is so insightful. Remember, when you all get rich from some fancy products you designed, do send your private jet to pick me up for a ride. (big smile)

  3. […] (Oct 5th update: I later read a second and much more negative Globe and Mail review by John and you can read more here.) […]

  4. […] episode of CBC Dragons’ Den. And then I referenced Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair in the a blog entry and letter to the editor that talks about John’s unjust and unfair critique of Dragons’ Den. John wasn’t […]

  5. […] Den” mistakenly when it first came out in 2006 and I pointed out your flawed analysis. It is my pleasure to write you a nice email when I see you write sometime insightful and […]

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