Dominic Byrne (Dragons' Den Online)
Peter Jones (all series)
Duncan Bannatyne (2005-15)
Simon Woodroffe (2005)
Rachel Elnaugh (2005)
Doug Richard (2005)
Theo Paphitis (2005-12)
Richard Farleigh (2006-7)
Deborah Meaden (2006-)
James Caan (2007-10)
Hilary Devey (2011-12)
Kelly Hoppen (2013-15)
Piers Linney (2013-15)
Online Dragons: Julie Meyer and Shaf Rasul
BBC Manchester / Sony Pictures International for BBC Two, 4 January 2005 to present
Sport Relief Does Dragons' Den, BBC Two, 16 March 2010
Dragons' Den Online webcast at bbc.co.uk, March 2009 to present, and BBC Two 16 September 2009 to present
In this ever-changing world in which we live in, it's sometimes hard to know whether a programme is a game show or not. But when the presenter gives interviews in which he says (and I quote), "It isn't a game show", then that's a dead giveaway. (If the BBC claimed that the Shipping Forecast wasn't a game show, we probably wouldn't believe them. Good job it's not on telly.)
Anyway, before this launched we described it as "a cross between Best Inventions and The E-millionaire Show", and now that we've actually seen it, that description pretty much stands. The format is simplicity itself: five venture capitalists (the "dragons" of the title) are placed in a room, would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas, and if the dragons are impressed, they may make an investment. Or not. That's pretty much all there is to it, but it works.
The one stipulation the producers make is that each entrepreneur must ask for a specific sum of money from the dragons, and must get at least that amount, or no investment can be made. Exactly what is being offered in return for this money, however, (usually a percentage stake in the budding company,) is open to negotiations; and if no single dragon is willing to part with the entire requested sum, they can split the deal between them. Amusingly, the dragons sit with large stacks of cash on the tables between them as the pitches are being made - although it's strictly a prop, and no cash is seen to be handed over (after all, the dragons don't have the luxury of commercial breaks in which to count out the cash).
It's a straightforward idea, executed without frills, interesting to watch and it may well change a few people's lives. Can't say fairer than that, and I'm afraid the stigma of being a g*** s*** is just something they'll have to live with. Not that it's held them back in any way - within a year, the show was being affectionately lampooned on sketch shows such as Dead Ringers, and by 2008 BBC Director-General Mark Byford cited Dragons' Den as an example of how one programme can transform the reputation of a broadcasting centre - in this case, the Manchester Entertainment department.
Based on the Japanese format Money no Tora ("Money Tiger").
Original theme credited to John Watt. Variations used during the programme arranged by Mike Westergaard.
The trailer for series eight began with a voiceover (not Evan Davis) saying, a bit sneerily, "This isn't a game show". Sorry, but your protests won't work here...
There have been several spin-off series in a "where are they now?" vein. 2008's Dragon's Den: The Dragons' Stories (a.k.a Dragon's Den: Outside The Den) combined profiles of the dragons with behind-the-scenes footage and updates on their investments. Lesley Sharp narrated the series, though Evan Davis appeared as a talking head. Sharp also voiced another 2008 special, Dragons' Den: Around the World, featuring clips from other countries' versions of the show. In 2009, Davis was back on voiceover duty for Dragons' Den: On Tour, which took a region-by-region approach to revisiting former Den visitors, but Sharp returned to narrate the 2010 series Dragons' Den: Where Are They Now?. The 2011 equivalent, How to Win in the Den, was narrated by Richard Bacon.
The BBC launched an online version in March 2009, with Dominic Byrne as host and Julie Meyer and Shaf Rasul as the dragons. The online version has a cap of £50,000.
The first series was filmed in the attic space above a furniture shop in Stoke Newington, but subsequent series have used a replica set, first in a real disused warehouse in East London, and later at Pinewood Studios. This has allowed for certain subtle changes to occur between series - the Den has at various times had square pillars, round pillars, and no pillars at all, and eagle-eyed viewers may spot that the "trees" and "buildings" behind the frosted windows (which have themselves changed from rectangular to arched and back again) change position rather more often than one would normally expect! The production moved to Salford in 2012 and they didn't strain too hard to disguise the change, since the stairs now led down into the Den rather than up, and in 2013 they were replaced with a lift (the Den is supposedly on the third floor, though by this point they've messed around with it so much that it wouldn't make any difference if they told us it was in space). Disappointingly, it would also appear that Evan Davis now films his bits separately, as he no longer features in the post-pitch interview segments.
How quickly are former dragons forgotten! In 2009, the subject of "Dragons on Dragons' Den" came up on Pointless. Of 100 people surveyed, only two came up with the name Rachel Elnaugh, one recalled Richard Farleigh, and nobody remembered Simon Woodroffe or Doug Richard. Sadly, neither did the contestants whose jackpot question this was, so they missed out on seven grand.
Dragons' Den: Success from Pitch to Profit (hardback book)
Dragons' Den - Series 1 (R2 DVD)
Dragons' Den - Series 2 (R2 DVD)