Team captains: Marlene Guest and Austin Amodu-Richards
Pilot, BBC1, 5 August 1998
Series, BBC 2, 18 February to 11 March 1999 (4 episodes)
Del Boy would be proud
Two teams of three dodgy geezers (and geezerettes) are given a thousand pounds each. They have one working week to turn that grand into as much money as they can through means of wheeling and dealing, ducking and diving, dodging and weaving and the like. The catch is that the BBC specify the business that the marketmaking must take place in. In the pilot, this was fish; in the first series (an abrupt four episodes), these businesses were art, automobiles, nightclub promotion and traditional market stall wares.
The antics of the two teams are filmed over the week and edited down to a neat half-hour. The team who has made more profit over the week is permitted to split the profit between them; on a good show, this might be two or three thousand pounds, on a bad show, this might be two or three hundred. As this takes a week of the contestants' lives to film for uncertain reward, the players tend to be fairly well-to-do in the first place.
North v South
Affable Brummie Adrian Chiles hosts, but, contrary to expectations, there are fewer outlets for his dry wit on this show than there are on the business show Working Lunch where he made his name. Also making regular appearances are team captains Marlene Guest (of the blues) and Austin Amodu-Richards (of the reds); their two fellow team members change from week to week.
Marlene's normal tactic is to go back to her Yorkshire roots to try and find something cheap to buy which can be sold at a considerable profit in the big-money South-East. It usually works reasonably well. There's a moral in there, somewhere.
The show works well; you do get a bit of a feel for the subject matter being explored this week, the regular captains have charisma to them and the contestants often do too, the editing works well to tell the story of the teams' progress over the week and to keep you up to date as to each team's inventory and there are easily enough interesting things going on in a week to make for an enjoyable half-hour show. Arguably not a game show in the first place, but a good piece of television in its own right.
Watching the teams become instant experts on subject matter they really know nothing about; seeing mobile phone marketer Austin rattle off the names of several fish he claimed to be able to deal with was particularly enjoyably discongruous.