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GERRY’S BIG DECISION Reviews

Gerry Robinson’s mission to help struggling companies isn’t just moving, gripping TV, it also feels absolutely of the moment. Around the country, businesses are staring into the abyss, but at least the ones in this series get the benefit of Sir Gerry’s laser-sharp advice, generally couched in the manner of a kindly but disappointed headmaster. And it’s not just advice: he has money to invest, potentially, that would make the difference between bankruptcy and survival. A lot hangs in the balance for tonight’s two firms, a Devon pie-maker and Britain’s oldest major chair manufacturer. The latter is sleepwalking towards the edge of a financial cliff with the chairman and MD at loggerheads and the fate of an entire Lancashire village on the line. Gerry has his work cut out - and a tough call to make: is either business worth saving? It’s a hugely engaging programme with grown men in tears, clashing egos and big issues in the air to do with trust and denial. “They’re heading for the rocks and hoping something will happen,” observes Robinson. “What generally happens in those circumstances is that you hit the rocks.

The Radio Times Thursday 9th July

In this compulsive new series the serial businessman Gerry Robinson visits companies about to go bust in the recession with an eye to rescuing them with money from his own pocket. First up tonight are two micro breweries. Both produce top-quality beer, but both suffer from different species of management problem. The man in charge of one literally couldn’t organise a p*** up in a brewery, whereas the other is run by a husband and wife team, which means that no one person is responsible for the decision making. Not only is it fascinating to see Robinson dissect the problems, but the stakes involved are as high as they get. If he chooses not to invest the owners stand to lose everything, including their homes. They have been watching their businesses die slowly over the months, and this is their last chance. It can’t help but get close-up and personal.

The Times Thursday 2nd July

Early on in this new business reality series we’re told that TV troubleshooter Gerry Robinson originally trained as a priest. He may be a mega-rich business guru now, but this biographical detail makes much more sense of his bearing. He listens to the owners of ailing businesses like a wise old father confessor, his pained face full of compassion at their fall from grace. Tonight, he administers pastoral care to two small breweries that are weeks away from going under. If they sink, they’ll drag down not only jobs, but the homes and life savings of their owners with them.

The brilliant twist is that Robinson isn’t just offering advice, he’s like a one-man Dragons’ Den: if he thinks it’s worth it, he’ll invest his own cash in keeping one or both businesses afloat. So there’s plenty at stake for those involved: families and livelihoods hang in the balance. What’s more, it happens that both breweries are owned by couples. That makes for another layer of emotion in a surprisingly moving programme, and occasional revelatory little human moments. If Robinson’s got the funds, this could run and run.

Radio Times Thursday 2nd July

Not a bad idea, all in all, if an absolute mongrel. Mongrels can be good. This sharp latest take on credit-crunch Britain has huge elements of Secret Millionaire, Dragons’ Den, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and, if you want to look closely enough, the X Factor and even the Bible. It actually works more often that it doesn’t.

Gerry Robinson who ran lots of stuff such as Granada and Allied Domecq which just about worked more often than they didn’t, plays God. He takes two or more struggling firms laid low of late through sudden cashflow worries, and decides, in Godlike fashion, who to help, with his own cash.
He’s no Alan Sugar. That’s a compliment. Ruddy, smiley, emotional, the former trainee priest tries in this first programme to get his head around the problems behind two family-run, award-winning breweries, both of which are owned by couples who have thrown their lives at the job, both near-doomed.

In Itchen Valley, Malcolm is frankly rubbish but girlfriend Jane is picked by Gerry to take over the whole shebang and see what she can do with it within a week. Gerry seems inordinately impressed by her team-talk-tactic bullshit, and is highly encouraging. Highlight of the week, and what promises much for this programme, is the angry chiefbrewer who, rather than simply simpering in usual mimsy fashion at management skills, asks, rudely, whether that’s the only idea God’s got?

At O’Hanlon’s in Devon, John and Liz, who make, I can attest, rather fine beer, go through similar paces. Clouds scud: cameramen catch tears. At the end, however, there’s something of a surprise: dear Gerry can’t bear the thought of letting anyone down. By the end of the programme he’s £350,000 down. He can’t just keep doing this, can he, throughout the series? Is his bank manager watching?

The Observer Sunday 28th June

Loved businessman, Sir Gerry Robinson’s new C4 show Gerry’s Big Decision. He’s the polar opposite of Sugar – quiet, thoughtful, generous. As with Dragon’s Den, he offers cash to some businesses and declines to invest in others. He gives away a million tonight so do tune in.

The Sun Monday 1st June

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