Richard Bacon (RB): I’m actually not that competitive, I wish I was more competitive! I’ve never really had that killer instinct, so I wouldn’t be a very good Best In Town contestant. The programme works because the people taking part, all have that instinct, and they desperately want to prove that they are the best at what they do.
How did the concept of the show come about?
RB: This is a little snapshot of my life. I was given two quotes for a basement to be put under my house. The first chap came round to give me a quote and then a second guy came round. I said to the second guy: “Just to let you know, I’ve had a first quote – I don’t know if you’ve heard of the company,” and I told him the name of the company and he said: “I have heard of them and I will not say anything about them because anything I say will be negative.”
It just made me think that if you run a particular type of business in a particular area, of course you know who all your rivals are. Although London’s a big city, there aren’t that many companies offering basements – there’s only about four so almost as I asked him if he’d heard of the other people, I knew the answer would be yes. And I knew, even before he spoke, that he would think negatively of them because it’s human nature that we don’t really like the people who do the same job as us on our patch. That was the starting point.
I think whatever line of work you’re in, you sometimes think ill of the people who do exactly the same job as you do when you ought to respect them because they found their way to the same line of work as you, in the same part of the world, at the same point in time. And that’s also why I think Best In Town has the potential to be successful in different countries because it doesn’t matter if you’re in Primrose Hill in London or Delhi or Bogota, it’s sort of the same thing if you run a business, you’ll dislike your local rivals.
What sets Best In Town apart from other competition shows?
RB: This is the first time that we’ve brought people together who do the same thing, on the same patch. If you run a little local business, you must be desperate to snoop around your rivals’ businesses, and go round and check out the dust, and the furniture, and really have a good poke around. What’s great about this show is that it taps in to human nature.
On other competition TV shows, people meet each other for the first time but not here. The people starring in Best In Town are people who already know each other, or at least each other’s businesses, and so there’s tension and ready-made views in the air as soon as we kick off.
What advice would you give to future competitors?
RB: The advice I would sincerely give, is the opposite of the advice I want to give as the show’s producer. In reality, you want to be charming, not look angry and bitter and not slag everything and everyone off. You want to rise about the criticism, be magnanimous, be statesman-like in letting the criticism bounce off you.
However as a producer, I would like to give the opposite advice, as TV is great when people are opinionated and critical.
Are there any moments during that taping of the show that really stand out for you?
RB: The dog groomers really got stuck in and took the show seriously. The cake shop owners were also a highlight, although during the big finale staged at London’s Fortnum & Mason shop, one of the competitors broke down crying. They take it so seriously so there are moments of high emotion.