Troubleshooter (TV series)

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Genre Business
Presented by Sir John Harvey-Jones
Narrated by Andrew Sachs
Country of origin England
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons five
No. of episodes 31
Executive producer(s) Richard Reisz
Producer(s) BBC Television
Location(s) United Kingdom
Original network BBC
Original release 1990-1993
Related shows I'll Show Them Who's Boss!

Troubleshooter was a British reality television series, produced and shown by the BBC, focusing on experienced business leaders visiting and advising small and often struggling UK businesses.

Launched in 1990 with Sir John Harvey-Jones, formerly of ICI, the series ran successfully for five series.[1] After the series won a BAFTA, Harvey-Jones decided that he didn't want to become a television personality, after one newspaper called him the "most famous industrialist since Isambard Kingdom Brunel."[2]

The greatest achievement of the Troubleshooter programmes was to make business management a popular discussion subject in the homes of millions of British people, and to provide a role model for people wanting to enter business.[3]

The series was revived a decade later in 2004 under the stewardship of Gerry Robinson, under the title I'll Show Them Who's Boss!'


The premise of the show is pretty simple: struggling small British business needs help, is offered free advice by former plc-level director; advice often given over number of months is then edited into 1hour duration television show.

However, the reason that it made Harvey-Jones Britain's most notable and public business person was the fact that he engaged both the audience and the company on a human level. By both observing key issues (Harvey-Jones was always very focused on markets and customers first, and then systematic efficient production secondly, focused around people and responsibility), and then asked simple questions to confirm his view or see if the management actually saw the problem.


After originally approaching companies to produce the first series, the BBC production team for the subsequent series were overwhelmed by applications from various British businesses and enterprises. This was in part for the quality of consultation that Harvey-Jones gave, but also for the publicity, which often resulted in an immediate revival for the company through increased sales.

After selecting a breadth of companies, industries and situations, Harvey-Jones and executive producer Richard Reisz would review the applications to choose the selected applicants. Harvey-Jones would nominally only have access to any published accounts, management provided plans, and any items of press and media that could be found, before engaging the company.[4]

The period of consultation was given over a period of at least three months per company, resulting in the third series requiring Harvey-Jones to have reserved dates in his diary for 50weeks of the year: the major reason he gave up the programme, to concentrate on his charitable activities and family.[4]

The original six show proved so popular, that Harvey-Jones was contractually engaged for a second series of six show, and signed on to a further three series of seven shows each - the maximum Harvey-Jones would agree to sign-on for.

Harvey-Jones style[edit]

At its peak, Troubleshooter gained 3million viewers per episode.[4] This was greatly in part for Harvey-Jones personable and frank, straightforward style, with judgements being given through his own manic cackle style:

  • You are being killed by slow strangulation
  • The situation is barmy and intolerable
  • It is possible to break through but only if you charge the guns

Organisations featured included Morgan Motor Company, Copella apple juice and Triang toys,[5] where Harvey-Jones put his finger on the problems they faced or in some cases had created, and pointed the way to success. Sometimes they followed his advice, such as at Copella, and sometimes, notably at Morgan, he was met with absolute resistance.[3]

Businesses and organisations featured[edit]

Series 1

Series 2


  • Sir John Harvey-Jones with Anthea Masey (4 April 1991). Troubleshooter. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-36211-1. 
  • Sir John Harvey-Jones (18 October 1993). Troubleshooter2. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-016739-0. 
  • Sir John Harvey-Jones (14 September 1995). Troubleshooter Returns. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37061-0. 

I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss![edit]

Trying to revive the series in light of the rise of reality television, in 2004 the BBC engaged former Allied-Domecq CEO Gerry Robinson. In deference to Harvey-Jones, Robinson insisted that the show be given a different name, which was agreed on as I’ll Show Them Who’s Boss. Now co-produced by the Open University, in he went into struggling business and try to turn them round through advice and mentoring.


  1. ^ Erlichman, James (15 January 2008). "Obituary, Sir John Harvey-Jones". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Obituary: Sir John Harvey-Jones". BBC News. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Sir John Harvey-Jones". Retrieved 14 August 2010.  (Dead link)
  4. ^ a b c Glyn Jones (23 December 1992). "Media: The troubleshooter's parting shot: Despite the success of his BBC programme, Sir John Harvey-Jones is getting out of the TV personality business". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "How the troubleshooter's firms fared". BBC News. 11 January 2008. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 

Similar programmes[edit]

External links[edit]