Suvarna Garge (Editor)

Troubleshooter (TV series)

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Country of origin

No. of seasons

Presented by
John Harvey-Jones

Number of seasons

John Harvey-Jones

Narrated by
Andrew Sachs

Original language(s)

No. of episodes


Number of episodes

British Academy Television Award for Best Originality

The Money Programme, Watchdog, Dragons' Den, Mary Queen of Shops, William's Wish Wellingtons

The troubleshooters bbc opening titles

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. 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."

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.

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!'

Troubleshooter morgan change or die 2000


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.

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.

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

At its peak, Troubleshooter gained 3million viewers per episode. 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, 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.

    Series 1

  • Apricot Computers
  • Churchill China
  • Copella Fruit Juices
  • Morgan Motor Company
  • Shropshire Health Authority
  • Tri-ang toys
  • Series 2

  • Bradford Hospitals Trust
  • Charles Letts
  • Double Two (Wakefield Shirt Group)
  • Norton Motorcycles
  • South Yorkshire Police
  • Tolly Cobbold
  • Publications

  • 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!

    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.

    Similar programmes

  • Badger or Bust
  • Mary Queen of Shops
  • Gordon Ramsay's programs Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell
  • References

    Troubleshooter (TV series) Wikipedia