TV Review: Dave: Loan Ranger

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I’m really sorry about this Dave. I honestly didn’t intend to add twenty years to your age and make you look dodgy, it just sort of, well, happened…

With the exception of being the managing director of Wonga, QuickQuid or Toothfairy – not to mention Russell Hamblin-Boone – you have to admire what Dave Fishwick is doing. It all began with Bank of Dave, of course, which appeared on our mass-drone-control-screens a couple of years ago. In that unique show, Dave went on a doggedly determined mission to start his very own miniature bank and fuck any of the consequences – a task which proved to be almost impossible at times, and saw Dave swearing more or less constantly about the state of banking and the people who control it (whilst being sporadically fucked by the consequences, it has to be said).

Haven”t seen Bank of Dave yet? Well, may I suggest you watch it.

Working on the assumption that most people who haven’t seen the show yet are quite lazy and will probably continue reading this blog post without bothering to do so (the void of white space between the last paragraph and this one — not to mention all the links — was supposed to be the catalyst to make you do that, but never mind, it’s done now), let the following things be known: Dave isn’t shy with his language, is a great believer in singing along at the top of his voice while driving in his car – a running theme throughout both shows, it seems – and believes that Pennsylvania is where Dracula is from. Yep, I mean it – unless I was hallucinating. Unsurprisingly, in Dave’s second TV show for Channel 4, Dave got lost more than a couple of times, and this time, I don’t think we can blame the sat-nav.

Anyway, with Bank of Dave it was all about bringing the world to rights by starting a bank which actually gave a shit about what it was doing. A highly novel concept which understandably came under fire from those who thought ethical banking was about as possible as dry fishing. Everyone said it couldn’t be done – by everyone I mean banking experts, about which I will leave you to draw your own conclusions – and yet Dave managed it. You could even say he’s done a pretty good job.

Dave: Loan Ranger, saw a continuation of Dave’s dangerous determination streak, along with him saying brilliant things like “I’ll stick this up their arse”. This time, we watched nicely edited Channel 4 footage of Mr Fishwick bringing mental anguish and torment to a brand new adversary who, by all accounts, thoroughly deserves it and should actually rot in hell for what they have done: the pay-day loan companies who can get you money in 15 minutes – a transaction which, for the people featured in the show, came complete with sleepless nights, threatening letters and a feeling that none of this would ever be over until they had lost everything. Having watched the show, I concluded that about the only thing a pay-day loan seems good for is rising your blood pressure very quickly. Wonderful if you’ve got hypotension, but pretty crap if you’re not one of the 30% of adults in the UK over 65 who has.

I was determined to not review this show while being utterly biased. Much as I’d loved Bank of Dave, I wanted to watch Dave: Loan Ranger as if I had never seen Bank of Dave before, and didn’t have a ruddy clue who this daring Fishwick character was. Yet without drilling into a very specific part of my brain with incredible accuracy, this couldn’t be achieved, of course. And let’s be honest. Even if it could have been done, I’d still have hated the people who offer these ludicrous and evil pay-day loans. Even a severe bang on the head wouldn’t change that.

Another thing I wanted to do was to remain as neutral as possible about the pay-day loans people, which I have already proved is impossible, but please bear with me anyway. Yes, I hated the idea of instant cash loans which led to an incredible spiral of debt, but then again, I didn’t really know very much about them, so who was I to judge? So, my solution was simple. Try and reset my brain as best as I could and only make judgements based on what Dave told me. After all, these loans were pretty nifty when you thought about it all: if a crazy person had turned up at your door before we had broadband, you’d have had both your legs broken before your dial-up had a chance to finish loading Google. Nowadays, however, you can get money in 15 minutes flat, regardless of your financial standing. Great news if the banks won’t lend you any more money and, like I said, that crazy person is arriving very soon.

The judgements weren’t good, is the thing. Not good in any way. I began watching the show thinking Maybe it is some people’s fault for being thick and just taking out loans when they know they shouldn’t. Of course, I didn’t really think that, but I wanted to be fair to everyone, and the only fair way to be fair was to assume that there was blame on both sides. It wasn’t long, however, before the evidence against the evil pay-day loans companies began to gather. We learned from a whistle-blower who has worked for several of these companies that it’s routine practice to target vulnerable people who can barely afford a Mars bar, and that the UK has been selected as a place of operation due to its shabby lack of laws and regulations which, in other countries, protect this sort of thing from happening. We also learned, quite importantly, that the people who are taking out loans from firms like Wonga and QuickQuid are normal, reasonable people. These aren’t – necessarily – people so gullible that they’ll hand over their entire life savings to someone knocking on their door who says they’re from Barclays and just so happened to be in the area. These are people like you and me. People who make mistakes every now and again. People who need help, but end up getting it from the last person they ought to.

Was/is Dave crazy for offering to bail some of these poor individuals out by paying their loan debts off for them? Quite probably, as Dave’s banking expert – proper banking expert, not included in the previous group I mentioned – inferred. I can’t be too sure about what else he said after that, to be honest. I was much too busy thinking You really do look like an old Wallace from those Wallace and Gromit films, don’t you man? I kept waiting for Gromit to appear, but sadly, he never showed up. Maybe next time.

The final part of the show – the part which Channel 4 probably insisted upon for the sake of drama, and you get the feeling Dave would have done even if cameras had been nowhere near him – saw our short Burnley hero take to the streets, to bring his in-debt posse face-to-face with the firms who were making their lives a real pain in the arse. Unfortunately, this part of the show didn’t conclude in explosive fashion, with Dave putting any bankers through any large floor-to-ceiling windows in slow-motion, but that hardly mattered. It was good enough to learn that, in most cases, the firms were writing these particular debts off and leaving these quite literally poor people alone.

So, Dave Fishwick, what’s next? I, for one, hope that Dave will team up with Guy Martin the speed-demon-motorbike-racer, for a dramatic twist on finance. Just picture the scene: Guy constructing a race track from the illegal profits earned by bankers and MPs over the last 20 years, before racing round it with all his northern buddies, as Dave cheers them all on, setting fire to the money. Now, that would be something to see on Channel 4 sometime soon.

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Great Britain’s Banking Hero? Bank Of Dave, Episode 1

Warning: Contains serious spoilers.

Meet Dave Fishwick. He’s balding, he’s from Burnley, and he doesn’t give a shit. Only he doesn’t give a shit in the best possible way: see, Dave’s idea of being wealthy isn’t really the same as most people’s, especially the bankers. Instead of holidaying non-stop, paying himself ridiculous bonuses and alternating drives in various expensive sports cars, Dave’s dream, at the beginning of this completely inspirational Channel 4 programme, is to open a tiny bank that’s run by the people for the people, and give any profits to charity. In other words, he’s the kindest banker you could ever hope to meet (and a hell of a lot kinder than the git at Barclays who refused to lend me £10 when I was 16 — despite my glowing record — but that’s another story. I hope that git is reading this).

Only there’s a problem and it’s serious: despite being one of the most inspiring people to ever come out of Burnley — a list which doesn’t offer too much in the way of competition, it has to be said… — Dave is every financial experts worst nightmare come true. Not only is he belligerent as hell and immune to virtually all obstacles, but he doesn’t believe in the word No and hates the big banks as each of us do, if not more. 20 minutes into the show, here was a man who made the legend of Robin Hood look lazy. I wondered if every single person watching the show was, like me, wondering how they could join the Bank Of Dave and get the hell away from their current bank as soon as possible…

I have to admit it, though: when I saw the trailers for Bank Of Dave, I was cynical for all the obvious reasons that anyone reasonably would be. Firstly, I struggled with the idea of why a seemingly average wealthy businessman from the grim North would want to open a bank, and secondly, anything with a TV show attached to it makes me instantly suspicious and liable to disbelieve it. But it didn’t last long. As the days passed, I found myself considering the idea more and more, doing some research, and by the time today came around — Thursday July 12th, 2012 — I was more or less convinced: Bank Of Dave wasn’t going to be some shoddily put together documentary piece. It was going to be just what we all needed. A bit of hope. Something good for once that promised and actually delivered.

And nobody can reasonably accuse Bank Of Dave, episode 1, of not delivering something. We’re talking about a guy who had every single obstacle thrown in his face over many months, condensed into an hour-long viewing period. An ordinary bloke that was standing up to the financial forces and saying fuck you. Quite literally, as it happened. Like I said, Dave really doesn’t give a shit and his thoroughly northern use of expletives is about as creative as it gets. And why would he care and listen, actually? The man has clearly done well for himself. OK, so he knows as much about opening and running bank as that bloody Songpop thing on Facebook — I still have no idea what the hell that is — but so what? It’s not like he isn’t in good company, and like Dave said, “I can hardly do worse than they [the banks] have.”

Dave’s first main struggle was to find out how to actually open a bank. Easy, thought Dave, I’ll just Google it. Unsurprisingly, this spewed immediate problems. The first of which was a recurrent theme throughout the episode: he could open a money lending outfit, but he couldn’t open a bank — so said various experts. Like Dave was going to listen!

Not to be out-done,  and still impervious to criticism, Dave predictably went on the rampage. Remember: here is a man with an almost disturbing level of enthusiasm. Dave’s just not gonna take it, he’s gonna keep on going — never surrender!

For a while, it was looking really good. Mainly because Dave wasn’t looking at the negatives, and in part due to him opening the bank regardless of any kind of official papers which he was supposed to possess. And this was the part that really made me smile. Dave wasn’t waiting for anyone, and the entrepreneur in him didn’t give a monkey’s about upsetting people or causing a fuss. Instead of just sitting at home waiting, or giving in to what the experts wanted him to do — not open a bank and instead open a building society, but preferably just go home and never leave the house again — Dave was just doing it. Exactly the kind of thing we need to see on TV, to remind us that sometimes, it’s about what you do, not just what you say.

It was then, shortly after acquiring the world’s smallest banking safe — probably from Amazon — that things really got interesting. Following a miniature radio campaign and opening, Bank On Dave! was finally unleashed on the public. No more pissing about with endless nonsensical forms and all that crap, Dave — along with a young Burnley banking geek who hadn’t yet been corrupted by the system — was ready to lend and lend he would.

By this point, I was totally enthralled. Dave’s ideas and philosophy on life were seriously addictive, and even though half the stuff he said sounded outlandish, you couldn’t help but believe that it was going to happen anyway. And who had a right to say it wouldn’t? The man had made a huge success of his own company, so why not this?

What followed from there on was some of the most bizarre, banking-related TV anyone is likely to ever see. Things like Dave visiting Steve Punchard’s Tropical Fish Superstore — pride of Burnley’s fish passion, and no, I didn’t make that name up — to discuss with Steve Punchard himself how much a shark costs. “Probably about £500,” said Steve Punchard with a completely straight face, who’s name I just love writing. Dave might well come to be known as the man who single-handedly caused numbers of black-tip reef shark to rise in the UK, but he’s also an ingenious amateur banker who will happily lend you £8,000 plus on trust and instinct — the two main things which the banks despise. The man really is a one-and-only…

Then, just when you thought it was a done deal, came the big punch in the face: the FSA — the people who had been put in place with the precise job of keeping financial vigilantes like Dave eternally out of their business — got in touch and said he’d need to raise £10 million Euros in order to keep trading…

Was Dave phased? Of course he was, but like I said before, he doesn’t give a shit! Look out for more from the man same time, next week.

I can’t wait to see what’s coming next. Thank fuck for Dave Fishwick.

Update: new post now up about the phenomenon of Bank Of Dave, which concludes tonight, Thursday the 19th at 9pm on Channel 4.