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Reviewed by Will Harris
It’s true, they do. If networks weren’t so overtly concerned about catering to the young, dumb, and obnoxious viewers of today, we might actually get more quality programming featuring more seasoned actors in lead roles. Instead, we’re assured that no one wants to see faces older than a certain age, leaving countless top-notch actors with precious little in the way of career options. This is not to suggest that the world needs more shows like “Matlock,” “Murder She Wrote,” or “Diagnosis Murder,” but rather that television networks shouldn’t write off performers simply because they’ve passed beyond an arbitrarily decided age threshold. Fortunately, the BBC isn’t nearly as guilty of this crime as we here in the States are.
The most notable example of the Brits embracing older audiences comes via the long running sitcom, “The Last of the Summer Wine,” a television staple since its premiere in 1973, but to cite a more recent example, let us examine “Diamond Geezer” or, as it’s known in most other territories, “Rough Diamond.” (The program’s distributors decided to change its name before shopping it internationally, probably because the word “geezer” isn’t quite as acceptable a term for senior citizens here in the States.)
Starring David Jason, “Rough Diamond” began as a one-off special that introduced the character of Des, a seemingly innocuous prison inmate – he’s got a limp, a stutter, and is shy as the dickens – who turns out to be one of Britain’s greatest con men, in the midst of one of the biggest cons of his career. Unfortunately, Des finds himself with a roommate when a new prisoner accidentally finds himself caught up in his plan. What’s even more unfortunate, however, is the dodgy development that this new lad named Phil just happens to be Des’s son. The exploration of Des’s gifts as a master manipulator manages to make this plot twist more palatable than it might otherwise have proven to be. The success of the initial special resulted in three subsequent adventures for Des, but Phil only manages to wheedle his way into the first of the trio. It’d be cheating to tell you precisely why he doesn’t show up beyond that single additional appearance, but it’s not giving too much away to acknowledge that Des rarely teams up with anyone twice, whether they’re family or not. Such is the life of the con-man: once you’ve pulled off a successful caper, you don’t want to revisit that location again anytime soon, lest the jig be up.
Imagine “Hustle” if Robert Vaughn’s character had the constant spotlight, or if Carl Reiner’s character in the “Ocean’s” movies got more screen time than George Clooney, and you’re on the right track to understanding what kind of series “Rough Diamond” is. Des is a character who’s destined to win every time, no matter what the odds or how much it looks like his opponent has gotten the upper hand. It’s a shame that Phil doesn’t stick around longer, as the master/disciple dynamic was an interesting one, but it’s always entertaining to watch Des find his next mark and work out how he’s going to win the day.
Special Features: Alas, Acorn Media has provided only text interviews with the show’s creators, which are interesting reading if you’re willing to take the time, but aren’t likely to win too many raves.