Gold Digger, BBC One
- Brian Donaldson
- 7 November 2019
A less than subtle psycho-drama about a family at war with a possible conman in their midst
In a time when older actresses are fighting for better and juicier roles, Gold Digger's premise initially seems to offer a pot of the stuff for the ever reliable Julia Ormond. Sadly, despite her finest efforts, this former star of everything from the original TV series of Traffik to Peter Greenaway's gruesome Baby of Macon, and who played the woman who might eventually have tamed Roger Sterling in Mad Men can't quite save this less than subtle Dear John-like six-part psycho-drama.
Julia Day wakes up on her 60th birthday feeling as though a weight has dropped from her shoulders as her life carries on without Ted (Alex Jennings), her husband of over three decades who left her for another woman. Before she meets up with her three grown-up children to mark the event, Julia finds herself becoming embroiled in an unlikely tryst with hotshot copywriter Benjamin (Ben Barnes). Except, is he really quite what he seems?
Her elder son Patrick (Sebastian Armesto) is immediately suspicious of Benjamin's motives (no doubt triggered by the fact that they're roughly the same age), while daughter Della (Jemima Rooper) is a struggling stand-up comedian who writes 'new material' at the top of a blank page when she's thinking of, well, some new material. Largely useless youngest sibling Leo (Archie Renaux) seems to be as much of a freeloader as they all suspect Benjamin to be.
The BBC has always been adept at throwing psychological dramas at us just as winter has come, but here the writing and acting is just too loaded with an affected heft that it's hard to care too much about the fate of these individuals. Heavy on the teasing, blink-and-you'll-miss-them flashbacks which suggest a past of violence and mayhem in the Day household, one overwrought sequence follows another. The performances often plunge into the farcically unsubtle whenever Benjamin and Julia's offspring are in the same room, Barnes and Armesto especially indulging in cheek-sucking competitions that veer towards a duel to see who can pout to the death.
If you're continuing to care after the first couple of episodes, it might be fun to stick with it just to see what all these blurry memories of familial fear, loathing and blood-soaked hands might mean. The rest of us might turn to something that lays it on just a little less thickly.
Episodes watched: 2 of 6
Gold Digger starts on BBC One, Tuesday 12 November, 9pm.