Any fan of British television knows Sir David Jason. He’s grown up on the TV from a frustrated grocer’s assistant with dreams of a bigger world in Open All Hours to his most famous character, Del-Boy Trotter, a Cockney criminal trying to make ends meet for his family in Only Fools and Horses to an older, tough but tender police detective in Touch of Frost. He continues to age gracefully as a criminal mastermind and thief named Des in the new box set available from Acorn Media titled Rough Diamond.
Jason’s character, accompanied by various guest stars, including Simon Williams, Don Warrington, and Jenny Agutter, stars in four episodes totaling just under 300 minutes. Included on the DVDs are text interviews with the cast and cast filmographies. These are always helpful when playing my favorite game of “name what other show you’ve seen that guy on”, which happens a lot with British television.
Of the four, the first episode titled “Rough Diamond” is the best. It was the pilot episode for the series that was originally called “Diamond Geezer” over the pond. We find our boy Des, a stuttering simpleton, locked up in jail. He’s a fully trusted inmate charged with delivering tea to everyone, including the alpha dog of the prison, Benny Fellows (Gary Whelan). It’s a front though, a plan Des has spent three long years working on for his one last heist. Just before putting his plan into action, fate throws a wrench in the works in the shape of Phil Perkins (Stephen Wight), a young tearaway hooligan sent to prison for stealing cans of lager. He is also Des’ long lost son. Phil doesn’t know Des is his dad but can see there is something oddly not right about the tea boy and tries to figure out what it is while also trying to prove he’s a tough guy to Benny.
Des has to adapt his plan to keep his son from getting killed. It keeps getting further adjusted every time he lets the lad into his true identity a little more. There are so many twists to the episode, all of them good and surprising, that I really can’t tell more without ruining it for you, so I won’t. Let’s just say that this episode alone is worth the price of admission.
As I watched the other episodes – I enjoyed them all, by the way – I couldn’t help but wonder if they were a rushed afterthought. I remember thinking that perhaps the original episode was written as more of a standalone TV movie. The producers, surprised to find the episode in the top five most watched shows of the year, decided to ride the horse a bit longer. I enjoyed the second episode, “A Royal Affair” and the fourth, “Old School Lies” the best while finding the third, “Old Gold”, while well done, the least engaging.
Having said that, the show is definitely a great vehicle for Sir David Jason. He gives Des a touch of sly wit and charm that makes the character so endearing. He appears to relish all the disguises and characters he gets to play here and it really shows off his ability and range.
The twists and turns will keep you guessing, David Jason will keep you engaged, and you will truly enjoy watching Rough Diamond.