Gold Digger is the story of a chance meeting between Julia and Ben at a museum. Julia (Julia Ormond) has just turned 60 and when her three children fail to turn up for her birthday, she takes a trip to the museum that she had worked in years earlier. Whilst there she has the first of many cringe-inducing encounters with Ben (Ben Barnes), a mysterious stranger who is around 30 years her junior.
The series, from Marnie Dickens, is riddled with problems from the start. Julia Ormond and Ben Barnes (the preposed Gold Digger of the title) have no chemistry whatsoever meaning you struggle to care about them as a genuine couple. The dialogue is predictable and cliched, bordering on the offensive, but perhaps, as has been pointed out on Twitter, one of the more irritating aspects of the show is that Julia Ormond at 54 doesn’t look like a woman celebrating her 60th birthday.
The show is so desperate for its audience to believe that Ben is a villain out to fleece poor Julia that at one point, during their quick, second ‘date’ the camera zeros in on the price of a watch she buys him. The issue here is that the characters at the centre, and for that matter, those surrounding them are either incredibly irritating or relentlessly dull. If we don’t care for Julia it’s hard to care if she’s been taken advantage of or not.
We’re also introduced to Julia’s to three grown-up children. Each as self-centred and irritating as the last. Arguably the best, but most predictable scene in this opening episode sees the family meet Ben. Julia announces over a belated birthday meal that she has some news for them. This is followed by the predictable quip, “You’re not dying are you?”
“No, I’ve met someone.” When Ben arrives at the table eldest son Patrick (Sebastian Armesto) mistakes him as their waiter (cliche tick) and the ‘drama’ rolls on.
I’ve been discouraging of a lot of the BBC’s drama output this year but Gold Digger might be the worst in recent memory. It’s devoid of humour, the characters come across spoilt and the lead ‘mystery’ isn’t the slightest bit interesting. It’s telling that the BBC has put all six episodes up on the iPlayer perhaps signalling that they know people won’t be back next Tuesday for the second episode.
It’s a mess from the off and perhaps I’m missing the point and it’s supposed to be a trashy romp, but I’m not sold. The BBC can do a trashy romp well. Doctor Foster perhaps being the best example or the Vicky McClure three-parter The Replacement but this lacks any of the sizzle or sense of fun that both of those had. It’s a mess.
Gold Digger is available now on the iPlayer or on Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC One.