Big Deal

1984 | United Kingdom

Life is a gamble and that’s true in more ways than one for Robbie Box in this BBC series created and written by Geoff McQueen and starring Ray Brooks and Sharon Duce.

McQueen had already written for shows such as The Gentle Touch and Boon and the Jim Davidson sitcom Up the Elephant and Round the Castle.  After the success of this series, he was a main writer for The Bill and created the series Stay Lucky and Give Us a Break, but sadly died in 1994 aged just 46.

Ray Brooks had been a star since the 1960s with appearances in Coronation Street and Cathy Come Home on television. In the movies he’d starred in The Knack….and how to Get It and the Doctor Who movie Daleks…Invasion Earth 2150 AD. The 1970s hadn’t been so kind to him with his most memorable appearances being in Carry on Abroad and as the narrator of the Mr Benn series so Big Deal was for him, the big comeback.

His long-suffering on-off girlfriend is played by Sharon Duce, though ‘Deuce’ would have been more appropriate for this series. She’d enjoyed great success in the theatre. Once this series ended, Brooks and Duce appeared together again in the series Growing Pains.

Box is one of those gamblers who thinks he’s clever but as the title song sang by Bobby G from Bucks Fizz, says he’s always looking for that one big deal. Most gamblers do and of course it doesn’t always go well, and the losses come along that cause more hassle between him and his girlfriend Jan Oliver who emigrates to Australia at one point in the series.

You remember those moments in the old Norman Wisdom films when he’s about to do something stupid and you just beg him not too. Well it’s the same here as the viewers know that disaster is waiting just around the corner for Robbie, but he still makes that bet. Sometimes it works out for him, but many other times just leave him broke with his relationships in tatters.

The cast also includes Pamela Cundell as Robbie’s mother, she’s best known as Mrs Fox in Dad’s Army. Lisa Geoghan plays Jan’s daughter Debby and would go onto appear in The Bill.

Some of the best scenes are set in the bookies as Robbie does his best to get some wins and get one over the bookmaker with friends including Kenneth Waller, best known for his roles in Bread and Are You Being Served.

Other scenes are set in those back rooms where the big money poker games take place, full of shady characters and moments of joy and heartbreak for Robbie and if the other gamblers don’t get him, the taxman might.

There were three highly enjoyable series made between 1984 and 1986 with a total of 30 episodes but only the first series has been released on DVD. It’s a series that is well worth a repeat showing with Brooks putting in one of the performances of his career.

Published on April 13th, 2019. Written by Steve Ashfield for Television Heaven.

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