Gambling addiction is a terrible thing. It destroys lives, ruins relationships and is the cause of a whole lot of crime.
So what better subject for a comedy drama, hey? That, at least, was the thinking behind Big Deal, which starred Ray Brooks (Cathy Come Home, Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD, Mr Benn, King Rollo) as poker addict Robby Box and Sharon Duce (99-1, Drowning Not Waving, Natural Lies) as his long-suffering girlfriend. Created by Geoff McQueen (Give Us A Break, Stay Lucky, The Bill), the show followed Box from poker game to poker game, in between which he did whatever he could to make ends meet so that he could play poker – although he’d pretty much gamble on anything. If things went badly, he’d bounce back and if things went well… well, that didn’t last for long, despite his best intentions. All the while, he’d be promising Duce that he’d quit just as soon as he’d made enough money, something that usually resulted in a break up followed by reconciliation.
The show lasted for three series, during which Box won and lost a club (in a card game) and Duce and family left for Australia, only to come back again. Over time, it built up a large supporting cast of gamblers down at the betting shop, and its theme tune, by Bobby Gubby of Bucks Fizz, hit number one, making it probably the thing most people remember about the show:
Despite its popularity at the time and a repeat on UK Gold, it’s faded into obscurity and only the first series has been released on DVD. But there are a couple of clips on YouTube for you to enjoy. The first should give you an idea of what the constant gambling was like.
Trivia lovers should note that Brooks and Duce were later reunited on the BBC’s Growing Pains (1992), a continuation of a BBC radio series they’d also starred in, where they played middle aged foster parents.