Review: Diggstown 1×1 (Canada: CBC)

A good show that nevertheless fails to excite

Vinessa Antoine in Diggstown
Vinessa Antoine in Diggstown

In Canada: Wednesdays, 8/8.30NT, CBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Canada is regularly seen as a bastion of liberalism, for many good reasons, even if the shine is starting to come off Justin Trudeau’s halo right now. However, oddly enough, despite a great love of home-grown legal shows that goes all the way back to Street Legal and beyond, Canada’s not had a primetime show about a black female lawyer – until now.

Diggstown sees Being Erica‘s Vinessa Antoine taking on that mantle to become a high-flying corporate lawyer who switches over to legal aid work when her aunt commits suicide, following a malicious prosecution. She chooses instead to champion the poor and unrepresented whom the system otherwise disregards and leaves to suffer.

To a certain extent, that’s all there is to say about Diggstown. That’s the show – take it or leave it. Sure, we can talk about quality. It’s certainly leagues ahead of Street Legal, even the recent revival, in pretty much every department. Antoine is a strong lead, the Halifax setting is relatively novel for a TV show and there’s a good supporting cast that includes Natasha Henstridge (Species)as Antoine’s boss.

Similarly, despite Street Legal‘s claims to relevancy, Diggstown has far more interesting things to say than its stablemate does. Antoine is an inexperienced lawyer but has been picked up like a shot, so is she a diversity hire? Work colleague Stacey Farber (Saving Hope) certainly seems to think so and believes she’s being overlooked. But Antoine points out that Farber is a rich white girl so how many extra layers of privilege has she enjoyed already without realising? It at least leads to some interesting conversations.

While Diggstown deals principally with the local black community and its overlooked issues through Antoine’s personal life, the first episode gives Farber a white, working class man to minister to. He’s a former alcoholic who desperately wants to be a good dad, yet he seems to have been correctly arrested for a DUI. It’ll mean he loses his licence and thus his job as a lorry driver, but who cares about that, right?

Diggstown does, which opens up story possibilities that the average US legal show wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.

Natasha Henstridge
Natasha Henstridge in CBC’s Diggstown

Unmissable?

All of which makes Diggstown notionally a good show at least. The thing is, despite all its good qualities, there wasn’t really a point where I felt compelled to keep watching and I often had to spool back the episode after I found myself drifting. Sure, I have no real love for legal procedurals, but I can be moved from time to time by something like Goliath into watching more than a single episode.

Here, though, everything felt unquirky, if that’s a word. There was nothing to grab onto, no through-plot of note beyond Antoine dealing with her own backstory. I did like the attention to ‘the little people’, without the mawkishness of US TV, and that might keep me coming back, but nothing within the character set-up itself will.

At least, I think that’s the reason. But to be honest, I really can’t quite work out why Diggstown didn’t excite me more, given that there’s nothing really wrong with it, but quite a lot right with it. Maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did if you watch – and maybe you’ll be able to work out why.

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