Hidden drama gem: ‘The Gambling Man’

Based on the book written by Catherine Cookson in 1975, this ITV drama first broadcast in 1995 starring Robson Green has gone under the radar for many but is well worth your time to watch.

Rory Connor is a Tyneside rent collector who has a hobby for playing high stakes poker games. Throughout this brilliant drama, Connor is accompanied by his love interest Janie Waggett, played by Stephanie Putson, who is there by his side throughout all his trials and tribulations.

Unfortunately, Rory gets involved with the wrong crowd and finds himself slipping further and further into the dark world of gambling, where the stakes only get higher and higher. A real time machine when you consider how the seedy gambling underworld is now overtaken by a multitude of online casinos.

What Sets This Drama Apart

What sets Rory (Green) apart from the sophisticated casino types you see in most movies and tv shows is that he is reckless. He may think that he knows what he is doing on the poker table, but in actuality, he is being led astray. His reckless nature leed him to lose a lot of his hard-earned money. As mentioned above, Rory gets involved with some very sketchy individuals in the show, and their dark and nefarious ways have corrupted Rory.

As a character, Rory is tough to feel any affinity for, in his job as a rent collector he is about as well-liked as bailiffs and traffic wardens. Rory always gets dirty looks when tenants open the door to him. However, he does try and make this arduous task a little easier on the people he is collecting the money from and makes the process as quick and painless as possible. Rory not only lands himself in deep water through his gambling habit though he makes those closest to him suffer as well.

Rory lands one of his closest friends and work colleague’s in hot water when money goes missing in the office where the two of them work. This leads to his friends being sent prison for a crime Rory committed.

Janie also suffers thanks to Rory’s gambling habit. Rory continually lies to her about the extent of his gambling habit and Rory is also one for throwing a typical teenager style tantrum and strop on occasion. There is even a scene where you start to warm to the character when the couple are sharing a romantic moment, but Rory ruins it by getting all panicky and guilt-ridden for some reason.

Swings and Roundabouts

There are points in the programme when you think life is starting to brighten up for Rory, but the good times never last long. Rory gets promoted to manager in the company he is at, but then he is beaten up by the thugs of someone he owes money to. Also, it dawns on his wife that Rory was the one who stole the money and got his close friend locked up, so she decides to leave Rory and move to France. However, that plan doesn’t last long as Janie drowns on the way.

Rory mourns the loss of his wife for about a year but then moves on to the daughter of his now-deceased boss, Charlotte, who took over the business following her father’s passing. Charlotte keeps being referred to as the world’s most ugly woman, but we can’t tell if this is an ironic joke or they genuinely thought this, but we digress. Rory is impressed by Charlotte’s business acumen and intelligence. Charlotte suggests that the two of them get married, and it wouldn’t just be for business reasons. Apparently, the two of them were the talk of the town anyway, and it would just make sense to get married.

Rory then comes clean to his new boss that he stole the money his friend got sent to prison for, but she says that she already knew about it and the proposal of marriage is still there, and he dutifully accepts. Rory’s family though are not happy about the arrangement and try to stop him, but Rory marries Charlotte despite his family’s concerns.

It’s marrying Charlotte that does Rory a world of good. He does better in his work and is a good brother and husband. He falls in love with Charlotte, which is good considering they are married. He has even put the brakes on his gambling habit, and then everything seems to be looking up for him until the thugs from before decided to burn his brother’s boat down at the docks.

Rory does go into save his brother, and well you will have to watch the programme on ITV to see whether our troubled protagonist can make it out alive.