ABC’s “Diamonds”: Review and Thoughts

Well, I made it through all four hours of the “Diamonds” miniseries on ABC. Once it was scheduled on Memorial Day weekend, the industry stopped worrying about it, and indeed, this site calls its Tuesday ratings “pathetic.” (Sunday’s weren’t much better.) It didn’t seem to get much promotion, given I was only able to find five or six reviews of it on the whole darn Internet.

But before we get too smug about how badly this show tanked, remember that the first part on Sunday was watched by four million Americans – and if just one percent of them decide not to buy diamonds because of it …. Well this industry needs all the customers it can get.

That said, most of the show is so over-the-top I can’t see consumers taking it seriously. It is always unfortunate when shows depict fictionalized versions of real events, like the Sierra Leone civil war, without acknowledging those events are in the past. (Sierra Leone would probably appreciate that as well.) The movie’s most effective moments were its last scenes – in fact, I would argue some of its last bits were more powerful than anything in “Blood Diamond.” Though apparently not many people made it that far.

I’ll talk a bit more about its potential impact in a bit, but first, my somewhat snarky review/summary:

The show is mostly about the Denmont Corporation, which the movie portrays as the world’s most evil corporation, whose main business seems to be killing people, with diamonds as kind of a sideline. In fact, Denmont is so thoroughly evil that even their feints towards charity only illustrate their complete and utter horrible-ness.

The best part of the movie is James Purefoy, who is quite fun to watch as Lucas Denmont, the heir to the company fortune whose hobbies include ordering hits on employees of rival diamond companies, bedding the supermodel “face of the Denmont retail chain,” and battling his father for control of Denmont. Lucas seems to hate the old man because he is only somewhat rotten, as opposed to completely rotten like Lucas. The old man, meanwhile, has a soft spot for a yamulked diamond dealer named “Moshe” (no last name, as far as I can tell), who spends the entire film standing around looking Jewish.

The other main plot involves an annoying Senator (Judy Davis), who is screaming her way through Africa, trying to discover who murdered her daughter in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Here’s a spoiler: The culprit is a corporation, and its name begins with a “D.”) There is also a child soldier on the run in Sierra Leone, and a spunky female geologist trying to fit in with a group of hard-bitten miners in the Canadian artic. While the Canadian scenes lightened the mood, it’s hard to be enthralled by any sequence where the location of indicator minerals is a major plot point. (Seriously. That’s what the plot hinges on. Indicator minerals.)

All in all, while I am hardly the target audience for sudsy four hour miniseries, I found this all pretty boring, with barely a surprising moment in all four hours. And given that the ratings declined as the show went on, I’m not the only viewer who felt that way.

One interesting point: The show includes a brief glimpse of “realdiamondfacts.org,” the anti-diamond site which seems to be the screenwriter’s main research source. However, that site can’t take advantage of the publicity as it seems to be down. (A little googling found it still here.) The Kimberley Process is mentioned briefly, and not really explained.

Regardless of the movie’s quality, I do believe that films and TV shows like this have a cumulative impact. Back when “Blood Diamond”  came out, some of the industry’s more vociferous critics, like the founder of realdiamondfacts, argued that the “industry can look after itself.” But that was before the financial crisis, and the diamond market’s big drop in demand – one that has been exacerbated, I believe, by all the negative publicity. Now, with Botswana badly battered, and some 70 or so out of work Indian diamond polishers having committed suicide, it’s fair to ask the people involved in these things to consider the very serious real-world impact they have.

I also found it ironic that quite a few advertisers on the show were cell phone companies, since the mineral coltan, found in cell phones, is right this moment fueling unrest in the Congo. But that’s for their industry to deal with.

As for ours, and the responsibility we bear: If anything good came out of the “Blood Diamond” movie, it provided a boost for serious reform efforts like the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Diamond Development Initiative and Fair Trade Diamonds. With the financial crisis, those efforts have not been on the top of people’s minds, but perhaps this movie will remind us that there are people out there with serious concerns about the diamond industry – for good reason – and we have a lot of work to do to get back in their good graces. This miniseries may have been silly, but we have to take the issues behind it seriously.

If you missed the movie, you can order it on dvd from Amazon UK here. And if any of you saw it, I’d be interested in your thoughts on it or anything I’ve said here.

JCK News Director