Show heart-warming but unreal

Last updated 05:00 10/01/2013

LIFE-CHANGING: Joanna Page, centre, and Lorraine Bruce, right, star as supermarket workers who win the lottery in The Syndicate.

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When it's not making your ears ring with the coarse shrieking or your whole body cringe with the inept and immature mentality of key characters, UKTV's new The Syndicate, Mondays, is insidiously warming your heart.

Which is a bit galling – but since it stars lovely Timothy Spall as a dying man, it's pointless to put up much resistance.

If you insisted on being cynical, this latest light drama from hit British TV writer Kay Mellor is a paeon to the utter randomness of lottery wins. Deservingness doesn't come into it. An ill-assorted but largely likeable group of low-income battlers, whose long-time grocery store employer is about to close, discovers in the nick of time that its syndicate has won several million pounds in the pools.

Ah, niiiice! Except not really because the nick wasn't quite timely enough. Just before the win, such was the desperation and idiocy of one of their number, Stuart, to get money that he and his even stupider colleague and brother, Jamie, staged a robbery of the store, during which Jamie knocked out Bob (Spall), the sweet-natured store manager, and left him in a life-threatening coma.

While Bob – already secretly ill with cancer – hovers between life and death, news of the lottery win breaks. Stuart needed money to move his pregnant wife and young son into their own home, away from his screeching shrew of a mother. Now he has it – but it's ashes in his mouth.

He and Jamie front up to enjoy the hoopla of their new fortune with the guilty knowledge of what they've done. Worse, it turns out Stuart is several weeks behind paying his share of the syndicate, so the group has to vote to decide whether he deserves a share or not.

And whip out the hankies, because it couldn't shake out any other way than that dear old Bob awakes from his coma in time to make the casting vote.

It's going to be a rather predictable emotional seesaw as the police inevitably trace the burglary and assault back to the brothers, while the other characters find out the varying degrees to which money might buy happiness.

Bob can't buy back his health, cashier Denise may or may not be able to buy back her absconding layabout husband and solo mum Leanne probably needs more than bling-power to afford her safety from a shameful and frightening past.

As always, Mellor manipulates the viewer artfully with the artless.

Her characters are mostly hapless, but have hearts that generally make up for their impulsiveness and foolish misperceptions of life. Which is, sadly, where TV differs from real life. That, and lottery wins.

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- The Dominion Post


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