Review: BBC lottery drama The Syndicate doesn't hit the jackpot

It’s been six years since the last series of the Kay Mellor comedy-drama The Syndicate (BBC1, Tues, 9pm), but it’s not been worth the wait.

By Phil Cunnington
Friday, 2nd April 2021, 6:00 pm

We first encounter our apparent Lottery winners as they arrive in Monaco, seemingly never having seen beach or sea before, gasping at “crystal clear water” as if they’ve never been on a package holiday to Faliraki and underlining their northern credentials by crying: “It’s not like Scarborough, is it?”

A flashback to three days earlier rapidly reveals that the five members of the syndicate – who all work at a down-at-heel dog kennels – each have their own particular problem: a child custody battle; a sickly nana; an unplanned pregnancy; an online gambling addiction.

They are all somehow defined by this problem, and are stock salt-of-the-earth, hard scrabble northerners, all ‘in’t’ and ‘mebbe’, only short of a flat cap or a whippet.

Gaynor Faye and Neil Morrissey starred in the BBC drama The Syndicate. Picture courtesy BBC/Rollem Productions

The central character, our slots slave Keeley, is the very picture of entitled youth – feckless, selfish, manipulative and frankly not very nice – but you know she is supposed to warm our hearts because she’s nice to her Downs syndrome brother.

The group’s kennels, meanwhile, is about to be taken over and turned into a ‘boutique dog hotel’, leaving them on zero hours contracts – cue some fairly clumsy exposition about what zero hours contracts are and why they are bad.

By the time Neil Morrissey’s villainous postmaster steals the jackpot winning ticket, you’re losing patience with it, which eventually runs out when, having faked his own death, Morrissey’s Frank actually answers the phone to Keeley.

If The Syndicate was a lottery win, it would be four numbers and £100 – you’d just be left dreaming of how good it would be if you hit the jackpot.

Unforgotten (ITV, Mon, 9pm) finished this week and was a beautiful, satisfying, tear-jerking ending to a series that has been a triumph. I urge you to catch up with it, if you haven’t already.

Even if you’re not a football fan, you might have enjoyed Finding Jack Charlton (BBC2 Mon, 9pm), an absorbing portrait of a man who was more complicated than his public persona would suggest.

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