Last night's viewing - The Syndicate, BBC1; Horizon: Global Weirding, BBC2

 

What are the odds, eh? On one night, financial desperation persuades you to rob your own workplace, leaving a much-loved manager in intensive care, and then just hours later, you learn that you've scooped a massive win on the lottery and all that guilt and anxiety could have been avoided. Bit of a stretch? Then again, the odds on somebody winning the lottery are very good, indeed. It happens once a week, give or take a rollover now and then. So perhaps we can give Kay Mellor the long-shot coincidence that provides the stay cable for her new drama series, The Syndicate, one of those voguish ensemble affairs in which each episode concentrates on a particular character. You can barely hold your head up as a commissioning editor these days if you haven't got one in the schedules somewhere, and you're quids in if it also taps into cash-strapped Britain.

Stuart needs money badly. He's first seen at home, credit problems having forced him and his wife Amy to move back in with Stuart's mother. The Jeremy Kyle Show is playing on the television and offering a model of calm and rational debate by contrast with the screaming match going on between Amy and her mother-in-law. And when he gets to work his day gets worse, with the revelation that the supermarket where he works has been bought up by a larger chain and he may not have his job for long. Stuart isn't the only one who's desperate either. Bob, the avuncular manager, is on chemo and heaving into the staff toilet, single mother Leanne is getting pleading requests to go to Disneyland from her young daughter and Jamie (Stuart's feckless brother) is nursing a bad cocaine habit. Only Denise is relatively cheerful, but that's because Denise hasn't yet noticed the open look of loathing her husband is giving her.

"Nuffink can go wrong," says Jamie, as he proposes an inside job that will solve Stuart's problems, but of course sumfink always does. So, as the syndicate members absorb the news of their £18m win, Stuart and his brother are also dealing with the terrifyingly dour DCI Newall. And as popular drama goes, it isn't bad, that dual plot-line trapping the characters in an intractable spot. What prevents it from being more than popular drama is that most of Mellor's energies appear to go into the further contrivance of plot, rather than greater detail of character. The lines have a directness that subtitle the paradoxes of sudden fortune, as when Jamie exultantly tells Stuart to stop worrying about the police investigation: "We're millionaires! Nobody can touch us now." You feel too that the characters behave in ways that will make the plot run smoothly, rather than in ways that are entirely plausible. Leanne, for example, clearly has some urgent reason for not wanting to be found by the father of her child, and yet she doesn't simply refuse to take part in the press call for the big win, which pretty much guarantees that he'll be turning up on the doorstep in time for her solo.

Horizon: Global Weirding was about the lottery of the weather, a dynamic system in which the odds seem to be getting harder to calculate with every passing year. Global warming appears to have triggered an instability in fluid mechanics of the atmosphere, leading to a rash of extremes. In Texas, for example, an unprecedented drought was preceded by record-breaking rainfall, and it seems likely that other destructive maxima are coming our way. "The dice are now being loaded," said a climate scientist encouragingly, warning that our chances of a bad throw had increased considerably. To ease your mind, the producers accompanied the film with an almost unbroken soundtrack of the kind of apocalyptic techno music that science fiction films use to tell you Something Really Bad Is Coming.

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific