The Syndicate, TV review: Manages to be that very worst of things - dull

Thank goodness Lord and Lady Hazelwood are a delight to watch

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The Independent Culture

Three series in and Kay Mellor’s ‘Working Class People Who Win the Lotto Do the Darndest Things’ is still pulling in over 5 million viewers on a Tuesday night, which is either a damning assessment of Tuesday evening scheduling or of British TV viewers. Despite being filled to the brim with plot points, The Syndicate manages to be that very worst of things. Dull.

It’s also wholly unbelievable. This is a world in which nurses have enough time to make cups of tea for patients, the police are all identikit no-nonsense grumps (or halfwits incapable of doing their job) and a man with Asperger’s can go from not knowing how to turn a computer on to becoming an expert hacker in the space of a few days. ‘I don’t know how I know, I just do’ says Godfrey (Lenny Henry). Of course he does! He has Asperger’s! That’s what they’re like! I’ve seen Rain Man!

Lenny Henry is certainly one of the series’ brighter points. While his sweet gardener Godfrey – one of the Lotto winning syndicate - might be a little on the two-dimensional side at times (which is one dimension more than several of the other characters), this is a performance with depth and sensitivity. Henry is such a natural actor these days that his years of cheeky chappy comedy seem like something of a mirage. He is no longer the comic relief.

Kay Mellor's drama is about a group of Yorkshire lottery winners

To the police’s delight, Godfrey takes to hacking and coding like a duck to water (they seem entirely baffled by it) and discovers that the ransom that he paid went into an account under the name of ‘A. Stevenson.’ Has the missing Amy (Daisy Head) pocketed her own ransom? Or has dad Andy (Kieran O’Brien) got more to do with this than it seems?

The fretting father has probably got enough on his plate as it is, seeing as he’s now prime suspect in the shooting of Amy’s boyfriend Nick Harrison (Rob Kendrick), who was himself the prime suspect in Amy’s disappearance. Personally, I’m delighted someone has stuck a bullet through poor Nick, as it means we will have no more of the tedious interview scenes between the fairground worker and DI Lyn Baker. More heart goes out to Polly Walker, condemned to lines plucked straight from The Gritty Northern Detective’s Handbook. Never has police work been so overwrought.

Thank goodness then for Anthony Andrews and Alice Krige as the Lord and Lady Hazelwood, owners of the grand Hazelwood Manor, where our celebrating syndicate work. The estate is crumbling, the staff are deserting, their marriage is a sham, and the pair ensure it’s never less than a delight to watch. They are the fading aristocracy, arguing over what should happen to the family silver, constantly trying to outmanoeuvre the other. Would it be too late to ditch the travails of the staff downstairs and simply watch these two scrap out the divorce? Now, that would not be dull.