Seven is heading into a run of new British drama, which is always good news.
First cab off the rank is the six part series Cleaning Up, starring Sheridan Smith who has been so memorable in dramas such as Mrs. Biggs, Cilla and Black Work.
There’s no suggestion that Mark Marlow’s script is based on any actual characters but it feels like it could be. With Smith as his central character, Sam, he collides two worlds: a steely corporate London, and a working class single mother, struggling to keep it all together.
By night Sam cleans office towers and by day she is mother of two young daughters. But her estranged husband Dave (Matthew McNulty), who had an affair behind her back, wants custody of the girls, citing Sam’s online gambling addiction and the debts she has accrued.
Hoping for a windfall to answer her prayers, Sam plays casinos on her mobile phone at every opportunity, which is all too tragic for words. Her teen daughter Alice is also resentful when Sam rents out her bedroom to a young lodger. Not much is going right.
But Sam proves resourceful when she stumbles upon a late night office worker orchestrating an insider trading deal. Educating herself quick smart (even reading Investing in Shares for Dummies) she decides to apply her betting skills to the stock market, and ropes in colleague Jess (Jade Anouka) along the way.
Even in the first episode it’s clear these two are getting in way over their heads.
Insider Trading as a drama pitch must be a tough sell (no pun intended) and while the worlds here are polar opposites, it is only because of Sheridan Smith that this works. The plotting is somewhat sluggish but you forgive it due to her buoyant commitment.
London is filmed to look completely contemporary with shiny towers and clean lines. There’s not an Elizabethan building in sight. Yet the cold look helps create sympathy for the beating heart of a mum with the odds stacked against her.
Jade Anouka serves as a grounded colleague while The supporting cBig Love‘s Branka Katić is another work mate, although she does nothing much in the opening chapter.
The plot touches on the extreme, and while Cleaning Up may not be the strongest upcoming miniseries, Sheridan Smith lets it ride on black.
Cleaning Up airs 8:30pm Friday on Seven.