There is a nice symmetry to the casting for Series 2 of The Syndicate. Siobhan Finneran, best known on screen as O’Brien in Downton Abbey, had her big break in the film Rita, Sue and Bob Too, penned by Andrea Dunbar. A couple of years ago, a docu-drama was made about Dunbar’s life, and Natalie Gavin, last seen in Series 1 of Prisoner’s Wives, played Dunbar. In The Syndicate, they play mother and daughter nurses who win a share of £72 million on the Euro Lottery. Also joining the cast is a strong contender for my favourite actress, the lovely Alison Steadman (and if you need me to tell you what she’s starred in, you need to stay in more!)
Series 1 was good, as you’d expect from a Kay Mellor penned drama, but lagged behind in dramatic output and gripping storylines in comparison to Prisoner’s Wives, which aired in the same weeks. The two are competing again, but early indications are that the stories in Series 2 might be a little less predictable. As a bonus for returning viewers, lovable Denise had a cameo as a lottery advisor. We learnt she is still volunteering at the dog’s home and is now engaged to the manager, which cast a warm glow over proceedings.
There seems to be more humour this time round. Best line of the night goes to the exchange when Becky (Natalie Gavin) fainted in the lobby of the hospital our new syndicate work in: ‘Shall I call an ambulance? What for, we’re here!’ There won’t be humour for Finneran’s character however; trapped in an abusive relationship she has resorted to drugging her husband. There are other moral dilemmas this series, Rose’s alcoholic hubby is growing marijuana, perhaps for medicinal purposes, and a former syndicate member is less than pleased to discover she is no longer entitled to a share of the riches.
Health looms large this series, Rose (Steadman) has a dodgy knee and Tom (Jimi Mistry) and his girlfriend have several failed IVF attempts behind them. Mellor has stated that she wanted to write about a group who would not automatically give up work if they had a big win, but it will be interesting to see what pressures the hospital will put them under now they are wealthy. To my mind, it would be a missed opportunity if NHS funding wasn’t explored, although this is a personality focussed drama so perhaps this wouldn’t fit. It is interesting that when asked what they’d do with the money, all of the characters plumped for houses, cars and holidays. None have suggested (yet) donating to health charities.
While the cast was none too shabby last time round, it is very strong this series. I was lukewarm before, but I reckon The Syndicate will raise it’s game this time round. I predict that Becky will find love, Mandy will leave her husband, the homegrown drugs will be discovered with devastating consequences and Tom will be tempted to buy a baby. Stay tuned (to the programme, and CustardTV), to find out if I’m right!