Bearing in mind just how much ITV1 had trailed the new Sheridan Smith drama Cleaning Up, over the festive period, expectations were therefore pretty high as episode one aired.
A bit like my attitude towards the much over hyped Christmas pudding sauce, this first instalment was just alright. To carry on with the sauce analogy, Cleaning Up was not as glorious as say custard is, but it was better than having no sauce at all.
It was just OK, and to be just OK in TV land means something isn’t a million miles away from being a flop. It was easy watching stuff without ever being very gripping. I found myself though bored with it on occasions. Towards the end, the plot was a tad on the corny side too. This meant that I struggled to maintain my suspension-of-disbelief throughout the whole episode.
The main character is Sam(Sheridan Smith), a working class mother of two girls. Sam is an office cleaner in the financial district of Canary Wharf. Pretty soon it became very apparent that she had a severe gambling addiction. Debts had arisen as a result and alarmingly for her, a loan shark now wanted his money back. On top of this, Sam’s estranged husband Dave(Matthew McNulty), is threatening to take their kids from her. As desperate goes, Sam is very desperate for a way out of her troubles.
Sam’s good friend and fellow office cleaner is Jess(Jade Anouka). Jess does not gamble but is struggling for money for other reasons. For instance, she revealed to Sam how the rent at her mum’s shop had been put up by the landlord. Therefore, Jess also needs a drastic way out of her bleak financial situation.
The most implausible bit of the narrative came then when Sam suddenly turned herself into the new James Bond. She just happened to overhear one of the stockbrokers called Blake(Ben Bailey Smith), doing some insider trading and so quickly twigged that Jess and her could make some quick money out of this. Before we knew it, Sam was planting a listening device in the ceiling of his office.
This sudden turnaround in Sam, from poverty stricken victim to being an expert about insider trading, was one creative leap too far for me. It was watchable without being terrible, but this aspect was corny and unbelievable.
Acting wise, all the cast did a really good job with the material that they were given. Sheridan Smith, remains one of the brightest female acting talents in this country. Given her recent break from acting, it was good to see her back in a prime time drama once again. Matthew McNulty, as Sam’s estranged husband Dave, deserves a special mention too. He delivered the most believable performance here.
Even though this first episode ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, it is questionable whether it deserves a second chance next week. Nothing about it really hooked me in. It did not end with me really wanting to see anymore. A bit of January escapism it may well be, however I want more from ITV1’s prime time dramas than just simply being OK! 3/5.