Cleaning Up, STV

What’s the difference between gambling at roulette on your smart phone and using the high-end dealing platform provided by your City employer to bet on variations in the price of futures, currencies, stocks and shares? Nothing and everything is the answer served up in this new six-part drama. It just depends on whether you work as a trader or a cleaner.

Episode one threw harassed, debt-laden, gambling-addicted single mother-of-two Sam (Sheridan Smith) a monetary life-line in the form of an insider dealing tip overheard by her at the Canary Wharf office where she emptied bins and scrubbed toilets on a zero hours contract. Did she act on the iffy intel? She did. Her modest initial winnings weren’t enough to pay off menacing debt collector Warren (Neil Maskell), but we can assume there’s more to come in the way of stock market winnings as her kitty and her courage increase. “Why should these greedy bastards be the ones to cut corners and get rich and we’re the ones that get shafted?” she asked fellow cleaner and co-conspirator Jess (Jade Anouka) over a pint of lager in a pub that was defiantly not of the gastro- or City wine bar sort. And you had to admit that she had a point.

Writer Mark Marlow made sure we knew Sam was pretty good at maths in a scene where she tutored teenage daughter Alice in the use of pi, and then he put her into a library where she asked a slightly sniffy librarian for books about finance. So, we can assume she now knows her yield from her dividend and a bull market from the other sort. Sorted. Equally contrived feeling was a scene where Sam decided to rent out the room of her eldest daughter Alice (Kristy Philipps) to Glynn (Robert Emms), a geeky PhD. student who just happened to be a whizz with all things mechanical and electrical – very handy when you’re trying to bug an office with hooky audio equipment purchased on eBay which only has instructions in Chinese.

Of course, Sam remains addicted to gambling, she has just turned to a slightly more socially acceptable form of it. And estranged husband Dave (Matthew McNulty) is still using her sickness to try to take her girls away from her. In other words, she’s a classic heroine of the Ken Loach/Mike Leigh variety only in a drama which is almost Spielbergian in its crushing lack of subtlety. Then again it’s January and it’s dark – maybe spelling things out in six-foot high letters of primary colours is appropriate to the season. And Sheridan Smith is very good, as always.