Three series in for the hit drama The Syndicate, and it’s still raking in 5 million viewers every Tuesday night.
What’s truly impressive is that the BBC1 show continues to hit high numbers regardless of the criticism. So we decided to see what all the fuss was about and binge-watched the latest season.
The Syndicate's premise is simple yet brimming with potential. It’s about a group of people who form a lottery syndicate and what happens when they hit the jackpot. While there have been two series before this one, you don’t need to necessary watch either of them to understand the story.
Each season revolves around a different set of characters in different settings. The show's creator Kay Mellor wrote all the episodes. The first series revolved around supermarket employees, while the second focused on workers in a public hospital.
The latest series sets the action in a shoddy and dilapidated manor house where the staff form their own syndicate. Digital Spy relayed that it was filmed in Yorkshire, which acts as the perfect countryside setting. The fictional estate is owned by Lord Hazelwood (Anthony Andrews) and his family, and its story is almost like a contemporary antithesis of Downton Abbey.
What makes this version fun in a delightfully trashy way is the interaction between Lord and Lady Hazelwood (Alice Krige). They’re stuck in a sham marriage and what makes things worse is their staff begin to leave because the family are short of money. Lord Hazelwood is recovering from a stroke and owes around £6.5 million, yet he maintains his gentlemanly demeanour throughout. The story has a great way of making the viewer feel sorry for the once very rich family. The characters are also very believable and relatable, which really helps the narrative.
The BBC interviewed Elizabeth Berrington who played a maid, and she mentioned that the characters resonated with her because they looked and felt real. Prior to winning the lottery, the show does a tremendous job of making these working class characters relatable.
The depiction of emotional stress and financial pressure is pretty much spot on. Who wouldn’t want to have a change of fortune to get rid of all their problems? Perhaps this is what also engages the viewers. In reality, it could happen to anyone who buys a lottery ticket. Millions of people play the lottery each week, and the prize money can set someone or a whole family up for the rest of their lives. For instance, the popular EuroMillions draw, Lottoland notes has a minimum jackpot of £15 million. Due to the number of people who play it every week, it can reach up to £190 million. It is this fantastical narrative that the show explores in great detail, and so expertly.
It provides viewers a vehicle in which they can daydream. Sharing that feeling of winning makes the show work the way it does, and make it such a hot topic.
It doesn’t matter how outlandish the plot gets, so long as the viewers see the joy on these people’s faces when they hit the jackpot. It resonates with your average Joe, proving us a glimmer of hope amidst the struggles of daily life. For many it’s a guilty pleasure, one in which has gained more social media buzz than most television shows in the last decade. It’s a feel good story that, well, makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And there’s worse feelings, right?