CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews ITV’s new drama Cleaning Up

Lawks! Chirpy chancer Sheridan is straight out of an Ealing caper: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews ITV’s new drama Cleaning Up

Cleaning up

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British cinema used to excel at fast-moving tales of pluck, luck and sheer brass neck. Ordinary folk ran rings round officials and made a packet selling dodgy scotch or inventing scien-tific marvels.

These lightweight dramas were known as Ealing Comedies, though they were just as likely to come from studios such as Elstree or Pinewood. Alec Guinness, Margaret Rutherford, Joan Greenwood, Alastair Sim, Peter Sellers, Stanley Holloway and a host more made audiences cheer by sending up the authorities.

We’ve long since lost the knack of these innocent romps. But Sheridan Smith made a brave stab at reviving the genre in Cleaning Up (ITV), as an office charwoman who eavesdrops on a dodgy stockbroker and uses the information to make a killing in shares.

If this sounds a dated idea, it is. The same plot was used in 1963 for the Boulting Brothers’ comedy Ladies Who Do, with Peggy Mount as the enterprising cleaner and Robert Morley as the businessman getting his comeuppance.

In Cleaning Up (ITV) Sheridan Smith plays an office charwoman who eavesdrops on a dodgy stockbroker and uses the information to make a killing in shares

Here I must confess I owe this nugget to Mail reader and film buff Trevor Collins of Grimsby, who emailed to point it out. We all love a bit of insider info, after all.

Sheridan played Sam the cleaner with a saucy twinkle. After a succession of heavy dramas such as Care and The Moorside, she was relishing an opportunity to play a chancer — late for work, lying to her children’s teachers, parking on double yellow lines and generally cutting corners. If Sam saw a rule, she broke it.

She’s sure to come a cropper in the course of this six-part tale. With debts amounting to tens of thousands, she’s chasing her losses by gambling on her smartphone — so addicted she even plays when she’s driving. When, distracted by the electronic roulette wheel, she rear-ended a car in a queue of traffic, Sam escaped by driving over the pavement.


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She owes a hefty sum to the local loan shark, whose debt collector is eyeing her motor for part-payment. And her ex-husband, who ran off with a sports masseuse, is applying for custody of the kids.

This litany of woes could become depressing, but Sheridan keeps a sense of humour, a cheery confidence that promises everything will work out, as long as we don’t take the plot too seriously. It’s a reminder that this actress could have been a film star in any era . . . even in Ealing.

Red Arrows: Kings Of The Sky

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For cheery confidence, the blithe attitude of the daredevil RAF pilots in Red Arrows: Kings Of The Sky (C5) takes some beating. Airshow commentator and formation flying veteran Mike Ling casually described an 800mph collision with a fellow flier that forced him to eject at just 100ft.

He lost consciousness and, when he came round on the ground, he realised his hand looked oddly distant. ‘I thought my arm had come off,’ he remarked. Talk about offhand. In fact, he had a badly dislocated shoulder. Mike possessed the two crucial requirements for a Red Arrows pilot — limitless courage and an obvious nickname. Everyone called him ‘Lingy’.

Squadron leaders David ‘Monty’ Montenegro and Martin ‘Perty’ Pert were introduced, with Dan ‘Lowesy’ Lowes and the new boys, Jon Bond and David Stark — ‘Bondy’ and ‘Starky’, of course.

The Red Arrows perform during the annual Bray air display in County Wicklow, Ireland

We watched them spiral through the skies, which was thrilling — and make small talk during an interminable black-tie dinner, which was anything but.

My favourite discovery was that every flier has his own mug, hanging on a board in the canteen . . . in perfect Red Arrows formation.  

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