Channel 5 TV review: Cold Call
James R | On 24, Nov 2019
Channel 5 recently announced that it’s planning to release up to eight original dramas a year. That might sound like a surprise for the typically fact-driven channel, but only if you didn’t see last year’s Blood, starring Adrian Dunbar. Or, this week, Cold Call, a four-part drama stripped across nightly broadcasts.
The series follows June (Sally Lindsay), a carer who finds herself the victim of a cold-calling scam. In a flash, her savings of £80,000+ are snatched from under her nose. It’s a cruel, life-ruining blow that knocks her for six, and leaves her scared, angry and ashamed. That mix of feelings is familiar for anyone who’s been the victim of a con, and these days, that’s a surprising number of people; in an age where data is flying around all over the place, helping anyone to pretend to be from your bank, it’s all too easy to full susceptible to fraud, unwittingly giving away your personal details and the key to your bank account.
At a support group, June finds herself crossing paths with Des (Daniel Ryan), an old friend from her past and the fellow victim of a scam. He offers to help get her money back, and so the stage is set for a carefully thought-out payback scheme. That, in itself, is compelling enough, but Cold Call, from the off, also shows us events from the perspective of her scammer, Kirk (Paul Higgins). He’s a vicious piece of work, taking pride in his ability to read people over the phone and tell them what they need to hear. We even see him give a training session to would-be scammers. “Adopt a friendly tone,” he cautions them. “Not Scouse.”
The result is a chillingly recognisable portrait of a timely issue, managing to balance contrived plot points and twisting revelations with the more grounded emotional toil of what June’s been through. Greed and revenge also come into play, as we see Kirk and June cross paths, and the tragedy of dementia, which June has to help address alongside the other pressures facing her.
If the script by Karyn Dougan-Buckland and Mark Buckland steps into clunky waters more than a few times, any gaps are balanced out by the excellent cast. Sally Lindsay is wonderful as the earnest everywoman, nervous at the idea of breaking the law but determined to do anything it takes to get her money back. She’s supported brilliantly by Ryan, who plays Des with enough grubby doggedness to be convincing but enough ambiguity to stop you fully trusting him. Higgins, meanwhile, is a perfect foil for Lindsay, loud when she’s quiet and rude when she’s unfailingly polite. They both share a knack for empathising with others and knowing what to say to them, even as they both use that gift for opposing purposes – in one stand-out set piece, Higgins gets a welcome chance to expound on his own warped justification of his behaviour. The collision of their world-views and morals makes for surprisingly cathartic, if not quite redemptive, viewing. The result is a grippingly plausible miniseries that leaves you eager for the next Channel 5 drama to come along – and, until then, leaves you not wanting to trust anyone.
Cold Call is available on My5 until 18th December 2019