Dark Money – or Dark Mon£y in its official title – puts Manny (Babou Ceesay – Free Fire) and Sam (Jill Halfpenny – Three Girls) in a horrendous position when they’re initially happy that their son, Isaac (Max Fincham), has landed a part in a Hollywood movie and is now on his way back home from filming, with producer Jotham Starr (John Schwab).
However, I say “initially”, because it turns out the man abused their son, and instead of going through official court proceedings, they take a cash bung to keep quiet.
So, it’s similar to serial child abuser Michael Jackson. He died ten years ago. Not a moment too soon.
It’s quite harrowing to see the looks on the faces of the parents when they find out what’s happened, but in reality, a child wouldn’t have told their parents the moment they came back. A drama would normally have let him go to school and let him dwell on it for the entire first episode. However, there’s only four episodes, so I can only presume this was done to advance the plot.
Also, I wonder if this was filmed some time ago, and then the broadcast was held up, since at one point, Jotham Staff’s name is looked up on Google, and a Wikipedia preview image shows Jotham was born in 1962 and is 55 years old, so that means this looks like it was shot in 2017. Another date shown later also states 2017. I wonder why this has been on the shelf for so long, and then shoved out for a week in the middle of summer, which is generally repeats-only season?
Dark Money certainly portrays a harrowing situation, but the scripting and direction is perfunctory and looks like it’s been set out in building block form, as it plays a very straight bat, right down the line, and the first episode tells you no more than the basic byline, set out in the press. However, there’s good acting from Ceesay, Halfpenny and Max Fincham as young Isaac, so it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out, even if the first episode was a bit so-so… which could be the reason why it was left out in the summer, but then I’ve seen plenty of dramas which were critically-acclaimed, and which I thought were junk.
I haven’t seen any further episodes as I type this, but I’m expecting since the family are not allowed to spill the beans about the cash, one of them will sooner or later.
Dark Money has some odd scheduling. It’s a four-parter, and I thought was spread over four nights straight, but it’s Monday & Tuesday apiece over two weeks, and starts Monday July 8th on BBC1 at 9pm. It isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
If you missed it, you can watch the first episode on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after transmission.
UPDATE: Episode 2: This actually flowed better than the first episode, partly as we saw Isaac taking advantage of his celebrity status by grabbing a girl’s skirt at school, and also when it came to doing a live TV show, Chat Tonight – the equivalent of The One Show – and struggling to remember prepared jokes because of the abuse he suffered.
As for the former of those two issues, though, a complaint from the school went to Isaac’s parents, but I can remember being at school when I was about 14, and a girl in my class just thought it was funny to ‘cup’ my balls with her hand. Did I moan about it to the teacher? Did I kick up a fuss? No, I just got on with my day and was quite glad of some sort of interaction.
UPDATE: Episode 3: We saw how the bad side of Hollywood was rubbing off on Isaac, as he took his top off and then tried to encourage a girl in his class to do the same, over a webcam.
It was dumb when Cheryl (Rebecca Front) was full of hand-wringing, saying she’d just quit her job over the situation, rather than try and protect other children in the same role. Who is able to just quit their job in 2019, without anything else to fall back on?
Meanwhile, Isaac’s sister Jess was very green when it came to dealing with journalist Dominic. He said he’d only want to deal with Jotham and not harm Isaac, but you know it’s going to go all ‘Pete Tong’.
And when Isaac locked himself in his bedroom, and Dad had to burst in, you just knew it was going to be the ol’ clichéd “third time lucky” when he got in there.
UPDATE: Episode 4: This led to the inevitable (and predictable) conclusion that Manny would eventually confront Jotham directly, in what must be the worst attempt at ‘Hitman in real life’ ever. And even the outcome of that was predictable. What a disappointing series, overall.
Episode 1 Score: 5/10
Episode 2 Score: 7/10
Episode 3 Score: 5/10
Episode 4 Score: 4/10
Director: Lewis Arnold
Producer: Erika Hossington
Writer: Levi David Addai
Music: Sarah Warne
Manny Mensah: Babou Ceesay
Sam Mensah: Jill Halfpenny
Isaac Mensah: Max Fincham
Dominic: Rudi Dharmalingam
Cheryl: Rebecca Front
Jess Mensah: Olive Gray
Malcolm Danvers: Gary Beadle
Ryan: Arnold Oceng
Jotham Starr: John Schwab
Hayden: Toby Oliver
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.