Dramatists can’t go too far wrong with a disputed inheritance. When wealth passes from one generation to the next, and there’s some sort of hitch, you’ve got yourself a plot. The Inheritance (Channel 5) goes out to bat on a good wicket, with all to play for. And then the characters open their mouths.
The widowed patriarch whose fortune is up for grabs is Dennis (Larry Lamb). Of his three adult children, Daniel (Robert James-Collier) is in some financial bother with his restaurant, Sian (Gaynor Faye) is a single mother having no luck on the dating apps, and Chloe (Jemima Rooper) is married but there are hints, feebly veiled, of a Dark Secret. When Dennis keels over, the kids put the proper business of grief aside to get onto the plot-led task of bickering and nest-feathering.
The high-grade cast can do only so much with writing that drags its knuckles. Some cheap, cheerless dialogue even has the unsculpted roughness of improv. “I’m sure Dad’s looked after us,” says one of the women with an oh-so-ironic clang before the contents of the will are revealed to leave everything to a mysterious second wife.
In she sashays in the guise of Samantha Bond in full panto villainess mode, all pert malice and scowling froideur. We also chance to meet her ex-husband, played with a feral look by Kevin Whately, who has barely worked since the end of Lewis in 2015 and must have had a very empty diary to leave home for this. His character, briefly glimpsed and very angry, doesn’t simply call a spade a spade; he actually wields one too, just so you know.
The Inheritance has one of those plots in which none of the characters seems to know anything about any of the others. Thus revelations arrive as regularly as ad breaks, and the twists and tells are visible from space. A lethal bottle of poteen discovered in a cupboard. A loan shark who may as well wear horns and a curly tail. An 11th-hour police intervention at the cremation. The writer is Aschlin Ditta, whose most recent credit is one episode of Queen of Oz. Before that he wrote Swimming with Men, a starry but limp comedy about midlife synchro. This, alas, is another sinker.