Clean Sweep – Review

Worth seeing: as a not entirely successful attempt to combine family drama with ghosts from the past
Featuring:Barry Ward, Charlene McKenna, Adam Fergus, Aidan McCann, Aoibheann McCann, Benjamin Bergin, Cathy Belton, Fergus Mulligan, Grace Collender, Jeanne Nicole Ní Áinle, Katelyn Rose Downey, Kevin Trainor, Luke Griffin, Nathara Dayananda, Niall Bishop, Orla Casey, Ray Weafer, Rhys Mannion, Robert Mitchell, Roisin Rankin, Sean Duggan, Steve Gunn, Trevor Kaneswaran
Key crew:Ronan Burke, Yves Christian Fournier, Gary Evans, Fran Harris, Gary Tieche
Channel:BBC iPlayer, BBC1
Length:49 minutes
Broadcast date:29th July 2023


Shelly (Charlene McKenna) is a busy housewife and mother – to the two kids she has with husband Jason (Barry Ward) and his older son from a previous marriage.

While Jason is trying to work his way up through the police force, Shelly is trying to work her way up through the Parents’ Association at school – she has enough to worry about in her everyday life without having to add baking, baking and more baking.

But suddenly, her past catches up with her and she has more to worry about than baking.

With the everyday banality of her middle-class family life is at risk of being brought to a sudden end, she takes the dramatic decision to silence the threat – by killing him.

When the body is discovered, the murder case is handed to Jason to solve, laying the way for a twisting turning drama of death, deception and devious desperation.


On the surface, this Irish crime drama has it all – drugs, murder, sex-trafficking, infidelity, school bullying, everyday family shenanigans and PTA politics.

But this ambitious series is tied together so cackhandedly that every twist and turn leaves you rolling your eyes rather than reeling with surprise.

The opening scene of the first episode features Shelly’s daughter walking in on her cleaning blood of her clothes, but there’s no comeback from this at all – and so it is throughout – people do ridiculous things and if the plot requires them to get away with it, they do. Considering how efficient the central police officers appear to be, their incompetence is almost comical.

Too much time is spent in the past and the more time we’re there, the less we like the main character – and the more complex the plot becomes, the less interesting – and convincing – is the drama at its heart.

There are moments that lift the drama – such as Shelly’s response to a request to pop into the police station to give her finger prints, but then they throw it all away again, when her dramatic actions are just written off with almost no consequence.

There are also glimmers of potential when Barry Ward’s ambitious detective is forced to confront his own infidelity, with reference to his wife’s behaviour, but again, it’s wasted.

There are so many side-stories that serve almost no purpose in the unfolding of the wider narrative that you feel four 50-minute episodes would have been plenty, rather than six, so that while some potentially interesting elements emerge, when you realise they’re completely redundant, you just feel you’ve wasted more of your time.

Some of these loose ends feel like they’ve been left there to justify a second series, but the team will need to be on sharper form to justify another visit to Wicklow.