Jackpot 4 review – TV by seven-minute chunks, breakneck twists, and laughable infodump

Poor man’s Borgen that uss political stereotypes and impossible twists for a simplistic mess of fantapolitics

Surplus PM points a menacing finger at our hero, PM Alex in Jackpot 4 (One TV/DBA)
Surplus PM points a menacing finger at our hero, PM Alex in Jackpot 4 (One TV/DBA)

You often wonder at the prowess of actors who effect characterisations that conjure up the human condition in ways that dominate the viewer’s mind for weeks on end. That is the job description after all.

But in One TV’s political drama Jackpot 4 (BDA), actors whom we know from previous televisual gems, simply play a version of themselves – adding only deeply furrowed eyebrows and scowling jawlines to accentuate confusion and anxiety in this storyline of breakneck twists and turns, where pandemics, conspiracies and murder take place within the space of a day on the island of Malta.

Dateline – sometime in P-virus pandemic time... at the home of prime minister Alex, wife Louise admonishes her husband from the comfort of her bed. With infection stats and political reprimands about business idolatry hurled at him straight from the spousal pillow, why is the prime minister of Malta refusing to announce a lockdown?

In this banger of a pilot for Jackpot 4, nothing is too heavy to get stuffed inside this whirlwind of events. A pandemic, political conspiracies, family drama, and easy assassinations – something akin to Malta’s misadventures since 2019 being stuffed into seven-minute scenes.

What we know of COVID in 2021, is condensed into right over 420 seconds of a static two-camera shot, as the PM power couple introduce us to twin-like daughters Kim and Steph. “We’ll fight this virus together, as a nation,” Alex says, quelling his young family’s earnest calls for a lockdown. “Dad’s like the captain of a ship,” chimes in first-lady actress. “He saves the others, before saving himself.”

Next seven-minute segment: in Castille, the PM’s chief of staff Brian delivers the bad news – P-virus has claimed its first two victims! And who is that shadowy, sly-faced figure swigging a generous dram of whisky? Only the PM’s beloved predecessor – ‘Darren Borg’ – the former ‘surplus’ prime minister himself, roped in as a stay-behind advisor after his resignation. “Had I still been prime minister... I too would not recommend a lockdown,” he croaks,  as he mills around the PM’s office, whisky glass always at hand like some Mad Men executive, his toxic nuggets dividing a room of confused aides.

So where are the doctors in this crisis? Here comes the next seven-minute chunk: the PM’s press conference with the public health superintendent. PM Alex says – no lockdown. But Prof. Deguara? No! He disagrees. Tension erupts; political lips get pursed and bitten; journalists’ heads turn in frantic chatter. The taciturn professor is merely a doctor of health, says the cavalier PM, “not an economist”.

And the next twist? Only a pregnant 30-year-old woman dying of P-virus right during the press conference. Oh will the surprises ever cease!

Next seven-minute chunk: old people’s home where PM’s parents live, where the doddering chaps blab aimlessly about the virus. Next seven – public health superintendent showdown in Castille with whisky-swigging politicians, and yet another gigantic twist: the Maltese professor’s got the proof that P-virus was created in a lab! Conspiracy hits max levels now!

Now our embattled Alex seeks solace at the foot of Dingli Cliffs with his faithful driver-confidant: “Joe, have you got the gun?” the PM tells Joe... oh oh, trouble ahead for the PM, who is heading for a mysterious meeting with an American-sounding conspirator.

Yet – hold on to your marbles – another twist’s afoot. Three health department officials, by pure coincidence of nationwide proportions, pay a visit to a house: none other than the American conspirator’s partner in crime, a comely female who dispatches the intruding health inspectors with a silencer gun right inside her faux-rococo living room! Job done, with a swig of supermarket whisky (everybody is heavy on the sauce here) from a yellow-coloured, plastic flask.

Will the craziness in Jackpot 4 ever stop? Girdle your loins. The leader of the Free World has yet to make his appearance in this artless TV outing.