The Cleanse

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The Cleanse (Suspense & Thriller, Writing Award 2023)
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Award Category
Logline or Premise
With the economic fallout of a flu pandemic still felt among a population losing trust in its government, another more threatening virus emerges, and a group of loosely connected, ordinary people struggle to survive as society’s reaction to the new virus proves as deadly as the disease itself.
First 10 Pages

This is a close adaptation of the novel, The Cleanse, also by Jamie Holm, that explores themes of individualism and collectivism, with subtexts including the growth of government mistrust, conspiracy theories and the climate crisis, and obliquely asks if early 21st century western society is heading toward self-destruction at the hands of a populace acting against their own best interest, while remaining a thrilling story of characters discovering their own strength.

Split into a 90-minute pilot and three episodes of 60 minutes that each end in one or more hooks relating to different characters, the series ends with a final episode of 75 minutes, that while resolving to a satisfying conclusion, also leaves some space for future seasons for the surviving characters.

The UK setting is retained. The writer accepts that the project will be more commercially viable in a US setting, but they did not feel confident writing authentic US voices. Some plot changes may also be required if the setting is changed to a country where public gun ownership is more common.

Series Synopsis

Arabian flu was the worst pandemic the world had seen in over a century, and with the economic fallout still widely felt among a population losing trust in its government, another far more menacing virus, Sycorax, has emerged. Food and fuel shortages push an already ragged public past their breaking point, and frustrated by the government’s apparent inertia, people start to take matters into their own hands.

Chris Salinsky, soon to turn thirty and an auditor at a small accounting firm, is unambitious but content and determined to keep his head down until all this blows over and not overreact like his parents. Mia Jones, a nurse practitioner working long hours in a new, hastily-built Sycorax treatment ward, is still grieving the loss of her foster parents and doubts she would make as good a mother as the one she lost. Kate Buckingham, a young teacher and friend of Chris, is hoping to rekindle a connection with Olivia, a friend she had a one-night stand with at university, who now works for a leading pharmaceutical company involved in combating the new Sycorax virus. Seasoned PC Scott Smith feels like his policing skills are not appreciated by his superiors, and he would rather be with his colleagues on riot duty than assigned to Olivia’s research team, and Davey O’Driscoll, a hard-working electrician whose mother is hospitalised with Arabian flu, is trying to find his missing eleven-year-old brother.

As the days pass awaiting order to return in a nebulous, collapsing Birmingham ravaged by arson and looting, without power or water, it becomes clear that something is amiss with the few that manage to live on after a Sycorax infection, and to survive they will need to find their way out of the city, and find whatever government still exists elsewhere.

Full Pilot Episode Submitted, Episodes 2-5 available on request.