“Opportunity & Trouble” – The Return of ‘Hustle’

Posted on January 7, 2010

1


The BBC has a habit of hanging onto shows that have been popular for a bit too long. Look at My Family, a prime example – an instant smash, very fresh and funny for a few series but now is becoming tired and worn out, despite the great cast pairing of Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker.

.

Kudos Entertainment’s Hustle is different though. Starting its sixth series on Monday night, the clever and quirky show details the hi-jinks of a group of con-artists in London, lead by Mickey Stone (Adrian Lester), who returned in Series 5 last year.

.

The premise of Hustle is simple, and one that’s been done before, not just in previous series, but in numerous films also. You’re not seeing anything new when you sit down to watch the show. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

.

The new series opens smartly, with the group conning a Middle Eastern sheikh into thinking he is hiring Kylie Minogue to sing at his birthday. After 5 series there is always the fear that a show can feel a bit stale but not so with Hustle. The usual quirk and humour that existed in the past five series prevails, witty comments largely coming from Ash and at the expense of Ann Widicome’s arse.

.

From here, the gang choose a new mark (target), an ex-banker with a half a million resignation handshake and a huge pension – a crook one way or another, as Mickey puts it. Perhaps an obvious choice of target for the bunch of ‘Merry Men’ con artists, but definitely topical and relevant to the present day.

.

This is only half the story though. A mysterious message left for Mickey leads him to a dinner date with the charming and beautiful Lucy Britford (Indira Varma), a DCI intent on ending his conning career. Add ruthless to her description list. The set-up of this subplot feels very like The Thomas Crown Affair. There’s a cat-and-mouse style chemistry between these two characters that feels like the beginning of a long, metaphorical game of chess. Certainly, the characters’ meticulous analysis of each others’ moves seem that way.

.

Hustle always feels like something else, style wise. It never feels like we’re watching a TV show, it’s not filmed that way. It’s slick and stylish and if you turned it on having never seen it before you would think you were watching the latest Hollywood crime caper. For a series that has played musical chairs with its cast, it’s never lost the slickness or the newness of its first series, despite being a generic genre and plotline.

.

For me though, the stars of the show have always been Robert Glenister and Robert Vaughn, the latter in particular. The only two ever presents since the series began Glenister is the cockney handy-man with a quick wit and street smarts, while Vaughn is more drawl but ultimately the most experienced and important member of the group. He keeps Mickey in check when his emotions or ego get the better of him, and his role in the group is vital as he protects them all. He’s also a wonderful actor with great wit and sardonic humour. For me, these two are the mould holding all of the other aspects together.

.

This strong opening episode sets up some nice story arcs for the rest of the series, most notably the relationship between Mickey and Lucy, one which will undoubtedly lead our main character into numerous kinds of trouble. As Albert says, “Two things arrive unannounced: opportunity, and trouble.” My bet is that Lucy will become both for Mickey.

.

There’s a clash on Monday nights. 9pm on BBC has Hustle, 9pm on RTE has my other review subject of this week Flash Forward, both of which have started well and have potential. Recommendations therefore, are difficult to make.

.

But if you want a nice, neat, fun one-hour crime thriller that either wraps itself up in each episode or over the space of 6, you won’t go far wrong with Hustle.

.

As the tagline says, the con is on.

.

Hustle: 9pm BBC 1, Monday Nights.

.

Posted in: Reviews