Nov 26, 2015

[TV] Hustle: Season 1

It was thanks to Tobie that I got into the show Leverage some time back and it was certainly a fun run with crime. Thus it only makes sense that it's thanks Tobie again that I've just gotten started on an older show, Hustle, that seems to be cut from the same cloth in many respects.

But don't confuse that statement to mean that all shows about criminals pulling heists for whatever reason are the same. As is often the case when you compare UK and US versions of a similar theme, you will end up with drastically different shows. And where Leverage tried to establish itself as a Robin Hood scenario where you have thieves trying to balance the scales for the mistreated and such, Hustle is quite different instead.

There's a lot of differences between the two shows that go beyond that little quirk and I'm sure we'll continue to explore these notions as we get through the series. And things are just getting warmed up.

Synopsis: Hustle is a British TV drama created by Tony Jordan and was broadcast on BBC One. The show was created by pretty much the same creative team behind Spooks, which is another show that Tobie really enjoyed.

The show centers around a group of grifters, who are brought together to perform "long cons" instead of quick grifts and cons. As much as these more elaborate schemes have a potential for greater rewards, they naturally carry greater risks as well. The team is assembled by Mickey Stone (Adrian Lester), who typically plays the role of the inside man. Albert Stroller (Robert Vaughn) is the roper who helps them identify and bring in their targets. Ash Morgan (Robert Glenister) is the fixer who is able to use his confidence skills to make the necessarily arrangements to get thing setup. There's Stacie Monroe (Jaime Murray), the only female member of the team and their lure. And finally there's Danny Blue (Marc Warren), who has been taken on as Mickey's protégé. Each episode takes us through the story of each mark or target and we follow the elaborate con as they go through the various steps to separate the person from his or her money.

Now this first season is a little all over the place in terms of character development and overall direction. Clearly the creative team had a lot of ideas for what they wanted to do but weren't fully decided on what should stick and what shouldn't. And given only 6 episodes to flesh out that sort of a story, that can mean some very sharp tonal shifts between individual episodes. But it's totally understandable.

What the show has going for it for certain are the strength of the primary cast in terms of acting ability. There's no question that all of them are able to make the most of what they're given. And the show has some brilliant moments in this first season for certain. Most of things naturally ride on Lester's ability to carry the role of the leader Mickey Stone. And he's a terribly slick actor who feels like every bit the master con man to the level of making things feel almost like an art form.

If anything, it was Marc Warren as Danny Blue that confused me a little since I didn't quite see what was so great about him for Stone to take him on. Albert keeps making reference to Danny's supposedly amazing "grifter's sense" or whatever but what does that even mean? It's not like they showcased Danny a lot getting out of cons that are about to fall apart because of this sense of his. So I didn't quite understand what it was supposed to mean.

This first season tried to bit of stress on everyone's role in the con jobs and a bunch of different "classic" cons that they reference time and time again. I'm sure if this is something that they really should have pursued in every single episode as these cons aren't exactly things that we as viewers know off-hand. And thus while it can sound somewhat impressive as a sort of "industry jargon" when it comes to cons, it's still unintelligible jargon for most other people. And I think that hurt some of the storytelling.

Beyond the cons, what really gave this show a chance were the characters themselves, their relationships within the team and how that carries them through challenges. As much as they're a relatively new team in terms of working together, they all have their moments to shine and really support one another.

Hustle is a fun little venture and I can see how this first series was enough to get folks to decide to see where this story would go. And thus the season gets a good 3 weird terms of con jobs out of a possible 5.


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