Just no way of telling when the con is on

Hus­tle 9.30pm, UKTV

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

THE com­mer­cial net­works are fall­ing over each other to screen new shows im­me­di­ately af­ter their US de­buts and the ABC is get­ting into the act by rush­ing shows to air the minute the tapes ar­rive via steam­boat.

For­get down­load­ing shows off the in­ter­net, Aunty rou­tinely gets scooped by pay television, of­ten by years. So fans may have to wait un­til next year to watch se­ries three of Hus­tle , which aired in Bri­tain in March 2006. Or they could turn to pay TV’s UKTV tonight.

For those yet to, in the words of Van McCoy, do the Hus­tle , the se­ries fo­cuses on a group of con artists as they go about their busi­ness, led by the smooth Mickey ( Girl­friends ’ Adrian Lester), al­though this se­ries looks as if it’s his last. Join­ing him are Al­bert Stroller ( Robert Vaughn), who sets up the sting; Ash ( Robert Glenis­ter), who fixes things when plans go awry; Sta­cie Mon­roe ( Jaime Murray), who — sur­prise, sur­prise — uses her sex ap­peal to fur­ther the con; and Danny ( Marc War­ren), whose role is ap­par­ently to be the butt of jokes.

Get­ting the au­di­ence be­hind peo­ple who are es­sen­tially crim­i­nals is al­ways a risky propo­si­tion, but Hus­tle deftly does it by en­sur­ing that their vic­tims are al­ways dodgy and greedy and ba­si­cally have it com­ing.

Tonight’s sea­son opener is a scene that re­cy­cles the old ur­ban leg­end about en­coun­ter­ing a fa­mous per­son in a bar, ask­ing them to come over to your group of friends and pre­tend­ing to know them, and then, when they oblige, telling them to push off be­cause you and your friends are in the mid­dle of some­thing.

Nor­mally, this would seem like lazy writ­ing, but it’s just one mo­ment that builds with oth­ers to make an elab­o­rate scam. And elab­o­rate it is. At some points you won­der whether the ex­pense of cre­at­ing the con ex­ceeds the tak­ings, and it would be far less time- con­sum­ing for th­ese peo­ple to get real jobs.

Con­se­quently, a healthy sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief is needed for Hus­tle , es­pe­cially since the show likes to play with the struc­ture of drama.

The ac­tion of­ten freezes mid- scene as the con artists dis­cuss how the plan is go­ing and whether it should be tweaked. An­other tech­nique is a flash­back to a scene from ear­lier in the episode, but with more de­tails about what hap­pened sub­se­quently, re­veal­ing how the viewer was conned into think­ing one thing had hap­pened when the con artists in fact were sev­eral steps ahead.

Now if only there were some way of con­ning some­body into air­ing se­ries four, which was shown in Bri­tain last May, so that we don’t face an­other long wait.

Ker­rie Mur­phy

Set­ting up a sting: Su­per smooth Mickey, seated, with his gang of grifters

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