Just no way of telling when the con is on
Hustle 9.30pm, UKTV
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.
Setting up a sting: Super smooth Mickey, seated, with his gang of grifters