It’s the end of the post-festive week back at work, and it’s dark outside. The news is full of fare increases and VAT raises, and you’re still weeks from payday. An hour of slick escapist fun on telly is just what’s needed. Luckily, BBC1 is listening, and series seven of one of its biggest hits is back (Friday, 9pm).
Hustle is the British answer to movie crime capers like Ocean’s Eleven and concerns a likeable group of con artists. While there have been some cast changes along the way, the central trio remains strong: Adrian Lester as Mickey Bricks, Robert Glenister as Ash ‘Three Socks’ Morgan and Hollywood legend Robert Vaughn as old-time grifter Albert Stroller.
The opening episode concerns a scam perpetuated by ruthless model agency boss Wendy Stanton. She preys on naïve young women hoping to enter the business, by asking them to shell out hundreds of pounds for ‘test shoots’ and ‘portfolios.’ Needless to say, their first modelling job--and the riches that go with it--never materialises for the unlucky victims. Yet Wendy’s big mistake is to dupe Kasey, the niece of the gang’s bar owner mate Eddie. Now it’s personal.
Wendy is such a one-dimensional fashionista cliché, barking at minions one minute and having her crystals done the next, but this doesn’t matter once the team’s elaborate plan to con her unfolds. It’s great fun watching her get reeled in as Mickey and Ash play on her greed and vanity.
Adrian Lester has described Hustle as a dream job for an actor, as he gets to embody so many different characters on a weekly basis while scamming the ‘marks’ (worthy victims). You can see that the cast are having a ball and this translates into a fun experience for viewers.
Hustle is the kind of show where you can switch your brain off yet still marvel at the twists and turns. It flows over you, with the music adding a Swinging London vibe, while fantasy sequences emphasise that it’s all a bit of a lark as the characters wink at the camera.
The plot dovetails nicely and this episode ends with a final flourish--a nice twist on the usual ‘mark of the week’ scenario.
Hustle is polished, playful telly for boys that is accessible to new viewers and has a very British sensibility.