Newest Review: ... good but there are usually quite large holes in the plot and the show seems to wash over this with it's snazzy Spooks like filming. Perso... more
The con is on!
Hustle - The Complete Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: Jojoborne
Hustle - The Complete Season 1 (DVD)
Advantages: Innovative. Fast paced. Clever and witty. A great TV series.
Disadvantages: None for me.
Hustle Season One
As many of you will know I am a big TV series fan. Having just finished 'Dexter' Season seven, 'Homeland' Season two, and 'Breakout Kings', amongst others I felt like watching some old favourites. My girlfriend hasn't seen '24, so I am going to re-watch the whole series. I have also got my hands on the seventies series 'The Fantastic Journey'. I then remembered that I hadn't watched season seven and eight of Hustle, which I was saving for a rainy day. Being the perfectionist that I am when it comes to watching shows, I felt that I had to start all over with Hustle, so I did.
This is my review of season one which aired in 2004, believe it or not. The first episode went out on February the twenty-fourth. I will give my usual overview on each episode but will not give away any spoilers. Too many blow by blow accounts of movies are being churned out lately and are not reviews in my opinion. Anyway, back to Hustle Season One; let's take a look at the idea behind the show.
The Premise and Production
Hustle was an innovative drama from the BBC and was produced by the makers of Spooks and written by Tony Jordan. Hustle follows the fortunes of a gang of five expert con artists as they wheel and deal there way around London. The difference with this gang is that they don't con the honest man. They only take money off genuinely bad people with no morals. Each episode comprises of a main plot or 'long con' whilst also squeezing in some sub plots known as 'short cons'.
Michael Stone or 'Mickey Bricks' as he is known to friends is a legend in the art of the long con. He has been away for two years in prison for an unrelated crime and he is looking to get the old gang back together. Starting with Albert Stroller who is the groups 'roper' and finds the marks for the cons, Mickey starts the ball rolling. Next he finds Ash 'Three Socks 'Morgan who is the 'fixer' and an expert in finding settings for the con and a master of disguise. He then tracks down Stacie Monroe who is another top grafter like Stone but revels in her role as the 'lure' and is the only female member of the group. The final member of the group has been screened by Albert and is sent in a roundabout way to meet Mickey. Danny Blue is accepted into the group after turning up at the first long con and making it plain he would be an asset to them.
The series sees the group pull a number of long cons including some ingenious double crosses.
Many innovative series have used asides in their episodes or made the audience feel that they are in on the plot. Hustle takes it a step further with characters actually interacting with the viewer and 'letting them in' on the joke or con. This is known as 'breaking the fourth wall'. The fourth wall was a concept that was used in theatres and was basically a box set aside from the rest of the stage or sometimes slap-bang in the middle of it to let the audience see what was occurring from an insider viewpoint. The brilliant Fox series '24'used a split screen similar to that of the old Tony Curtis movie 'The Boston Strangler'. It enabled the show to give viewers a peek at what was going on in three or four places at once. Hustle is famous for the screen freezing and we see all the characters frozen in time; some of them while pouring drinks or biting into food. While the screen is frozen, one or more of the central characters still moves around the setting freely and fills the audience in on what could happen or what is about to happen.
My favourite part of Hustle is the fact that the characters smirk at you or wink when a con is about to happen or something falls into place. This makes you feel like you are part of it and brings you closer to the characters.
Each episode is filmed as a long con and we follow the crew through each deception from start to finish, from the choosing of the mark or marks to the completion of the con. Each episode also amounts to a confidence game played upon the viewers through the use of misdirection and hidden plot details that are revealed at the end of the story. This ensures that Hustle keeps the viewer guessing and is fast paced. Not everything is as it seems most of the time and regular viewers are used to this and revel in trying to work out what is going on. Not all cons are successful, and some episodes focus on the characters dealing with the consequences of their actions when things do go wrong. In addition to one long con, each episode features a number of short cons played by the major characters on members of the public; sometimes these are part of the long con in that they need to raise money in order for it to become possible. . The short cons demonstrate the seemingly endless array of tricks professional con men possess and the ease with which short cons can be played and also give the viewer a great insight into some of the characters, there strong points and, in some cases, their weaknesses.
Each episode can be watched as a stand-alone episode and in theory could be watched out of sequence, but I wouldn't advise this. Firstly, it is one of my pet hates and I'll never understand how someone can read a book that is third in a series and then go back and read the first; and then have the cheek to say it didn't make sense. There are on-going storylines for the characters in Hustle and they are best watched in order to keep up with what has happened.
The title sequence, created by Berger & Wyse, was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award (2005), a BAFTA (2006) and an Emmy (2007). The title music, composed by Simon Rogers was also nominated for the Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Emmy in 2007. I love the title music and sequence as it is a throw-back to the old seventies shows and a great tune.
Broadcast of Hustle has been a massive success for the BBC with the figures showing ratings of between five and six million for all eight seasons. There may yet still be more seasons made and I for one hope so but one thing for sure is the fact that a movie is being made and will be filmed by a major US studio. Tony Jordan the series creator and writer, is penning the script for the movie.
Cast and Characters
Michael Stone - played by Adrian Lester
Michael Stone or Mickey Bricks as he is known in the grifting fraternity is a shrewd con artist who prefers the long con as opposed to the much faster and less fruitful short con. The group's leader and 'inside man'. An ambitious, intelligent and driven conman. Stone regrets having to have watched his father struggle to make an honest living for many years, before dying just prior to his retirement that he had looked forward to his whole life. Stone is presented as a world-renowned long-con expert with a careful eye for detail and for studiously getting every detail down pat. Several episodes reveal romantic tension between Stone and Stacie and it is rumoured that he and Stacie were once an item. He is like a big brother to Danny Blue and is always on his back about doing it right as Danny has a much more languid approach to some of the cons. He is the pivotal character of this first series and the bind that holds the group together. Lester's play to the camera is superb in the one on one techniques used.
Danny Blue - played by Marc Warren
Lacking a particular role within the group, Danny Blue is trying to prove himself constantly in this first series. A seasoned short-con artist, Danny's brash self-appointment to the group forms the overall plot arc of the first series; after proving his loyalty he is allowed to stay on and learn from Mickey, who is a legend that Danny admires greatly, having heard tales of him around the grifter circuit. Later series explore his challenge to Stone's authority and contrast his spontaneous and self-assured grifting style with Stone's careful attention to detail but this first series is most like his coming of age series. Danny can find himself in some hilarious and embarrassing situations. Warren is a superb actor who was relatively unknown before Hustle.
Stacie Monroe - played by Jaime Murray
Stacie uses her sex appeal to manipulate potential marks, and in smaller short cons to raise funds for the team's activities; she is also the team's banker and looks after their floating account in readiness for future cons. She is portrayed as extremely intelligent and an accomplished grifter, described in the first episode of series one as being a grafter that may even be in the same league as Stone.. A previous romantic connection with Stone is occasionally explored; her ex-husband, a fellow short-con artist ran off with all their collective savings five years ago. She is close to Mickey and is always there for him. She also takes Danny under her wing when things get a little tough for him emotionally.
Ash Morgan - played by Robert Glenister
Ash 'Three Socks Morgan' is the team's 'fixer', responsible for setting up the locations, other grifters and items needed to convince the mark of the con's legitimacy. Morgan is portrayed as an exceptional all-round grifter who can turn his hand to any job. He is a master of disguises and is seen at various points impersonating policeman, lift engineers, drivers, shop staff and even an American Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The first episode of series one introduces Morgan working 'The Flop': deliberately stepping in front of a moving car and passing off an old skull fracture obtained in a bar brawl as a fresh injury, in order to make an insurance claim. He is the only character to have appeared in every episode of all eight seasons of the show. Glenister also has that knack of playing to the audience superbly well, which is perfect for Hustle. Not to be confused with his brother who played in 'Ashes to Ashes' as they look alike.
Albert Stroller - played by Robert Vaughn
Albert is the team's 'roper', responsible for identifying and then ensnaring potential marks. He has a way about him that lures people into his trust. A legendary, but semi-retired, 'old-school' grifter, Stroller is portrayed as a mentor and grandfather-figure to the group, of whom they are extremely protective. He gets badly beaten in one episode of this first season and the group play out an elaborate con just to seek revenge for Albert. The legend himself Robert Vaughn plays the part of Albert superbly well and he is a likeable character.
Eddie - played by Rob Jarvis
The owner and proprietor of Eddie's bar where the group often plan cons and hang around during down-time. Fully aware of the group and their dealings, he goes about running the bar like he is none the wiser. The petty grifts played on him by the crew whenever they want to get out of paying their bar tab, make a point to someone, or are just plain bored, are a recurring theme through the series, and often serve as a Chekhov's gun for a trick which will be important later in the episode. Some of the cons pulled when they are receiving change for drinks are hilarious and really make you think 'Hold on a minute' and show you how easily it is done.
Season One Episode Guide
Episode One - The Con Is On
Mickey "Bricks" Stone has just been released from prison, having served a sentence for attacking his soon to be ex-wife's boyfriend. An expert at the long con, he assembles his old team of fellow hustlers to pull off one last con before he retires for good. His team is diverse, ranging from old hand and mentor, Albert Stroller (the Roper), to the alluring Stacie Monroe (the Banker and Lure), and the jack-of-all-trades Ashley "3 Socks" Morgan (the Fixer). Their mark is a greedy and obnoxious businessman. Mickey is approached by a small time short con player named Danny Blue, who wants to become a part of the gang but he turns him down. The con is going to plan when Danny decides to enter the proceedings off his own bat to try and prove his worth, but in doing so, he could also jeopardize the score for the others. Unbeknown to the crew, two police detectives have them under surveillance, eager to imprison Mickey before he retires. When they target Danny as the weak link in the scam, he finds himself put in a difficult position. Does he choose his own freedom, thus getting Mickey caught or does he sacrifice himself for the good of the group he is not yet part of? This first episode sets the mould for the rest of the series and the freeze frame shots and playfulness of the character to audience relationship is superb.
Episode Two -Faking It
Albert is viciously beaten by a local gangster after he is caught cheating at cards. Frank Gorlay, a crooked casino owner who was responsible for putting Albert in hospital is a hardened criminal who many live in fear of. However, Danny (seeing this as his opportunity to show what he can do) helps them to discover Gorlay's weakness, which is a passion for movies, and the gang subsequently attempt to con him into investing in a film (through the Angel scam) with Danny playing the inside as a film producer, Stacie as a cast member of the new film, and Mickey and Ash as the investors. The gang are set to pull one over on this violent man but have they underestimated just how violent he can be and will the consequences be more than any of them can bear?
Episode Three - Picture perfect
Albert and Ash inadvertently ripped off an honest but desperate businessman for his last savings whilst Mickey was in prison, which goes against the first rule of the con; you can't cheat an honest man. Mickey is starting to believe that the gang has fell prey to a jinx. The gang create a "fake" new painting by the artist Piet Mondrian, making out that he had created the style of cubism before Pablo Picasso did. Then they try to sell it to a ruthless art collector and gallery owner, Meredith Gates, a woman with a passion for Mondrian's work. She is also passionate about getting the best deal herself no matter who she treads on to get it. Danny ropes her into the con as a fellow collector looking to buy it. However, hurdles lie ahead for the team in the form of a brilliant, but completely untrustworthy artist who likes to set mentally cruel puzzles and games, and an art journalist who Mickey starts to have doubts about as the con progresses. The hoped outcome of this con is that they can pay the honest man back.
Episode Four - Cops and Robbers
Mickey is blackmailed by a former cop-turned-bank security manager, Victor Maher, who threatens to send Danny to prison if Mickey doesn't help him catch a bank robber. Victor Maher turns out to be infamous when it comes to out-doing grifters, including Albert in the past. Maher keeps a special dossier on all the grifters he has caught. He crosses them off once he has bettered them. Mickey is in the book and he is yet to be crossed out. The robber has targeted branches of the bank that Maher works for all across the country, and is expected to hit the London branch. Albert warns Micky not to comply with the ex-cop, as he fears Mickey is falling into a trap, but when Mickey discovers that the bank robber lost his father, a diamond cutter, to the bank's crooked ways thanks to a major debt they had, the matter becomes complicated. The robber had been seeking back every penny stolen from him and soon the return of a valuable family heirloom they took and kept for themselves to write off the debt. Mickey decides to help, partly due to avenge the robbers father but partly because he wants to be the first grafter to beat Maher at his own game. This is my favourite episode of series one. There are plenty of twists and turns and some good laughs and the actors skills are used to perfection.
Episode Five - A Touch of Class
A rich and recently scorned divorced woman is the target of the next con. The woman was a high profile press target after she allegedly killed her husband's dog and he locked in a lift when he knew she was claustrophobic. The team decide to do the Congreve con (defrauding a vengeful woman). Everything is going according to plan until Mickey's feelings for the woman start to get into the way, and he decides not to continue the con, even revealing who he is to her. But when the mark offers him money to set up her former husband Mickey and the group see it as an opportunity to set things right after they hear what a terrible man he is. There is a great twist to this one and the group may have met their match.
Episode Six - The Last gamble
The stress of grifting has reached a high point for the team, so Mickey decides they should do one more con before going on a break. The crew picks a greedy rich man as their next mark; a recently resigned CEO of a major utility company from where, after performing some seriously bad mismanagement, he left with a golden handshake of £500,000 (much to the annoyance of the workers). For the team, they perform a con that uses his two secret weaknesses - prostitutes and gambling on horses - "the Wire". But unbeknown to the crew, a previous mark who seeks payback for them falsely selling him the London Eye, is on their tail, and is soon eager to steal what they make out of this score. Reminiscent of 'The Sting' and a great way to end series one.
I loved Hustle from the moment it came out as it is right up my street. I like a show that is innovative but does not try to be too clever. Some of the episodes really make you think and it is really good fun to try and guess where each one is going and where it is going to end up.
The characters are all superbly crafted and the actors who play them are all brilliant. I watched the first three seasons and then moved countries. With all the moving and all that that entails I lost track of Hustle for a while. I haven't seen seasons seven and eight yet and can't wait. I have just re-watched series one and even though this is my third time I still find it scintillating and clever. It is hard to believe that series one is already nine years old, but the factor here is that it doesn't look dated one bit.
Some of the cons they pull are ingenious and it is a little like one of my all-time favourite shows 'Dexter', in that it has you rooting for the bad guys even though they are in some way good because they only hurt bad people. It is a good way of sucking an audience in and in Hustle, like Dexter, it works.
IT will be interesting to see how Tony Jordan approaches the movie. Will he make it a one-off or will he steep it in nostalgia for the sake of the hard-core fans of the TV series? Many of the writers including Tony Jordan, Fintan Ryan, Chris Lang, Ashley Pharoah, David Cummings and Matthew Graham deserve a big mention in regards to some polished scripts.
In interview Adrian Lester has said that they would film two episodes simultaneously and with scenes that were out of sequence, so you had to be on your toes to remember at which part of a story your character was. That must have been an absolute nightmare and is again testament to just how brilliant the actors on the show are.
The cast has changed about a bit since season one but that is for reviews of other seasons so I won't cover it here.
The DVD was released on the eighteenth of April 2005 and contains some great extras including behind the scenes and cast interviews. The American DVD box set was released first in a cut version. The BBC re-released it in its full form at a later date.
There is a spin-off real-life show based on Hustle, called 'The Real Hustle', where two guys and a girl show viewing members of the public how to spot con men and avoid there tricks. They do the show really well and always give the victims their money back and explain what has happened.
I give Hustle five out of five stars because you can't give a six.
When I am sitting in my wicker rocking chair in the balcony sun in my nighties, reading the latest serial killer novel and I look back at my favourite all-time TV shows, Hustle will be right up there in the top ten and possibly in the top three. Hustle is a great TV show that I love. I could have wrote a lot more about it, so for those of you who think this review is too long all I can say is that your feared whinging has conned me out of writing a longer piece. In the words of the gang I shall leave you with this.
'You find someone who wants something for nothing and you give them nothing for something'
C'est la vie
Summary: A gang of long con-artists take on the cities most shameless business men to learn them a lesson.