Hustle is a slick production that is a prime example of modern storytelling at its best. The series oozes quality in its presentation and style from intelligent twist-in-the-tail storylines to its superb enigmatic casting.
The show centres round a group of highly talented “grifters” who work the ‘long con’ using their guile and ingenuity to cheat the greedy out of their ill-gotten gains by setting up elaborate scams. Each member of the gang has their own particular talent; ex convict Michael ‘Mickey Bricks’ Stone, played by Adrian Lester, is the brains behind each operation. Albert Stoller, played by former Man from U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughan, is the team’s Roper. His job is to find the perfect mark; someone who is rich, greedy and has a weakness the team can exploit – and to hook them into the scheme.
Ash ‘Three Socks’ Morgan, played by Robert Glenister is the team’s fixer and can turn his hand to any job, from rigging a sophisticated alarm system to producing any form of fake ID. Stacie Monroe, played by Jaime Murray, uses her sex appeal to manipulate potential marks; both while working the long con and in more small-time cons, such as those used to raise funds for the team.
Introduced in the first series, Danny Blue, played by Marc Warren, is a short-con operator who brashly forces his way into the gang in order to learn the ropes and work with the best. Cocky and arrogant yet still vulnerable and somehow endearing, Danny is berated by Mickey for his lack of attention to detail when working the con, yet Albert maintains Danny has “...grift sense, and that’s something you can’t teach.”
The first of a number of cast changes takes place in series four with the departure of the team leader Micky Bricks, allegedly to help pull a major con in Australia (the selling of Sydney Opera House) but in reality this was at the request of Adrian Lester who later said he “needed a break” from the role: “When I left to take other parts, it was a bit of a paradox. It was because Hustle was so big and so popular that I needed to be seen being someone apart from Mickey. He had become such a sort of face that when I was going in to auditions it was like, "Oh you're that guy." So people expected some aspect of that guy, and it became a bit of a curse.”
Danny steps up to take the lead in the gang and the place vacated by Mickey’s departure is filled by Billy Bond (Ashley Walters). Billy's a big fan of Danny and seeks him out to learn the tricks of the trade. Series four did not win as much critical acclaim as the first three series’ and it was reported in some quarters that the series had played out its last con. But you can never trust a grifter and two years later the series did return. Danny and Stacie have now left but following a hurried departure from Australia Mickey is back to find that the gang have all gone their separate ways.
Albert, currently detained at her Majesty's pleasure, maybe doing time but isn’t wasting it and already has a new mark for the next con: a callous young businesswoman, Sara Naismith, and her assistant Aaron. But things don't seem to go too smoothly for Mickey, Albert and Ash and it soon becomes unclear just who is conning who. Sara is really a con artist herself called Emma Kennedy (Played by Kelly Adams) and her 'assistant' is really her brother Sean Kennedy (Played by Matt Di Angelo). As the whole con looks set to become unravelled it is revealed that the entire scheme has been orchestrated by Albert in order to find worthy replacements for the permanently departed Danny and Stacie. With the new team in place it looks as though - once more - the con is on!
Following two succesful seasons, the BBC secured a licensing deal with AMC in America. By becoming co-producers of series 3 (which had by this time begun production), AMC ensured exclusive broadcast rights for the first two series and a guaranteed fourth, the latter of which filmed several episodes on location in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Many fans of the series felt that with the US partners the stories became a little 'too light' and this was also cited as one of the reasons Adrian Lester decided not to reprise his role. No option was taken up for a fifth series. When, in 2009, Hustle (and Lester) returned to the BBC - AMC decided not to support the series any further. Hustle is now in its seventh series.
Hustle inspired The Real Hustle, a factual entertainment series produced by Objective Productions for BBC Three which features a team of hustlers as they try out audacious scams on members of the public, whilst being filmed by hidden cameras. The intention is to warn the public how scams work so they don't get ripped off theirselves.
Review: Laurence Marcus 2011
for Television Heaven