Mickey and the gang pop open the champagne in Eddie’s bar after another successful mission to con the latest distasteful villain and proclaim: ‘Here’s to a golden future!’ Whilst this may be a truly cheesy tagline to end an episode, does this also carry a more alarming portent for this long serving series?
This January Hustle will grace our TV sets for another series with all the glitz, glamour, and chutzpah that inevitably follows this show. However, with it being aired in January and following excellent BBC productions such as Doctor Who and Sherlock, I started to think that perhaps it is time for this show to come to a dignified end. Before I try and justify that thought, it has to be said there is a reason why Hustle has done so well and has had so much staying power compared to other shows. Yet unlike other popular television, Hustle has always been rather one-dimensional in its plot line and episode structure and consequently does not have the same capacity to evolve. It always involves the team in Eddie’s bar making fun of Eddie, finding a mark who is someone truly distasteful and deserves to be ‘hustled’, and setting up the mark with sly looks at the camera and cheeky winks. The team making the mark think he or she will profit from the situation they are being placed in, but usually in the last ten minutes it will all unravel and the team will make off with the evil mark’s money.
This structure essentially rings true throughout a large majority of the episodes ever since Hustle’s conception in 2004, and when written down does make it look extremely dull. However, as much as I do love other series’ big twists and to be left so bewildered and amazed by an episode’s ending that I have to go online and research it, Hustle offers something else: it offers a sense of security, predictability and guaranteed happiness. That is why it is so successful, and that is why it’s back.
The first episode, once again, fits perfectly into the predictable structure of Hustle. The evil, money-grabbing mark is played very effectively by Paterson Joseph (though I could not shake the nagging perception of him as Johnson from Peep Show out of my head), a beneficent of the ‘Cash 4 Gold’ craze yet his company scams people, most notably and pitifully an old widower – enter Mickey and his team.
The team itself are a very tight unit and the chemistry between them is enjoyable to watch. Most notably the chemistry between Adrian Lester (Mickey), Robert Vaughn (Albert) and Robert Glenister (Ash) gives the group a great sense of cohesion, togetherness and slickness. More importantly, they offer comedy, which is something that Hustle does implicitly; it never forces humour on the viewer, but it does offer it in opportune places. The other two members are played effectively by Matt Di Angelo (Sean) and Kelly Adams (Emma), yet it is clear to see that without the core three the show just would not work. And yes, of course they trick the mark into giving them the gold – enabling them to help the poor widow.
Yes, Hustle is very predictable and a little bit cheesy, but in the modern climate of edge-of-the-seat thrillers, fantastical plots, gut-wrenching cliff hangers and evil subtext, Hustle creates that necessary bit of calm. It offers an enjoyable respite and gives the viewer a chance to see the ‘evil rich banker’ or ‘cut throat entrepreneur’ taken down a peg. It is a satisfying series, part of a dying breed in television. You know when you watch Hustle that everything will be alright and that you can sleep soundly at night without mulling over the past episode, and though some may not appreciate it, television does still need shows like that.