Saturday, 10 January 2009
Hustle Season 5 Episode 1
Well folks and folkesses the Beebs best show that isn't Doctor Who or the Sarah Jane adventures returned on Friday and what a belter of an episode it was.
Hustle is a strange beast, almost like a modern incarnation of those old Lew Grade/ITC shows. It has also demonstrated an ability to adapt to changes in casts, indeed its arguable they have benefitted the show. Back in season 3 it had become almost inconcievable that the team wouldn't pull the con off. The show was becoming reliant on deviations from the formula to keep things going (ie the team being conned themselves, or the team deciding not to go ahead with a con). This all changed with the loss of Adrian "Micky Bricks" Leicester in season 4. At the time I expected this change to be the deathnell for the show. But Mark "Danny Blue" Warren steped up to the plate effortelessly giving us a much more shambolic, seat of the pants, but inspired version of leadership which gave the show a kick up the rear end and re-invigorated the show.
So much so that I was again concerned that the loss of Warren (albeit compensated for in part by the return of Leicester from the hellhole of Bonekickers) would again spell doom for the show. The loss of Jaime Murray was less of a concern to me, I am apparently the only bloke in the UK that doesn't find her to be that fit and her character was not hugely interesting. It may yet prove to be the case that the show cannot adapt to this new change, but on the evidence of Thursday night I am not too woried.
Thursday's show was an absolute tour de force. Aside from the usual qualities we have come to expect from Hustle (its wit and gloss) this had one of the most intricate plots seen this side of an episode of Coupling. There were 5 intersecting plot lines:
1) Micky and Ash conning the new guys.
2) The new guys conning Micky and Ash.
3) The guys chasing the new guys (but disguised as being after Micky and Ash).
4) Getting Eddy set up with his bar again.
5) Albert pulling the strings and effectively building a new crew by proxy.
Each of these plots dovetailed together seemlessly at the end of the show.
I've always considered Hustle to be the TV equivilent of a magic trick. But even by Hustle's standards this was audacious stuff. It was also terrifically imaginative stuff, a qaulity lacking in British TV these days (Doctor Who and associated shows being the honourable exception). By imagintive I mean that the show is clearly a fantasy and clearly meant to be a fantasy. The version of London it presents is a glossy brighter version of the real thing. The grifters are all loveable excentrics, crusaders or plucky underdogs as opposed to low-life scum. This is James Bond/Boys own style wish fulfillment. And a bloody good thing too. If you want real life, stick your head out of the window! The unrealistic or Fantastical is what fiction is suppossed to be about. Otherwise what is the point of telling a story? The yanks realised this years ago, which is why you have "legal" dramas like "Ally McBeal" or "Boston Legal" with their "heightened" reality. The successful, so called, "gritty" or "realistic" dramas that have been successful (and by Successful I mean ratings and long term audience affection) have been the exceptional shows like Cracker or Prime Suspect. But these truely were the exceptions, being written by great writers at the very heights of their powers, backed up by terrific actors and production teams. These days "gritty" or "realistic" is a crutch used by lazy and/or unimaginitive writers and producers.
Anyway, back to Hustle and a few questions remain to be resolved. Will the new guys fit in? I think so, the female character will be the new Danny Blue, her brother will fulfill the Mother Hen role that was provided by Stacey in series past (or Ianto Jones in Torchwood for the masculine equivalent).
More importantly, how much of a role with Albert have, and will we get to the bottom of who his intended mark is?