6.1 And This Little Piggy Had Money
To me the return of Hustle is like the first flower of spring, in televisual terms. Its annual appearance for a short six episode season always leaves me wanting more, but also always appreciating what they are kind enough to deliver.
The cast this time is the same as season 5, with Matt di Angelo and Kelly Adams back as newcomers Sean and Emma. But at the core of this show is Adrian Lester as the masterful Mickey Stone, Robert Glenister as Ash and the wonderful Robert Vaughn as Albert Stroller. It gives me a warm glow inside that British TV has a place for such a gifted actor as Vaughn, who makes the character of Stroller completely his, and infinitely watchable.
So what does episode one serve up? Pretty much classic Hustle, built around the very contemporary idea of a nasty banker who’s retired on a fortune while the world of finance crashed around him. They’ve called him ‘Piggy’ Richardson, but he’s representative of Sir Fred, and the Hustle team hunt him to deliver some cathartic retribution for the entire nation accordingly.
That would be a pretty direct story, but after a gloriously funny scene setter where Kelly Adams passes herself off as Kylie (a scary likeness), events take a distinctive left turn when Mickey is invited to dinner by a beautiful woman he doesn’t know.
Cue the marvellously sexy Indira Varma, who in a very Thomas Crown way strolls into Mickey’s life to tell him that she’s an ambitious fraud cop, Lucy Britford, who has decided that he’s the man to propel her career. With Lucy breathing down his neck, will Mickey pull the plug on fleecing ‘Piggy’ or will common sense prevail? If you’ve ever watched this show the answer is obvious, but the way that it all cooks-off is brilliantly handled and a joy to watch.
In many ways the cleverness of the show is that it effectively works a con on the audience, convincing them that one thing is happening, when it’s actually something entirely different. The writer and series co-creator Tony Jordan knows exactly what strings to pull and when. We all know we’re been taken for a ride, but go along all the same just to find out what’s really happening.
The resolution is neat and imaginative, if not a little predictable. Lucy gets to find out why Mickey is such a valuable scalp and the Piggy bank is effectively emptied. I hope it isn’t the last we’ve seen of the gifted Miss Varma in this season, as her flirting with Mickey was most entertaining. Given the track record of the show, I’d be genuinely surprised if she doesn’t return in the season finale or sooner.
I’d like to end this review by talking about Adrian Lester, who wears the Mickey persona like he’s slipped on pre-warmed slippers. He’s great in this show and so charming that it’s almost enough to erase the vile Bonekickers series from my memory. However, I did also see him in an abysmal Jason And The Argonauts over Christmas that he made in 2000, where he wasn’t great. He’s clearly an actor that, given the right material, delivers, but he’s not a miracle worker. I hope he carries on playing Mickey for a while yet, and is offered material of similar quality where he can showboat those skills he certainly has.
I’ve no information on the story next week, so it will be as much an adventure to me as everyone else. But it’s safe to assume someone will get hustled…