This review may contain spoilers.
As I recall, in season 6 there was a memorable story where Mickey and the gang locked horns with a larger than life salesman played by Daniel Mays. The same Daniel Mays who is currently grifting his acting skills in Outcasts, and was previously Jim Keats in Ashes To Ashes.
I mention this only because this story and the character in it bears an uncanny resemblance to Mervyn Lloyd in that season. Except in this instance he’s called Don Coleman and he’s played by the ever resourceful RADA graduate, David Harewood (Tuck in Robin Hood).
What these two performances have in common is some pretty outrageous, yet massively entertaining, overacting. But, from the outset, this story is presented like the cast is playing to the furthest rows on at the back of the auditorium, as Robert Glenister’s Ash is allowed to set the scene by extolling his love of football, and his anger at his local team’s demise at the hands of an unscrupulous agent.
Football is, indeed, full of larger than life characters, some of whom get to keep their jobs on Sky. Although, even in my wildest imagination, I find it hard to accept that within it there exists people as concretely certifiable as Don Coleman. (Is that a nod to David Coleman?) But then, if I was looking for reality, I’d watch Attenborough. This is Hustle and it’s solid gold entertainment.
What I’m not going to do is pick holes in the plot, even if quite a few exist, or reveal the humorous twist when, as it always does at some point, the long con goes predictably wrong. Because I really enjoyed it, despite the show’s predilection for reworking already furrowed territory or strangely similar scenarios.
David Harewood was marvellous as Don, being as outrageously duplicitous as most people probably think football agents probably are. In the long list of things that most sports fans consider are wrong with football, agents come a close third, usually behind FIFA and the performance of our own national side.
Ash’s love for a team nobody has heard of and their excuse for a stadium is charming, and charisma is what this show does best. But the true charm-meister, as always, is Robert Vaughn, who decides to make his fake sports investor of German origin. I’d contest that Robert Vaughn hasn’t been a German since he played Major Paul Kreuger in The Bridge At Remagen (1969), but he was pitch perfect as ever, and at the end of this story he doesn’t get shot by an SS firing squad.
As much as I enjoyed the generally glossy panto that is the Hustle experience, it comes with a very large caveat. Specifically, that, as soon as you’re really starting to get with the Hustle vibe, the season abruptly ends!
In seven years of production, Hustle has only accrued 42 stories, which is less than most American shows would have under their belts in two seasons. There’s an argument that suggests they couldn’t maintain the quality if they did more, but I’d suggest that the other side of this coin is that they can’t really get much syndication love with such a small number of episodes to ply.
I hope this isn’t the final Hustle series, as I don’t really think with six episode seasons it can every realistically overstay its welcome.
In the season finale I’m reliably informed a down at luck grifter turns up in a box delivered to Eddie’s Bar, and sets in motion the sort of challenge that only Mickey and his associates are best equipped to meet. Game on!
Read our review of episode 4, Benny’s Funeral, here.
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