Do the Hustle
You can count me as one of those people who've never forgiven AMC -- it used to stand for "American Movie Classics"; now it's an orphan acronym, like KFC -- for adding commercials and dropping its former emphasis on classic movies.
So it's a joke at my expense that one of my new favorite TV shows airs Saturday nights on AMC.
"Hustle" is a British import, although I understand that AMC became an investor as of the third six-episode series. It's not deep or gritty or brilliant, but it is a lot of fun. I posted about it at my own blog when it first aired; allow me to repeat myself here.
The show is the story of a team of five con artists led by "Mickey Bricks" Stone (Adrian Lester). We American viewers, of course, note the presence of Robert Vaughn, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. himself, as Albert Stroller, the team's elder statesman. The con artists take on a new victim each week. They do have a code of honor; their cons appeal to the mark's greed, and they excuse themselves by claiming that you can't cheat an honest man.
The producers sometimes lack the courage of this conviction, however, and seem to like to put the team in such a bind that they have to pull a job -- because they're being blackmailed, for example, or because one of the team has an ex-wife in need of an expensive medical procedure. It's like the current movie where Harrison Ford is forced to embezzle or else his family will be killed.
Anyway, this show isn't about logic. It's about fun and games. The show's pilot paid homage -- a little too much homage, as I noted in my blog -- to "The Sting," going so far as to steal some critical plot points. The appeal of this show is like the appeal of "The Sting" or "Ocean's Eleven" -- in seeing exactly how the con is going to be accomplished.
Lester (who was in "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Primary Colors") is an engaging lead, someone you just naturally want to root for. Jaime Murray, Robert Glenister and Marc Warren are all good as well. (Attention, writers and producers: we get that Warren's character is supposed to be young and inexperienced, and that the relationship between Lester and Warren mirrors the relationship between Vaughn and Lester. You can stop pointing this out now, OK?)
It won't change your life or win a mantel full of Emmy awards. But it's a fun watch. Even the animated opening credits are fun.
By the way, if you plan to tape or TiVo the show, be aware that, once you add commercials, it runs 75 minutes. Kudos to AMC for not trying to trim it down into a 60-minute time slot.