Tuesday, 26 January 2010


Hustle Series 6 Episode 4. Mickey (Adrian Lester) and his team are about to finish a £50,000 job with a case switch when Sean (Matt Di Angelo) lets the mark go with the money and follows a man with whom he seems to have a score to settle. Emma (Kelly Adams) recognizes this man: it's Rex Kennedy (Danny Webb), Emma and Sean's estranged father gone in Australia when they were kids. Things get worse when Matt decides to con his dad.

Series 6 relocates Hustle to Birmingham in order to contain production costs and receive welcome subventions, thanks to a deal secured by Screen West Midlands (1) - series 2 of Survivors is also shot there. But since the first episode of this new series, what could have been an interesting move from a narrative point of view became very quickly a weakness: the playground of Mickey, Albert (Robert Vaughn), Emma & Sean, and Ash (Robert Glenister) remains firmly set in London.

A few scenes are still shot in London, but the trick consists in showing Westminster, the Gherkin or other landmarks from time to time, producing a sometimes annoying surreal feeling. Actually there are people in Birmingham who found that annoying too but for other motives than the sake of television narration: some local taxpayers considering that the £400,000 invested for the relocation of Hustle do not contribute to the promotion of Birmingham and West Midlands (http://www.expressandstar.com/2010/01/14/brum-deal-on-hustle/). To which a spokeswoman of Screen WM answered that Hustle will bring £1.2m into the region’s economy.

But even with a relocation and a welcome £400,000 co-financing, budget remains an issue weighing heavily on the stories this season. This is not a surprise in these recession times of course, recently actor Nicholas Lyndhurst bemoaned budget difficulties of the BBC's Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock & Chips (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/news/a199136/lyndhurst-bemoans-rock--chips-budget.html). But when your characters are meant to evolve in the glamourous world wonderfully stylized in the Hustle title sequence - designed by Berger and Wyse - it becomes a dilemma.

And unfortunately it shows in last night's episode, written by Mark Chapell and Fintan Ryan. In a departure from the series' format, the episode is centered around the backstory of Emma and Sean and the convenient place of the con is a demolition site. Too many indoor discussions do the rest.

The good points: the effective opening sequence, Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams (particularly during the final confrontation with Rex), Rob Jarvis and the return of the old end title. But if last week's episode was pure Mission: Impossible, this one is the equivalent of M:I's infamous 1970 episode, Homecoming, where Phelps and the IMF team investigate a murder in Jim's hometown.

Next week: Dragon's Den meets Hustle.

(1) http://www.screenwm.co.uk/news/detail/440/screen_west_midlands_secures_deal_to_locate_major_bbc_drama_series_hustle_to_birmingham/

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