Saturday, 15 January 2011


Hustle - Series Seven, Episode Two. A con of the gang backfires when Emma Kennedy (Kelly Adams) meets her ex-boyfriend Joe Ryan (Joe Armstrong). Joe is facing eviction because of Birmingham loan shark Georgina Althorp (Angela Griffin), and the team goes there to lure her with a castle and a title. Meanwhile, it seems that Emma is falling in love again with her ex.

BBC One's hit con artist drama is relocated in Birmingham since its previous series in order to contain production costs and receive subventions thanks to a deal with Screen West Midlands. At the time of the relocation some local taxpayers considered that the £400,000 invested for the move did not contribute to the promotion of Birmingham and West Midlands (1). Indeed Mickey Stone and his team's playground remains set in London.

A spokeswoman of Screen WM answered to the critics that Hustle would bring £1.2m into the region’s economy and in 2010 Suzie Norton, CEO of Screen West Midlands, explained that Hustle's return meant further employment opportunities for local crew and an extra boost for the local economy (2). This series, one episode - this one actually - is mostly set where it is filmed much to the satisfaction of the show's star Adrian Lester (Mickey), who was born in Birmingham.

Past the very talkative pre-credits sequence, scriptwriter Chris Lang manages a pretext to take the gang to the glorious city as their new mark is based in Birmingham : the Scrooge-like but not redeemable at all Georgina Althorp, boss of secured loan company Do$h4You! Not all the gang, as Albert (Robert Vaughn) chooses to "coordinate" things from London (« This is Birmingham. No decent hotels, no restaurants. I'm not entirely sure they even have electricity. »)

And Birmingham looks really beautiful in this episode directed by John McKay. It will also certainly bring visitors to Arbury Estate, the castle used as a bait by Mickey and Ash (Robert Glenister) for Georgina. Hustle writers should really stay off personal lives of the Kennedy siblings (remember the fourth episode of series six) as the revival of Emma's love story and her interrogation about grifters's way of life are unconvincing.

The twist sounds really artificial to the point that it looks that there was a stock of hazmat suits from the defunct Survivors (filmed in Birmingham too) available somewhere. But it would be nice to see Angela Griffin as Georgina "Is it Red Nose Day?" Althorp again. And Ash looks more and more like the Home Secretary of Spooks, the former we mean. His "Dawlish" was great fun.


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