Hustle has been an up-and-down show.
The high-concept series – following the exploits of a gang of contemporary, charismatic conmen – was a throwback to the glamorous hi-jinks of ’60s Lew Grade series like The Persuaders and Department S (a nostalgic connection playfully highlighted by the casting of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s Robert Vaughn as senior con artist Albert Stroller).
Innovative in its use of non-realistic techniques – the first direct address to camera (and the viewer) was something of a jolt – in telling its stories.
Hustle’s genius came in the climactic reveal of the workings of each con, the show’s bold, brash start in 2004 offering a great cast that included Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister, Jaime Murray and Marc Warren.
Things went a bit pear-shaped after a couple of years, with key cast departures, capped by the – thankfully temporary – loss of Adrian Lester as gang leader Mickey Bricks.
Poor Ashley Walters was simply not up to the job of stepping into Lester’s considerable size 10s.
The loss of Warren and Murray was more than made up for with the eventual arrival of Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams as the Kennedy siblings, and the return of Lester.
The show might be in its sixth series, but it still works because, like its ’60s antecedents, it’s a delightfully light and fun affair, incorporating multiple visual techniques that keep the storytelling fresh.
The challenge to the viewer is still to see if they can figure out the details of each episode’s con before the big reveal at the end, which makes a great game to play.
Season six sees the show build on the successful addition of the new cast members, with Emma Kennedy (Kelly Adams) shining in particular.
Her impersonation of Kylie Minogue in the opening episode is hysterical (and came about due to the actress’s oft-noted resemblance to the Aussie pop pixie).
Financial wrongdoing, the corruption of the art world, and familial issues all feature, although an attempt to link the first and last episodes is not altogether successful due to the disappearance of Indira Varma as a potential official foil for the team.
There’s also a misjudged appearance by the Dragons (of Dragon’s Den fame) in the fifth episode: they needn’t give up the day job...
Hustle is great drama and excellent entertainment, but the biggest con with this DVD is the paltry single extra, an 18-minute behind-the-scenes piece titled ‘The Hustle Family’.
Engaging and amusing, great writing and superb chemistry make this one of Hustle’s best seasons.