HUSTLE: Friday 21st January, BBC1, 9pm ALERT ME
There are few things on modern television more hilariously overdone the ‘marks’ from Hustle. They make Stuart Baggs look tear-jerkingly humble and we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they list “being posh and sacking people” as some of their hobbies. To be honest, the writers might as well just call one of them ‘Toffboy McDaddyscash’ and put a tattoo which reads ‘Rob Me’ on his forehead. Make no mistake – they are brilliant… but they are the creations of writers who are probably laughing themselves to death as they dream them up.
Now in its seventh series, Hustle certainly isn’t lacking ingenuity, but it’s this trickery mixed with a real and unabashed sense of fun that has made the show such a consistent performer over the last couple of years. If the production team are enjoying writing them, then we are certainly enjoying watching them. Everyone’s a winner..
This evening’s arbitrary bastard is a little different though. Mickey and his crew of noble con-artists have taken on Americans before (they usually offer the brilliantly heightened scope for stereotypical idiocy) but this bloke is no corporate stooge. He is still abjectly despicable though and as per usual, he’s their toughest customer yet. Marcus Wendell is a casino owner who takes fierce pride in his family’s tradition of running the fairest gambling houses in America, he takes a sadistic pleasure in catching card-sharps of all forms, collecting their mug-shots and destroying their lives. Just to make sure we hate him, the writers have him fire a waitress for trying to pocket a sachet of butter from his restaurant. What’s more, he knows exactly who the gang are and he intends to live up to the forebears he idolises by bringing the gang down for good.
But it’s not the fact that for once their prey knows they are coming that makes this episode a great watch, it’s the National Treasure-style civil war back-story. This time their scam isn’t about the money, but family pride. Albert Stroller’s great grandfather was accused of cheating by Wendell’s ancestors, lived the rest of his life in disgrace and now Albert is determined to clear his name. Game on, clash of the titans, etc. It’s utter tosh for sure. The finest tosh you can get on television.