Title card from series 5 onwards
|Created by||Tony Jordan|
Matt Di Angelo
|Theme music composer||Simon Rogers|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||6|
|No. of episodes||36 (List of episodes)|
|Running time||60 minutes per episode (UK)|
|Original channel||BBC One
BBC HD (2007–present)
|Original run||24 February 2004 – present|
Hustle is a British television drama series made by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One in the United Kingdom. Created by Tony Jordan and first broadcast in 2004, the series follows a group of con artists who specialise in "long cons" – extended deceptions which require greater commitment, but which return a higher reward than simple confidence tricks.
The sixth series of Hustle started on 4 January 2010 and consisted of six episodes. On 10 February 2010, the series finished airing.
Hustle was largely born from the same production team that created and popularised the early series of Spooks, a similarly-styled drama series first broadcast in 2002. Bharat Nalluri, that series' Executive Director, first conceived the idea in early 2002 while filming for the first Spooks series was ongoing. Nalluri pitched the concept to Jane Featherstone, Managing Director of Kudos Film & Television which was the production company behind Spooks, in the back of a taxi while returning from a day's filming. Intrigued by the idea, Featherstone recruited Tony Jordan, the lead scriptwriter of the soap opera EastEnders, to develop it into a workable proposal.
Jordan quickly produced some initial script drafts, which Featherstone took to the BBC; Gareth Neame, Head of Drama Commissioning, rapidly approved a six-part series. Featherstone assembled a production team that had considerable overlap with the Spooks crew, including Simon Crawford Collins as producer and Matthew Graham as co-writer. In creating the first episodes, Jordan drew inspiration from the long tradition of confidence tricks and heists in Hollywood and television, including The A Team, The Sting and The Grifters. Featherstone remarked that "Ocean's Eleven was on around the time Bharat and I first spoke, and I think it helped to inspire us, but really we took our inspiration from a whole catalogue of movies and books... we wanted to make something that had the energy, verve, style and pure entertainment value of those sorts of films" At the same time, the writers attempted to draw on the success of recent blockbusters such as Ocean's Eleven and Mission: Impossible; speaking in an interview in December 2003, Crawford explained that "[such shows] worked because of the interaction within the group – the plotlines were almost irrelevant".
With Hustle greenlit for filming, the production team began searching for actors to play both the main characters and the marks for each episode. The process was initially quite difficult; Crawford described his "immediate thought [as] 'this is so good, how the hell are we going to get a cast to live up to these characters?' ... Tony had created incredibly strong characters, each with their own particular style and panache, but they also had to form a believable, if unusual, 'family' unit". Robert Vaughn, the Academy Award-nominated star of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., was soon suggested as a natural choice to play Albert Stroller, the elderly 'roper' responsible for ensnaring potential marks. After meeting Vaughn over lunch, Crawford "[recognised] straight away that he could bring a whole new dimension to the part of Albert". Vaughn was immediately offered the role, and asked to begin filming the following day.
Jordan's script called for a group of five con artists or "grifters", with a wide range of ages, appearances and experience. The production team cast Adrian Lester, at the time playing Henry V at the National Theatre, as Michael Stone, the former leader of the group; Marc Warren as Danny Blue, the "inside man"; and Robert Glenister as Ash Morgan, the "fixer"; in August 2003. Although having numerous credits in film and on the stage, Lester was an unknown face in television, having had less than two hours broadcast screen time prior to the first Hustle series. Lester explained that he "couldn't imagine playing the same character for years, but Hustle was completely different. In the very first rehearsal we were doing a dance routine and then the next thing I know I'm whacking out several different accents and I just thought, 'I'm in heaven, this is great!'".
Jaime Murray completed the lead actors, playing Stacie Monroe who, as the grifters' only female member, is self-styled as "the lure". Murray, described by one of the Hustle production team as "that rare specimen – a stunningly beautiful actress who can actually act", and who auditioned in platform shoes to match her 5 ft 7in height with Stacie's description as having "legs that go on for miles", was reportedly "terrified" to be working with the more famous actors Vaughn and Lester, saying "when we were filming the first couple of episodes I was absolutely petrified and was convinced that it would be really obvious on screen. So when I watched some of it on tape I was totally amazed that you couldn't see how frightened I really was. I kept thinking, 'Oh my God! I'm working with Adrian Lester and Robert Vaughn. Any time now someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to get my coat!'".
In addition to the lead actors, the production team recruited a number of actors, both major and minor, to play the marks in each episode; including David Haig, Tamzin Outhwaite, and David Calder.
With the cast and crew in place, filming for the first Hustle series took place in London between August and November 2003. The lead actors were given professional instruction in sleight-of-hand and pickpocketing; "all the tricks of the trade from card-shuffling to stealing watches", according to Lester. The cast found the experience informative; Murray explained, "I realised that most cons are all about diversion – while you're trying to con somebody you're doing something to distract them in the opposite direction so they don't notice and that's exactly how pickpockets work".
Several members of the cast described Hustle's filming schedule as incredibly hectic. Vaughn said that "[the role] was offered to me, and I was told to get on a plane an hour after I got the phone call and start shooting the following day". Speaking in 2009 after filming four series of the show, Lester explained that "when we start shooting Hustle we film two episodes concurrently, with the scenes out of sequence. Knowing where you are in the intricate plots at any one moment is... challenging". Murray, by contrast, claimed that the hardest scene to film was from the fourth episode, when Danny loses spectacularly to Stacie in strip poker and ends up entirely naked. "It was the toughest scene for me of the entire six months we spent filming the series... Stacie is supposed to be calm, cool and collected... she looks down, checks him out and casually and suavely makes a comment. I kept looking down, dissolving into fits of laughter and was almost unable to deliver my line. So all you'll see is me laughing".
Although the programme typically contains few non-trivial stunts or dramatic special effects, the first episode includes an example of Ash Morgan's favourite con, known as "The Flop": having previously received a fractured skull in a bar brawl, Morgan deliberately steps in front of moving cars and exaggerates the accident. Although not actually hurt, X-ray scans show his fractured skull, and the driver's insurance company pays out a compensation claim. Glenister balked at doing the entire stunt himself, saying "I got a stunt man who did all the smashing against the windscreen stunts but I did everything else... We all like doing the stunts involving driving fast because it's boy's-own stuff but when it comes to the dangerous stunts I'm quite happy to leave it to someone else!"
The first episode of Hustle was broadcast on BBC One on 24 February 2004, driven by a strong advertising campaign organised by Abbott Mead Vickers, surrounding its slogan, "the con is on". The programme was an immediate success, attracting over 6.7 million viewers, and attracting favourable reviews (see below). Before the first series had finished airing, the BBC had sold rebroadcast licenses to TV channels in twelve countries, including Italy, Norway, Germany, Israel, Russia and the Netherlands. Anita Davison, Commercial Director for BBC Worldwide, claimed that "The series [had] all the hallmarks of a huge international hit". The series was later licensed to broadcasters in India and South America.
In response to the extremely positive reaction, the BBC recommissioned the show for a second series on 17 March 2004, after just three episodes had aired. The second series retained much of the initial production team including Jordan as lead scriptwriter, and introduced Karen Wilson as producer; all of the show's lead actors agreed to reprise their roles.
Filming for the second Hustle series took place in the summer of 2004, again in and around central London. Lester described the second shoot as "much easier" than the chaotic first series. "On the first series we didn't know each other... we were trying to work out what roles we were going to play and the scripts were still being written as we were shooting it; it was all a case of finding out what exactly Hustle was going to be.. second time around it was much easier, much quicker... when we were reading the script you could really hear the other actors doing their lines because you knew kind of how they were going to do them..." With the success of the first series, Hustle's team of writers were able to be more inventive in creating new plots for the second six-episode run.
The programme retained all of the lead actors from the first series; guest actors appearing the second run included Lee Ingleby, Fay Ripley, and Robert Llewellyn. The second series was broadcast on BBC One from 29 March 2005, to a first-night audience of 6.7 million.
In the wake of the equally-successful second series, the BBC took Hustle to the American market, securing a licensing deal with AMC. In addition to exclusive broadcast rights to the first and second series in the United States, AMC also took the position of co-production partner on the third series, already in pre-production, with the option to take the same position on a fourth series. The BBC described the move as "Securing the right platform... essential for a series to succeed in the competitive US market...". The first two series premiered in the US in January 2006, erroneously billed as an "AMC original series". The BBC also secured new licensing deals with broadcasters in Australia and New Zealand.
Capitalising on Hustle's international success, the BBC created a spinoff series, The Real Hustle, which premiered on 10 February 2006. The documentary follows three genuine hustlers – a magician and professional gambler, a glamorous actress, and a professional sleight-of-hand artist and crooked gambling consultant – as they pull short-cons on unsuspecting businesses and members of the public. The BBC described the series as an attempt "to reveal how the scams work so that the viewer can avoid being ripped off by the same con".
All five of the lead actors again reprised their roles in the third series, which featured guest stars including Richard Chamberlain, Linford Christie, Sara Cox and Paul Nicholls. The series premiered on 10 March 2006, running until 14 April. The second episode, featuring Danny and Mickey running naked through Trafalgar Square, attracted a viewing audience of 6 million. Lester described the scene as one of his most embarrassing moments on-set, saying "you forget just how many phone cameras there are... we thought [the Square] was fairly deserted, but as soon as someone shouted 'Action' there was a tourbus behind us and the whole top deck suddenly started filming".
With the backing of AMC, a fourth series of Hustle was virtually guaranteed, and by late 2006 it was clear that the cable network was taking a commanding role in the show's development. Despite the increased funding AMC provided, which allowed the writers to set episodes in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the series was quickly mired in casting concerns. It was first rumoured in April 2006 that Adrian Lester might not reprise the role of Mickey Bricks in the fourth series; the BBC confirmed his departure in September that year, casting Ashley Walters as a replacement lead character. The BBC was quick to dispel any suggestion that Lester's resignation was connected to the shift in production focus, stating "it is a shame that, due to his current filming commitments, Adrian cannot join us this time round...", while Lester explained his action as "need[ing] to do something else, be associated with something else". However, Lester also admitted that he felt that the series "just got a little bit too 'light'".
Series Five debuted on 4 January 2009 with the return of Adrian Lester and the departure of cast members Marc Warren & Jaime Murray. With the return of Lester's character, Mickey Bricks, Ashley Walters didn't reprise his role from series 4. The series resumed production in the summer of 2008. AMC reports it will not broadcast this or future seasons of Hustle.
Series Six started 4 January 2010. All of the 5th series cast returned with production that moved to Birmingham, despite the show retaining its London setting. The series once again consists of 6 episodes. Lolita Chakrabarti (Lester's real-life wife) made a guest star appearance as Museum Curator Nishika Baboor in this season's third episode, Tiger Troubles.
A seventh series is in production and was confirmed on UK morning television show GMTV by Kelly Adams who plays Emma Kennedy in the show. She will reprise her role but a full cast list is unknown. The seventh series currently has no broadcast date.
Each episode of Hustle is a stand-alone programme, with usually little or no connection to other episodes in the series, however it has contained some continuity before, for example:
Each one-hour programme follows the team of grifters as they practice the "long con", an extended deception practised against one or more "marks". Speaking in a documentary video, Adrian Lester described the difference between the long con and more common confidence tricks: "where you take a mark and convince them of a certain situation or a lie, and you send them away to get more money and come back and give it to you". In the first series, Stacie explains to Danny the reason such long cons tend to work: unlike the more obvious short cons, "most marks don't report a con because they think they've done something illegal, or better still, they don't know they've been conned in the first place".
The team adhere to the credo "you can't con an honest man", with all of their marks being people who have some kind of illegal activity in their pasts or simply demonstrating a fundamentally negative personality; in one episode, Mickey stated that he selects marks that he personally has reason to dislike in order to ensure that the con is never exclusively about the money. Some episodes have even featured the crew performing cons that benefit people they have befriended over the course of the episode rather than having them be the sole benefactors of the con; examples include them faking a jewel theft from the Tower of London and allowed a member of the cleaning staff to discover it after she showed sympathy for team member Ash Morgan while he was working undercover as an immigrant worker (Eye of the Beholder), leaving the money stolen from a highly secure slot machine in a casino to a security guard at the casino who had advised Stacie Monroe during her brief employment (Big Daddy Calling), or threatening to 'return' a stolen painting only after the rights to the security system that protected it had been returned to the wife of the original inventor (The inventor having committed suicide after he was cheated out of the patent) (New Recruits).
The series frequently breaks the fourth wall (usually at least once per episode) and uses cutaway scenes shot in a different style from the rest of the show. For example, in several episodes the characters appear to "stop time", interacting with other characters that are frozen in place, discussing the con either with each other, or even with the audience. The technique is used as a metaphor for how the main characters manipulate their environment at will, as opposed to normal people who are oblivious to what is going on. Examples of this can be seen in the pilot episode (The Con is On), the first episode of the second series (Gold Mine) and the second episode of the fourth series (Signing Up to Wealth). Other fourth wall-breaking moments are more subtle – a character smiles at the camera as the con begins to take shape, or makes an editorial comment to the viewers. Some episodes insert fantasy sequences – scenes shot like a Bollywood musical or a silent movie, for example.
Each episode also amounts to a confidence game played upon the viewers through the use of misdirection and hidden plot details that are revealed at the end of the story. Not all cons depicted are successful, and some episodes focus on the characters dealing with the consequences of their actions. However, even if a con does fail, the characters usually come out on top in some way or other.
In addition to one long con, each episode features a number of short cons played by the major characters on members of the public. The short cons demonstrate the seemingly endless array of tricks professional con men possess and the ease with which short cons can be played.
|Series||UK Broadcast||Average Audience|
|1||24 February – 30 March 2004||6.47 million|
|2||25 March – 3 May 2005||5.82 million|
|3||10 March – 14 April 2006||5.86 million|
|4||3 May – 7 June 2007||5.54 million|
|5||8 January – 12 February 2009||6.07 million|
|6||4 January – 8 February 2010||6.27 million|
In October 2005, it was announced that the BBC had sold United States screening rights for the first two series to cable television station AMC, who joined as a production partner for the third run. The series is also screened in Spain and Portugal through the People+Arts channel, partially owned by the BBC. The first two series aired back-to-back on CBC in Canada during the summer of 2006. The third series premiered on CBC on 13 February 2007.
Series 4 marked a departure from the usual airing of the series. Typically, the BBC would air the episode in the UK and then 6 to 9 months later they would air in the US on AMC. However, due to the additional funding that AMC provided for the production, Series 4 debuted in the US on 18 April 2007, prior to airing in the UK. As a result of AMC's increased involvement, the first and final episodes of series 4 were filmed on location in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The series has also been shown in other countries such as New Zealand, Australia (both on ABC1 and Foxtel's UKTV), Japan, Italy on La7 and Finland on MTV3. Currently series two is aired to the middle east (Mostly KSA, Oman & UAE) by Dubai One channelbased in Dubai UAE. Virgin Media TV bought the rights to broadcast Hustle on its flagship channel Virgin 1.
The series received a spin-off documentary, The Real Hustle, in which Paul Wilson, Jessica-Jane Clement and Alexis Conran travel the country demonstrating cons to real people with the aid of hidden cameras. It is aired regularly on BBC Three.
The title sequence, created by Berger & Wyse, was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award (2005), a BAFTA (2006) and an Emmy (2007). The title music, composed by Simon Rogers was also nominated for the Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Emmy in 2007.
Following much media speculation, including reports of the programme being cancelled and a motion picture spin-off, the BBC announced on 12 June 2008 that Hustle had been recommissioned for a fifth series with series 1–3 star, Adrian Lester returning to the show alongside Robert Glenister and Robert Vaughn. Due to scheduling conflicts, Marc Warren and Jaime Murray did not feature in series five, with Matt Di Angelo and Kelly Adams joining the cast.
In June 2006 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights to Hustle; a film adaptation of the programme is currently being written by creator Tony Jordan, who has written several drafts but is still developing the script. In February 2009, executive producer, Simon Crawford Collins stated that the movie is to be produced by a major US studio.
The first series of Hustle, broadcast from 24 February to 30 March 2004, attracted generally favourable reviews and audience figures. The Guardian described it as "defiantly high-concept, tightly plotted, knowing stuff... a laugh; slick, glossy, and smart certainly, but a laugh all the same", and The Times remarked that it had "the snap and style of a series that has been cryogenically frozen in the 1960s and brought back to life, like Austin Powers... The wonderfully absurd result is a drama series that takes itself far less seriously than almost anything since The Persuaders". A later review from the same paper summarised the series as "an engaging, well-acted, snappily directed drama... sleekly edited, flatteringly lit, and stylishly executed... Will you remember a single moment of it five minutes after you’ve watched an episode? Probably not. But who cares?" The first three episodes attracted an average audience of 6.2 million, peaking at over 30% of the total audience.
Several series of the show have been released on 2-disc DVDs in both Europe and North America. The UK, Region 2, release of Series One erroneously contained the US edited versions of the episodes, and not the full uncut episodes as originally seen on BBC One. A revised edition was released some time afterwards. The revised edition has a 15 certificate whereas the cut DVD has a PG certificate. The back of the revised case also contains the words "Each episode approx. 59 mins" under "Run Time" in the information table.
|DVD Name||Region 2 Release Date||Region 1 Release Date||Australian Release Date|
|Hustle Complete Series One||18 April 2005||5 September 2005||11 February 2008|
|Hustle Complete Series Two||19 September 2005||13 February 2006||2 April 2008|
|Hustle Complete Series Three||23 April 2007||10 July 2007||11 December 2008|
|Hustle One to Three Complete||23 April 2007||–||-|
|Hustle Complete Series Four||28 April 2008||22 January 2008||2 April 2009|
|Hustle Complete Series One to Four||28 April 2008||12 August 2008||-|
|Hustle Complete Series Five||11 January 2010||4 March 2010|
|Hustle Complete Series Six||TBA||TBA|