The con is on...A British dramedy show (2004-2012) centered around a group of con artists, who specialise in the Long Con and only con those who deserve it. Highly inspired by The Sting; it's mentioned more than once and almost every con that appeared in the film ends up being played in Hustle at some point.This show got renewed for a second series only four episodes through its six-episode run due to its popularity.The show itself is unafraid to con the audience, with the characters having back-up plans and only revealing part of the trick until the end; seemingly random and unrelated moments throughout the episode are revealed to be vitally important. The one thing you can count on is that if you think you know how the con works, you don't.The fourth series saw a change in the cast; Mickey was busy in Australia "selling the Sydney Opera House", leaving Danny as the (far-more chaotic and improvisational) leader. The fifth man was Billy, a younger and naive short con artist who idolised Danny.Mickey returns in the fifth series, but with Danny and Stacie in America, Albert in prison, and Billy... unmentioned, Mickey and Ash need to put together a new crew.The show ended in 2012 with its eighth series.It has an across the pondcounterpart in Leverage, though save for general concept and at least one prominent guest star appearing on both shows, the two shows are unrelated.Not to be confused with the ESPN original miniseries about Pete "Charlie Hustle" Rose, or the Japanese comedy-oriented wrestling promotion.
In a season eight episode, Jodie Prenger plays a friend of the gang who winds up in hospital after using a dodgy diet product sold by that episode's marks. Before her acting career took off, Prenger won the UK version of The Biggest Loser and subsequently worked as a writer on diet issues.
In the final episode it's proposed that the now seven-person team should be called The Magnificent Seven. Albert, played by Robert Vaughn, seems very taken with the idea.
Air-Vent Passageway: Sean and Emma break into a gallery via the vents in "Eat Yourself Slender".
Art Shift: Used for exposition scenes. A description of a very old con trick is done via a B&W silent movie, and an explanation of fugu fish preparation is done with anime.
Artistic License - Biology: In one episode the gang has to prove Albert is the son of Queen Mother. To do that they switch a sample of her DNA for his. Not only does no one notice that the DNA is identical, they fail to notice it's the wrong sex.
Aside Glance: Every main character, on a fairly regular basis, except for Billy (in fact, it happens very rarely in Series 4 at all).
Black and Gray Morality: The marks are sleazebags, but usually on just the right side of the law; the hustlers are criminals whose cons involve making money off the marks, but rarely actually bringing the marks to justice or preventing them from going straight back to whatever they were doing before.
Bodybag Trick: In "Lest Ye Be Judged", Mickey uses a bodybag to smuggle Emma into the morgue so she can place a false postmortem report in the files.
Parodied by Albert, who thinks he can do a variety of UK accents but really can't.
Brought Down to Normal: Mickey gets scammed when trying to buy a new phone over the Internet, and loses his mojo.
Butt Monkey: Eddie, especially in Season 6. They occasionally reward him well for putting up with them, but they constantly con him out of drinks and wreck his business. One wonders why he puts up with them. This is justified after the return of Mickey in series 5, as he and Ash are then the owners of Eddie's Bar.
Lampshaded by Emma when Ash repays Eddie for his help by paying off their Tab (which is money that they owed him in the first place)
Taken to extremes when Alfie (Ash's 11 year old god son) shows up in season 7 and hustles Eddie 25 times in an hour.
The Caper: The season 2 finale, "Eye of the Beholder" has the gang stealing the Crown Jewels though there is a con twist in that they're selling the fake jewels to several buyers.
Caper Crew: (original crew) Mickey is the Mastermind, Stacey is the Distraction, Ash is the Hacker, the Gadget Guy, and the Safe Cracker, and the Driver. Danny is the New Kid. Albert and Stacey take turns acting as the Partner in Crime; everyone except Ash takes turns as the Conman.
Season 8 episode 2 is full of them, including Ash's speech about what great grifters they are, which is mostly a list of previous plotlines; also former recurring character Cyclops puts in his first appearance since season five, and at the end Mickey (jokingly) moots a con involving a fake Mondrian painting, which the original crew already did in season one (he even suggests they use the same forger again).
Series 3 Episode 4 features a movie-related con. Danny expresses some uncertainty, reminding them that he got shot last time they did one (Series 1 Episode 2).
Series 3 Episode 5 has the team trying to fool a newspaper into believing an old urban myth about the Royal family. Danny warns them 'I ain't nicking the crown jewels again!' referring to when they did just that in Series 2 Episode 6. This is also referenced in the following episode but is less of a 'nod' and more an explicit explanation of it in order to impress someone.
Delayed Wire: Final episode of the first series and again in the first episode of the fifth.
Directed by Cast Member: Adrian Lester directed an episode of the final series (which resulted in Mickey spending much of the episode locked in a car boot).
Dirty Cop: Hustle would sometimes feature Dirty Cops who thought they could manipulate the crew for their own ends. This always ended badly for them. D.I. Fisk in "Curiosity Caught the Kat" is a typical example.
In S3 E1, Stacie walks into bathroom while Danny is taking a bath (he didn't lock the door as he's claustrophobic) and asks him to sing into her tape recorder (we later find out why) and Danny, whilst slightly baffled, complies without questioning or protesting. It's not even necessary to explain how this would be different if the genders were reversed!
The crew claims to stand for combating the greed and selfishness of other people, and looking out for the 'little people' who are wronged by them in some way for the former's benefit. YET the crew con, mistreat, exploit, manipulate (and let's be honest, generally oppress) Eddie daily, but apparently that's fine because they benefit from it.
Men who ogle at Emma are usually characterized as creepy and are invariably wankers and villains, but when Sean is accosted by some dirty old woman who demands (and it's implied gets) Sex for Services, it's Played for Laughs.
Seemingly at the end of Series 2, and very much so at the end of the final series.
The end of the first series, in which Mickey tells us "We'll be gone for a while" in one of the gang's many fourth-wall breaking moments.
Enforced Method Acting: Occasionally, an in-universe version as the team mislead one of their own to get a better reaction; for example in the first episode, a realistic reaction to Mickey being fake-shot in the head can only be guaranteed by Danny not being in the know.
Evil Debt Collector: Several examples. The mark in "Old Sparks Come New" and her thuggish debt collectors are the most typical.
Expy: One member of a pair of criminals was the spitting image of Moss, right down to the nasal voice and Genius Ditz personality.
Fanservice: Every young or middle-aged woman on the show is always dressed up and wearing high heels, with very few exceptions.
Fake American: One episode had what may be a triple subversion: they think JW3 is American. He's played by American actor Richard Chamberlain. Then it turns out the character is British, and was a Fake American all along. Then it turns out that he really is American, and was a Fake Brit for a bit.
Fake Brit: Parodied - one episode has Albert convinced he can do accents, much to the others' horror.
Stacie: The banker (played by Jaime Murray, who is also in Dexter), occasionally required to Show Some Leg
Ash: The Fixer, occasionally providing Mission Control as well. He has a metal plate in his skull and frequently allows himself (off-screen) to get hit by cars so he can get the insurance money.
Reworked somewhat in seasons 4, 5 and 6. In 4, Mickey is away in Australia, selling the Sydney Opera House, and Danny takes over his position for the crew's time in the USA, with a young (and forgettable) con artist called Billy replacing him. In 5 and 6, Stacie and Danny (and the single-season Danny-clone from season 4) have been Put on a Bus, and replaced with the Brother-Sister Team of Sean and Emma. The roles remain basically the same, however, with Sean replacing Danny as the young, talented but inexperienced learner, and Emma as the sex appeal/love interest for Mickey. Actually, when Emma and Sean first join the gang she is actually stated to be the "young, talented but inexperienced learner" ("A natural," Albert describes her as, much as he had previously done for Danny) while her kid brother wasn't sure if he even wanted to be a grifter and was more or less the Tagalong Kid. It was later that they slid into their Chick and Team Protege roles, respectively.
Fixing The Game: In "Clearance From A Deal", the gang stage an elaborate con in order to fix the outcome of a roulette game.
Flag Bikini: Seen in "And This Little Piggy Had Money" as part of a fantasy the mark has about what his life will be like when he accepts the high-paying job in California that Mickey's crew is offering him.
Foreshadowing: In the very first scene of season 4; Danny tells a guy in the cinema that, at the end, all five of the film's characters get blown up in a boat. Which is exactly what they make the Mark in the season's finale think happened to them.
Gilligan Cut: In "Picasso Finger Painting", we cut from Sean protesting there is no way he is going back to Mad Dolly's to Sean at Mad Dolly's, still protesting.
Graceful Loser: This is the main thing that separates our heroes from the marks, especially Mickey. On the rare occasions our heroes completely lose, they tend to take it quite calmly, and in one episode where they were completely and utterly owned by a little girl, though they didn't know that, they actually showed approval, with Albert saying they had witnessed a master at work. By contrast, whenever a mark loses, they tend to scream, yell and throw tantrums. Mickey often says his motivation for taking down a mark is to see if they can dish it out as well as take it, and he apparently holds himself to that.
Honor Among Thieves: The bent cops will often try to call them out on this claiming there to be no such thing but have to coerce people to betray other crooks. Albert says to Emma that all con men rely on honor among thieves because that's the only way they know they're not going to get screwed over mid con by one of their suppliers of fake goods.
Invincible Hero: The crew in most episodes. As a whole, the crew almost never face any complications in their plans and if it appears they have, the flashbacks at the end will show that it was all apart of their plan. The amount of danger they have of actually failing or even stumbling in most episodes is zero.
It Must Be Mine: This is often a weakness of the marks, allowing the team their 'in'. Examples include a rare banknote in "The Lesson" (or so it seems), a case of rare wine in "Getting Even", and a Faberge Egg (one of a matched pair) in "Eat Yourself Slender".
It's A Small Net After All: Ash is able to set up professional looking websites for fake companies in a matter of hours. Possibly justified as this is his job as the team's fixer, and he probably keeps a few dummy sites operating at all times that he can quickly customise. However, in "Gold Mine", he is seemingly able to get a site up and running in the time it takes Danny to spin the tale to the mark. And he always manages to get the sites to show up near the top of any search the mark does.
It Tastes Like Feet: In "Eat Yourself Slender", a mark (being rude to a waitress as the marks always are) complains that his beer tastes like "warm monkey spit".
Karma Houdini: Though the series thrives on seeing bad people get what's comg to them, in a strange way some marks do actually end up being both conned and simultaneously end up better off. For example, Baxter from "Diamond Seeker" started off with a replica necklace. In the end, he had the same replica neckless but actually believed that it was genuine (and he wasn't conned into paying for it, just letting the gang keep what he thought was the replica). He's as happy as if he did get the real thing.
The hustlers generally target people who deserve it, partly to justify their crimes to themselves since otherwise they are in it just for the thrill and the money. In addition the victims are invariably very smug, dogkickers and outright jerkasses in their demeanor. Notably the hustlers are reluctant to go after the really evil victims, like gangsters and killers, purely because they know their normal marks won't chop them to pieces if they get caught out, and not because they think their normal targets deserve it more.
Played with when Emma and Sean go after their Disappeared Dad, who vanished when they were kids shortly before their mother died and never showed up again. Sean expects him to be this and had been waiting for years to get back at him; part of his con rests on the idea that his dad (who doesn't recognise them, since they were only kids) will screw him out of a deal. He doesn't, and it never even occurred to him to do so, which leaves Sean shaken. It turned out that he didn't know his wife died and when he found out, he actually did try and find them, to no avail. They are still mad at him, especially since he started another family and didn't tell them what he had done, but they decide not to ruin his new life and only take from him the money they think they are owed in allowance, passing up a chance to rob him of more. He admits to them that he loves and is proud of them before they leave.
Subverted (possibly doubly) in one episode: they're conning a woman who had her husband's dog put to sleep. Then she reveals that it had been hit by a car and was in a lot of pain. However, as most things she "reveals" are in fact lies, this could be one as well.
Landmark Sale: The London Eye, the Hollywood Sign and the often mentioned Sydney Opera House con.
Laxative Prank: Often used to temporarily incapacitate someone for the purpose of a con.
Let's You and Him Fight: The first episode of the fifth series sees Mickey and Ash attempting to con a mark who, unknown to them, is actually a fellow conwoman (and her brother) attempting to con them. This is due to Albert's machinations; he claims that he wanted them to team up, and this way they know what the others are capable of.
Loveable Rogue: All of the main characters. Pretty much the whole point of the show.
Malicious Misnaming: Throughout season six, Emma keeps referring to Lucy Britford as 'Lucy Bitchface'.
Albert however is friends with every concierge in London and in later seasons often finds marks like this. His ex wife uses this to find him in the season 7 finale.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the first episode of Series 6 the mark is a former banker whose bank was bailed out by the government and he is now retired on a huge pension (part of which the team try to relieve him of) which has outraged the tabloids and public at large. Just like former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin.
No Export for You: North America hasn't seen a DVD release of the series since Season 4.
No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: A woman described as "posh fit with a hint of mucky" invites Mickey to dinner. It's a Police officer who's intent on sending Mickey down.
Not Named in Opening Credits: Guest actors aren't listed in the opening credits anyway, but there was no advance publicity for Marc Warren's appearance in the final episode.
Phoney Call: In "Father of the Jewels", Sean is with the mark when he calls Mickey and starts acting like he is talking to nursing home. Mickey is initially confused but quickly figures out that Sean is letting him know that they urgently need to set a nursing home for the next stage of the con.
The Dog Was the Mastermind: In the episode "Conning the Artists" the honor killing was all an elaborate cover for a con a 10 year old girl came up with so her and her brother could escape their landlord/boss who the team had conned that very week. With the money the team took from him and their new mark's money
The Plan: Many, many episodes, but Mickey's playing of "Liability" Finch and a Customs officer is a very good example.
DS Terri Hodges: Mickey Stone is unique. He doesn't think like we do. You can't second-guess him. He gives the impression that he's making it all up as he goes along. But everything is planned, precise. He puts together complicated and seemingly unrelated events, impossible to unravel, but all leading to the big con. The higher the stakes, the more he likes it. Just when you think you've got him, you haven't.
Positive Discrimination: Straight examples abound in the early seasons, but eventually the series begins to avert it:
Almost everyone they con is white. They con an Indian guy, but then realize that he's not that bad and that they've put his entire factory out of work, so they give him money from another con. In another episode, they're conning an African dictator (and obvious Robert Mugabe parallel) but then it turns out that he was Mickey in disguise, and they're actually conning somebody else. Another episode has them conning an Indian sweatshop owner, but he completely reforms himself, so they can't finish the con.
They do con a Japanese businessman at the start of one episode, but while he is certainly unlikable (as made clear from the little girl's narration) he's not an outright monster. Shortly after pulling this con though the team themselves get conned by one of his (poorly treated) workers and his little sister.
At the beginning of series 6 they con a rich Arab.
In series 7 they've conned a woman of mixed race, an Iranian man although it turns out the crew themselves were the marks in this scheme, and a black man.
In season 8 they con a black man again.
Power Walk: Many episodes end with the grifters walking triumphantly in an aligned fashion, often next to the Thames river.
Precision F-Strike: Given Mickey hardly swears (or is actually impolite) in any circumstances, him telling a bounty hunter to "Go screw yourself" in Series 5 Episode 4 is rather jarring.
Put on a Bus: Mickey in Season 4, Danny, Stacy and Billy in Season 5.
The Bus Came Back: Mickey returns in season 5 Stacie and Danny return for the finale. No sign of Billy though...
The mark in the first series 6 episode was a banker who had been bailed out and retired on a massive pension.
Benny, Ash's old friend in series 7, lost substantial amounts of money betting on England to win the 2010 World Cup.
Rousing Speech: Ash Morgan gives one about the beauty of football and what it means to Britain at the start of "The Fall of Railton FC". It noticeably fails to inspire the rest of crew until he adds that it will also involve "Lolly. Lots of lolly".
Ash: Because football is my game, football is your game, football is OUR game. AND I WANT IT BACK!
- Beat -
Ash: Well you're supposed to clap and cheer at that bit
Eddie, the barman, is always falling for short cons from the crew and has never fully been paid for the drinks he's provided.
There's also a bit of one regarding Sean not being allowed alcohol, after he gets very drunk during their first score together, and calls Emma, "Sis" in front of the marks.
Sean is -really- good at finding out everything about potential marks, coming up with really long lists of quirks, facts and general knowledge surprising everyone.
Ash's nickname "Three socks"
Sarcastic Confession: In "The Fall of Railton FC", Ash temporarily Cannot Tell a Lie, so when the mark asks if there's any reason he shouldn't transfer the money, Ash admits to being a con man and tells him that if he transfers the money he'll never see it again. Then he starts laughing and passes it off as a joke, Emma joins in, and the mark laughs with them and transfers the money.
Scary Black Man: Mickey, normally more of a Gentleman Thief, resorts to this to frighten a bank manager in the first episode of series six. There is also the time Mickey beat a man to a bloody pulp with a baseball bat for sleeping with his wife. That was probably quite scary for the other guy.
Sexy Shirt Switch: In "As Good as it Gets", the crew is stunned when a girl they have never seen before wanders out of Sean's bedroom into the kitchen were they are having breakfast wearing Sean's shirt.
Shaped Like Itself: After a forged wine bottle gets smashed, the grifters simply carry on the con with a second forged bottle, leading to the exchange:
Spanish Prisoner: Danny mentions it in one episode, and is done at last in the first episode of season seven with four marks at the same time.
Spit Take: Albert washes the coffee table with vodka when it's suggested sex is the way to get to the mark in Series 1 Episode 5 and having already met the woman involved he immediately assumes the team expects him to do the deed. Thankfully for him, they don't.
Used to scare the mark into taking off and not coming back for his money (it's an old con trick, but something of a Fridge Logic moment now days, as even if the mark left the country they would undoubtedly look up on the internet to find out what the police were saying about the non-existent shooting). Subverted on one occasion when the mark got caught up in the emotions of the moment, drew his own firearm and fired a couple of real bullets into the 'victim' as well! Fortunately, he survives.
The Stinger: After the credits on the last episode, Eddie switches off the lights and exits the Bar through the back door which the previous scene implies leads out of the Hustle world back into reality.
Stylistic Suck: The eighties gameshow Ding Dong, That's My Song as hosted by Mark Williams' character in series 8 episode 5.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: It's worth mentioning how this show managed to avert this trope even with all the character substitutions that occurred during its eight series. First there's Series 4, in which Danny takes Mickey's place and Billy is introduced to take Danny's place. However, instead of Danny turning into Mickey and Billy being a clone of First-Series-Danny, Danny remained as he was and therefore was a very different leader to Mickey, and Billy was a lot less of a cocky newbie, being the only person who seriously respected Danny as a leader and not even dreaming of trying to challenge his position like Danny did to Mickey so many times. Then in Series 5, The Danny/Billy role is taken by Sean and Stacie is replaced by Emma, but again both were considerably different characters to their predecessors. In contrast to Danny and Billy who were very enthusiastic about grifting and wanted to build their experience as much as possible, Sean was still having doubts as to whether he even wanted to be a grifter, and when he made a big mistake during his first big con with the gang, offered to leave so as not to ruin Emma's chances. Emma's personality was also quite different to Stacie's, being a lot more sensitive and slightly less flirty (when out of character).
Mickey and Emma have to pretend to be lovers as part of a con. Sean doesn't realise they are just pretending. Of course, they don't tell him that the whole lovers scheme was Mickey's idea in the first place...
Sean and Emma give this vibe in their first episode. It's even commented on by some of the other characters. Eventually they get revealed as brother and sister.