Culture, TV & Radio

The Photographer and his Muse

Aneurin Barnard and Karen Gillan as David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton in We'll Take Manhattan (BBC4)The unending appeal of fashion magazines worldwide is primarily down to the fact they are sold on two essential features: pictures and people. Prompted by the likes of Life magazine, Vogue became a major driver in our consumption of pictorial periodicals. At the heart of this transition were David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton, a photographer and model paired together for what became a revolutionary shot in New York, 1962.

We’ll Take Manhattan, a BBC Four drama, is the story of that shoot and the intimacy between Bailey and his sweetheart on-camera and off.


The Con is Back On

Hustle is back! This high-class crime series follows Mickey Bricks (Adrian Lester) and his team of talented grifters (con artists) as they outwit the rich and selfish in the city of London. Nothing on British television comes close to matching its salient draw of edgy drama, delightful characters and expertly woven crime stories. It works on so many levels, it’s funny, it’s serious and it’s clever. Coming from Kudos Film and Television, also responsible for Spooks and Life on Mars, the show’s production values rival Ocean’s Eleven and never cease to amaze me.

My love affair with Hustle started back in 2006; March 17, 2006 to be precise. I remember switching on the TV in my brother’s room and being greeted by the main characters atop a London apartment block as they discussed something known as the Henderson Challenge…

[see video clip, then read on]

Competitiveness. Confidence tricks. Classy segue music. Nakedness? Suffice to say, by the end of this sequence I was glued where I sat – it expressed all the glamour and humour of the Ocean’s Eleven remake, but with an effortless understanding of London that made me believe these characters existed. And, naturally, any good heist or con story is all about the payoff. No, not the money, how the criminals get away with it. And believe me, with a triple twist after 50 minutes of the most enjoyable TV I’d seen since Doctor Who (2005), I was completely flabbergast at how exciting and satisfying the whole show had been.
No sooner had this episode finished when I immediately browsed Amazon for Hustle on DVD, and ordered the first two seasons outright. Watching all 12 twelve of the previous episodes introduced me to many more masterful scripts from creator and lead writer Tony Jordan, stand out moments of characterisation that were built on throughout and what I now consider to be the best ever opening and closing season arc for a TV show. I’ll share more thoughts on those later.
Season seven began last Friday with a fashion scam. Tony Jordan still knows how to tie together all manner of strange plot threads that are pure genius by the episode’s conclusion. The show changed quite a bit in season five with the return of Adrian Lester, and two new cast members Kelly Adams and Matt Di Angelo joining as Emma Kennedy and Sean Kennedy. While some of the series’ latter cons haven’t left my jaw quite as wide open as the originals did, the stories remain profoundly exciting. So here’s to another five weeks with my favourite TV hustlers, and remember: you can’t cheat an honest man.