Riviera, Julia Stiles, Sky Atlantic

Riviera Julia Stiles

High stakes – Julia Stiles as Georgina Clios

Super-intrigue among the super-rich on the Côte d’Azur

★★★ Sky Atlantic, Thursday, 15 June, 9pm

BEAUTIFUL CARS and yachts, lush scenery and a top-of-the-range cast make this thriller a feast for the eyes from the moment it gets going. Fortunately, the intrigue ensures there is more to it than surface gloss.

Julia Stiles, of Bourne fame, heads a cast that includes Adrian Lester, Iwan Rheon and Lena Olin. She plays Georgina Clios, an art curator who travelled the world buying masterpieces for billionaire Constantine (Anthony LaPaglia). He eventually decided to acquire her, too, and they married.

Riviera - Series 01 Sky Atlantic

Watchful – Adrian Lester as Robert Carver

Secrets and betrayals

When we meet them the marriage is a year old. This is a couple who can have a telephone conversation in which neither bats an eyelid over a snap decision on buying a painting for £30million.

However, an explosion on a super-yacht in Monte Carlo suddenly opens Georgina’s eyes to the fact that Constantine kept many secrets from her.

His ex-wife and the local detectives ask questions that alert her to his many secrets and betrayals. The first episode finishes on a neat cliffhanger that should make most thriller fans eager to see more.

Riviera - Series 01

Live fast, die rich – there is a lot at stake for the glitterati

Created by Neil Jordan

This is a terrifically lavish 10-parter from Sky Atlantic, created and co-written by Neil Jordan, who won a screenplay Oscar for The Crying Game. It is so intimidatingly a portrait of the super-rich, it makes The Night Manager, which it clearly is its companion piece, look cheap.

It even seems to have more yachts, super-yachts, bling cars, motorbikes and other hardware than a Bond film.

However, the theme of a woman delving into her her husband’s menacing secrets, is rich enough to make Riviera a high-class treat.

Undercover, BBC1

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 09/03/2016 - Programme Name: Undercover - TX: n/a - Episode: Early Release (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Picture embargoed for publication until Wednesday 09/03/2016 Maya Cobbina (SOPHIE OKONEDO), Nick Johnson (ADRIAN LESTER) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Des Willie

Under pressure: Maya Cobbina (Sophie Okonedo) and Nick Johnson (Adrian Lester)

Powerful story about an undercover cop, the woman he loves and his secret past

★★★★ BBC1, Sunday, 3 April, 9pm

THE SCANDAL of how the police have in the past infiltrated protest groups and some officers went so far as to have affairs or even start families with women they were spying on forms the backdrop to this potent drama.

While packing an emotional wallop, it also raises issues about the morality and justice of the authorities treating everyone as potentially guilty of something and deserving to have their lives invaded.

Undercover ups the ante, as any decent fictional drama should, by exploring the human feelings damaged and betrayed, and exploring the trauma such deception engenders.

Ghosts from Nick’s past

Nick is married to Maya, a human rights barrister, who we first meet as she travels to the USA to defend Rudy Jones, a man on death row. It’s a harrowing start to the story, and Maya is deeply affected when Rudy says to her that her next move should be to ‘Go big’.

When she returns home, Maya discovers that she is in line to be made Director of Public Prosecutions. While her instinct has always been to defend the accused, becoming the DPP might be an opportunity to finally bring justice to her friend Michael Antwi, an anti-racism campaigner. Maybe to ‘Go big’.

Undercover - TX: n/a - Episode: Early Release (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Nick Johnson (ADRIAN LESTER), Maya Cobbina (SOPHIE OKONEDO), Ella (Shannon Hayes) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Lee Searle

Happy holiday? Maya, Nick and their children get away from it all

This would create a huge problem for old colleagues of Nick’s. Throughout the first of the drama’s six episodes, we’re unclear what’s going with Nick, whose behaviour is tragically bizarre.

He appears to be a loving husband and father, and the family scenes with their children, including their autistic son, are convincing and warm. But Nick also has a secret life… [Read more…]

Hustle – the final con

Tonight is the final scam for Mickey Bricks and the gang. The familiar face of former team member Stacie Monroe – aka actress Jaime Murray – is back in the frame for what she calls ‘the biggest con they’ve ever done, the con to end all cons. It’s been five years since I was last on the show and within five minutes they were teasing me as if it was yesterday. They’ve known me since I was 24 and so treat me like a little kid, which I love! Matt Di Angelo is so funny and cheeky, he’s such a clown. He made me giggle the whole time and I told him he looks like a young Jude Law, which he loved!’ Since she left, Jaime has been Stateside in shows such as Dexter, Warehouse 13 and Ringer.

As for Adrian ‘Mickey Bricks’ Lester, he nominates his and Marc Warren’s naked dash across Trafalgar as his fave moment from the eight series. He says, ‘As Marc Warren said, how many people can say I’ve run through Trafalgar Square naked! And I did it eight times! It’s right up there with playing Hamlet. It could only work in a show like this because it was tongue in cheek, entertaining and silly but also poignant. It’s one of my favourite episodes because it had the perfect balance of character, disappointment, desire, jeopardy, fun, skill and clever plotting.

‘Another of my favourite sequences is where I had to do the magician’s trick of hiding the pound coin, in Episode 1 series 5. I reached to the floor with nothing in my hands and then made it appear in my palm. Then the pick-pocketing… knocking over the wine, going in for the wallet and removing the credit card with one hand, close and replace the wallet, pocket the credit card and then saying goodbye with the man’s car keys under my hat. Those sequences have been among my favourites.’

Will the gang go out in a shower of money, or a hail of bullets?

Hustle is on tonight on BBC1 at 9pm

Hustle series 8 PREVIEW

Smooth operators – the Hustle crew. Pics: BBC

Rating ★★★

BBC1 from Friday, 6 January, 9pm

Story: Mickey and the gang of con artists target a gold dealer who rips off elderly customers.

Only six more elaborate scams for Mickey Bricks and his flimflam operators before Hustle‘s loyal fans feel like the ones who’ve lost something they treasure when they weren’t looking. After seven years, writer Tony Jordan is calling time on the show.

There are treats in store in this last series, in particular the return of original cast member Jaime Murray as Stacie Monroe in the final episode for what was the actress calls ‘the con to end all cons’. Of the finale, Adrian Lester (Mickey) adds, ‘The opening 30 seconds of the last episode… it’s ace. You won’t forget it!’

Dodgy geezer – Paterson Joseph with Kelly Adams

Peterson Joseph as the mark
Not that episode one is too shabby. Paterson Joseph turns up as the target, Dexter Gold – real name, Ash reveals, is Dexter Pratt. This 24-carat villain gets by fencing gold stolen by armed gangs and by fiddling pensioners out of their precious golden mementoes.

So the team, eager as ever to bring down the corrupt and greedy, masquerade as a renegade army unit seeking to offload a hooky consignment of looted Libyan gold. A nice sub plot sees the gang barred from Eddie’s drinking establishment after one of them defaces his wall photo of hero Ian Rush. Cue cameo from the former Liverpool star himself…

It’s an episode that’s as slick and frothy as ever, the hallmark of Hustle being the way it resurrected that old spirit of entertaining and cool rogues not seen since Sixties classics such as Ocean’s Eleven, The Thomas Crown Affair and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Marc Warren and Trafalgar Square
It’s heyday was undoubtedly the Marc Warren era, when he played Danny Blue and there were classic episodes such as Danny losing to Stacie at strip poker in series one, and the second episode of series three when Danny and Mickey had to run naked through Trafalgar Square.

Even Adrian Lester cites the Trafalgar Square episode as a highlight. ‘As Marc Warren said, how many people can say I’ve run through Trafalgar Square naked!’ he says. ‘And I did it eight times! It’s right up there with playing Hamlet. It could only work in a show like this because it was tongue in cheek, entertaining and silly but also poignant.’

Tony Jordan has worked out some fun plots. The cons have been great, and the pros terrific – so good  to see Robert Vaughn again in such charming form. Enjoy it while you can, before Adrian Lester moves onto Othello at the National and Robert Vaughn turns up in Corrie. Talk about masters of disguise…

Cast: Adrian Lester Michael ‘Mickey Bricks’ Stone, Robert Glenister Ash ‘Three Socks’ Morgan, Robert Vaughn Albert Stroller, Kelly Adams Emma, Matt di Angelo Sea, Rob Jarvis Eddie, Paterson Joseph Dexter Gold

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Kelly Adams, Robert Vaughn, Adrian Lester, Robert Glenister and Matt Di Angelo (pics: BBC)

Rating ★★★½

BBC1, Friday, 7 January, 9pm

With child murder and serial killers now a staple on many cop shows, it’s hard to begrudge the return of this light-hearted – as well as light-fingered – conman-caper series.

Like the grandaddy of con-man films, The Sting, this series from writer Tony Jordan relies on the wit and charm of its grifters, along with beautifully played-out cons that relieve the corrupt and nasty of their ill-gotten lucre.

Anna Chancellor, right, as crooked Wendy Stanton

While the cast still misses original member Marc Warren as Danny Blue (series one can be seen online at SeeSaw), the current players are a watchable bunch. For series seven there are no changes, so Adrian Lester returns as Mickey Stone, the gang’s leader, with Robert Glenister (‘fixer’ Ash Morgan), the ever-suave Robert Vaughn (‘roper’ Albert Stroller), Kelly Adams (Emma Kennedy) and Matt Di Angelo (Emma’s brother, Sean).

Anna Chancellor is the mark
The opening episode is the usual impossibly convoluted affair in which the scamsters pull off four intricate cons at the same time (Tony Jordan must have fun working out these plots).

But before an arrogant viscount, a shady judge and a bent MP get their comeuppance, Mickey and the gang decide to help the niece of their favourite barman, Eddie (Rob Jarvis), who’s been ripped off by the owner of a modelling agency.

Anna Chancellor plays the Cruella De Vil-like Wendy Stanton, who routinely fleeces young wannabe models. Can the gang get the tight-fisted Wendy, who twitches whenever large sums are mentioned, to invest a huge amount of cash in their bogus fashion line?

Robert Vaughn’s still having fun
With its cool jazzy music, slick locations and witty grifters, Hustle makes it seem plausible and fun. Like a pickpocket’s diversionary tactic, it’s all an illusion and can leave us feeling short-changed if we unpick the story.

The formula will need to move on if the new series is to avoid becoming routine and dull, and so we will be meeting Albert’s daughter from the US soon. But perhaps the ante could be upped for the characters if a little more danger and risk were introduced at the expense of all the larkiness.

But Hollywood legend Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven,The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and his co-stars seem to enjoy showing us the tricks of the trade. And for a shallow bit of old-fashioned entertainment, the series usually provides a few good laughs and is a cheerful break from watching corpses being sawn open on Silent Witness.

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