As this new BBC1 series started, the announcer said, ‘If you like Hustle, you’ll love this’. Hustle (see previous review) is about a team of con artists who, through a series of ingenious twists and turns, always win out in the end. Its theme of lovable rogues, honour among thieves, and an upbeat ending has proved a ratings success.
Hope Springs takes a similar attitude but this time with a group of four female con artists on the run from the law and from their ex partners who want a share of the loot.
The star is Alex Kingston, who is most famous for her role as Elizabeth Corday in seven seasons of the medical drama series ER. She has recently been starring in several British shows – as Mrs Bennet in the brilliant Lost In Austen and as a scientist in an episode of Dr Who. She has said in an interview, that she’s returning to work in the UK because there are no roles for women of her age (46) in the US.
Alex plays Ellie Williams, the leader of the group. After tricking their husbands, who have previously conned them out of money and landed them in jail, the quartet rush to the airport with their loot for their flight to Barbados only to find their forged passports are gone and the police are everywhere. They try a different tack and end up in a tiny village in a very remote part of Scotland.
Taking its lead from the BBC1 show Mistresses, all four women are beautifully and very skimpily dressed (is this an attempt to get planet male to watch this show?) – hardly suitable for the Scottish weather.
Stopping in a down-at-heel hotel in a tiny place called Hope Springs, they then meet a host of local characters. The hotel owner is a feisty old lady called Sadie, played by Annette Crosbie (One Foot In The Grave) and the gang decide it’s the ideal place to hide from the law and their vicious partners.
The concept has been described as a British Northern Exposure with sophisticated, wealthy London types mixing with eccentric small town locals whose own feuds, fears and fancies are gradually exposed. So far, it's nowhere near as well written as that, or indeed as clever as Hustle.
This series is at times hackneyed and some of the accents are a bit dodgy but I'll stick with it for while if just to see how the gang survive now their money has been burn in a fire. The plot might improve.