The biggest buzz for the stylishly shot Smith is around star Ray Liotta of Goodfellas, brought to TV again in the starring role of a crime boss that emphasizes some of his Goodfellaness. The cast is full of other recognizable faces, including Oscar nominees Virginia Madsen (Sideways) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, 24) as well as Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting), Simon Baker (The Guardian, The Devil Wears Prada), and Amy Smart (Crank, Felicity).
Given the likable, talented cast and the pounding music that presumably indicates high drama, it’s hard to believe how boring the show is. I have to admit I was bored before even seeing it, since the premise of a group of motley thieves getting together for a Hustle – or is that a Heist? – is starting to seem far too familiar. But then I don’t understand the proliferation of CSIs and their clones, either, and they seem to be doing just fine without me.
The execution of the tired concept in the pilot episode didn’t cover any new ground, with mostly bland characters in a convoluted but not terribly interesting plot to stage a robbery.
It’s easy to focus on onscreen talent and wonder what went wrong and forget that people behind the camera have something to do with quality, too. Smith is the new series by executive producer John Wells, whom I have a grudge against for ruining The West Wing and ER. (It’s debatable whether he’s actually to blame, but life’s not fair, is it?)
Like his other shows, Smith has a substantial focus on the personal, not just the professional, with the tension-filled and secretive marriage of Liotta’s Bobby Stevens and wife, Madsen’s Hope Stevens, Baker’s Jeff the womanizer, and Miller and Smart’s characters’ history and continued attraction. It’s not quite enough to bring the characters to life yet, and while I’m sure there are a million heists that could bring these characters together over and over again, I’ve definitely seen enough.