A review of one of TruTV’s newest reality series
Recently, Tru TV brought us a new series about the “cutthroat, high-stakes world of competitive pool.” I had been looking forward to finally seeing a show that can let the rest of the world know what playing pool is all about. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is quite living up to that expectation.
Let’s talk about hustling for a moment. Although there are multiple definitions for “hustler,” we all know that in this context, we’re talking about getting an advantage over your opponent, usually by underselling your skill set or making a sucker’s bet. To hustle pool meant that you travelled around the country, betting people on a game or series of games while making them think you stink at the game. Any good shots you make are just “dumb luck.” Give yourself an advantage, take their money, and move on. The fewer people that know you, the better.
Here are the problems I have with The Hustlers:
They do not travel around the country. Every episode takes place at Steinway Billiards in New York. These people are all regulars, and know each other very well, and you rarely see them play anyone outside the Hustlers circle.
Every challenge match has all of the cast members sitting around the table watching the latest matchup. These matchups are almost always a challenge between two players on William Finnegan’s list, and they are always for $500 or $1000. I have heard that the producers give the money to them, so they are not even betting their own cash.
About that list: a true hustler would never have his name put on a list. He does not want others to know how good he is, especially ranked against other players. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with such a list, but it is not representative of the typical hustler.
As for the games themselves… when they do finally get down to playing pool, this is where I believe the producers of this show got it all wrong. The music is all “original” tunes that sound like they belong in a porno. The camera work is fast and jerky, sort of like an MTV video. The best way to watch a game of pool is to see the whole table, not following a ball into the pocket.
The editing of these games is the worst part. I have seen numerous shots where the player was lining up for a shot in the corner, and the next frame shows them pocketing the ball in the side. Or, they clearly got hooked behind the 8-ball, but the next shot shows them making a clear shot, with no 8-ball in the way. I get that sometimes shots need to be re-filmed, but how hard is it to set it up the way it was previously? It gives the impression that everything is fake. Yeah, I get it – it’s TV. But I had hopes. This shows me that the producers really don’t care about the pool… they just care about the drama.
Ah yes, the drama. You just couldn’t have a “reality” series without drama, could you? My impression of this show is that the producers told all of the players to add some drama and fighting to make things more “interesting.” They say things to each other that I wouldn’t say to my worst enemies… and the reactions are almost always a smirk with some lame comeback. It just seems forced.
Recent episodes had the Irish guy, Gary O’Callaghan, getting incredibly steamed and threatening to fight other players. And Jennifer Barretta’s husband Gregg McAndrews interrupted her game, throwing balls and causing her to forfeit that game while he was “fighting” with Gary. True pool players have a lot more respect for the game than that. I’m sure these guys are true players in real life, but in this show, they act like disrespectful idiots.
If I were playing a game for $1000 and a spot on the list, and my spouse interrupted my game and caused me to forfeit by fighting with my opponent, I can assure you that we’d have some serious problems. I have a lot of respect for Barretta’s game and personality. She’s very level-headed. But I still find it hard to believe she would just sit there with a smile on her face, watching “the men” go at it during her match.
It’s not a horrible show… I see The Hustlers as a show about some friends who like to challenge each other to see who is the best. But the show is not about true hustlers, and is quite obviously aimed at reality TV fans, not pool players. Pool is just the vehicle that allows this drama series to exist. It has its place, I suppose, but do not look to this show to help us promote the sport.
I would love to get some feedback on this – what do you think of The Hustlers? What would you do differently? Do you enjoy it, or think that it detracts from our sport? Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or come to www.billiardsprofessor.com to join the discussion.
Do you have any suggestions for future articles? Drop me a line at email@example.com. You can also find me hanging out at various pool rooms in the East San Francisco Bay Area. Be sure to say hello if you see me!