RECOMMENDED ON AMAZON: "Sneaky Pete"
Hyper-compelling but ultimately kind of disposable, "Sneaky Pete" is seemingly scientifically designed to binge. While it clearly aspires to the greatness of a crime series like "Breaking Bad" (with which it shares an actor/producer, Bryan Cranston), it's a lot less interested in developing three-dimensional characters or really speaking to any greater themes than "Uh oh, this guy's tough" or "how's he gonna get out of this?". Still, what it does well, it does well, presenting just enough obstacles and complications in front of its protagonist to keep you hitting that Next Episode button.
Giovanni Ribisi stars as Marius, a veteran pickpocket and con man leaving prison after a 3 year stint. Unfortunately, an all-around dangerous former mark, Vince (Cranston), is convinced Marius owes him $100,000, and has taken Marius's brother Eddie (Michael Drayer) hostage while he awaits his payment. So Marius devises a plan: Pose as Pete, his goofball cell mate, and go stay with that guy's distant family, the grandparents and cousins he hasn't seen in 20 years. (See, Pete never shuts up about his childhood memories on the farm, so Marius knows juuuuuuuust enough to make the ruse work. Yes, it's very convenient, but just go with it.)
What follows is an escalating series of cat and mouse games that should be familiar to anyone who's watched a few recent shows in this genre. Family members, particularly Pete's savvy grandparents who run a bail bonds business, inch closer and closer to discovering the truth about Marius. Vince gets closer and closer to figuring out Marius's location. And we even get some side stories about Pete's family and their struggling business. It lacks some of the polish and intensity of "Breaking Bad" or Netflix's "House of Cards," but does share one important element with those shows: each episode promises you JUST enough twists and turns to make tuning in for another 45 minutes tempting.
What REALLY sells some of the creakier plot maneuvers in "Sneaky Pete" (and there are a few) is this cast. Ribisi's idiosyncratic awkwardness may seem odd for a guy playing a con man, but the show really makes this work for it, showcasing how Marius makes his marks feel superior, which in turn makes them over-confident. Margo Matindale and Peter Gerety and Audrey and Otto, Pete's grandparents, nearly steal the show away, capturing how these two rugged individualists, used to taking care of themselves, push back against the inevitability of aging and losing their step. I frequently found myself wishing we could stay in the world of Bridgeport, Connecticut, bail bonds instead of constantly zipping back to Cranston's poker room in the big city.
"Sneaky Pete" may not make a lot of year-end best of lists, but if you want a darkly funny, sometimes exciting, and easy-to-binge crime/con series, you could do far far worse.
Title: Sneaky Pete
Where to Watch: Amazon
Episodes: 1 season, 10 episodes
Runtime: Around 50 minutes each