There was a time when everyone wanted to get in on the reality game, with its cheap production costs and (for awhile) high profit reward. That time is, blessedly, waning from ubiquity, but in its place is a race for every content provider to create its own original content. Crackle, online streaming’s forgotten family member, has waded into that pool with some comedy series like Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as (why oh why) the release of Joe Dirt 2. But now (like everyone else) it’s trying its hand at drama.
That series, The Art of More, will premiere all ten of its episodes at once, and Crackle is surely hoping it becomes the next binge-worthy sensation. But The Art of More wasn’t really designed to be binged, and despite a few recognizable names in its cast — Dennis Quaid, Kate Bosworth, Cary Elwes — and its “dark side of the auction house world” premise, it never quite ignites.
The Art of More revolves around a young hustler, Graham Connor (Magic City’s Christian Cooke), who comes from a hard-scrabble Brooklyn upbringing, and is looking to use his unsavory international connections to funnel ill-gotten art through his place of employment, the high-end New York auction house Peake-Mason. The series splits its time among this narrative and several others, including Graham’s rivalry with fellow seller Roxanna Whitman (Bosworth), who was essentially born into the business, and Quaid’s rich playboy Samuel Brunker, who’s a kind of golden goose. Elwes is also tragically underused as an influential (and unscrupulous) collector, Arthur Davenport, who doubles as Graham’s mentor.
The Art of More seems set up for broadcast, with commercial beats and a procedural bent (each episode revolves, in part, around one artifact, and shows how it was discovered at the outset). But the latter part actually infuses a little more life into the show, which relies too heavily on whispered conversations about valuation, and the typical wheeling and dealing of fortunes at auction. The nefarious practices of a major art houses’ collection (and the exploration into fakes and how items are authenticated — or not) is a wonderful setting for drama. Unfortunately, not much of it happens here.
Cooke, as the show’s leading man, is good, but he isn’t exactly a firebrand. Still, with piercing eyes and a knack for staying likable even when his character largely isn’t, he plays the role of Graham with an earnest intensity, and is good at selling the hustle and web of lies his character relies on. That’s especially important as Graham looks to disconnect himself from his questionable past. Unfortunately, the manifestation of that, Patrick Sabongui’s Hassan Al Afshar, ends up haunting him as more of a nuisance than a real threat.
Chuck Rose’s series attempts to play up the glitz and glamour of a world of excess and vast amounts of disposable income by exploring the moral compass of those who enable and even manipulate the rich to spend their cash on items of inflated worth. But for all of the fancy cars and buried treasure and endless parties full of women whose roles are, essentially (and unfortunately), merely set dressing, there’s not enough connection to anything grounded or meaningful on the other side to make it particularly interesting. (And the discussions about art are, woefully, sidelined as afterthoughts). Like Graham himself, The Art of More is sleek clearly ambitious. The problem is, it just hasn’t seemed to figure out the art of making its best elements more enticing.
Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
All 10 episodes of The Art of More premieres Thursday, November 19th on Crackle.