Sneaky Pete: Should You Watch?


By Scott Muller
Sneaky Pete originated back in 2015 as part of Amazon Prime’s “Let’s Launch Some Shows and See What Sticks” program. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the exact name, but you get the idea. Anyway, Sneaky Pete made the cut and Amazon Prime released the first season of the show, in toto, on January 13 of this year. Considering there are currently somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,324 television shows currently on the air, you’d probably like to know if Sneaky Pete is worth your time (and money if you don’t have Amazon Prime). Well, I’m here to help.
I realize that many folks wandering the Interwebs have a short attention span and I’ve already taken up about 82 seconds of your time, so I’m going to give the short version first. Those of you with slightly longer attention spans can stick around for the slightly longer version that follows the shorter synopsis and review.

A Short Synopsis of Sneaky Pete for People with Short Attention Spans:

A lifelong con man, Marius Josipovic (Ribisi), impersonates his cellmate to con money out of his cellmate’s family. Hijinks ensue.

A Short Review of Sneaky Pete for People with Short Attention Spans:

If you’re a fan of dialogue-driven shows like Better Call Saul or Justified, this show is for you. If you’re looking for superheroes, sci-fi, political intrique, car chases, or non-stop action…look elsewhere.

A Slightly Longer Synopsis and Review of Sneaky Pete for People with Slightly Longer Attention Spans:

Well, thanks for sticking around! I realize your time is still valuable, so let me get to it.
Sneaky Pete stars Giovanni Ribisi as Marius Josipovic, a life-long con man who is two days away from being released from prison. Before he’s released, he calls his brother Eddie (Michael Drayer) and Marius finds out he’s in deep doo doo with all-around scumbag, Vince (played by Bryan Cranston, channeling mostly Heisenberg with a little bit of Walter White and Malcom’s dad mixed in), who Marius conned before going to jail. Anyhow, Marius needs cash in a hurry, and comes up with a pretty good way pretty quickly. You see, his cellmate, the titular Pete (played by former Nick Papagiorgio himself, Ethan Embry) can’t shut up about how great his grandparents are. They’re sweet, and nice, and wonderful, and rich! Considering grandma and grandpa haven’t seen Pete in 20 years or so, you can probably figure out Marius’s plan.
You can also probably figure out that things don’t go as planned…or there wouldn’t be a show. I won’t ruin anymore by going on, so I’ll transition into the review now…smooth, huh?
I’m three episodes into this show and so far, I’m still hooked. The dialogue is tight and humorous without going too over the top. The script weaves a nifty tale and puts Pete in interesting situations from which he has to extricate himself using mostly his wits. The, “How He Did It” snipets after Marius pulls a clever flim flam are always worth a smile.
As far as acting goes, I’ve never been a huge Giovanni Ribisi fan; I think he too often adds too much of a “creepy weirdo” vibe to his characters. For example, he’s the creepy weirdo medic in Saving Private Ryan; he’s the creepy weirdo car thief younger brother in Gone in 60 Seconds, he’s Phoebe’s creepy weirdo younger brother in Friends; and he’s a straight up creepy weirdo in Ted and Flight of the Phoenix. That being said, Ribisi does a really solid job of playing this part without as much creepy weirdo-ness: a con man with a heart of gold…whether the gold is real or not is still up in the air.
The rest of the cast is filled with great performers. Cranston is solid as scumbag Vince, while Marin Ireland shines as Pete’s overworked and underappreciated cousin Julia. Margo Martindale and Malcolm-Jamal Warner earn high praise for playing Pete’s grandmother and Marius’s parole officer, respectively. Martindale plays her role halfway between Dewey Cox’s mother in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Mags Bennett in Justified. If you haven’t seen either of those, I’ve wasted two wonderful references and you should be ashamed of yourself. Warner plays the anti-Theo Huxtable in this show as a no-nonsense parole officer, and he’s spectacular. His character’s catchphrase (that I won’t ruin here), actually made me laugh out loud.
So, this show has a good story, a good cast, and good writing. Is it worth watching? That really depends. If you’re a reader and you really like books with a good story and well-written characters, this show is for you. Over the first three episodes, it’s been a slow build, but it does a great job meting out background on the characters and filling in gaps. It also makes you care about the characters, on both sides. However, there isn’t much action and there’s just so much out there it’s tough to slot it in over other shows. I’m an avid reader and love shows like Bosch (also on Amazon Prime) and Better Call Saul (on AMC, for those of you living under rocks), both of which are slow-burn type shows that can go a few episodes without featuring any big-time action. However, good acting, good dialogue, and clever scripting can make up for some of these issues.
So, in conclusion, if you have Amazon Prime and you’re looking for something to watch to fill a spot in your week, definitely give this show a shot. If you don’t have Amazon Prime and you’re thinking of getting it, and you’re a big reader, this might be what tips the scales for you (the aforementioned Bosch is a great series, as well…as is Justified, which is also free on Amazon Prime). If you simply hate reading, and/or dialogue-driven television, and/or Amazon as a company, I certainly don’t think this show will change your mind on any count.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Sneaky Pete a 7 thus far. I don’t think it’ll be winning an Emmy anytime soon, but it’s a “sneaky” good show that will keep you engaged with its writing and acting.

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