Murder is a cold, hard fact. A con job, long or short, is more of a . . . suggestion. It’s open to interpretation. You could argue that it’s the better analogy for a time of rampant uncertainty and alternative truths.
To buttress the argument, you could point out the arrival of five new television series about con artists in the past year, all of above-average interest and entertainment value.
“The Catch” on ABC, “Good Behavior” on TNT, “Imposters” on Bravo, “Shut Eye” on Hulu and “Sneaky Pete” on Amazon all deserved more attention than they received, and merit a binge now. That would be especially timely for “The Catch,” which began its second season Thursday night. (If you wanted to go to extremes, you could even catch up on all five — you’re only looking at 45 episodes.)
Con-artist stories provide an ideal framework for a problematic love story, with their natural focus on duplicity and the question of whether someone can be trusted in the long run. And all five of these shows make the love connection — “The Catch” and “Imposters” most centrally. They also work well as a vehicle for the secrets and simmering competition of family drama, on display most prominently here in “Good Behavior” and “Sneaky Pete.”
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Here’s a quick guide to this minigenre, in what I consider ascending order of bingeability. (The first four are available on multiple streaming services; “Sneaky Pete” is only on Amazon Prime.) Each one can steal 10 hours of your life before you know it.
‘Good Behavior,’ TNT
A hard-boiled, seductive con artist (Michelle Dockery) who’s trying to regain custody of her son stumbles into a relationship with a softhearted, sexy hit man (Juan Diego Botto).
CON: A pronounced tendency to melodrama.
PRO: It’s good on Southern atmosphere, and Dockery, free of her role as Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey,” is terrific as a cynical, hard-pressed American grifter. She and Botto are easily the hottest couple on this list.
‘Shut Eye,’ Hulu
A married couple (Jeffrey Donovan and KaDee Strickland) manage a string of Los Angeles storefront psychics, while working a complicated con on a rich, bereaved mother (Mel Harris) without the knowledge of their dangerous Roma boss (Angus Sampson).
CON: Donovan’s character starts to have visions after hitting his head, an unnecessary complication that makes the show feel like the wrong kind of HBO drama. Crime appears to be the sole occupation of Los Angeles’ Roma and Hispanic populations.
PRO: It looks great, Donovan is just about ideally cast, and the anthropology of street-level flimflammery feels authentic.
Ditched and cleaned out by his fiancee (Inbar Lavi), a man (Rob Heaps) discovers that he’s only the latest in a string of victims. Three of the woman’s marks set out to find her.
CON: Through four episodes, the performances are, for the most part, just good enough, though Uma Thurman joined the cast in the third episode as a happily violent enforcer named Lenny.
PRO: The only out-and-out comedy in this group, “Imposters” is funnier, in both broad and subtle ways, than you would expect from a Bravo show.
‘The Catch,’ ABC
The head of a high-tech private-investigation firm (Mireille Enos) discovers that the con man she’s been chasing is actually her fiance (Peter Krause), who disappears with all her money.
CON: It has the slick superficiality of a Shonda Rhimes factory product. Enos and Krause, both fine actors, don’t really work as high-style, screwball-caper romantic leads.
PRO: It has the propulsive, addictive watchability of a Shonda Rhimes factory product. John Simm, as a British gangster deeply involved in a bromance with Krause’s character, is hilarious.
‘Sneaky Pete,’ Amazon
Released from prison as the show begins, a scam artist named Marius (Giovanni Ribisi) pretends to be his longtime cellmate, Pete, moving in with Pete’s family and becoming a key member of the family bail-bond business while dodging a violent New York gambler (Bryan Cranston).
CON: The story, shifting between the city and Pete’s new upstate home, is more complicated and heavily populated than it needs to be.
PRO: The writing is sharp, and the cast is phenomenal: In addition to Ribisi and Cranston, the regulars include Margo Martindale, Peter Gerety, Marin Ireland, Jay O. Sanders, Michael O’Keefe and Alison Wright.