Most of us, unfortunately, will never know what it’s like to bid on a six-figure sports car, to own legendary artwork, to know what goes in the hallowed halls of Sotheby’s. And our knowledge of smuggling or forging these priceless artifacts is likely limited to unrealistic Hollywood heist movies. But anyone who can appreciate luxury, or artwork, or money, will have a decent curiosity about this world that’s off-limits to all except the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent.
The Art Of More does a captivating job of offering access to this secretive, exclusive, and corrupt world. The overall story is told through the eyes of Graham Connor (Christian Cooke), a new account executive at an upscale auction house, and all that involves: rivalries with other houses, elaborate plots to get clients, even a black-market business on the side. Graham is more interesting than he first appears, as an Iraqi war veteran who came across priceless treasure in Iraq, and hooked up with some locals to procure it. Now he peddles these rare and high-priced artifacts and slides his black-market items to clients like Sam Brukner (executive producer Dennis Quaid, doing a spot-on blowhard Trump impression) and Arthur Davenport (an unrecognizable Cary Elwes as a rich, eccentric heir).
Kate Bosworth plays Roxanna, Graham’s parallel account exec at another house. Auction-house rivalry is an easy description of this series, but The Art Of More is compelling enough to offer so much more than that. First off, Graham’s Iraqi connections almost immediately ensnare him in crimes that could ruin not just his career, but his life overall. Graham comes from a blue-collar background and as he constantly tries to overcome his humble beginnings, Cooke holds his own against a strong, veteran cast. He’s the character the whole series hangs on, and Cooke’s considerable charm and painful vulnerability keep us invested. None of the events that unfold appear to have simple, easy answers, keeping the viewer off-balance. As Graham and Roxanna vie for the same clients, their bars of morality keep dropping lower and lower. She has her own backstory featuring a war between strength and vulnerability—a substance-abuse history and daddy issues—but her stern, Grecian profile never cracks for a second.
For most episodes, The Art Of More switches into an engaging artifact-of-the-week setup, so that each segment starts out with the history of the treasures in question. An envelope with original Who lyrics written on it by Pete Townshend, a bounty of gold coins, a journal from a tragic Antarctica expedition: All have stories behind them that would be compelling even before these priceless items enter the world of posh auctions.
And what a world that is: Brukner contemplates a run for governor but refuses to give up his all-night club-hopping; Roxanna constantly travels between various heirs and mansions; Christian nurses a relationship with his boss’ granddaughter while trying to protect his junkie brother. These worlds all somehow revolve around each other, so that we never get bored by too much glamour, too much grit. We’re more interested in seeing if Roxanna will ever get to feel fulfilled and if Graham will ever succeed in evading his past. The show was smart to tell most of its story through the eyes of newcomer Graham, because at times we’re as befuddled as he is. Who jets off to the Hamptons for a weekend? Who forges a Van Gogh? Who steals a signature from a mogul on his deathbed? These people do, and it’s more fascinating to witness than any drama that premiered on TV this fall, especially with such lush, uncharted territory.
The Art Of More, however, is debuting on Crackle, Sony’s online streaming service, as a 10-episode series. It’s Sony’s first hour-long drama, created by Chuck Rose. Curiously, the only other item on Rose’s IMDB page of note is the underrated 2006 Ryan Reynolds comedy Just Friends, which was highly enjoyable, but an entirely different arena than what is being offered here. Still, The Art Of More is so engaging it’ll be tough not to immediately sit down and binge-watch the whole series, vaulting into a world where high art equals huge intrigue.