An auction house certainly sounds like a logical setting for big money, sex and larceny, which doesn’t prevent Crackle’s first full-length scripted drama series, “The Art of More,” from coming across as strangely inert. A couple of recognizable stars (Dennis Quaid, who doubles as a producer, and Kate Bosworth) have been cast as a promotional enticement, but not in particularly inspired roles, while the central figure is so tangled in cliches, it’s a wonder he can stumble from scene to scene. Everyone wants to get into the premium-drama game, it seems, but after watching six episodes, “More” is less.
Christian Cooke (“Magic City”) stars as Graham Connor, an Iraq war vet who began trafficking in stolen artifacts, and now in roundabout fashion has parlayed that into a junior position at Parke-Mason, a high-class auction house. Cocky and eager to advance, he’s courting a billionaire real-estate tycoon (Quaid), who possesses an art collection the size of his ego and lecherous appetites. Still, Graham isn’t the only suitor, as he faces equally ambitious competition in the form of Bosworth’s Roxana Whitman, who works for a rival outfit.
Graham also has what amounts to a wealthy patron in the form of the aristocratic Arthur Davenport (Cary Elwes, playing, in “Princess Bride” terms, closer to Prince Humperdinck mode than Westley), as well as a new complication/opportunity: Some of his former Iraqi collaborators have showed up, bringing with them a stash of misbegotten yet potentially valuable items.
Created by Chuck Rose, and rather generously described as a “10-episode thriller,” “Art of More” is really all about the manipulation and seduction that goes into securing the right to represent these collections, which could apply to almost any big-money endeavor, from Wall Street to Hollywood. Yet in too many places, the program is clumsily constructed, from Quaid’s scenery-chewing performance to Graham’s flirtation/budding romance with the big boss’s granddaughter (Savannah Basley), who’s also cutting her teeth at the auction house.
Despite the star power, the cast is all over the place. Cooke, a native Brit, works a little too hard at his adopted Brooklyn accent. Quaid seems hyper-caffeinated with bluster and bravado, whereas Bosworth is restrained almost to the point of drowsy. And while the scheming and deal-making with nefarious characters raises the stakes to life-or-death proportions, the serialized plot never manages to make these raiders of lost art fully compelling.
Known principally for comedy and short-form endeavors, Sony-backed Crackle is clearly tinkering with its profile by branching out into this sort of exercise. But if its bid to compete with the streaming services that are sucking up so much oxygen is going to yield dividends, it’s going to have to bring to market items with a little more snap and pop than this.