hunted is an incredibly silly show and I have watched every minute of it. Ten’s reality fugitive competition where contestants try to stay one step ahead of the production’s professional pursuers – alternate title: Tom Clancy’s Amazing Race – is a patchwork quilt of simulation and shortcuts tied to a fantastic concept and some intriguing implications. It also featured a tall, heavily bearded man trying to disguise himself as a “nonna” so as not to attract attention to himself. In this series being serious invariably gets bonkers.
If you’ve ever enjoyed the many sequences in a Jason Bourne film where the supporting cast stand in a darkened control room full of surveillance tech and bark orders as they pursue their elusive quarry, hunted is probably for you. Based on a successful British format (they even did a celebrity edition, which is a hilarious concept), the show is an elaborate game of tag: with curtailed resources and a lack of digital privacy, nine teams of two have to last 21 days on the run within Victoria’s borders.
Let’s get this out of the way: “Some powers available to government agencies including electronic surveillance have been simulated in the production of hunted” reads a closing credit. Much of the gameplay – the idea that the Hunters have access to CCTV and smartphones, for example – is duplicated by the production team, although both the Hunters and the Hunted are committed to staying in character and pretending it’s all happening in real-time. The paranoid should not watch hunted. Then again, maybe they could win it?
None of this actually matters. For a start, the seams are so obvious that some viewers enjoy pointing out the production’s fails; I’m watching with a 16-year-old who derisively noted that Google Maps and Microsoft Word are doing a lot of heavy lifting at Hunter HQ. More importantly, the idea is sticky. Could you survive on the run? Do you have instincts to not give your position away? Could you handle the deprivation, unlike the team that was yearning for champagne a few days in?
as with survivorviewers can at least imagine themselves being a contestant on hunted. That has helped make the series a mid-season success for Ten, prominent in the ratings and – crucially – not outstaying its welcome with just nine episodes spread over three weeks. It’s a palate cleanser, with the near misses and catches doled out across each installation. It’s also a reminder that perhaps we’re more open to new reality TV pitches than the networks imagine. Please give us more new concepts and make them as enjoyably stupid as this one.
“You’re cleared hot to go into anywhere you need to go,” senior Hunter Reece Dewar will bark to one of the ground teams, which sounds exciting but actually means politely knocking on someone’s door. All the Hunters have impeccable credentials, whether they’re former senior police officers, intelligence analysts, or ex-SAS operators. But not all of them can act. I am convinced that one of the HQ analysts is not even paying attention.
Occasionally the tone gets questionable, as when one Hunter driving around a country town muttered, “come on, girlies, where are ya?” but it’s fun watching people commit to this illusion. Some teams have embraced disguises and elaborate plots, while others have daft strategies that leave you yelling at the screen. I even have a favorite team of ground Hunters, Jason Spivey and Michelle Corlett of Alpha Team, although I prefer to recognize them as Jason Statham’s uncle and day-rate Charlize Theron.