What’s the name of the show? Hunted
When does it air? Thursdays, 9pm on Channel 4
What is this show? Widely described as a social experiment, Hunted challenges a group of ordinary Brits to escape the all-seeing gaze of Surveillance Britain and evade capture from a team of expert hunters for up to 28 days.
That sounds terrifying, why would anyone want to do that? Each contestant has their own personal reasons for enduring the task – be it for self-discovery, to test their resilience or to simply pit their wits against the country’s brightest investigators.
Channel 4, though, are clearly pitching the series as some kind of dystopian social commentary on the subject of our Big Brother state. We’re constantly reminded throughout the first episode that everything we do can be monitored – from cashpoint withdrawals and purchases to telephone calls and social media posts – to really drive home the notion that the nightmarish future George Orwell famously envisioned in 1984 has actually become a chilling reality.
It all sounds like an episode of Black Mirror. Indeed. The premise is eerily similar to the plot of White Bear – although there’s less chance of these contestants witnessing a brutal murder to being subjected to psychological torture. At least, I hope that’s the case.
Can’t the ‘fugitives’ just hop on a plane out of the country? The producers have already thought of that one. Each contestant must operate under a strict set of guidelines, which include adhering to the law and staying firmly on UK soil.
So who are these ‘hunters’ then? The show has hired a 30-strong team of specialists to track the contestants across the country. It’s fair to say they’re a pretty formidable bunch: made up of former police officers, intelligence personnel and even a CIA agent, they all have experience of hunting terrorists, war criminals, mobsters and other nefarious sorts, which should make capturing this sorry bunch of average Joes a relative cake walk.
The team is led by Brett Lovegrove, the City of London Police’s former Head of Counter Terrorism, who oddly resembles Alan Sugar’s terrifying interview pit-bull Claude Littner – all dead eyes and hulking, sweaty intensity.
What happens in the first episode? The series kicks off with three sets of challengers – Kent GP Ricky, childhood chums Emily and Lauren, and affluent life partners Sandra and Elizabeth – being given the order to abandon their lives without warning.
As they scramble to make their hasty escapes, Lovegrove’s team leap into action, gathering intel on their targets in the hope of tracking them down before they’ve even had chance to step out their front door.
What’s most surprising – not to mention edifying – is how astonishingly easy it is for the investigators to access our personal data. Within mere minutes, Lovegrove’s minions are able to pull up online histories, social media profiles and other information necessary to build a picture of what makes their targets tick and anticipate their next moves.
Is this show any good? Absolutely. The action is superbly put together – which is all the more remarkable when you consider it’s mostly filmed by the lone camerapersons who join the contestants on the run – utilising shaky camerawork, tight angles and pacey editing to lend the show the feeling of a cinematic thriller.
It’s also inexorably tense, racing between the fugitives on the run and the investigators working frantically back at their London HQ to construct a classic game of cat and mouse as the hunters gradually draw perilously close to their prey.
Furthermore, the premise offers a fascinating insight into the mindset of people on the run. Not only does the situation create an overwhelming sense of paranoia within the fugitives, but it also causes them to feel isolated and to mourn their loved ones, a basic human weakness that the investigators frequently exploit to track them down.
The overall result is something taut and breathlessly tense, and the show more than lives up to its billing as a “real-life thriller”.
Who looks likely to survive until the end? Ricky currently seems to be the most promising challenger. A former doctor who has previously spoken out against the NHS, Ricky is bright, brash and confident. He also proves to be incredibly resourceful, slipping away from the hunters’ clutches early on before acquiring an unregistered vehicle and making it all the way up to Scotland without being detected.
Emily and Lauren are also entertaining, if only because they manage to irritate the hell out of each other almost immediately, with Emily’s frantic impulses and inability to resist making phone calls home often grating against Lauren’s more measured, relaxed approach to life on the lamb.
Who looks less like to survive until the end? Sandra and Elizabeth. Although they get off to a promising start, zigzagging their way across the South West unnoticed, the hunters soon catch up with couple when they make the rookie error of using an ATM machine and a CCTV-monitored bus stop. They’re also quite dull – which probably explains why they only feature for about ten minutes of the opening episode.
Should you watch this show? You most definitely should. Hunted is a great show: tense, suspenseful, loaded with natural drama a featuring a plethora of intriguing characters you really want to root for, it has everything you could possible look for in a TV series. It also shines a light on a vitally important issue, examining how we are increasingly publicising more and more of our private lives without even realising it and asking whether it is right or just for the authorities to have access to all this information.
So, in fact, the only question is not should you be watching, but really, do you know who is watching you?
Click here to watch a trailer for Hunted