TV REVIEW - Melissa George Is A Female Trained, Toned, Sulky, Betrayed Agent In 'Hunted'

TV REVIEW: Hunted - Or A Lesson In How To Spoof Spooks

The BBC has not yet found its Spooks replacement. And it's no doubt been watching Homeland intently. Which is how we've ended up with Hunted.

From Frank Spotnitz, the brain behind the X Files, came this espionage thriller with a toned and trained Sam Parker (Melissa George) at its centre.

Melissa George was a solitary agent - never mind her team duties - in Hunted

Proceedings opened in the dusky environs of Tangier, with Parker in a passionate clinch with a man who later betrayed her. Except she quickly betrayed him back, and then got shot by someone, and presumably betrayed by one of her own.

And so we moved onto an isolated Rocky-esque montage of grit and recovery, measuring holding her breath under water with an egg-timer on the side of the bath, all that sort of business. There was no actual log-chopping but there could have been.

Then, with barely a blink of exposition, she was back at work, with some familiar-looking charts, maps and mugshots, and everyone's unblinking eyes meeting significantly across the table. It was classic Spooks territory, but with no patriotism here to make it at least a bit more noble - and no Harry, sadly. These were corporate spies, available to any client with deep pockets, and Sam Parker was the very best - inevitably.

Which meant, within five more minutes, their very best was masquerading as an au pair to infiltrate a family with a powerful old crim at its centre, balancing on bookcases to plant cameras and flirting over the top of wine-glasses with the crim's vulnerable son.

Melissa George was apparently down to the final few for Homeland's Carrie Mathison until they got hold of Claire Danes, and the same glimmers of barely-controlled intensity are on display here.

But the script so far has left her down badly. We had to wait 25 minutes for the first meaningful dialogue, a silence broken by Sam's boss thus, "I consider the infinite variables of chaos that can occur during the working day." We waited nearly half an hour for that!

As for Adam Rayner as Sam's love interest but also potentially the man who betrayed her, he was far too busy auditioning for his inevitable Gillette ad to remember to act, and delivered lines like "What do you expect? I'm a spy" like he was doing voice-over work.

Between these two, it was a competition of the pouts. Now I like an old mouille with the best of them, but this was almost spoof-like. Bewilderingly, somebody must have been looking down the lens, directing the committed George, "Bit more pout, nearly there, love..." which was a little bit distracting from something that, on paper, has all the right ingredients for a cracking bit of weeknight drama.

Spotnitz has given Parker a complex back-story - including witnessing as a child her mother being murdered - presumably to explain her defiant solitude as a young woman, but more than anything, it reminded me of all those pretty but sulky girls in the year above at school who fancy themselves a bit rotten, and can win any competition as long as it requires sulking the longest. Not great for dinner parties.

Bugger. I was really looking forward to this, and I really, really want to like it. Please, please get better for next week, and stop spoofing Spooks.


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