Hunted, Channel 4’s new turbo-charged Hide and Seek gameshow, has been a truly terrific slice of Thursday night television. Rapt with tension and creaking with suspense, it has proven the rarest of things: a genuinely refreshing addition to the reality TV industry. The premise of the show is that 14 ‘fugitives’ have to evade capture for 28 days from the ‘hunters’, a team of experts with backgrounds in military and intelligence who have been given the powers the State would have in tracking down fugitives.
The natural tension that Hunted is able to generate doesn’t feel contrived, and the fugitives are easy to root for. The show portrays the feelings of paranoia, of an invisible net closing in, really well. Emily and Lauren, childhood friends on the run, demonstrated this with their behaviour growing ever more erratic and panicky throughout. The hunters didn’t have a lead on their whereabouts, but the constant paranoia leads the pair to split up and their relationship strained by constantly being in such close quarters. The real star of the show so far has been Dr Ricky Allen, a rebel at heart who has growing concerns about the surveillance state, with all the Orwellian implications that it brings. He wanted to prove that the State could be beaten. One of the more memorable scenes of Hunted so far was Ricky playing the hunters at their own game, setting a false trail using a phone he knew the hunters were monitoring, and leading them to an isolated hut in the Scottish highlands, watching their futile and frustrated attempts to find him through binoculars. One hunter memorably remarked “Ricky Allen clearly thinks we’re a bunch of slack-brained f**kwits, and he may well be right.” Despite this, Ricky was caught at the end of episode 3, met at Euston station by the hunters after catching a train from Glasgow to London. The outpouring of twitter grief that this caused was a measure of how much viewers grew emotionally invested in the fortunes of the hunted!
What Hunted has done is drawn attention to just how hard it would be to disappear in the UK. With Britain being one of the most watched countries on Earth, combined with the government attempting to bring in the ‘Snoopers Charter’ which would give them even more powers to monitor communications, there is a big worry that the concept of a right to privacy in the UK is becoming increasingly obsolete. It was fascinating to see just how much information could be gleaned about a person to allow them to be tracked and located, even just from easily accessible information from social media. The hunters could build up a very accurate profile of the fugitives, their families, and loved ones with alarming ease just with information in the public domain, let alone when examining the computer and phone history of the people they were tracking.
Hunted is an excellent and gripping programme with an original and refreshing premise, and I would fully recommend watching it. However, it does raise the wider question of what the right balance is between security privacy. Has the balance tipped toco far in favour of surveillance for our own safety? Possibly. Some would no doubt argue that the police and government tactics are worth it to keep us all safe in a dangerous world, but just how much is society willing to give up for this remains in doubt. If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear, right?