"Hunted" adds to TV's rich trove of female spies -- think "Alias," with side-boob and more violence.

Melissa George in "Hunted"

Seeking to replicate the mindless thrills of Cinemax’s “Strike Back” with a bit more nuance and texture, “Hunted” adds to TV’s rich trove of female spies — think “Alias,” with side-boob and more violence. Melissa George stars as the employee of a shadowy private-espionage group who gets to say things like “I’m your best operative” and snap the necks of burly men, after barely surviving a dense 15-minute prologue. All told, this international production represents the kind of empty-calorie popcorn fare that demonstrates not every drama with a British pedigree is “Masterpiece” material.

Created by “The X-Files” alum Frank Spotnitz (who also worked on “Strike Back”), there’s certainly a “trust no one” vibe in being Sam Hunter (George), who — after a deadly opening encounter leaves her wondering who wanted her dead — eventually returns to reclaim her place as part of a crack international team, Byzantium, where she specializes in operating undercover.

In this case, the mission involves becoming the nanny to a household involved in nefarious doings, with the constant threat of being exposed, billions at stake and concerns about a mole within her organization.

If it all sounds familiar, it should. This is really just a protracted, more explicit (virtually a prerequisite, given the venue) “Mission: Impossible,” spreading its caper across multiple episodes.

Yet even with bursts of bloodshed, “Hunted” bogs down in the episodes previewed, which include extended stretches of cloak-and-dagger stuff set within the mansion where Sam’s working, which start to become a tad claustrophobic.

The producers have assembled an impressive cast, including “Lost’s” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Patrick Malahide, Indira Varma and Stephen Dillane (“John Adams”), who plays Sam’s prickly and mysterious boss. For all that, the material hardly tests them, and the show feels like a very conventional variant on its genre, while George spends too much time burdened with a pained expression — and that’s during moments when she isn’t battling for her life.

With terrorism as its backdrop, “Strike Back” (already picked up through a third season) benefits from being more visceral. Yet this companion ought to have a fighting chance, too, thanks principally to the business model for these internationally financed affairs, which — mirroring what Starz has sought to accomplish with its escapist original-programming strategy — is frankly more interesting at times than the shows themselves.

In terms of the hunt for hits, that makes “Hunted” the TV equivalent of surviving by scavenging small prey.


Cinemax, Fri. Oct. 19, 10 p.m.

  • Production: Filmed in Europe by Kudos Film & Television in association with Big Light Prods. for Cinemax and BBC One. Executive producers, Frank Spotnitz, Alison Jackson, Jane Featherstone, Stephen Garrett, Christopher Aird, Polly Hill; producer, Eliza Miller; director, SJ Clarkson; writer, Spotnitz.
  • Crew: Camera, Balazs Bolygo; production designer, John Stevenson; editor, Liana Del Giudice; music, Ruth Barrett; casting, Suzanne Crowley, Gilly Poole. 60 MIN.
  • Cast: Sam Hunter - Melissa George<br> Aidan Marsh - Adam Rayner<br> Rupert Keel - Stephen Dillane<br> Stephen Turner - Stephen Campbell Moore<br> Deacon Crane - Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje<br> Zoe Morgan - Morven Christie<br> Ian Fowkes - Lex Shrapnel<br> Natalie Thorpe - Indira Varma<br> Bernard Faroux - Dhaffer L'Abidine<br> Jack Turner - Patrick Malahide