Utterly generic, conceptually cynical and instantly forgettable, the two-word pitch for “Hunters” was pretty clearly “Alien terrorists!,” coupled with auspices that include “The Walking Dead” producer Gale Anne Hurd and showrunner Natalie Chaidez (“12 Monkeys”). The resulting series, though, feels completely disposable, having likely found its way to Syfy because this shot-in-Australia drama was a relative bargain. Let’s hope so, anyway, because there’s nothing in the first couple of hours that warrants seeking it out.
Yes, “Hunters” (the name given the terrorists) involves another secret government agency, the Exo-Terrorism Unit, armed with special weapons to terminate the aliens walking among us, including a ruthless cell leader played by “Nip/Tuck’s” Julian McMahon. Yet the series, inspired by Whitney Streiber’s novel “Alien Hunter,” with Ernest Dickerson directing the premiere, traffics in no shortage of clichés: An emotionally scarred FBI agent, Flynn (Nathan Phillips), is paired with an inordinately skilled partner (Britne Oldford) in seeking to thwart whatever nefarious plans the Hunters have in mind, which remain as nebulous as the extent of their powers.
Flynn is still grieving because of the disappearance of his wife, giving him a bad attitude and trust issues. Still, whatever character development there is – and there’s not much chemistry in the key players’ interplay – takes place as everyone walks down lots of darkened hallways, with periodic eruptions of alien-looking guts. The producers appear to assume that dark and gritty — and the obvious real-world parallels — will be perceived as serious and edgy. News flash, gang: “Alien” hit theaters nearly 40 years ago; you have to bring a little more to the party than that.
Syfy has kept its original-series portfolio stocked, in part by balancing the cost of its lineup with dramas originated abroad, or at least constructed to qualify for helpful tax credits. But the network might be better advised to take fewer and bigger shots, as opposed to churning out similar-looking series and hoping that (in this case) the promo line “From the producer of…” will be enough to lure genre fans into the tent.
“Hunters” bows alongside the second season of the movie adaptation “12 Monkeys,” another entry in the relatively long list of dramas that feature time travel as a narrative device. Having watched two episodes of its new companion, the prevailing feeling is a desire to go back in time, if only to get those hours back.