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TV Review: ‘Hooten & the Lady’ on the CW

With:
Michael Landes, Ophelia Lovibond, Jessica Hynes, Shaun Parkes

If “Hooten & the Lady” feels somewhat predictable at times, that’s because it is. That’s not a knock on the series, though, because it knows it. In fact, that’s a major part of its appeal. The British Sky1 original series — now re-airing all eight of its episodes here as part of the The CW’s summer schedule — intentionally draws on that feeling of nostalgia that comes with an “Indiana Jones” flick or even “Romancing The Stone.”  From the Amazon to Rome to Egypt to the Himalayas, “Hooten & the Lady’s” first season attempts to tell a rather self-contained action-adventure story in the span of eight separate hours. And it succeeds.

First of all, the series’ peculiar title is more straightforward than it seems: Your typical American adventurer-cum-thief, Hooten (Michael Landes) has stubble, a tan, and a smile that can get any woman on his side. That is, except for the aforementioned “Lady,” Alex Lindo-Parker (Ophelia Lovibond), a curator at the British Museum (and British aristocrat) who’s grown tired of sitting behind a desk instead of doing actual field work. The CW’s press release describes Hooten as a “lone wolf,” and while he may also be a rogue, he’s no Indiana Jones — he’s just a vagabond criminal who often writes checks his charm can’t cash. That’s where Alex’s knowledge of the various cultures they infiltrate (or just literally fall into) come in. But she doesn’t quite know the real risks of the treacherous world of treasure-hunting. Hooten and Alex complement each other, even when they get on each other’s nerves or sell the other one out — which is why they just can’t go their separate ways after their initial meeting.

“Hooten & the Lady” wears its inspirations on its sleeve, and while that often leads to the more pro-colonial aspects of those inspirations — you can pretty much always tell who the bad guy is in any given episode, even before the official reveal — those are secondary to the rest of the story. After all, the pilot reveals that “Hooten & the Lady” exists in a world where El Dorado, the lost city of Gold, is a well-hidden secret, not just a myth. An escapist fantasy, “Hooten & the Lady” puts it characters in danger on a weekly basis, but the key to its success is that it always keeps it light. Especially when even it acknowledges that these characters kind of bring the danger on themselves.

Two dynamic leads, traveling to beautiful locations (the series shot on location in London, Russia, South Africa, and Cambodia), causing mayhem and tossing barbs at each other all along the way — “Hooten & the Lady” is the type of show you can’t help but enjoy because of just how likable the two leads are. That likability also extends to the supporting cast of characters, with the wonderful Jessica Hynes as Ella Bond, Alex’s best friend and coworker — who eventually gets in on the action herself as the season progresses — Shaun Parkes as Alex’s very understanding superior Clive Stephenson, Jane Seymour as Alex’s mother, and Jonathan Bailey as Jane’s fiance Edward.

Yes, Alex’s fiancé. As for the will they-won’t they of it all, series creator Tony Jordan has denied that Hooten and Alex will ever be more than just friends (begrudging as it may be). In a show with plenty of enjoyable predictability, the promise of a platonic back and forth between the two (though Hooten can be a flirt) is a refreshing twist on the dynamic. The same goes for the “Good Guy” fiancé trope, as well, because RomCom 101 would dictate that he’s not long for this world. Yet with “Hooten & the Lady,” while the bond between Hooten and Alex grows stronger every time they partner up, the series doesn’t try to turn that bond into something more than professional symbiosis. Begrudging partners? Absolutely. Friends? Maybe. But lovers? That would be a stretch.

While a slapstick, British action-adventure series might not sound like CW material, the fact that it’s so different from the rest of the network’s typical programming is what makes it fit in perfectly. The show is summer television escapism at its finest.

TV Review: ‘Hooten & the Lady’ on the CW

Drama, eight episodes (premiere reviewed): The CW, Thurs. July 13, 9 p.m. 60 min.

Crew: Executive producers, Tony Jordan, Simon Winstone, Cameron Roach, Caroline Levy

Cast: Michael Landes, Ophelia Lovibond, Jessica Hynes, Shaun Parkes

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