A Tale of Two British Spy Shows – ‘Hunted’ and ‘Spy’

I haven’t been all that enamored with any new show I’ve seen this fall, and was about to give up hope that I might find something to my liking. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that two new shows I liked would be from the UK.

That was a complete lack of surprise actually, because of course that’s the case. British shows have an innate ability to automatically have more potential than American shows due to the sheer amount of shit we put on TV here in the US, and the fact that they actually have a smart sense of humor and a bit of decorum, unlike most of us.

The two shows I’ve discovered, both within the last week, have been Hunted and Spy. They’re both focused on covert ops in England, but in very different ways. Hunted is a BBC/Cinemax action-drama about a woman working for a private security company and it’s got more mysteries and twists and turns than anything else on TV right now. Spy, which may not be in its first season I now realize as the S2 premiere is this week, is a comedy about an hapless computer geek who accidentally gets hired by MI5. Hilarity ensures. No really. It’s quite hilarious.

He looks like an elongated Alan Tudyk.

I’ll start with Spy and move on to Hunted in a bit. I love British comedies because they’re compact. There’s only six episodes in a season, meaning I can watch them all in one sitting and be done with it. With no wasted space, that means more quality jokes per episode, and see Spaced, The Office, Extras or a million other British comedies for further proof of that.

In reality, Spy is less about the spying and more about the plight of poor Tim. He’s in the middle of a custody battle with his ex-wife over his son, and both she and his child do everything in their power to make sure he’s not going to win his court case. It sounds more tragic than it is, and one of the main dynamics of the show is the unrelenting hate projected from 10 year old Marcus toward his goofball father. If it was just childish tantrums, that wouldn’t be funny, but rather Marcus has the sensibilities of a fully grown man, constantly making Tim look like the childish one.

“Your kid is a dick.” “Don’t say that!” “Well he is.” 

Tim lands his MI5 job when he wanders into the wrong testing site and finds the entrance test to be full of logic puzzles which he excels at. He finally lands the most badass job in the world, but he can’t tell anyone about it, even his son, so he continues to look like a hopeless idiot to everyone he knows.

If I had one critique about the show, it would be that they don’t do much at all with the spy angle. Some episodes barely even mention MI5, and it’s just Tim going to war with his son, ex-wife and her overly sentimental new husband. It’s funny, but I don’t feel like they’re exploring the concept as much as they could be. But I suppose that’s what season two is for now that he’s passed his junior agent training.

Hunted is a much different animal, one I was turned on to be a reader here, Robert. There’s only been three episodes to date I believe, with eight total promised for the season. In the opener, the shockingly gorgeous Melissa George is Samantha who is revealed as an agent for Byzantium, a private company that does jobs for rich people that aren’t strictly legal. They operate like a secret government agency would, and it’s an interesting take on the spy genre as those involved aren’t in it to serve their country, they’re there for the cash.

Why be a Victoria’s Secret model when you could be a super spy for hire?

Sam is betrayed by…someone in the show’s opener, and after disappearing for a full year, rejoins the agency in order to tempt whoever killed her before to try again so she can catch them. Every member of her team is suspect, as are ex-clients and marks, and no one can be trusted, as is the case with these sort of things.

There’s one central case running through this season so far, which is fantastic as I was worried this was going to be a procedural which would have been not up my alley in the least. Rather, week to week the job evolves and we learn more about the team and Sam’s mysterious past. It’s really quite riveting, and it’s one of those shows that you immediately like within the first twenty minutes. That doesn’t happen very often, as I tend to give most shows a 3-4 episode lead-up time before I agree to stick around for the long haul. There’s no such waiting period required with Hunted.

Two very different shows, but both British and both spy-centric. They do love their spies over there, hence the 58th James Bond movie coming out this month. Give Spy a shot on Hulu, and I’m not sure how you can track down Hunted to catch up, but I imagine you can find a way.

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