Hunted is part Amazing Race, part The Mole and part 24 -a clever fusion of technology and Reality TV.
On one level it’s an entertaining cat and mouse Reality TV race but on another it’s a freaking scary insight into how much big brother can peer into our lives.
The premise of this 6 part UK series sees 14 ordinary citizens given £450 ($A846) and told to lay low for 28 days, avoiding the detection of their expert intelligence. A camera-operator travels with them every step of the way as they try to go “off the grid” anywhere within the UK.
Hunting them down are elite investigators skilled in law enforcement, military intelligence, cyber analysis, online profiling and human tracking. Known in the series as ‘HQ,’ they will monitor security cameras, banking details, phone calls, online history and even snoop around homes looking for clues to locate their ‘fugitives.’
Leading HQ’s team is Brett Lovegrove, a former head of counter terrorism, who oversees 30 investigators both on the ground and behind computer screens. The series notes that “powers of state” have been replicated for the purposes of the series, which presumably includes participants giving consent for their phones, emails, banking, diaries (and family members) to be invaded. But that info must be earned or hacked. They are only given a name, address and Date of Birth of their targets.
Wannabe fugitives are given just one hour’s warning that intelligence is on the way. Local doctor Ricky Allen frantically packs essentials, barking instructions to his family, before he sets off alone (save for the cameraman on the back of his motorbike). He plans to borrow a car that would be good for getaways and head north to Scotland. Meanwhile HQ gets to work drawing up a profile on their first target: who is he, what’s his history, and are there any behavioural patterns that will yield early clues?
The next fugitives are friends Emily Dredge and decorator Lauren English who split up, planning to meet at a secret location. One dons a wig hoping to pass herself off as male, but it isn’t long before they use an ATM to get cash.
As an expert at HQ tells us, there are 69,000 ATMS monitored in the UK and anybody on the run is going to need money. “It’s their Achille’s heel.” Another is the temptation to call home.
Also used to detect every move is the UK’s automatic number plate recognition. 8000 cameras can read a license plate on freeways and main roads across the nation.
Two life partners are also on the run, criss-crossing Southern England on buses. But HQ will begin to track their moves with local surveillance cameras and close in. It appears the best technique to avoid detection is to change patterns…
In the first episode HQ will raid homes, tap phones, steal passwords to track their targets. Those on the run become stressed, paranoid and emotional.
“I don’t think anyone should do this. It’s mental,” says one.
“I’ve never ever felt more trapped than I do now. I don’t feel safe,” says another.
And one will turn hostile when they are tapped on the shoulder when they least expect it.
“I’m f***ing gutted!”
Hunted will make you think twice about every surveillance camera you step in front of, and every tell-tale trace you leave online. I should probably stop writing this.
Hunted premieres 8:30pm tonight on ABC2.