The first new CBS series announced by the network’s new president Glenn Geller, a professed reality TV fan, is Hunted, an import from the UK. It will be produced by Endemol Shine North America.
Can they find success with a format that has been tried many times in the US but has not really worked yet?
On the new series, CBS says,
“participants are challenged to go on the run as some of the world’s most highly skilled investigators and trackers pursue them in a nationwide manhunt. The series is being developed for broadcast based on the format of the UK show, which was created and produced by Shine TV.
[…] Hunted follows ordinary people attempting the nearly impossible task of disappearing in today’s vast digital world, as professional investigators combine state-of-the-art tracking methods with traditional tactics to narrow down the search area. From searching their target’s home and scouring Internet and cell phone histories to identifying behavioral patterns, they look for clues to potential hiding places and collaborators that can ultimately lead to capture.”
Geller says the show “combines the suspense of a crime drama with the thrill of a competition reality series and some very topical social issues.” Here’s a preview for an episode of Channel 4’s version:
Hunted has a familiar reality TV competition format
If that format sounds familiar, there is a good reason for that.
The press release also quotes Geller calling it “a compelling new alternative series format,” it’s a format and concept that has been tried at least six other times, on broadcast and cable, with various twists. The ones that come to mind immediately for me are:
- Manhunt, UPN, 2001, where contestants were hunted by “predators” who shaved contestants’ heads when they caught them. It turned out to have staged scenes in a Los Angeles park instead of Hawaii.
- The Runner, 2001, a show with a long history that would have featured someone being tracked and chased by the viewing audience. The Matt Damon/Ben Affleck show was developed at ABC, dropped after Sept. 11, and then picked up by Yahoo/Mark Burnett but ultimately never produced.
- Cha$e, 2008, Syfy. It had contestants try to evade capture in a defined area.
- Take the Money and Run, 2011, ABC. A short-lived but promising series on which contestants hid a briefcase while trying to cover their tracks; detectives then interrogated them and tried to find it.
- The Great Escape, 2012, TNT. Contestants encounter Legends of the Hidden Temple-style challenges as they try to escape and avoid capture.
- Capture, 2013, The CW. This Hunger Games-like competition had pairs of contestants fleeing another pair of contestants who were tracking them.
- Lone Target, 2014, Discovery. A former Navy SEAL tries to evade capture by law enforcement teams.
Despite all this similarity, I think it’s a format has a lot of promise, even though none of these shows really took off. (The format’s success in the UK undoubtedly is what helped to convince CBS, though ratings on an international show are certainly not a guarantee of success in the US.) There are a lot of logistical challenges, from the fact that a camera crew makes for a large target and the constraints the production puts on someone’s ability to just run off and truly hide.
However, with the exception of Manhunt, I liked all these shows and/or thought they had potential to grow into great series. So I hope CBS can make this work.