Hooten & The Lady, refreshingly, doesn’t waste too much time on its absurd premise: Lady Alexandra Lindo-Parker of the British Museum (Ophelia Lovibond, radiant) persuades her bosses to let her go on a trip to the Amazonian jungle to try and find the lost camp of British explorer Percy Fawcett; in return, she promises, the profile of the museum will be heightened, leading to more funding. (Fawcett’s story, incidentally, is told in David Grann’s wonderful book ‘The Lost City of Z’.) When she gets there her path crosses with that of brash American adventurer Hooten (Michael Landes, rakishly handsome). Hooten has, uh, fallen out with a local tribe – I’m just going to assume that the indigenous people in this show have been appropriately and sensitively portrayed, because I have no idea whether they have or not, and move on – and the two of them are captured.
They escape, of course, for what won’t be the last time this week; nor, I daresay, this season. Amazingly they find Fawcett’s camp; even more amazingly they discover his skeleton is holding a map which seems to direct them to the fabled lost city of El Dorado. And now the fun can really begin. It all means, though, that Alex has gone off the grid, to the concern of her colleagues back in London, including a grievously underused Jessica Hynes. Fortunately the British Museum has a man on the ground – Pascal – who can search for her. Now, we know Pascal’s a wrong ‘un even before we see him, because of his name – “He’s French”, snarks Hooten to Alex. “You didn’t see that coming?” – and, once again, they’re captured. Fortunately Pascal doesn’t kill them immediately, meaning that with a bit of rock they can slip their bonds…
Having seen this first episode, though, I’m entirely baffled by the claim that the show isn’t going to be a will-they-won’t-they deal. The Hooten/Lady relationship is straight from the shipping playbook: he’s American, roguish, flirty, attractive; she’s English, posh, feisty, attractive. They hate each other at first. They bicker; although, as ever with British shows, the supposedly witty dialogue could do with being punched up a bit. They fall down a mountainside whereupon they end up with him LYING ON TOP OF HER, WITH THEIR FACES INCHES APART, FOR SLIGHTLY LONGER THAN HE NEEDS TO, for God’s sake. There’s a bit of chat with a knowing local shop owner who wonders if Alex has slept with Hooten yet. When they escape certain death, they bicker/flirt some more. By the end, thousands of miles apart, she’s in London looking wistful, while he’s in Rio brushing off the advances of the hot woman who’s fencing a diamond for him. And Alex’s as yet unseen fiancé Edward – also, I’m betting, a wrong ‘un – hasn’t been able to make the opening of her Fawcett exhibition.
So, add flirty #bantz to good-looking locations, many apparently genuine, and a weekly treasure hunt, and Hooten & The Lady is more or less what you think it is: an essentially good-hearted throwaway adventure show, admittedly with a slightly adult spin: the occasional 12A-rated swear word, naked butt (his), heaving bosom (hers). There’s even a hint, unless I imagined it, of a Secret Pain right at the end. It’s spectacularly silly. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained. And the theme music is by Ezra Furman, which is to be encouraged. Rome next week, then.