HOOTEN AND THE LADY is Sky1’s latest glossy offering as the subscription TV service takes on Amazon Prime, HBO and Netflix in offering its subscribers original content.
Episode 1 wastes no time in introducing us to history loving Alexandra (imagine Lara Croft with no guns and a more conservative wardrobe). We meet Alex (played by Ophelia Lovibond) as she makes a passionate, heartfelt plea to undertake a South American expedition in search of missing explorer Percy Fawcett’s lost artefacts for an upcoming exhibition (the only way to propel the apparently ailing British Museum back into the public’s attention).
Having established one half the titular pairing, it’s off to the Southern hemisphere to meet Hooten, played with an unthreatening ruggedness by Michael Landes, who makes a far more dramatic entry (or rather, exit) through a window as a shady deal goes bad. Within minutes, our unlikely partners - who naturally dislike each other at first sight - have had an even more unlikely meet-cute as they find themselves at the mercy of a ticked off tribe in the middle of the Amazonian rainforest.
Bonus points to Sky for making a first episode that moves quickly to establish the refined and roguish pedigree of both lead characters and propel them together. They're clearly aping the early 20th century Saturday morning serials that inspired 80s classics like Indiana Jones - so it’s a shame they haven’t bothered to give it a contemporary twist, preferring instead to meekly follow in the footsteps of Spielberg and others.
The overly family friendly tone also robs the show of any real danger - this is a world in which someone can be shot with a hunting rifle and still carry out a daring, aerial rescue attempt while delivering cheesy dialogue like “That’s no way to treat a lady!”
Taken at face value, the plot just about holds together, and there’s a decent amount of action, but that clearly hoovered up the lion’s share of the budget. Hooten and the Lady looks lush, but the dialogue between our mismatched protagonists isn't snappy enough to sustain the gaps between action scenes and makeshift bush tucker trials. Perhaps its biggest sin is being thoroughly predictable - every plot twist is signposted a mile off, and with disappointingly limited supporting turns from Jessica Hynes (Spaced, 2012) and Shaun Parkes (Doctor Who) back in the Museum, episode 1 is definitely playing it safe.
Only towards the end of the episode does it take the risk of adding a few more wafer thin layers to any of its characters, hopefully a sign of things to come in the remaining episodes. Hooten and the Lady may be cheesy and predictable, but that doesn't mean it isn't darn tootin' good fun. Landes and Lovibond are likeable leads and it does what it does reasonably well making it slick, easy going entertainment that’s perfect for a lazy evening on the sofa.