Hooten & the Lady - two names that scream adventure (and racism)

Hooten & the Lady is filled with nostalgia for the good old days, when stealing golden monkey skulls from spear-waving tribesfolk was just fine

 Cliffhangers: Michael Landes and Ophelia Lovibond in Sky One’s Hooten & the Lady

Cliffhangers: Michael Landes and Ophelia Lovibond in Sky One’s Hooten & the Lady

 

Let’s start with a few admiring paragraphs about nomenclature. Hooten & the Lady (Friday, Sky 1) is a great name for a television programme. “Hooten” and “The Lady” are two names which just scream “adventure” right out of the gate.

With two notable cultural near-namesakes who gallivanted with a “blowfish” and a “tramp”, “Hooten” and “Lady” are names just begging for the words “and the” and someone saying the sentence: “Look lady, I don’t want to be here with you any more than you want to be here with me.”

Hooten says this in the first episode!

“The Lady” is both a lady in the sense that she is a female man, or “woman”, and the sense that she is a British aristocrat who works for the British Museum and plays by the rules. Well, she doesn’t play by all the rules. She’s a bit vague on the rules of naming eras, for example, given that in the first episode she’s following the footsteps of a “Victorian” explorer who disappeared in 1925.

Hooten’s name is less apt. He hardly ever hoots, though, I suppose, in a way, he is a hoot. He is a gruff American adventurer who does not play by the rules; like the rule of having at least two names, for instance. When The Lady insists on calling him “Mr Hooten”, he replies “just Hooten”. Because Hooten, like Cher and Thor the Norse god of thunder, just goes by one name.

Then we find out that The Lady’s real name has several barrels and this blows Hooten’s mind. He has never before heard of double-barrelled names what with him living primarily in a jungle being chased by spear-waving tribesfolk for stealing their sacred golden monkey skulls (it’s a specific problem all modern men can relate to).

Now, Hooten and the Lady would be great fun if it wasn’t a bit racist (I hope this is a sentence nobody says about me). It’s filled with nostalgia for 1980s adventures such as Bring em Back Alive and Romancing the Stone but also filled with subtextual nostalgia for such historic misadventures as “colonialism” and “empire.”

It is set in a country called “the Amazon” and is premised on the idea that the British Museum and venal American kleptomaniacs are still allowed to just take stuff from developing countries whenever they see fit – when this is, in fact, only true of the American kleptomaniacs.

Deskbound employees
The first episode kicks off with The Lady lamenting that nowadays employees of the British Museum are deskbound and are no longer allowed kick in the entrances to pyramids, take possession of lost cities of gold and generally storm around the world with indentured native servants filching heirlooms.

In the next scene, we cut to our “heroes” being captured by a superstitious tribe who are suspicious of strangers, solve disputes with trial-by-combat and who plan to ritually rape Hooten. They are literally hung upside down and made watch as the tribesfolk eat Hooten’s horse. This is a bit much. It might be fair comment if it was all about post-Brexit Britain or Louth, but it seems a bit unfair to posit such things about vaguely specified developing economies along the Amazon basin.

Indeed, there is something very post-Brexit about Hooten and the Lady’s belief that the world is still a playground for pale-skinned adventurers unrestricted by visas or customs agents, and that there are still hidden treasures to be found which can then be used to fund the NHS (interestingly, this really seems to be the level of policy thought that went into the Leave campaign if BBC2’s Brexit: A Very British Coup is to be believed).

After escaping the tribesfolk, Hooten and The Lady find a treasure map in the hand of a skeleton. They hang from a cliff-top. They end up lying on top of one another in a sexy manner as a consequence of adventurous hi-jinks (falling from the cliff top). They find a golden city. They lose a golden city again. They leap from an exploding helicopter into a lake. It’s all in a day’s work for an employee of the British Museum.

The Lady returns to paperwork and fancy society parties but yearns for adventure and Hooten’s pungent jungle musk. It is also revealed that Hooten does not really need a golden city or a golden monkey skull, for he has a heart of gold and gives any of his ill-gotten gains to a local orphanage.

Furthermore, he has an arse of burnished bronze, which we see in a gratuitous penultimate scene during which I expected him to suddenly expel wind – the famed “hooting” after which I presume he was named.

Grylled bears
Elsewhere on television, Bear Grylls drops 10 celebrities and four expendable camera-people onto a Pacific island to fend for themselves and watches them dehydrate, then cry, which dehydrates them even more (Celebrity Island With Bear Grylls, Sunday, Channel 4).

It was brave of Channel 4 to let them all die. The celebrities eat the cameramen early on the first day. Self-proclaimed “king of the island” Dom Joly is deposed then ritually killed by Made in Chelsea’s Ollie Locke. Locke dies after consuming a poisonous tree frog lovingly prepared by Aston from JLS. Aston dies of loneliness. Lydia Bright from The Only Way is Essex drowns in a tar pit. Selfie-loving former Labour councillor Karen Danczuk starves to death when distracted by her own reflection in a brook.

Rugby-star Tom Evans is plucked by an eagle and taken to an eyrie where his desperate cries can be heard for days by the skeletal survivors who, on creating fire, become entranced by it and get too close.

When Bear Grylls finally comes on screen to smugly kick their smoking bodies, his face is smeared with mud and he has a sharpened stick in his hand. “I’m coming for you next,” he growls, pointing through the camera lens at you (yes, you) before breaking into a run and heading towards Europe.

All proceeds go to the Stand up to Cancer charity. Donate now. He’ll be at your house soon.

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