This programme puts fifteen spy recruits through their paces, checking out the real test they must go through, and to be assessed by three real ex-spies (right) – Cameron, who has worked for cyber operations as a senior analyst for GCHQ; Julian, who worked undercover for MI6; and Debra, part of MI5, running surveillance ops against terrorists. Between them they have 45 years of experience, so with them in control and doing the hiring and firing, it’s like The Apprentice, but important.
Spying, we learn, is all about pretence and giving an impression that you look like you know what you’re doing… just like certain people at work tend to do. By people-watching, you see some of them giving things away with accidental tells, so to compare with another TV show, it’s like the psychological section of Big Brother that used to follow the main programme when it was on Channel 4. To that end, all of the recruits are living together in one room, so it’s like that same reality show, but with a purpose.
As Debra distinctly confirms early on, “It’s not about jumping out of helicopters and syringing someone.” Shame, really, as I’d love to have gone all ‘Hitman‘ on someone!
With exercises including splitting up into teams with a view to tracking an individual on the streets of London, and another based around developing a cover, like a reverse game of ‘Guess Who?’ as they have to each pretend they’re someone else, not everyone will survive the entire course because, like Big Brother, they’re being ‘evicted’ as the show goes on.
As for revealing which spies have to leave this week, I could tell you before Channel 4 do, but then I’d have to kill you… 😉
Overall, this programme is certainly worth a look, but I was left wanting, as it wasn’t hugely in-depth about the profession and the teaser made it look better than it was. That said, this is just the first of four weekly parts, so hopefully things will step up a gear next week.
This review will self-destruct in five seconds…
Episode 1 Score: 6/10
Spies begins tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm, and continues next Thursday at the same time. It’s not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but after broadcast, you can catch up on All4.
Also, click on the top image for the full-size version.