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Tracker review – like a daft Sherlock, but with more topless scenes
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Tracker review – like a daft Sherlock, but with more topless scenes

If I were to find myself immobilised on rough, isolated terrain, leg broken, hypothermic, with my rescue solely dependent on a walking jawline called Colter, then far be it from me to tell Colter – a man for whom the word “rugged” was surely invented – how to go about his business. Get me off the mountain, get me into one of those silvery space blankets, cup of tea would be nice. But, now I think of it, if he wouldn’t mind, maybe I would offer Colter a tiny bit of advice. When it comes to soothing rescue patter, I’m not sure that the Simon Cowell approach works. “[If] we stay put, your odds of survival – leg intact? Fifteen to 20%,” Colter tells Jessie, a poor stranded hiker who, naturally, whimpers in fear. And then he stabilises her leg, carries her away, and she’s going to be just fine. Talk about distracting us from the story.

This is the world of US TV mega-hit drama Tracker, newly arrived in the UK. Colter Shaw (This Is Us star Justin Hartley) is what some might call a mercenary. He finds missing people in order to collect the reward money, which is usually very substantial. Jessie went on a multi-day solo hike and didn’t return on schedule; her boyfriend and parents are offering $50,000 for anyone who can bring her back. Colter turns up with his photogenic Airstream caravan and does the grunt work before cashing the cheque. He prefers to call himself a “rewardist”. “I find it a steady job … Everyone’s looking for something,” he says, ruggedly.

It is obvious why Tracker has been so popular. The US network CBS put it on straight after the Super Bowl, drawing a huge audience, which mostly stuck around for the rest of the season. Colter spends a lot of time in the wild, so it has the outdoorsy appeal of Yellowstone. Each week sees him tracking a different missing person, which gives it a Grey’s Anatomy feel. And there is plenty of soapy backstory, for Colter, who has deeply buried family trauma that is about to resurface with gusto, and for the people using his rewardist services. I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate to call the parents of a missing child clients or customers, but you can take that up with late-stage capitalism.

Colter is a moody lone wolf with a surprisingly large number of friends around him. He has Bobby, a hacker type who can get him phone records on request. He has handlers, in the style of Quantum Leap’s Al, who are a middle-aged lesbian couple bickering about how many rescue dogs it is appropriate to adopt. One of them is played by Abby McEnany, who created and starred in the underrated Work in Progress, which is so spectacularly different from Tracker that it might as well have come from a different planet.

Colter’s wranglers find the cases, take the money and bail him out of jail when his renegade tactics land him in the slammer. They don’t care that he spends a lot of the show topless in his caravan, but there are plenty of women around who do, including a lawyer and a cop, who just can’t get enough of that hangdog ruggedy jawline ruggedness, even when he’s pushing them away. “You know what the problem is with you, Colter Shaw? You’re so damn interesting,” says his lawyer, who has been burned by him before. But he’s tied to the road, ladies! He’s tied to the job of rewardist-ing, babe!

There is a touch of Sherlock, or even Jonathan Creek, here, albeit ladled out with cartoonishly thick fingers. Colter is able to crack seemingly uncrackable mysteries because he is preternaturally talented at spotting a lie and tremendously socially awkward. His tendency to offer the worst case scenario as if it’s fact, before relieving everyone by suggesting a better way, is not a one-off. He likes to deal in odds. He sees the details that others do not. “A reward becomes a binding contract at the moment of success,” he tells the worried loved ones of missing people, with all the sensitivity of the truck he uses to tow his lovely Airstream.

This is big, bold, brassy and daft television. When things go wrong, they don’t just go a bit wrong. They go standoff, car chase, helicopter chase, dramatic death, truck rolls back off the edge of a cliff wrong. Tracker isn’t going to win any awards for subtlety, but then again, not everything has to be subtle. This is “brewski beer me” television, and in all of its overwrought silliness, it manages to have a lot of rugged fun.

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Source: theguardian.com