Thrills and skills

Thrills and skills

Back in the 1970s, all we needed was the Six Million Dollar Man.

These days, with inflation, it takes a Six Billion Dollar Man to put things right.

That is my guesstimate of the worth of "advanced intelligence agent" Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway of Lost), a war hero-turned-cyber operative. So valuable is he, as a next-generation tech weapon, that former Secret Service agent Riley Neal (Once Upon A Time's Meghan Ory) is assigned to protect him.

In the opening episode of cyber-action series Intelligence, she, according to convention, does not like Vaughn's brusque manner.

But by the second, the gun-toting hottie seems to take a shine to his square jaw, manly chest and, especially, the way the dude is wired - via a microchip implanted in his brain - like a super computer.

"We connected a human being directly to the information grid - Internet, Wi-Fi, telephone and satellite," reveals their boss Lillian Strand (CSI's Marg Helgenberger), who heads the United States Cyber Command, an actual government agency and not some geek's idea of a spy-fantasy joke.

Except for a couple of chatty eggheads pushing buttons in the HQ, nobody's joking here. Intelligence is the anti-

Chuck (the defunct spy-comedy which also had an agent with super secret software stuffed into his head).

Things move fast and hard in this series because I suspect it doesn't want you to stop and think how impossible all this is.

Agent Vaughn can log into and see any system, locate anybody anywhere, pull out files about anyone (including his hot chick partner Neal) and, with one look, turn on alarms or deactivate security systems. Nobody really digs a know-it-all, and the whole set-up of Vaughn being traumatised by the loss of his unlikely CIA renegade spy-wife is just so much baloney that I believe the scriptwriter thought it up while he was binge-watching Homeland.

But when the show goes Middle-Eastern murky and international thriller-class - as in a fine, twisty fourth episode which drops the agents into a rescue mission in Syria - all that human computer stuff really comes to the fore.

Conversely, in the second season of The Following, computers are not exactly the "in" thing.

It is more old school as Kevin Bacon does a lot of chasing and the baddies do a lot of stabbing.

I tell you, I cannot stomach the graphic goriness when people get stabbed multiple times in their stomachs, throats and, once in a while, in their heads as though it is pumpkin-carving time.

Followers of The Following will know that, in the first season, the maniacs led by professor/serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy channelling Colin Firth with a demented bent) hounded Bacon's former FBI agent Ryan Hardy like a bunch of crazed groupies until his beloved wife was killed at the cliffhanger-end.

I have given up on the show giving lucid, convincing reasons for what those homicidal devotees do (for this, you have to watch True Detective) and now simply partake of it as an extreme tribute to Criminal Minds. I derive the one true thrill from watching the great Bacon put his butt on the line by going after the cultists as the avenging devil.

Bacon is great because he has the look and all the certainties of a guy you are uncertain about.

Is he good, bad or somewhere in between?

The writers want to humanise Hardy, so they have added Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) into the mix as a victim and potential love interest.

Next, doing the extreme in the great outdoors in New Zealand with Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls.

You must have heard of him, right? He is the chirpy, possibly loony Briton who loves jumping out of planes, hiking in the desert, strolling through the snow, diving into caves, jumping into rushing rivers, eating reindeer, and, oh, in this reality-competition series, instructing the contestants to drink their own urine.

"If it's your pee, it's yours to drink," he clarifies as he imparts cruelly tough survival skills.

It is so good, I tell you, to see a bunch of whiny, struggling Americans climb hills, plunge into freezing waterfalls, mess up shelters, eat disgusting worms and be scolded by Superman Bear for their basic lack of survival instincts.

A grand prize of half a million bucks goes to the winning couple.

"You will never get out alive," Grylls tells the sorry defeated pair kicked out at the end of every episode.

When Grylls, who hides and peers at the contestants through binoculars, says with disapproval, "They're still behaving like a gaggle of schoolgirls," I giggle and reach for my Coke.

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