Back from the dead ... Melissa George in Hunted. Photo: Supplied
Melissa George's British spy series Hunted may have endured the shortest cancellation in television history.
Only a day after the BBC confirmed it would not proceed with a second series of the show, its US producer, HBO, has said that in the truest Hollywood tradition, the show must go on.
"We are making plans with creator and executive producer Frank Spotnitz and star Melissa George to present a new chapter in the Sam Hunter mythology," said HBO's Kary Antholis, in a statement issued to Fairfax overnight.
Antholis is the HBO executive in charge of the network's miniseries, and programming for its Cinemax channel; the first season of Hunted was part of Cinema's programming slate.
"We are very pleased with what Hunted has done for Cinemax's brand and are very excited about what lies ahead," Antholis said.
The move caps off what has turned into an extraordinary, and at times turbulent, chapter of George's career, beginning with an interview in which she unleashed her frustration with a television program for focusing on her Home & Away years and ignoring her more recent work.
George was in Australia when the interview occurred, on a promotional tour for Hunted earlier this month.
Then came yesterday's news that the BBC had cancelled the show.
Hunted, which launches on SBS in Australia on November 24, is a co-production between the BBC and HBO in the USA.
The BBC's frustration stemmed from the fact that Hunted had shed ratings across its eight episodes in the UK. It launched in October in the UK to an audience of 4.5 million but it has since slipped to only 2.6 million.
The option for HBO/Cinemax to proceed without the BBC was always there. They can proceed on their own, or find a new broadcast partner for a new season.
Such moves are not uncommon. Later seasons of the UK hit Absolutely Fabulous, for example, were co-produced with Comedy Central in the US, and later with another cable channel Oxygen.
During interviews, George indicated a second season was in the planning stages, and that it would be set in Berlin.
In marked contrast to the BBC, Cinemax is very happy with the show's performance in the US. It is drawing smaller numbers, but Cinemax has a significantly smaller footprint compared to the BBC's flagship channel, BBC1.
In the US, the show drew only 250,000 viewers for its debut episode, but has become one of the channels major on-demand offerings. In the US, some key cable channels have vast on-demand libraries.
Including on-demand plays, Hunted's US audience is around 1.7 million viewers.
As for George, her focus is, for the moment, elsewhere. She is in New York, and will attend the International Emmy Awards ceremony at the New York Hilton on Monday night, New York time, with The Slap's producer Tony Ayres.
The series, in which George starred and for which she drew wide acclaim, has been nominated for an award in the drama category.