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NBC’s “The Wanted”: If MTV Had a Terrorist Hunting Show

I have to come clean. Last night at the gym, I watched The Wanted on NBC. The Wanted, for those unaware (and based on the ratings, I suspect many of you are unaware) is the “news” program that features a journalist, a counter-terrorism expert, an ex Navy SEA and an ex-intelligence official traveling the globe to confront people accused of war crimes.

While that is the description provided by NBC, I quickly developed my own interpretation. The Wanted is like The Bourne Identity meets The Hills.

The cinematography is lush and looks fantastic–like The Hills, but the camera moves about for no reason and uses angles that you would normally only see in Paul Greengrass’ frenetic Bourne movies.

MTV describes The Hills as being “meta-scripted,” which is to say the situations are not spontaneous, but the conversations are not written down in advance.

While the producers seem loathe to admit it in the interviews I read, The Wanted clearly falls in the “meta-scripted” realm.

Never is that more obvious than during a scene which has the journalist Adam Ciralsky interviewing an Iraqi official in Kurdistan region. Ciralski asks a question in English, and the Iraqi leader responds in Arabic, then they go back and forth, as though they understand each other clearly. Translators were needed, but if you watched the program, you might think that the Iraqi understood English but couldn’t speak it, and Ciralski knew Arabic but couldn’t speak it.

The producers of The Wanted clearly think they are making news entertaining, but in so doing they miss the point. The Bourne trilogy works not because of the camera movements, but because of the sharp writing, acting and intense action scenes. The Hills works not because of the lush landscapes, but because the stars, however fake they may be, are weirdly engrossing.

I should also point out that Bourne and The Hills have the benefit of being entertainment, and are thus not burdened by such things as “facts” or “journalistic standards.”

The Wanted tries to toe the line between news and entertainment, without realizing that it is a line not worth toeing.

There may be a place for The Wanted on television, but it isn’t on NBC. Let’s send it to Spike TV, where it belongs.