Flying under the banner of NBC News, The Wanted ended it's two week run recently under the impression that they were a quality television show that had helped save the world. That this fell short is not surprising, but to fall as short as they did certainly took some skill. This is not quality TV programming. This is a simple-minded attempt to sell giant oversimplifications to simple people, although they do manage to do all that while also giving us a fascinating and alarming new twist on the reality show genre.
It is perhaps the first time in living memory that the cheesy conventions of reality television have been merged with the harsh reality of hard news. It also begs the question, what exactly has hard news become? It isn't this, that's for sure, even though it deals with such topics as the War on Terror, the war in Iraq, the rise of Islam and the intricacies of international law. But the producers work so hard to push your buttons (and boy do they know how to do that) that the whole narrative gets pulverized into nothingness. For those who fear sensationalized drama trumping actual information, this is your worst-case scenario.
What NBC did was round up a team (counterterrorism expert Robert Carstens, Navy Seal Scott Tyler, unconventional warfare expert David Crane, and journalist Adam Cirlansky) and send them out looking for terrorists who are still living amongst us. It's an interesting premise, but as with many reality shows the main problem here is the intrusive editing. Over the two episodes multiple conversations take place between NBC's team of terrorist hunters and somebody who doesn't speak English, but we the viewer never get to see the translations taking place.
We see one person speak in English and another respond with subtitles. That act alone calls into question all the other edits that take place. In the second episode the team pursues their target, Mamoun Darkazanli, as he drives away from his house. The producers and on screen talent would have us believe that a high speed chase is happening and that Darazanli is trying to make a getaway, however there is no actual visual evidence to support this claim. There is also way too much time spent hyping up those that they are chasing. In the first episode they refer to their target as "Osama bin Laden 2.0," but best we can tell he spends his days just sitting around his apartment in Norway. If this show really wanted to be taken seriously, they would send a team after Osama bin Laden (1.0) and have them chase him through the mean caves of Pakistan. Doubtless NBC didn't want to cough up the insurance for such an expedition, which is fair, but it means that this show is no better or tougher than Dog the Bounty Hunter.
The look of the show is outstanding. The cinematography is crisp and shiny and begs for you to pay attention. And all of that out of control editing is in the name of making a bunch of tough topics accessible to people other than current affairs junkies. But any such person who does watch this show will instantly recognize that this show whitewashes history and takes a very narrow view of American foreign policy. Who out there still believes that America is the world's good guy? Or that we have never slaughtered innocent people to advance our national interest? The team is so convinced of its own righteous indignation that they are more than happy to strong-arm other countries (Norway and Germany) into breaking their own extradition laws for the sake of nothing more than dramatic television. No sane American should be proud of this behavior. And what is with those scenes where the team sits around a war room throwing files and each other and talking really fast? It's like the producers have a crush on the TMZ ascetic. After seeing the finished product the Norwegian government issued a statement calling the show "superficial." On this evidence it is hard to disagree.
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