"The Wanted," NBC's new, heavily hyped reality show, in which purported terrorists get hunted by a crew of counterterrorism types, premiered Monday to tepid reviews and ratings. If it were only that "The Wanted" was overwrought and tacky, we could dismiss it as another one-season miss.
But under an unctuous layer of slick production and stilted dialogue, hobbled together from every spy franchise from Bond to Bourne, lies a misguided and dangerous attempt to transform a serious national security issue into vigilante television. "The Wanted" is not only bad television, it is dangerous television.
The mission of the first episode is to find a way to get a man named Mullah Krekar extradited to northern Iraq.
Krekar is an Iraqi Kurdish ideologue who inspired the creation of Ansar al Islam, a terrorist group responsible for a number of attacks in Iraq. Since the 1990s, he has been living in Norway - where he attempted to gain asylum. Since a 2003 conviction on terrorist finance charges there, he has been continuously appealing his case while authorities try to find a way to work around statutes that disallow extradition to countries with the death penalty.
Krekar is, by all accounts, a marginalized and constricted figure.
Don't tell that to NBC. According to the television program, Krekar is "Osama Bin Laden 2.0," and "a threat to Americans inside America." Ansar al Islam, the program says, is responsible for more beheadings than any other group and "invented the vehicle-borne explosive device."
All patently untrue, and all claims that Krekar could only wish to claim.