'Wanted' TV Series Pilot Review *** 080605

The Work = ***
Recently there has been a surge in crime drama related TV shows. They run the gamut of the genre and there are good ones and not so good ones. One of the best that did not survive the ratings war was 'Robbery Homicide LAPD'. The Michael Mann produced show was one of the top cop shows put on television and it never had the chance to hit its stride.

As bad as it may sound, I can only hope the trials surrounding Tom Sizemore (who starred in the series) will drum up enough studio interest to, at the very least, get the show released on DVD. (Another ratings casualty, 'The Job', starring Dennis Leary has recently been released in its entirety on DVD.) On the flip side there have been some great successes like the excellent 'The Wire' on HBO or the over the top and entertaining 'The Shield' on FX.

Now TNT has entered the game with 'Wanted'. If there is any one show that it owes a lot to it is 'The Shield'. In look and tone the show seems very similar to 'The Shield' and plays very close to it. In doing so, even in the pilot, Wanted falls victim to one weakness of 'The Shield' which is the need to constantly out do itself.

In some of the weaker episodes of 'The Shield' I got the feeling that the filmmakers behind it were approaching the material with a sort of “you think that last villain was revolting well this new one is even more revolting!” So it becomes a game of: “well the last criminal killed old people... well, the new criminal is way worse because he kills young people..." etc. Still, I can’t fault 'Wanted' for copying a successful show and wanting to try and be as, if not more shocking. For what it is worth, even as fresh as 'The Shield' was it owed a huge debt to 'Homicide'.

Outside of 'The Shield' comparison, 'Wanted' is at its weakest when it is dealing with the workings of its basic premise which feels totally ludicrous. The plot? A group of specialists, one from various law enforcement agencies (DEA, FBI, LAPD, etc.) are hand picked to work together as part of one covert squad, assigned to track down the 100 most deadly criminals in the LA area. Now, I’m not saying something like this couldn’t exist but the way it is portrayed in the pilot is not exactly believable. It sort of makes the show skate the line between being something like 'The Shield' and on the flip side being something like 'Starsky and Hutch' or even the freaken’ 'A-Team'. You know, it is like this group of specialists is able to operate with seemingly unlimited firepower, budget, resources and somehow never gets recognized or known about by the 100 elite criminals.....

That being said much of the pilot worked and it stars the underrated Gary Cole. Cole is one of those actors who is often too good for the material he appears in. You may not recognize him but you can almost bet you have seen him in something before and may not realize it just yet. (He is great in 'Office Space' and 'A Simple Plan'.) Cole plays Lt Conrad Rose, the leader of the law enforcement group. Rose is a firm leader who knows his job. He is a single father who has sacrificed his family life for his work. Rose acts as the sort of centerpiece and allows the supporting cast to be more extreme individuals. Cole as Rose helped to keep the pilot grounded and he brought genuine conviction to his character.

Some of the critical reviews that I have read have made mention of the language in the show as seeming to be deliberately laced with profanity. I have to say I don’t really agree and thought the usage did not seen excessive at all. On the other hand I recently saw 'Bad Santa' so maybe my standards are off. Still the profanity usage was there but when I was watching the show I didn’t even notice.

The weird thing is, when 'Wanted' works, it really does work well. The conclusion of the pilot was somber and genuinely moving. Many moments throughout worked surprisingly well in spite of their occasionally silly surroundings. If the show can get strong writers and directors behind it, then it could make for genuinely engaging television. I enjoyed the pilot despite its having some silly elements and recommend you check it out if you can. Hopefully 'Wanted' will find its own niche. It is violent and definitely adult oriented. If you like actiony’ crime dramas then give it a try. Reccomended.


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