After watching the premiere of NBC's The Wanted Monday night, I could not help but wonder if there is anyone left in management at NBC News who still has a journalistic bone in her or his body.

How could anyone in a network news division, let alone one with as distinguished a history as NBC, think it was a good idea to produce a show like this? I have seen a lot of wretched hybrids of TV news and entertainment the last 25 years, but I am hard pressed to remember one as silly, self-important and journalistically out to lunch as this.


The premise involves NBC News putting together a so-called elite team to track down terrorists and war criminals who are allegedly living "among us," and confronting them or helping authorities bring them to "justice."

It clearly wants to look and feel dramatically like a TV version of the Steven Spielberg film Munich, a docu-drama about a team of Mossad assassins avenging the massacre of Israeli athletes by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. But it comes off more like V.R. Troopers, the 1990's kids show from Haim Saban about a team of crime-fighting teenagers with magic pendants.

The comparison is not random. I swear some of the bass-pounding music in Monday night's pilot was nearly identical to that of the music in the pilot for V.R. Troopers. Maybe NBC News is looking for that all-elusive 4- to 8-year-old demographic at 10 p.m.

Or, maybe hotdog shows like this are even cheaper to produce for the 10 o'clock hour than Jay Leno's new show.

The focus of Monday night's premiere was Mullah Krekar, founder of Ansar al-Islam, a militant anti-American organization. The tracking down part Monday wasn't that tough since Krekar lives quite openly in Oslo, Norway. He was first granted refugee status in that country 18 years ago.

And that's what seems to make the blood boil of Adam Ciralski, the NBC producer identified onscreen as "investigative journalist," who leads this team of a former Navy Seal, a former Green Beret and a former prosecutor. There are lots of formers on this team, and the ex-military guys are almost too much to bear --  talking about how "people could get killed" if they slip up on their surveillance, which amounts to hiding behind shrubbery in an upscale Oslo neighborhood outside of Krekar's apartment and shooting photos of Krekar's apartment balcony.

At the end of the hour, one of them actually says the team is trying "to make this world a safer and better place." I think the V.R. Troopers were all for that, too.

But Ciralski is the real piece of work with his little designer engineer caps and his overblown rhetoric about bringing people to justice. He strides purposefully in and out of interviews and says stuff like, "Norway is letting justice stand in the way of justice."

That's the crux of the matter. Norway has a governmental procedure for deporting people, and Ciralski and his team are angry because it has not yet deported Krekar back to Iraq. Can you believe the arrogance of a cooked-up, American, prime-time news-entertainment show telling a government like Norway how it should behave?

The journalistic holes in the efforts of Ciralsky and his team are too many to count. Their report features two Norwegian politicians complaining about the government's lack of action on Krekar, but they both appear to be opposition party members. In fact, one is a candidate for prime minister.

So, you think they might have an ax to grind for their own political purposes? But the show addresses none of that. In fact, it uses the candidate for one of the hour's most artificial attempts at a high point when at the end she thanks the team "on behalf of the Norwegian people" for their efforts in bringing Krekar to justice.

Only they brought him to nothing and they accomplished nothing except a lot of globe-trotting. They got a piece of paper from Kurdistan allegedly promising a fair trial for Krekar if he is sent back. They got it from a guy who was identified in one scene as a general, and in another as a judge. It's better than the guy identified only as "Raj," who they used to try and paint Krekar as another Osama Bin Laden.

All of us in the news business are trying these days to find new models with which to make money. But really, NBC News, you do not have to debase the brand like this to do it.