Teeming with testosterone and MTV visuals, this simple-minded drama telegraphs its underlying goal of a syndication-worthy run in the premise — which is how long it would theoretically take its elite, multiagency squad to track down L.A.’s 100 most-wanted fugitives. TNT seems to be after a cut of FX’s publicity by pushing basic-cable content boundaries, but without the underlying smarts. Fortunately, Gary Cole’s stern-jawed presence provides a little heft in a crimeshow that otherwise brims with cliches and whose approach to good vs. evil could easily be shot in black-and-white.
Gritty and at times downright nasty — including a despicable act of violence against a child in the pilot — the series casts Cole as fugitive-hunting team leader Conrad Rose, juggling a soon-to-be-ex-wife (Dedee Pfeiffer) and two precocious kids whom he neglects but doesn’t want to. Rose oversees a group of wisecracking, verbally sparring macho misfits who range from a ladies man to a religiously devout virgin.
In the premiere, Rose gets stuck with the inevitable hot gal (Rashida Jones), a former naval intelligence officer who must prove her worth, yadda yadda yadda. A better infusion comes in episode No. 2 with the arrival of Eddie Drake (“Oz’s” Lee Tergesen), a devil-may-care type who quickly alienates most of his wary colleagues.
Series creator Jorge Zamacona knows the crime beat, which he walked on “Oz” and “Homicide: Life on the Street.” In the pilot he serves up a bad guy named Silvio Machado (“Nip/Tuck” alum Robert LaSardo, fast becoming the go-to guy for this sort of heavy) who is really bad — the kind of irredeemable villain who, “Dirty Harry”-style, can only be reformed by a bullet. Inasmuch as the show is set in L.A., the cops are more than happy to oblige.
Second and third episodes are equally bloodthirsty (the former is seemingly inspired by the North Hollywood bank shootout), featuring criminals who shoot up crowded streets willy-nilly.
This is sort of stylized modern noir view of L.A. displayed in FX’s “The Shield,” minus any of the nuance. The series also rehashes elements of “48 HRS,” as prison-inmate Machado and the third-episode quarry both engineer daring escapes before embarking on terror sprees, settling scores while Rose’s unit trails them with an assortment of high-tech gizmos.
Yet despite some tart dialogue (escapees, we’re told, seek “sex, sleep and food, in that order”), the show tries too hard to be edgy and frequents mean streets so well trafficked that every tire mark is visible.
That said, TNT has already scored this summer with “The Closer” — another by-the-numbers crime drama — and “Wanted” delivers the same kind of undemanding garnish to its chest-pounding menu of sports, “Law & Order” and “Without a Trace” reruns.
Thus far in its return to series, TNT knows crime a little better than it “knows drama,” but the net certainly knows a little something about math. By that measure, score “Wanted” as one down, 99 to go.