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the wire…its the shizzle

July 25, 2008

all the papers seem to be full of it all of a sudden…”the best thing ever to be on tv”. i don’t know about that, for me it faces some stiff competition from “animals do the funniest things” and of course the perennially watchable sunday night classic antiques roadshow, but it is cool to finally find a programme that actually assumes the audience has a brain, is quite clever even. the writing is amazing, i am 4 and a half series’ deep and it feels like some sort of epic ode to the american city, a brooding lament on the modern capitalist paradigm, and a damning inditement of its institutions – political, educational, and social . i love the fact that there are so many characters -probably 50 that we get to know quite well – but none of them are remotely 2 dimensional. it makes the sopranos look really cartoony. these guys are all are part good, part bad – with foibles and weaknesses who can in turn have moments of delusion and corruption, heroism and brilliance. ie deeply and recognisably human. all this from a show ostensibly about cops and drug dealers.

tips for enjoying the wire…
if at first you can’t work out what all the fuss is about stick with it. not only does it get better, the whole thing works like a symphony, and watching one episode is a bit like only listening to 16 bars.
the slang used in the show is baltimore specific and you won’t understand what they are going on about until you have properly got into the show – true dat!
pay attention – you will need to! when the creator of the wire David Simon was asked about the casual viewer his response was “fuck the casual viewer”! they do not do constant “lost” style recaps…”last week on the wire” / “next week on the wire” nor do they constantly remind you who people are, what their relationship is etc etc. you can not dip in and out, you need to watch it, in order, from the beginning and give it your full attention. do all this and you will be rewarded grasshoppers.
leave your cynical tv watching preconceptions behind you – this is no ordinary show. you can’t tell what is coming, or what will happen to a character. there is no disney morality here, where things work out ok for the good guys and the bad get punished. you might find yourself suddenly feeling deep respect for a character who was set up as slimy and corrupt, or furious with someone you thought was just a loveable rogue.
don’t expect a happy ending, there is no instant gratification here.
my top tip – sod all that buffering business and crap sound / picture, just buy the whole thing on DVD. there are some fascinating interviews with the writers – series 5 isn’t out till september but if you start now that will work out good (although some people I know have managed as much as 40 hours in a week – the TV watching equivalent of a full time job!).
DON’T look at the “addicted to the wire” application on Facebook until you have finished watching the whole thing – its full of spoilers!