January 24 2008

The Wire

The WireI came across the unfortunate news that The Wire is losing viewers. Why, I have no clue.

With the current writer’s strike going on, you would think people would be starved for new entertainment, and with this being the final season, you would think would be glued to it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it’s the story of life in Baltimore, MD told from multiple views: the police of Western district, the drug lords that rule there, the backstabbing politics of city hall, and the toll these lifestyles take on these people. Each season has had a different theme, and a whole new set of problems for each group of players in “the game” (as the drug lords like to call it). The name of the series comes from the constant efforts of the Major Crimes Unit always trying to stay ahead of the ways the bad guys constantly change their means of communications, and their need to find ways to intercept their talks.

HBO has a tendency to pick amazing shows (The Sopranos, Deadwood), and The Wire is no exception. The writing is superb, the acting impeccable, and the characters as rich and textured as any you have seen. Without exception, almost everyone will point to the characters of Bubbles, a drug addict, and Omar, a… wow… not sure how you’d label him, as examples of astounding characters. Even the “bad” characters have their good moments, their sense of right & wrong provides some moments of jaw dropping surprise. And, of course, the same goes with the good guys such as McNulty, a cop that has proven he will go to ANY lengths to do the right thing.

Wire Season 4 DVD SetThe unfortunate thing is that this show has always been like the unwanted child of the HBO family. It has struggled for renewal each season, but has always come back to even larger critical acclaim than the season before it. It has never won an Emmy, it gets very little “water cooler” chat, and, I hate to say it, but I agree with th numerous people who have said over the years that the show is just simply “too black”.

The cast is probably 90 – 95% African American, and it sadly is the only thing that makes sense as to why it doesn’t do better in the ratings and awards. It is on par, if not superior, to the vast majority of shows on television today, and it’s just sad to not see it do better.

As I said earlier, this is the last season, but don’t let that put you off from giving it a try.  Yes, they do reference past stories and events, but each season has it’s own story arc and is easily accessible to new viewers.  They’re three episodes into the fifth season, but HBO does have a habit of running marathons early on in the seasons to let people catch up.

With no new shows for at least a couple of months, now would be the perfect time to give this show a try. Find it for rent, or pick-up the season sets. You can find season 1, season 2, season 3, and season 4 on Amazon.

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