Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Wire: "No one wins. One side just loses more slowly." - Prez

What felt like an important chapter in my life ended yesterday…yes, I finally finished what appears to be the last series of The Wire. First off, I realise how silly it is for me to be so involved about a television programme but then, when people are so crushingly earnest about films, it only seems fair that the only programme I’ve seen ever approach its style in novel form is worth it.

Quick background – The Wire is an American police drama set in Baltimore, Maryland largely following detectives as well as drug dealers, gangsters, politicians, judges, blue and white collar workers and solicitors – the whys, hows and wherefores of its background are too variant and, as the programme outlines, unsolvable to go into but I wanted to look at my response as a viewer.

Firstly, as a white, middle class viewer in the UK, it’s fair to say my life is far removed from those on the stoops and corners of Baltimore, let alone the courts and city homicide department. But it is the meticulous detail in which the show approaches each episode which evolves and reveals this unfamiliar world for me. I have often been critical of the extended series that are produced in the US, many comedy series are flabby where series like Peep Show and Black Books show you can say as much in six episodes as you can in twelve. But The Wire is different. It’s not just passive, each series is a project as they deal with the issues of the drug trade, smuggling, reform, education and journalism in turn. It is with this trust in creator David Simon that the viewer goes with each addition to the plot, each unsolved particle, each heartbreaking killing or smeer on the progress of evidence.

Ultimately, few series will engage the viewer in the next few decades. It has had me hooked when I should have been going out, on trains when the power cuts out and you’re begging the laptop battery to hold out and, amusingly, in an airport lobby in Egypt when I had to trail the wire (ironic huh?) across an escalator to plug it in. I don’t watch much TV these days, preferring to watch either catch up at my own leisure or, as this, hoards of DVDs, and in characters such as McNulty, Bubbles, Stringer Bell, Bunk, Kima and Omar Little (pictured) my faith in modern television, and the excellent HBO, may just rest. Adios.

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