The Wire: an Overdue Review

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The Wire is an HBO TV show that can be found on most top 10 TV show lists published in the last 10 years. Until recently it was a serious gap in my pop culture knowledge. Now I know why it is always there on those lists, taunting me, daring me to take the plunge. I finally did; I watched all 5 seasons on DVD over a few weeks.

 

 

And it took some patience with the first 4 episodes, but I am glad I stuck with it. It is an excellent show, but clearly not for everyone. The authentic street language, for one, had me watching with subtitles. That might be a deal breaker for some. How to sell this to a viewer? I am not sure, but it has a big fan in President Obama, if that is enough of a recommendation.

 

 

The Wire is a brutal, cynical, vérité depiction of life in inner city Baltimore. The show throws the viewer into this world head first. Over the course of 5 short seasons (10 to 13, 1 hour episodes) one encounters the shenanigans of gangsters, cops, dock workers, teachers, reporters, lawyers and politicians. This show reveals the horrors associated with growing up in poverty, youth trapped in tangled webs of rigged systems (justice, education, social). My heart breaks as I watch children surrounded by drug-addiction, who are destined to repeat this life cycle because it is the only one they know. This show is deft at exposing the flawed systems, which are set up to fail, by any number of problems. Be they conflicts of interest in the wake of short election cycles or simply a lack of resources. And yet this show is beautifully written, with heart and humour. It strength also lies in a diverse array of characters, on both sides of the law, many whom one can’t help care about. Even the criminals, no spoilers here, but Omar Little (iconically portrayed by Michael Kenneth Williams) remains a fan favourite.

 

 

Does it make my top 10? I don’t know. That is a list that is always in flux, besides, I usually stop ranking after my top 2 (Currently Breaking Bad #1 and Spartacus #2). It can be a bit preachy at times and the season to season introduction of new characters and settings makes some storylines less compelling than others, leading me to be a bit impatient at times. I guess I prefer more personal stories with smaller casts a bit more than epic tales of power struggles and social commentary (also the reason why I stopped watching Game of Thrones). So where does it fit in my hierarchy of great things to watch? These are the things that I consider when arriving at an answer. Would I watch The Wire again? Probably, but not very soon. Did I watch it with my undivided attention at all times? Alas, no. Will I bug my husband to watch it too? Nope, still trying to get him to watch Breaking Bad with me. But I am glad I watched The Wire. It showcased the early work of actors who have gone on to bigger things, most notably Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan. I appreciate it as a unique TV experience and think that creator David Simon had a remarkable vision and was a wonderful voice for the city of Baltimore.

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