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Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Wire: Better Late than Never

My loves have always had a temporary nature to them. Men, music, literature, film, geography... I’m cyclical in nature, but it always involves cycling away from the now, too. I never really go back to that place I was in, it’s always some new version of the old.

The Wire 1
The Wire, though, likely has nothing temporary about it, as far as being a favourite of mine will go. I’m just finishing up the first season and am happy to see there’s two more to devour. The fourth season’s being shot now, not going to air until 2006. (Good things come in good time.)

I fucking love this series. Seeing it for the first time is such a pleasant surprise. I’ll love the idea, next time ‘round, of knowing the pieces that’ll be falling into place, but right now, the unknown is so tantalizing. I love scriptwriters who are smarter than I am, who keep it so structurally complicated.

I suspect its fanbase is a pretty diehard one, but I also suspect it’s not a widely watched series. It’s probably just too damned smart.

The Wire 2
What a wonderful web they’ve woven in that first season. Like they said in one of the mid-season episodes, stupid criminals make stupid cops. So, these criminals (pictured here) are brilliant. They’ve kept their criminal network technologically simple, but in that simplicity comes genius and it's what's kept them off the radar for so long--until now. Still, they manage to stay one step ahead of the cops the whole way through, but the cops ain’t no mopes, either.

Also, there’s a political side story that continuously interrupts and hinders the progress of the wire-tap team, and its cynical realism is a beautiful thing to behold.

This show’s gritty as hell. Every show escalates the depth of the plot. the character, and the stakes. It took a bit to get off and running, but in a good way. It takes two or three episodes in this case to really lay down the foundation for the astonishingly well-conceived story that follows.

The Wire 3
The dialogue is dirty but has endless elasticity in its snap and reverb. Whether it’s an economics discussion of the chicken nugget, a wonderfully amusing allegory that compares the game of chess to the players in the urban drug trade, or a three-minute investigation of a long-forgotten crime scene in which every line of dialogue is simply another strain of the word “fuck,” the dialogue is well-defined.

The Wire’s up there with any of the best-written dramatic shows on TV in the last decade, The Sopranos, The Shield, Homicide: Life on the Streets early seasons of The West Wing and Six Feet Under... you name it, The Wire can hang with ‘em, if not surpass ‘em.

What can I say? Well worth your time. As far as I know, it’s not even aired here in Canada. A travesty. DVD TV is the best thing to hit my videostore in years.

Oh, and apparently some critics agree with me.

"THE BEST SHOW ON TV" - San Francisco Chronicle
" — IMPECCABLE" - San Jose Mercury News
" — UNFLINCHING" - Los Angeles Daily News
" — EXPLOSIVE" - Detroit Free Press
"ADDICTIVE" - New York Post

Yeah. What they said.

* * *

Sponky asked for the premise of the show. So, revealing only what happens in the pilot, I'll say this:

A homicide detective attends a trial in which the accused, a young black male, defeats a murder charge thanks to a witness changing her story on the stand. He gets off. The judge knows the detective and calls him into chambers to explain why he was watching this low-key trial. The detective explains that he thinks the defendent is the nephew of a high-power drug lord in the inner city, one that has consistently flown beneath the radar. Turns out several cases have been beaten on technicalities around witness statements.

Due to pressure from this judge, a task force is begrudgingly started by the Baltimore powers that be. Only thing is, there's a phenomenal amount of money behind this, a very well-organized drug trade, and a possible thread of corruption that continues all the way up the political food chain.

The task force is battling its own administration and a sophisticated web of operators. Add to that that the police divisions see this task force--pursuing a drug lord (Avon Barksdale) who no one's ever heard about and who in theory may not even exist, having no photo, criminal record, or even a DOB on file--as an opportunity to clean house and get rid of their fuck-ups for this hugely potential waste-of-time T.O.D., and you get an interesting mix of challenges. The twists just keep coming. And this, this is only a FRAGMENT of the FIRST episode. (Each episode is a full 60 minutes, sans commercials).

Oh, and the score kicks ass, too.