The Wire [Season 1]

I picked up the Wire season 1 recently. Basically, for the last couple of years, every Tom Dick and Harry has been raving at me about this show. Including one or two people whose opinions I actually respect. My expectations, honestly, could not have been higher. I expected something deep & smart with great characters and great acting.

Watching it, I was pretty surprised: it more or less lived up to expectations. I don’t think it was quite as ground-breaking in terms of presentation or structure as I was expecting. The episode commentaries talk about how they felt they had to train their audience to a new kind of non-episodic television which seemed pretty familiar to me from Murder One and Bablyon 5.

It’s not quite as edgy or hard-hitting as I thought it might be. There were a few times in the early episodes where I was more on edge than the apparent structure merited based on it’s rep of being willing to kill main characters. So I feel that aspect, at least in season 1, was over-hyped.

But on the whole – this is great TV. I think it has the kind of depth to engage the audience and not patronize them. Perhaps not the A+ everyone else seems to give it, at least, not for season 1. But not far off. A tiny bit more traction with the non-working lives of the police protagonists and it’d be there.

(And I just want to note that “respect” can be taken too far. I’m a well educated guy, but a huge number of references in The West Wing went over my head: they were referencing, not telling or showing. I think for that reason large chunks of The West Wing have or will date relatively quickly, as the immediacy of their nods will fade with time.)

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11 Responses to The Wire [Season 1]

  1. As a matter of interest, do you think it would have seemed edgier and harder hitting if you had watched it 8 years ago when it came out? That was around when Buffy Season 6 came out.

    • mashugenah says:

      Season 1 of The Wire was about season 3 or so of The Sopranos – a show which on most levels is quite a bit darker and more out-there in content. And it was completely after some other edgy crime shows like Wiseguys – heck, there’s darker stuff in the later seasons of Miami Vice than in Season 1 of the Wire.

      So… no – I don’t think I’d have found it edgier.

      Thinking about this more, I suspect that people have been encouraged to take it more seriously than some of those shows through the construction of the aesthetic. For example, the lack of montage, the lack of a soundtrack, and the naturalism of the dialogue. That makes it seem darker, edgier, etc, without having to “go there” for bad shit on screen.

      Just a theory.

      • Interesting. I agree with what you have said in general on the Wire. Its a great show, though not super-edgy. Then again I don’t know if I ever got the edgy vibe either from watching it or from other people talking about it. I did hear a lot of comments on its naturalism as you say.

      • mashugenah says:

        People have talked a lot about how The Wire is happy to kill anyone – nobody’s safe, etc etc – building up to that boundary-pushing feel.

      • Cool. I am sure your right. I can’t say that I ever heard that to be honest.

      • jarratt_gray says:

        That is weird. I wouldn’t have said that. The Wire is less happy to kill people than Joss Weddon that’s for sure.

        I think the thing about the Wire is the evolution of the story. Each season takes a facet of the city of Baltimore and wraps itself around that. It is still essentially a show about cops and robbers, but more so about the city itself as seen through the eyes of the cops and robbers or those that cross their paths.

        Edgy is really non-descriptive word too that I’m not sure could be used for the Wire or any show. It might be edgy to do a show about a mobster (Sopranos) but of course those Godfather movies were incredibly popular. It might be edgy to do an offbeat show about vampires with a ton of sex (True Blood) but is the show itself edgy. I don’t know. Edgy is attempting something that really might not work with the audience. People just might not click to it. It isn’t really about the delivery of the story or show. So given the nature of the Wire, which is a fairly slow moving multi-perspective character and city study that focuses on both sides of the law and doesn’t try to disguise or dress up the reality of things, I would say it was an edgy decision to make the show. The show itself, something else.

        As for why the Wire kicks ass for me. I like serialized TV, and within that I prefer season long story arcs. Buffy did it, True Blood does it, The Wire did it. I wish more shows would do it but they don’t So the Wire is great for me in that respect. Additionally I like good characters and I think the Wire pretty much nailed a whole bunch of them.

        I thought season 1 was really a really strong start, but it does get better too.

      • adrexia says:

        This. 🙂

  2. I cans ee what you’re saying avout scrubs, but at the same time, the very features you find annoying abotu scrubs are why the copy I bought myself in China was probably one of my best resources for cure of culture shock/language difficulty induced stress. I didn’t need to take -anything- to an episode of Scrubs, the morals are over the top, heavyhanded, and the jokes aren’t exceptionally complicated.
    Which I guess is me just coming in here to ramble, though this post has convinced me that maybe I should get around tow atching The Wire. (my viewing of Sopranos ahs stalled due to a disc being damaged enough that I can’t see 2 episodes in a row.)

    • mashugenah says:

      I was entertained by the first season of Scrubs, after which nothing I watched seemed to add anything to the premise and exploration already done. *shrug*

      I’m not a fan of The Sopranos, and wouldn’t necessarily say that liking them implied you’d like the Wire, or vice versa, or contra.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I haven’t seen such lazy writing and direction since the last episode of Scrubs I watched.”

    Talking of which, I’ve finally started catching up on the Russell Davies “Doctor Who.”

    –Ivan
    “Proudly putting cats amongst pigeons since 1986”

  4. adrexia says:

    I binge watched most of the wire. I think I did prefer the 2nd season though. And the…4th? Good show. Reminded me of Oz.

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