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.)