Culture

Why Aren’t You Watching The Wire?

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I don’t write a lot about popular culture and rarely feel the need to evangelize for television entertainment, but if you’re the kind of person who reads this blog for reasons other than exposing liberal traitors, you’re the kind of person who should be watching “The Wire” on HBO. Opening its fifth season tonight, it’s simply the most realistic, well-developed, complex and engaging drama that I have ever seen.

Andre Royo as Bubbles Summarizing a show like The Wire is almost impossible. It’s not a cop show, it’s not a crime show, it’s not a show about relationships. It’s a show about Baltimore, life in a city that’s dying at its center and the people who fight to keep it–and themselves–alive. If you care about our cities, our institutions, our schools, our shared poverty, and the casual every day evil that allows conditions like those in inner city Baltimore to exist, you can’t miss this show.

A lot of people don’t watch television, and in many cases, they’re right not to. The simplistic stories, stark black and white characters and neatly constrained 42 minute plots probably don’t do much for your intellectual development or understanding of the world. That argument can’t be made about The Wire, though. It rivals the best novels I have read in its verisimilitude and complexity.

Oh, and it’s damn funny. And will break heart, over and over again, but dangle just enough hope to bring you back.

Don’t believe me?

Matt Roush, for TV Guide

This is TV as great modern literature, a shattering and heartbreaking urban epic about a city (Baltimore) rotting from within.

Tim Goodman, TV Critic at the San Francisco Chronicle:

The breadth and ambition of “The Wire” are unrivaled and that taken cumulatively over the course of a season — any season — it’s an astonishing display of writing, acting and storytelling that must be considered alongside the best literature and filmmaking in the modern era.

Brian Lowry, Variety:

When television history is written, little else will rival “The Wire,” a series of such extraordinary depth and ambition that it is, perhaps inevitably, savored only by an appreciative few.

Jacob Weisberg, Slate:

The Wire, which has just begun its fourth season on HBO, is surely the best TV show ever broadcast in America. This claim isn’t based on my having seen all the possible rivals for the title, but on the premise that no other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature.

There’s only one catch: you can’t start with Season Five. Get yourself to Netflix, get yourself to Blockbuster, or get yourself to Amazon.com, just make sure to get yourself the first four seasons of The Wire.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

2 Comments

  • I don’t have cable. I have to wait until it’s all over before I can rent the final season. I have seen the rest…amazing stuff.

    BTW, interesting side note. Loved the mayoral election in seasons 3 & 4. Go and rent “Street Fight,” about a recent Newark, NJ, mayoral election and tell me it didn’t influence the Wire…

  • Thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out. Thus far, Season 5 looks really promising, though I am wondering how they will deal with so much material in only 10 episodes.

    I’ve watched the other seasons via DVD as well, and it might just make me crazy to watch week by week. 🙂

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