The Wire started on BBC this week. It is one of the most critically acclaimed US television series, it doesn’t easily fit into a traditional ‘genre’ and so (like Firefly that I posted about recently) is hard to describe exactly what is so good, different and ground breaking about this program.
Each season of The Wire focuses on a different facet of the city of Baltimore. They are, in order: the drug trade, the port, the city government & bureaucracy, the school system, and the print news media. It is gritty and realistic (at least as far as I know, I’ve never been to Baltimore) but it is a series, not a collection of episodes. There is no neat solution to each hour long formula (CSI, Without a Trace, etc.), characters and story lines develop gradually over the course of season which gives the viewer time to get into it.
But it is hard to get into! It is gritty and not for the faint-hearted. There is violence, drugs and not only strong language but the makers of The Wire made the unusual choice of leaving in lots of street-talk and local slang which makes it hard to follow (I’ve found it better with subtitles on). One other little problem is that though it is good to see this on BBC, it is buried in a late night BBC2 slot and a new episode each night meaning you will struggle to keep up.
So, why bother?
It is good, there are 5 seasons – 60 episodes and I’ve only watched about 6 of the first season and I want to know how life turns out for these guys. Is there any hope in the projects, will the cops get anywhere, what is the wider picture in the city? It’s well written, well made and captivating but I think I’ll end up switching back to the DVDs as soon as I end up missing an episode on BBC.