Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Wire

I'm a TV addict. It's not a secret and Tara gives me all sort of grief on it. Usually if I enjoy a show, however, it's days are numbered. Brisco County, Wonderfalls, Firefly, Sports Night, and at the top of the list, Farscape. The list is endless. Sometimes shows I like actually last. Buffy is an all-time favorite, as is Scrubs. Most of the shows I enjoy are definitely not mainstream fare, which helps in their premature demise.

Sometimes, though, the star align and despite tiny audiences and my favor, a show survives. HBO's The Wire is such a show. Entering it's fifth and final season on Sunday, every season has been nearly perfect. It's unbelievably dense, incredibly complex, and to me, hypnotic. Set in Baltimore, it started out as a Cops vs Drug Dealers drama, but each season has shifted focus on different aspects of what would seem to be a decayed and dying city. The second season examined the Port of Baltimore and the union workers trying to survive there, in addition to continuing the story of the drug kingpins of the first season. Season three looked at politics and a police major who "legalized" drugs in his district. Season four looked at the Baltimore school system, as well as a mayoral campaign.

There are dozens of main characters over the course of the series so far. One thing I like is that if you watch earlier seasons again, a character who shows up briefly in a scene or two will actually become a major player in a later season. It's got amazing continuity. The acting is top-notch all around. You get to know these people and believe in them. McNulty, Bunk, Stringer, Prop Joe, Marlo, and my favorite, Omar. Omar is a stickup guy who only robs drug dealers. He's a major bad ass and has no fear. His war with the Barksdale crew takes place over the first three seasons and includes a few of my favorite character confrontations, notably with Brother Muzone, a fearsome enforcer from New York who looks like a wimpy dude in a bow tie but most definitely is not.

The Wire is perfect for watching on dvd. Unfortunately, typical of HBO dvds, they are expensive. Amazon had them on sale back in December for a steal, but that's long over. BET repeated seasons 1 through 3, but it was laughable watching it bleeped out. Seasons 1 and 3 were uncut except for blurring and some language. Season 2 was butchered to fit into a 1 hour time slot and whole storylines were axed. I found it used at a store in Phoenix and bought it just to watch it uncut again.

The big problem for people who haven't seen the earlier seasons might be the complexity that is it's trademark. Don't let that stop you or rent the dvds at Blockbuster or some other place first. TV doesn't get much better and while I like that they are ending on their own terms, I'll miss being able to look forward to a new season of it each year.

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