Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Wire: The greatest television show in the history of Earth

Jana and I finished watching the final season of The Wire a couple weeks ago, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it. Now that we've gone without it for awhile, there's a void in our lives, like a good friend moved away.

The show was just that good. When we were somewhere in the fourth season, and I was gushing about how much I enjoyed the show, Jana said "What's funny is you never watch other cop shows." Which is true.

But that's also exactly the point: The Wire wasn't just a cop show. It was so much more. That's why I'm anointing it the best television show in the history of Earth.

In the end it came down to The Wire and The Sopranos, which had been my favorite show until now. Just like The Wire isn't just a cop show, The Sopranos wasn't just a mob show. It was a show about family, about class tensions, about immigrant assimilation into American life several generations in.

The Wire earns my nod because it's about ... America. Definitely it's about the good guys and bad guys of the drug trade, but what else? The working class. Poverty. The negative effects of absent parents. Corruption. Education. The media. Parenthood. The legal system. Friendship. Career-family balance.

It's easy to emerge from five seasons of this show feeling pretty down. If this is about America, then America has a lot of warts. But that's the truth, and instead of denying it or letting it get you depressed, look at the positives.

Bunny Colvin first with his Hamsterdam project trying to concentrate drug trading in a confined area, then with his educational experiment to reach out and help especially at-risk kids. Bubbles battling his demons, finally allowed to join his sister and her child at the kitchen table.

Kima finally realizing it's not just about her job, but about her son. McNulty finally realizing it's not just about his job, but about Beadie and her kids. Carver growing up and becoming a responsible police officer.

Cutty using boxing to keep kids off the street. Gus Haynes' fight to keep the Baltimore Sun on the straight and narrow. Prezbo's attempt to teach kids in a way they'll actually learn. Daniels' crusade to make crime statistics as true as possible and run an upright police department.

Of course, all these things are balanced out by the sad stories of Michael, Omar, Dukie, Randy, Clay Davis, Scott Templeton, Marlo. Especially Marlo -- what a smart, talented leader, who knows what he could have contributed to society had he not turned to drug dealing.

But I'll take with me the stories of the individuals who fought to fix a broken system.

So what do we watch now? Season two of Friday Night Lights came from Netflix. Soon we'll get the latest season of Weeds. We're thinking about Mad Men next. Any other ideas?


Will said...

Glad you went with the Wire over the Sopranos. That would be my choice as well. The first couple of seasons of the Sopranos were great, but I felt the quality of the show suffered.

The sad thing is that you will now (if you haven't already) the difference between a show like the Wire and most of the stuff that is on broadcast/cable TV these days. And to think, the Wire never won an Emmy for acting or for Best Drama.

I like Mad Men a lot...the style and the tone of the show is very striking from the opening scene of the first episode. There are not a ton of episodes, so it wouldn't take long to catch up (the second season just ended). It's not as good as the Wire, but it's close.

It's another period show, but I'm enjoying Life on Mars (ABC) very much at the moment. Another show I like is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but it might be a little too crude for some people.

lonebadger said...

Mad Men is excellent. Perhaps you have already watched what is my favorite as it was on several years ago, but I feel the writing in this show was second to none. Drum roll please.... The West Wing. I learned more about government from that show than 16 years of schooling. Right now on Bravo, they are running the final season which just happens to be about an election which features a young, energetic minority Democratic candidate running against an older Republican candidate. Sound familiar.

Millie said...

I've just started Mad Men and I'm enjoying it. Allow me to recommend Dexter. It's outstanding television. It's a bit gory, but wonderful acting and story lines.

scott.tappa said...

Life on Mars: Michael Imperioli (Sopranos) and Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon on The Wire)

Started watching West Wing a bit when it started on Bravo, couldn't keep up the commitment. I typically like Aaron Sorkin-written shows.

My sister brought up Dexter when we were talking last night, might be worth a shot.

will said...

"Cutty" (Chad L. Coleman) is going to be on next week's Life on Mars.

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