I'd noticed various mentions by Charlie Brooker
over the years of The Wire
as the best tv show in the world .... evah, but didn't look closer becaufase it was on cable and I wasn't likely to catch it. Neither Channel 4 nor BBC picked it up, which is just as well because C4 would have shunted it off into the wee small hours (I assume they've decided not to bother with the remaining seasons of NYPD Blue
) and BBC2 would have shown nightly episodes and then the remaining ones at random intervals (cf Seinfeld
, which I think managed to see the later four seasons of despite their best attempts to avoid this, Larry Sanders
, due South
, Curb Your Enthusiasm
...). It's almost as if they have shares in box set manufacturers.
All I really knew was that it was an HBO series, so adult themes, swearing and sex. HBO had also produced The Sopranos
, a similarly crime-based multi-threaded narrative where the audience sympathies can lie on the wrong side of the law and where production values aspire to the feature film, at least in terms of mise en scene. Whereas The Sopranos
seemed to win every award going, The Wire
has gone largely unrecognised. Then someone gave me the first three seasons, and I was hooked - with a regular cast of thirty or more characters, and the West Wing
like presumption that explanation is not necessary, it's as well to keep it all in short term memory. I should have kept notes.
The first season covered the establishment of a special unit trying to bring down the drug dealing king pin on an estate in Baltimore, using wiretaps and other surveillance equipment. The powers that be are not happy with this - in part because it shows up their incompetence and they want fast results (better 100 soldiers arrested than one general). And there is also the story told from the point of view of the drug dealers, plus Bubbles a homeless snitch and Omar an assassin of dealers. It's a complex, dense series, and in fact thirteen episodes is enough rather than the usual US run of 22/23.
The second season avoided simply repeating the first - whilst there was still action on the drugs front, the main focus was on the dockers' union and a people smuggling racket. As the "main character" (Jimmy McNulty, played by Brit Dominic West) was busted down to boat patrol, this helped the narrative along. The third season returned to drugs, but focused on beginning to follow the money (donations by the king pins to politicians) and an experiment of zero tolerance in some areas whilst legalising drugs in another - Hamsterdam. Inevitably the powers that be cannot tolerate either. The season also introduced Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillen, Stuart Jones from Queer as Folk
and several West End Mamet productions) as an ambitious city councillor.
We've been talking at work about doing something on the series, and I realised that I hadn't actually seen ( Season Four )
Season five is out in mid-August. Torrents have already demonstrated themselves to be a waste of time (crashed at 98% of one episode), so... Clicky clicky.