The Wire, HBO series

I keep hearing how great this show is so I started watching it. I’ve watched the first five episodes and I’m not really impressed. Does it get better? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible but it doesn’t seem to be anything near Breaking Bad level like most people tell me.

It’s not the most *entertaining *series, but if you have the time to let yourself get into it, by the end of the first season you should start to really appreciate how it feels like real life, in ways no other series ever has. One way is how each character has limited knowledge about things and about what other characters are up to, just like any of us do – it portrays this much better than other shows. Another way is how initiatives and group projects sometimes just kind of fizzle out, just like in real life.

I found these “limitations,” over the long haul, to be curiously exhilarating. Your mileage may vary.

Yeah, The Wire is not exactly about its characters (although there are a great many colourful individuals), it doesn’t particularly shine in its dialogue (although there are a great many memorable lines), it’s certainly not about flash and shock and tension like Breaking Bad is (although there are shockers once in a while. Where the fuck’s Wallace ?!).

What The Wire is about is the process, and the whole, and the city. And, ultimately, about the whole fucked up system and it being a grand sum of individual cowardices or lazinesses, but also some measure of hope and good will.

It’s not a show you’ll ever have a grand old time watching, or one that’ll set the internet abuzz with conjectures like, say, Game of Thrones; but if you let it get under your skin it’s a show you might become hooked on in spite of yourself. It’s TV like none other.

I’ll add that one thing it can absolutely boast that no other show can, is that it knows where its going, what it’s about, what it’s trying to say.
The whole series is built on a book, and on the creator’s own experiences in Baltimore. Episodes might have been written on a month to month basis, but the arch-frame of the show was set from the beginning, and it shows. That bit part you noticed in the background of one scene, that little event that seemed forgotten, that line of dialogue that seemed innocuous at first : all the pieces matter and interconnect in some way. The show has 0% fat or filler.

I thought the first season was great – very tightly focused with lots of suspense and a very satisfying ending.

The second season was definitely a step down – it was less focused and it had to spend some time undoing the ending of the first season before getting up to speed.

I thought the third season was better than the second, but still not as good as the first one.

I stopped watching it after the third season.

The Wire is a slow burn. Treat it more like a 48-60 hour novel, in which you don’t expect the first little bit to be the best thing ever. It’s ambitious in a way that almost no other show is. It doesn’t try to market itself to you, it just tells its long-form story at its own pace and expects you to keep up. It’s not about dramatic twists and shocking events (though a few do happen of course), but rather almost existential questions about people and the systems they inhabit. It’s quite telling that universities like Harvard have offered classes using the show as a way to discuss modern urban dynamics and issues. Which doesn’t sound terribly entertaining, but for me, at some point, it just becomes enthralling in a way that no other show has managed to grab me. I’ve seen the whole thing 3 times (180 hours out of my life), and I still want to watch it again.

In fact, the 2nd time watching the series was probably the best viewing, as I understood from the start what the show was about.

Then you missed the best season

Quite true. Also the worst, arguably ( season 5 ). But season 4 was a work of genius.

The Wire was for the me the most cumulative series I’ve ever watched. I was a little indifferent after the first few episodes ( while recognizing some quality ), more interested as the season wore on, eventually enough to call it good TV by the end of the 1rst season. By the end of the second season I thought it was great TV. By the end of third excellent TV. By the end of the fourth, the best series I’d ever watched.

Then I came down back to earth on season five, but it was still pretty damn good ;).

But I’d respect that it isn’t to everyone’s taste. As noted above it is almost the definition of a slow burn.

I started watching The Wire after two different people I know, who were completely unknown to each other, both told me, “If more people watched The Wire, it would change this country for the better.” Bold words, but the show lives up to them. It exposes the forces that have turned our inner cities into ghettos and poor minorities into a permanent underclass; should the war on drugs ever be abandoned, The Wire will provide a great account for posterity on how destructive it was across all strata of society.

And it does all this without condescending to the audience or holding its hand. More than any other show — even the Sopranos or Breaking Bad — The Wire trusts you to get it, no matter how complex or convoluted things get.

As others have said, it’s not always fun, and it’s anything but escapist. But I found it absolutely engrossing, from start to finish.

I’ll have to take your opinion with a grain of salt, considering you thought it went from good to great by the end of the second season and I thought it went from great to not bad. :slight_smile:

Except Homicide, which was more realistic (and better (IMO)).

It’s a common reaction :). A lot of people thought season 2 with its abrupt change of gears was a let down. But I really enjoyed that storyline and of course it all fits together eventually.

My wife and I started watching it awhile back, and are just starting Season 2. It took a while to get into - lots of names and faces to keep track of. We were constantly asking each other “Who is that again?” It definitely takes more work to watch and you have to pay more attention than with your usual TV series, but so far we are enjoying it. Now I’m really looking forward to Season 4!

The problem with The Wire is that it’s legend as the Greatest Thing Ever ™ will never be equalled by the real thing.

The Wire is actually quite entertaining an oodles less cumbersome and esoteric than most people make it out to be. Take it as basically a Game of Thrones type of show with cops instead of medieval warriors. There’s kings fighting for power, invincible bandits, corrupt guards, crazy twists and so on. Enjoy it for it’s silly parts, don’t consider it homework.

I disagree with some of this. Parts of the show were complex enough, other parts not at complex in the slightest. Indeed a few parts were idealistic political nonsense. The “Amsterdam” episodes for one - implement a liberal attitude to drugs and allsort of social loveliness will result.

Also, the situation in the schools. A wonderful school project(set up by wonderful sociologists and liberal policemen working together in harmony) to help dysfunctional kids gets shut down by those big bad bureaucrats and corrupt politicians. The Wire does not trust you. It shoves you along in a certain direction as much as any other show.

In my opinion The Sopranos was more “trusting” with the viewer. Few,if anyone, comes out well in that show. Everyone is an asshole to some extent. There were no real goodies versus baddies. In the Wire there certainly was a default setting of social advocacy.

I’m gonna spoiler some of this in case the OP wants to remain unspoiled:That’s not at all how I remember Amsterdam ending. You may recall Carcetti’s walk through it - he was told very clearly by Colvin clearly that it wouldn’t be pretty. And there was at least one shooting, right? And a few stick-ups. Also Johnny’s death - he was shown to be a pretty normal user who became a more frequent user and eventually OD’ed due to drugs being readily available.
I think the position of the show, such as it was, was somewhat nuanced wrt what de factor legalization would look like.

It may shove you a bit, I suppose. But it was also pretty direct in showing how limited the effectiveness of these programs were. As I recall the only kid in Season 4 that seemed to have a shot was Namond, and that only because Colvin basically adopted him. And consider the effect that Carver’s good-hearted intervention had.It was clear to me at least that even the most well-intentioned and well-run programs and individuals weren’t going to fix the real problems.

I can’t speak to the Sopranos, but I can’t think of anybody that came out all good in The Wire either. Even the likable characters had significant flaws. OK, maybe in Season 5, but that is pretty clearly because Simon got too close to home with the storylines.

The first couple of seasons of Homicide were very good, but we gave up sometime in Season 4. The best parts were the ones that were taken from the book. I prefer The Wire as a whole.

True, I generally drop out of it somewhere around S3-S4, though there were still some good episodes in any season.

The Wire had to benefit of being produced after TV discovered “quality programming” so was able to skip random stupidity, for the sake of cheap and easy content. Homicide, while less politicized and more realistic in its portroyal of general police work and criminal intellect, suffers from things like the episode where two characters conflict over the same woman, one sleeps with her in a coffin, and we’ve all learned a valuable lesson about dating goth chicks (don’t do it kids! She might make you have sex in a coffin!) Stupid, but a product of the sort of thinking behind TV production at its time.

I under-explained my point somewhat. I don’t really mean the creators of the show trust you to get “the message,” although I think a case can be made for that. What I had in mind was the way the show portrays a complex milieu of characters, with their varying histories, agendas and environments, and basically chucks you into the deep end and makes you swim for it. I’ve become very sensitized to the way “typical” drama shows hold your hand as an audience member, with clunky expository dialogue, people repeating things the audience already knows, red-herring characters, and so on. The Wire doesn’t do any of that. (The Sopranos doesn’t either, but the world of the Sopranos is a lot smaller.) Part of the pleasure of The Wire for me was just the thrill of keeping pace with it, in all its complexity; it really was like watching life unfold in front of you.

I’m ok with spoilers, I’m starting to get into it a little more. I do agree with that you really have to pay attention while watching this.

Wait, you thought Hamsterdam was lovely ?! It was a slice of hell on earth, man. Much like the school initiative, actually - Simon’s philosophy seems to be that society should try to concentrate its shittiness in discrete black holes so that the rest of it can function adequately. Which might be OK provided you can somehow be guaranteed not to be the one who’s going to be living in the hole… way down in the hole :).

That being said, real-life Copenhagen really did implement something like Hamsterdam : they’ve recently opened, to the great outcry of social conservatives, places where hardcore drug users can go shoot up safely, under nurse supervision, with clean needles and even free methadone. No police interference, except for people who actually try to *deal *drugs; and no mandatory twelve steps or somesuch.

Apparently the number of fatal ODs has lowered dramatically, as has the number of transmitted blood diseases & similar health issues associated with IV drug use. And the old “junkie neighbourhoods” became safer, too - the residents seem to like it better when they don’t have to step over a passed out body to do their groceries :).