Its been a really long time since I’ve written anything, got sidetracked by Christmas and other assorted crap and let it flag badly, so I thought I’d kickstart it again with a new element of musing over television as well as film.
One of the hottest potatoes in any discussion about entertainment media these days is the supposed ‘best t.v. series ever made’. Like movies, I’m extremely hard pressed to nail down a favourite that discards all of the other brilliant shit. I’ve seen and absolutely loved The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, etc, but if I had to name the one that hit the strongest note with me, I’d undoubtedly go with The Wire.
This show has more layers and subtle strokes of genius than anything else I’ve ever seen. Yes, I did enjoy the ride I got taken on by Tony Soprano, Walter White and Al Swearengen, but as brilliant as their stories are (and they are fucking brilliant) it still goes back to revolving around an ageing white anti-hero and his battle to maintain order with all of the tumultuous shit going on in his life. The thing that sets The Wire apart is that the main character is the city of Baltimore (How can a city be a character, are you on crack? Possibly).
What I mean by that is the show so meticulously crafts the story of Baltimore with respect to each and every layer of society (yes, even better than Westeros. I know, the heresy…) that you can’t really argue for any one individual being the principal focus of attention. That being said, it does have an ever-present lynchpin throughout all 5 seasons, that being one Detective James ‘Jimmy’ McNulty.
A selfish, reckless, womanising, flippant, alcoholic, Irish-American cop who doesn’t care what he has to do to get the job done, he’s essentially Popeye Doyle without the sociopathy or the racism. That scores some points right?
The show traces the saga of Jimmy and his fellow guys & gals in blue as they target and reflect upon problems of criminality in the city, involving the inner-city projects, the docklands, the school system, the city media, the upper echelons of city government. But this is absolutely nothing like NYPD Blue or The Shield or any of that waste-45-minutes-with-some-snacks malarkey. This is as gritty, graphic, poignant and downright fucking intelligent as you can possibly imagine.
For me it remains the most underrated show ever made. Its got its fanbase for sure, but it’s still merely a cult hit, which I find flabbergasting. How something can simultaneously pull off being a thriller, a heartwrenching drama, an insightful piece of social commentary and a black comedy and not be frequently mentioned in the same breath as all of those other shows is beyond me. It also features the most terrifying villains ever for me. Its somewhat frustrating writing this review because even the most basic reveals of anything would equal spoilers, but the show’s antagonists, be they the lowliest street corner smack dealer or an immensely powerful importer-exporter, honestly make people like Tywin Lannister and Gus Fring look like massive pussyoles. The authenticity of it all is deeply frightening.
Please, go and have a look. It does require close attention but I will eat my face if you don’t give it your all and find it anything other than one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever seen. Plus, how many other shows have begun all of their seasons with 5 separately awesome covers of a Tom Waits track? Exactly.
I give it 20/10. No, its my scoring, I’ll do what I like with it.