Saturday, May 30, 2009

DVD Review: THE WIRE

So I heard, many a time, that I needed to watch THE WIRE. It's so awesome, the chat boards said. It's television at its best, the critics shouted.

And they were right.

This was one of those times I should've listened sooner, just like with SUPERNATURAL, because when I started getting my DVDS in the mail, I was a camped-out mailbox puppy once again.

THE WIRE is a short five seasons long (about ten through thirteen episodes per cycle) and it was presented by HBO, which means you get sex and grit. It's very complex, and I don't recommend hopping into the middle of it--this one is something to appreciate one episode after another, like a multi-coure meal that builds on what comes before.

If you watched HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS (one of my favorite series ever), you're a ready-made fan. THE WIRE was conceived and run by David Simon, who used to be a newspaper journalist in Baltimore and turned to producing and writing after getting bought out of his job (a nice term for laid off). Hence, the action takes place in Baltimore, focusing primarily on what starts out as a rag-tag bunch of cast-off police who are put on a seemingly hopeless drug detail. Lest this sound like a trite set up, the execution drives the story in a very different direction, using the points of view of the drug dealers, too. No one is simply good or bad in this series, but the characters are always facinating and even endearing in their own imperfect ways. Even the dealers have saving graces (most of the time).

Each season features a different aspect of Baltimore, fleshing out the city so that you feel as if you know it: season two centers around the port; season three has politics; season four goes to the schools; season five brings everything together by using a newspaper room as its "new character." At the same time, we follow the cops as well as the "evolution" of the drug trade on the streets--old dealers have to bow to the power of the new.

My favorite season was four, but only because of the school focus. As a former eighth grade teacher in San Diego, I felt that the issues really, really hit home: the politics of "teaching to the test," social promotion, and the basic struggle of middle schoolers trying to go beyond what society and family expects of them. I was *dreaming* about this stuff every night--that's how much this season got to me.

Bottom line--this series is a work of art. No joking. The way it sews its stories together into a tapestry of bleak (and sometimes hopeful) reality is stunning. It's inspiring for any author. Plus, this is the series you whip out if you're having a conversation with someone who wants to tell you that TV is junk.

Highly, highly recommended.

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