For a while, I've been vaguely aware of The Wire and of it being touted as a fantastic show, but it was on HBO and HBO shows are broadcast only on TMN up here and I'm too cheap to get that. Also, I rarely rent series - again motivated by the cheap part of me who whimpers at the thought of the investment in case I like the show. Besides, yet another reinvention of cops and drug dealers? I had my doubts. But a few weeks ago, Beth and I had a conversation about the show and she gave it a glowing recommendation. I trust her judgment, so naturally I went to my local video store and rented The Shield. Because I only remembered that it was two words and the first was 'the' and The Shield just seems more prevalent in the public consciousness. It turned out that The Shield is not to my taste. I know people who are crazy about the show and that's their prerogative, but for me, having our "hero" essentially be a sociopath with a shield isn't really entertaining. It's the same reason I can't watch Dexter - yes, I know it's a fabulous show and I love what'shisname in the lead role, but I tried watching it and have apparently become so soft in my old age that I cannot get past the part where dude kills people and that’s a good thing. I don't care if his victims are horrible people who "deserve" killing, the whole thing just creeps me out. I used to be made of sterner stuff than this...
Anyway! Local video store didn't have the first season of The Wire and as Beth has been known to occasionally be a very motivated person, she gifted me with her copy of Season One, neatly wrapped in Hello Kitty wrapping paper and is it just me or is the juxtaposition of Hello Kitty and the storyline of the show within it hysterically funny? I sat on it for a week while I finished some work and on my alleged week off, started watching it. And was blown away.
The Wire is the story of a group of cops trying to bust open an organization of drug dealers. The brass just wants the case to go away, the criminals are unbelievably smart and it involves a lot of good, old-fashioned police work - chasing the paper trail, listening to boring telephone conversations, the drudgery of getting two steps forward and moving one back. The series takes its time and it really, really works. I haven't seen any of these actors before and they are all incredible, subtle and nuanced. The writing is out of this world - while I was being entertained by the storyline, I was trying to absorb the quality by osmosis, hoping it would make me a better writer. And the combination of writing, direction and acting makes this one of the best series I've ever seen.
There were many moments that highlighted how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this show, some heartbreaking, some laugh-out-loud funny, but I think my favorite was the scene in one of the early episodes, where the characters of Bunk and McNulty (both homicide detectives) figure out what happened at of murder scene through the use of their intellect, experience, some photos and variations of the f-word. Seriously, no other words are used in that scene and it flows like nothing I've ever seen before.
Halfway through, I started dreaming the show, coming up with story lines in my dreams and because it is so good, so real, these people started to seem real - I feel I know them and very much want to know what happens next for them. And I most definitely will be watching the rest of the series, even if it means impoverishing myself by renting it.
Go get it. You won't regret it.