This is a show I’ve been meaning to get around to for quite some time now. The first time I remember hearing about it was some three years ago when I was watching a program about “the arts” on NRK 1 (a state-funded Norwegian channel) where the host asked what TV show everyone’s been missing out on lately. The answer was, of course, “The Wire”! Among the phrases used was “Fantastic in every way!, “Probably the best cop show ever made!” and “So realistic it nearly hurts!”, and then they rounded the whole spot up with bemoaning the fact that no one had bought the rights to it yet, so us vikings would have to by the DVDs if we wanted to be “in the know”.
Since then I’ve been practically bombarded with recommendations from various and sundry, all saying much of the same with varying degrees of exasperated inflexions when I told them I hadn’t watched it. I quickly realized that I would eventually have to watch it , even though I’ve never been the biggest fan of cop shows. So I watched the pilot; thought it should have been convicted on thirty counts of boringness, and put “the Wire” away until peer pressure again had me feeling like I was culturally retarded for not having finished it. Oh, I know no one of you ever said it outright and in my face, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t to be found between the lines, pulsing like a clogged artery ready to pop.
Well, I’m happy to report that you can all cut down on the nitro-glycerine, ’cause I’ve done what you wanted and finished the entire season. Does that mean I like it, you ask, heart all a-twittering? Nah. On second thought, maybe you had better pop another pill before you continue reading.
“The Wire” is set to the crime infested city of Baltimore. One of the biggest dope king pins goes by the name of Avon Barksdale, whose territory includes nearly half of the entire city. Avon and his crew are slowly quenching the life out of the city, and you’d think the cops would be all over his case, but here’s the catch: no one knows who the fuck he is. The guy has been pulling this stunt for years and there’s never been opened a file on him, never been a single investigation where his name has come up, hell, no one outside a little circle knows what he even looks like! But when one of Avon’s crew beats the rap on a clear cut case of murder because a witness is turned at the last second, Detective McNulty decides that someone should stand up for Baltimore. He mentions Avon’s name in the ear of a new judge he knows who in turn gets the ball rolling. Soon everyone knows who Avon Barksdale is, even though no one except the judge and McNulty are especially pleased with the prospect of investigating him. After all, no one wants to upset the status quo… However, a wire gets opened, snitches starts snitching and before you know it a new player has entered the Game.
Now, I knew going into this show that I’d have to sit through five to eight episodes (of thirteen total) before things started heating up for real. And sure enough it did actually take about that long before the show quickened its pace and shit started hitting the fan, but even then it felt like someone was throwing nicely packed pieces of manure towards said fan, and not the veritable shit storm you’d except from the set-up. That being said though, once we were thrown a bone to chew, this show knew how the dress the meal.
Because while I never actually liked “the Wire” as a whole, there were a lot of gems in it that really sparkled. The problem was how to put it all together, to make the vehicle as brightly as the parts that went into it. I really liked some of the characters, like Detective McNulty, who was the only character you could really symphatize with. There was also a lot of other cool characters that I have to give props to; Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell were refreshing in the roles of the big bad bosses, Detective Freeman was always intriguing and Major Rawls could lay a verbal smackdown with the best of the best.
However, season 1 of “the Wire” doesn’t get many points for good characterization, at least not if we’re talking about rich characterization, ’cause it isn’t a person-driven series. The people portrayed had more often than not settle for sitting in the backseat when the show’s was trying to tell its story about the crooked ways of life, only giving them the chance to shine whenever it gets out of its own, slow-going, convoluted way.
This is a show that aspires to a lot more than it accomplishes. Or at least that’s the impression I was left with after the first season of it. It tries to tell a highly realistic story that touches upon the many walks of life. It’s a tale about corruption of the street, of the higher authorites and the way this rot has spread through every inch of the system. Against this behemoth of a concept it pits a band of unsuccessful people who’ve all fallen prey to more or less the same viles, but that are now forced to fight them as well as their own instincts. It had the potential for a great story that, if taken care by some more skilled writers and producers, could’ve sparkled brightly in a Hollywood infused medium suffering from its own navel-gazing. But it cut itself short when it traded away the recipe of the genre as well as the boundaries, and while I must acknowledge the fact that realism of it rang true, it didn’t chose to offer up a feeling of desperation in stead of that much needed gleam of light. I wanted the light, ’cause that’s the kind of story I like and that’s the kind of story that serves a purpose higher than itself.
But then again, I never did like cop shows. This one is probably the best one I’ve seen so far, but for me it was way too slow with a lot of problems with its storytelling sucked away much of the potential enjoyment.
I will not be watching any more of it.