Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of watching every single episode of the HBO series The Wire.
Comprising 60 episodes over five seasons, the series revolves around the drug trade in Baltimore, Maryland – largely focusing on the quite different views of the Baltimore Police Department and the city’s drug dealers.
It didn’t make a massive impact here in the UK, due to airing on the satellite/cable channel FX (most of the mainstream UK channels wouldn’t touch it because of the excess swearing and violence), but it has been gathering a cult audience over the past year or so from downloads and DVD sales.
The unconventional setting, the maverick directing, the psuedo-realistic acting and well-crafted scriptwriting helps the show weave its way through six years of complex storylines – all with a central theme of wire-tapping the Baltimore criminals at the heart of city’s drug trade with a view to prosecuting the kingpins (although, the “wire” metaphor stretches beyond the simple notion of phone-tapping).
But it doesn’t stop there.
Politics, corruption, interpersonal relationships, career ambitions, religion, immigration, unemployment, race-relations, inner-city social problems, housing, human trafficking, prostitution, murder, homelessness, education, poverty, gun crime, news reporting – and the failure of the criminal justice system to track down and punish the people responsible for polluting the city with drug crime (as well as those who protect and police them) all raise their heads at some point throughout the show, with each series set in a different aspect of the city (the street, the port, city hall, the school system, and the print news media).
From the intricate plotting, to the wealth of rich characters spanning the 60-odd hours (some 195 characters in all) ranging from the chronically-flawed homicide detective Jimmy McNulty to the crack-addicted street urchin Bubbles – it must surely rank as one of the best television shows of all time.
Season Five in particular takes the viewer in a direction like no other television programme I’ve ever seen before, and will probably never see again.
If you find yourself watching programmes like ER, CSI and Bones – you’re not only wasting your time, you’re missing out on the opportunity to watch quality television that will ultimately take its place in history.
Go now, and buy Season 1 on DVD right now – it’ll be the smartest purchase you make all year.
‘No doubt, tru dat.