Friday, March 7, 2008

R.I.P. to The Best TV Show EVAR!!!!

Yes, I'm talkin' bout' The Wire. Indeed.

Sunday night marks the end of a television era. In a time when TeeVee Sux beyond comprehension, HBO's brilliant series The Wire has always stood out as a shining example of how powerful the medium can be when done the right way. If you've been under a rock the past 6 years, or simply bought into the fallacy that the show is "too negative" and didn't bother watching, you've missed out. On a micro level, the Baltimore-based show is about the war on drugs from several different vantage points: The Streets, The Police, The Politicians, The Schools, and this year, The Press. But on a larger scale, The Wire is about the various ways that this great country fails those who have the least.

What separated the show from all other serial cop dramas was it's realism. Instead of drawing clear delineations between the "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys", The Wire gives you living, breathing, complex characters chock full of virtue and flaws. The nobility of the street hustler trying to send his little brother to school so he doesn't repeat his same mistakes. The drunken, boozing, womanizing cop who crosses ethical lines to do a job he feels his department isn't enabling him to. The backwater politician who pimps his constituents, yet whom other politicians must bow to to get elected. The newspaper reporter who skirts the truth in his quest for a Pulitzer. Nobody is clean, yet nobody is completely without some level integrity either. It's character development at it's best.

And since we're talking about characters, you'd be hard pressed to find a wider array of talented black actors than the cast of The Wire. I know many people were turned off because of the subject matter, but they missed Emmy-level (although the show inexplicably hasn't won one) performances by the show's ensemble cast, which featured living, breathing black characters who weren't just background props that supported white folks. The sheer volume of players on the show (50+) made picking it up mid-season a chore, but each and every character was essential in some way in telling the story.

And speaking of story, was there any more complex show, evar? The Wire was the rare show in which you really had to pay attention to every word of dialogue to follow everything. There were "blink and you missed it" moments on every show, which made watching each episode twice a must. And perhaps best of all, the show never became predictable or jumped the shark. Main characters were ruthlessly killed off. Just when you thought the cops had the upper hand, the dealers flipped the script. You never knew what might happen each Sunday night.

Oddly enough, in spite of all these merits, the show never reached the mainstream level of fandom of other cable series like The Sopranos and Sex And The City. Some episodes this season barely registered a million viewers, which is just sad. Maybe this says America loves cartoonishly stereotypical Mob violence than real life Nigga Nonsense. Maybe there are too darn many characters and too difficult a storyline. Maybe people were turned off because the show is serial, not episodic, so missing one show could really throw you off. People generally like their show's wrapping up in 60 minutes, and The Wire was not for those people. It was a novel, unraveled chapter by chapter for half a decade. And it all ends with Sunday's finale.

If you're resourceful, you've probably already seen the finale, so I won't spoil it for anyone else (and please don't spoil it for anyone else in the comments>, but I'd encourage you to fill your Netflix queue (don't even bother trying to watch BET's sanitized version. All the rawness and continuity is lost in translation.) with seasons 1-4 and catch up on the Best Show Evar.

R.I.P. to The Wire. And thank God for The Shield.

Question: Have you ever seen The Wire? If not, what about the show turned you off?

Bonus Video: The Wire Season 5 Trailer

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