I just thought Id drop in here and offer a heads-up to Troppo readers that ABC will be re-broadcasting the first three series of The Wire on ABC2 at 9:30. What can I say about this amazing series that hasnt already been said.
How do I explain The Wire to the uninitiated, its so much more than another crime series about the war on drugs. This series moves well outside the genre of dramatic enactment of the cop-shows of a 50 minute adrenaline feast. Instead the investigations are shown in painstaking detail – the boredom, the office politics, the complex connections of dead or uncertain leads allowing the smallest of resolutions after the close of a twelve or thirteen episode series. But this is more than a detailed police procedural, the ambitiousness of the storytelling allow the viewer to encounter a realism in depicting the city of Baltimore that would not be possible in a more attenuated structure, which allows us to see how the various layers of the city meet in the strangest of places. Like Balzacs idea of the La Comedie Humaine we get to see the city from a wide array of angles, from the stash-houses of the drug-dealers, the schools, the look-outs, city hall, the sites of various workplaces and homes, offering a panoramic vision similar to a 19th century novel. And with this detail we get to see the demeaning nature of the poverty many of the characters experience, alongside the poverty of imagination that drives the cruel rules of “the game” of the various gang activities.
But most of it this is a story about the institutions Series 1 (the police force and the courts), Series 2 (the collapse of the old working-class), Series 3 (the transformation from local to machine politics), Series 4 (the nexus between poor educational outcomes and gang activity) and Series 5 (the dumbing-down of the media). And having such a large array of characters and incidents the creators David Simon and Ed Burns allow the viewer to witness how poor decision-making in the functioning of these institutions permeates downward, impacting those individuals in the most precarious of circumstances.
And in doing this we are also allowed to encounter the ethical struggles of the characters, torn between self-interest and a wider communal duty, (e.g. the police captains duking the stats, the schools forced into rigid ciriculums, the politics of the police investigations) allowing us to see how it is often the careerism of the protagonists that feeds the zombie politics of the city. Truly sensational viewing.