Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wired

"Driving 'round the city rings
Staring at the shape of things
I talk in pictures not in words
Overloaded with everything we said
be careful where you tread
Watch the wire"

- Peter Gabriel, "... And Through The Wire", Peter Gabriel 3

Vicki and I have now watched the first seven episodes of The Wire Season One, which was lent to us on DVD by buddy Tim. I suspect he's waiting with bated breath to hear how we're liking it, so I might as well give some early thoughts. After all, he was nice enough to do us the kindness of the DVD loaner.

It's definitely an interesting program. I think the more you like procedurals, the more you'll enjoy it. In other words, if seeing every little detail that goes into something like the drug operation investigation shown in The Wire is your idea of a great time, you'll be all over this. And I suppose Vicki and I do have some love for that genre, as we've been faithfully watching Law and Order (the original series) since Tammy first got us into it more than a decade ago, as well as CSI. Anyone who has no patience for that sort of thing, though, is probably going to be asking, "Why the Hell isn't more happening?" by about the second or third hour!

And by the way, that preceding exclamation would be several shades milder than just about anything said on The Wire! It regularly turns the air blue with the amount of profanity that's employed by every single character on the show, to the point where it really starts to seem ridiculous at times. The scene in which two of the central characters re-examine a murder scene from six months earlier, and realize that it was completely mishandled by the incompetent boob who initially wrote it up, is completely dialogue-free, if you don't count the word "fuck" and all its many variations. I'm sure the writer(s) thought this was very clever, but all I could think about as we watched it was that it seemed really stupid that the two detectives were using profanity at a time when a brand new avenue was opening up in something that had previously looked like a dead-end. It played very 'written' and completely took me out of the scene. And that tends to happen a lot on this show, as the most incidental character shows up briefly, shows off his - or her! - ability to swear creatively, and then exits again. It's probably the worst aspect of the series for me... not because I mind profanity, but because it's so clearly over-the-top. If that's faithful to the way Baltimore cops actually talk - and I have no reason to doubt it - do I really care? The fact that no one I know uses even 1/10th that many "fucks" in conversation, and that anyone using the kind of descriptive insults that lace every episode - most especially by the cops! - would be sued for workplace harassment in a heartbeat, makes it all seem very unreal.

On the other hand, the character development on the show is great, as each person - so far - has turned out to be more than he or she initially seemed to be. That's one of my favourite aspects of Lost, and I really like it here, too. Returning to the comparison of The Wire to Law and Order, one of the biggest differences is in this area, since L&O almost always concerns itself with the crime and the criminals, with little or no attention paid to the regulars. While there are certainly no shortage of unlikable characters in The Wire, at least they're all fleshed out well instead of being simple cardboard cutouts of "the drug dealer", "the drunk cop", "the redneck" and so on. I think without this going for it, we'd both probably have given up on the show by now.

Overall, and with 2/3 of the season still unwatched, I'd say we're liking it quite a bit. Tim likes to call it "the best show on TV" and I'm sure it is.. for him. It must have just the right ingredients for what he's looking for in a great show, whereas I think Vicki and I would, at most, call it a "very good show." Nothing I've seen so far makes me think it'll knock Lost off the top of my list, or even compete with Heroes, 30 Rock or Babylon 5 (from days gone by). But I can definitely see it maybe making it onto my Top 20 list, if it keeps going strong.

9 comments:

Tim said...

Just wait. Just wait.

I bet you a Beer (or the light frilly umbrella drinks that you seem to prefer) that it will be a top 5 series by the end of season 1. Numero uno if you carry on to Season 2. Ranked with Dickens if you see season 4.

Kimota94 aka Matt said...

Hmmmm... starting to drift into "Poor Reason B territory, I fear, Tim:"

Poor Reason B: "You're too stupid to know what's good for you. Luckily I came along because now I can straighten you out. Someday you'll thank me for this, trust me."

tim said...

Ha!

Tim said...

I don't know if you are a Tom Waits fan, but do want to point something out because I do believe the Peter Gabriel lyrics were a bit of a red herring designed to get me to post

(yes, yes, I am that paranoid)

The series theme is Waits' 'Down in the Hole' sung by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Second season has Waits' original version and fifth season has Steve Earle's cover. Notable is that real recovered heroin addict Earle plays Waylon the 12-step recovered addict on the show....

I know you want to know these things.

Kimota94 aka Matt said...

The Peter Gabriel lyrics are there because:

1) He's the master and should be quoted at every opportunity (duh!)

2) The show's title always makes me think of his song, "... And Through the Wire" for more than just the obvious reason (both containing the words "the wire" in them)

3) The last line that I quoted, "Watch the wire" seemed particularly appropriate for the post, since that's what Vicki and I are doing, after all

4) It's not all about you, Tim... except in your own little head!

Kimota94 aka Matt said...

Oh, and I do appreciate the background on the music used. When we saw The Blind Boys of Alabama, opening for Peter G in Toronto, we both really enjoyed them! While I wouldn't say their style of music was aligned with my own personal tastes, I still liked almost every song they performed. And certainly their contributions to his songs on Up were both significant, and beautiful.

Not really a Tom Waits fan, from what little of his music I've heard. It's not like I hate his stuff, but nothing I've ever heard has ever made me want to listen to more.

Tim said...

One more.

Most of the cast is actually British. Not that I would know, but those B'more accents sound true.

I have to put Waits up there with my favourite artists. His 2006 boxset outtakes cd is pretty incredible.

Kimota94 aka Matt said...

The guy who plays McNulty - who's very good! - has some sort of weird accent that comes out every once in awhile, and which I haven't been able to place. Is he British? That might explain what I'm hearing.

Tim said...

yes - Domenic West is Welsh.

Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels) and Clarke Peters (Lester Freamon) - English

There is a org chart of sorts at the HBO site divided between The Law, the Street, the Hall and the School.

http://www.hbo.com/thewire/cast/index.shtml#crew

and then there is this:

http://www.hbo.com/news/archives/2006_12_08.html

And the Golden Girl Goes To....
Andre Royo is honored for his junkie turn

When Andre Royo first landed the role of junkie/snitch Bubbles on 'The Wire' he thought, "How can I make this character not cliché?" He was prepared for the informant part: "I've been snitching for a long time now. The first job I had on 'Law & Order' I was snitching." Plus, he's played the rat on 'Third Watch' and the remake of 'Shaft.' For the addict side of his character, the 38-year-old Bronx native hung out with junkies in New York and Baltimore.

Later, on a set break during the first season, Royo received the only award he (or any actor from the critically-acclaimed series) has received for his work on the show, when a local Baltimore junkie walked up to the still-in-character actor with a bag of heroin. "He said, 'Yo, you need this, man. You look like you need a hit,'" recalls Royo of the day he won his "Street Oscar." "I laughed a little bit and I got emotional. I was like, 'Wow, he thinks I'm a junkie for real.' I felt validated." (photo: Soren McCarty/WireImage.com)