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Friday, January 4, 2008

Hung up on "The Wire"

Being an eternal optimist (ahem), I always look for the bright side of situations. For the writers' strike, that means a lack of new programming placing an overdue spotlight (TV critics have to write about something) on one of the few scripted shows to have all its episodes in the can. The fifth and final season of "The Wire" starts Sunday, and if you haven't been watching the show, well, I can't really scold you.

You see, at the start of this blog in November, I had yet to watch a single episode of David Simon's revolutionary HBO cop drama about inner city Baltimore. I had always wanted to, but something called a lack of premium cable inconveniently got in the way. Once I subscribed to HBO last year -- and subsequently made it a point to watch all of "The Sopranos'" episodes on DVD so I could finally look in the mirror without feeling shame -- I decided it was finally time to get caught up on "The Wire" before its grand sendoff. That the final season deals with the inner workings (and trappings) of the news media only added further motivation and intrigue.

So in two months, I've completely digested the entire series. And I wouldn't change a thing about how I watched it. When all the Channel Surfing bloggers wrote short introductions in November, I mentioned my game of catch-up with the DVD sets. A commenter noted that I was going to become obsessed with the show, and from here on out would answer the question "What's your favorite TV show?" by saying, "You mean, after 'The Wire?"'

That dude was 100 percent on the money. I'm completely obsessed. I see the Domino Sugar sign in my dreams. Whistle like Omar while walking from the Press-Gazette parking lot to my desk. Have added the term "s---bird" to my ever increasing vocabulary. "The Wire" is like nothing I've ever seen on TV. It's not only my all-time favorite show, but eight of its characters would be on a list of my 10 TV favorites for all eternity. Even while scrambling to finish the DVD sets, I watched episodes over again just so I could fully immerse myself in all that was happening.

But don't take my word for it. Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle recaps each season -- without big-time spoilers -- and wisely advises that newcomers shouldn't even think about diving into Season Five without digging into back episodes first. Google "The Wire" and you'll find any number of superlatives being thrown around, though this recent critique by Time is pretty spot-on.

Also, because the esteemed Alan Sepinwall -- more with him in a later post -- is so passionate about the show, we'll direct you to his blog, where this comment thread and the promise of a "favorite/funniest moments" list from the show brought a tear to my eye. Another favorite find and must-read is this interview between author Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About a Boy") and Simon, who makes a very important distinction about the series; that "instead of the usual good guys chasing bad guys framework, ('The Wire' raises questions) about the very labels of good and bad, and, indeed, whether such distinctly moral notions were really the point."

As for the final season's media focus, Editor and Publisher asks questions of those who make real-life newsroom decisions (by the way, I love all my bosses), while perhaps the most interesting review of the new season's storyline comes from The Baltimore Sun, or the very paper Simon uses in the show.

As for me, I already caught the first episode On Demand earlier in the week -- don't ask me why HBO releases it days before, but man, I'm glad they do -- and strongly believe the show will maintain its high standard even if Seasons Three and Four are impossible acts to follow. Sepinwall has already called Season Five "the funniest yet," and while it's hard to write about the show's key moments on this blog because it'll spoil surprises for the legions that don't watch it, that's pretty high praise.

And yes, I know what you're thinking. Funny? Didn't you write that the show is a cop drama about inner-city Baltimore?

Please. Just watch.

("The Wire" airs at 8 p.m., Sunday or is available now On Demand.)

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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That Hornby-Simon interview was freakin' fantastic. Thanks.

By Anonymous fanriffic, At January 6, 2008 at 11:37 PM  

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