New “The Wire” Shorts

December 5th, 2007  |  Published in etc

Before the show’s fifth and final season begins next month, Amazon has a trio of shorts from “The Wire:”

They’re free and streaming.

If you aren’t already a fan, they won’t do anything to in-fanize you, but they do offer a sense of the texture of the series.

I don’t like police shows but I came to “The Wire” at the beginning of the last season and it took two or three episodes for me to decide I needed to see all of it. Al & I watched the first three seasons as quickly as Netflix could get them in the house. Three or four episodes a night sometimes.

Taken as part of the HBO arc-series canon, “The Wire” stands above all the others. I know there are people who might want to make the case for “Deadwood,” and it’s one I’d entertain if “Deadwood” had ever truly ended. It didn’t, though, and I don’t think of it as a complete work. I love it for what it is, but it doesn’t inspire the same awe in me that “The Wire” has.

“The Sopranos” suffers, I think, from a little surprise at its own success. The last season could have been the fourth, fifth or sixth. It was ready to be done well before it ended, and the complete series feels like too much for what you ultimately get out of it.

“Six Feet Under” approaches it in formal terms, but I’ve felt there are episodes of that series that were readily disposable, and I always had a sense that the writers would strive for a certain quirkiness that didn’t work for me all the time.

Each season of “The Wire” has taken us somewhere new, but added to the whole. Barring an utter disaster in the upcoming season, when the series is done it will have a narrative integrity you don’t usually see on television. Each season will be essential to the complete series, and each episode will be essential to its season.

I’m not a huge fan of formal considerations though, and I throw all that out more as a way to inoculate you against any hesitation over the apparent effort it would take to catch up. The show’s underlying sensibility is what kept me coming back.

Here’s Reason interviewing creator David Simon. The quote that most compactly sums up the way the series resonates with me is this one:

Reason: Would you describe The Wire as a cynical show?

David Simon: It’s cynical about institutions, and about their capacity for serving the needs of the individual. But in its treatment of the actual characters, be they longshoremen or mid-level drug dealers or police detectives, I don’t think it’s cynical at all. I think there’s a great deal of humanist affection.”

In that respect, it’s a thematic cousin to “Deadwood,” though the temporal proximity of its setting makes it less of a fable or allegory.

The rest of the interview is pretty good, too.

Wikipedia’s entry is worth reading as a primer, and has a lot of good outbound links.

You really should give “The Wire” a try. Can’t say it any plainer.

Leave a Response

© Michael Hall, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.