18 October 2015

Can You Believe This, I Finally Watched The Wire

I have gotten a lot of emails, texts, letters and telegrams of thanksgiving recently because of the paucity of posts on this blog. Readers from far and wide have expressed their gratitude that they've been forced to suffer less of the tedium associated with reading the nonsense I post here in cyberspace. I just want to send out a blanket "you're welcome!" to everyone. I'd also liked to let everyone know who deserves credit for keeping me from putting pen to paper, or more precisely finger to keyboard. All glory goes to The Wire (2002-2008) a  TV show that I have watched compulsively for almost two months. I was averaging watching an episode a day until this past week when I went -- you should excuse the expression -- buck ass wild, culminating with viewing the final three episodes today. In answer to your query: yes, I liked it. Hell, I loved it and rank it with The Sopranos and Breaking Bad as the best TV dramas I've ever watched.

I know your next question too: What took me? The show ended its run seven and half years ago. It's not like there was no one suggesting the show to me. Many people whose opinions I respect insisted I give it a whirl. And in fact I was reasonably sure that I would like it. But one has only so much time. I was late to the party with Breaking Bad and didn't start Orange is the New Black until its second season (I'm right on top of Fargo, folks, watched it from the beginning). I've got other things to do, you know. Specifically there are a lot of movies that I need to watch or re-watch and oh yeah work and family, blah, blah, blah. I was finally inspired to take the plunge with The Wire when the missus and I watched the six-part mini-series Show Me a Hero which aired on HBO last August. I thought the show was fantastic and wondered what else creator David Simon had done. When I found that he was the man behind The Wire I was in.

Nothing on TV has ever made me more intrigued by police work as The Wire. Nothing has seemed to more accurately portray the life of modern day inner city gangsters. Nothing has ever shown with more realism the travails of working in an inner city middle school. Nothing has ever depicted the realities of the politics. Nothing has ever made me regret more my idiotic decision to leave newspaper reporting. And very few shows are as well written and have such compelling yet realistic and well defined characters.

There was roughly 60 hours of The Wire and there was barely a few seconds worth that rang at all false where the story went even slightly in an unnatural or overly convenient direction. The show seemed damn near a documentary. If you've seen The Wire you don't need me to recite some of the more compelling characters. But I will anyway. Dominic West as James McNulty was as close to a main character as the show had. He was neither hero nor anti-hero. He was a brilliant cop whose methods put him at odds at one time or another with virtually anyone he worked under or with -- and himself. In the hands of lesser writers the tortures he suffered from inner demons would have fell into melodrama, but The Wire did not create cardboard cutout characters who had cliched experiences. Characters were allowed to breath and feel their way through the story and meet whatever fates were natural to their lives.

Cops seemed like real cops. Gangsters were not just bad guys they were people living the lives they chose and often honoring a particular code but always within the harsh realities of potential death or imprisonment. But yes, what they did was often bad, even awful. Teachers, students, administrators and situations at the middle school (a bit like the one I taught in and exactly like the ones I subbed in) were so natural and real that I practically suffered PTSD watching the episodes in which they were featured. I could not believe that the vice principal and the principal were actors and not actual administrators. The students must have been re-enacting their own lives to be so true to that reality. So many of the students reminded me of ones or types I had as students that it was downright eerie.

The politics, with all its sleaze and deal making and all its affect and manipulation made me despair even more than I already do that much of anything can come from our elected bodies except by accident. The politics, of course, reached right into the police department where cops seemed more pawns than anything else. No one was spared. Sure the gangsters were selling narcotics and killing one another at an alarming rate, but the police could be vicious, duplicitous and cruel. The politicians all seemed to be primarily concerned with furthering their own careers or lining their pockets at whatever the moral cost. And at the newspaper one reporter was fabricating quotes, incidents and characters to jump from his pond to a bigger one, never mind editorial integrity. The Wire was a show not so much about what people are but what they become when trapped in a corrupt system. We all struggle to survive, to make sense of our lives and use whatever it takes to prosper. The soul can get twisted but we can also find love and faith and humanity and reason and enlightenment. We also can make a difference. Usually not a big one but by doing what's in front of us to the best of our abilities we can progress. There are a lot of scenes in The Wire in which people are talking, planning, scheming but also sharing and reflecting and wondering. In other words, living.

The show succeeded  because all facets of the production worked. But I will remember the performers. Particular raves have to go to Wendell Pierce as homicide detective Bunk Moreland, Andre Royo as the addict Bubbles, Michel Kenneth Williams as Omar Little the gay stick up artist of dealers, Wood Harris as gang boss Avon Barksdale, Clark Johnson as the City Editor and Aidan Gillen as the mayor.
But while those were among the highlights this was truly an ensemble cast of amazing characters. Amazing because they were so damn believable. I don't think I've ever believed a TV as much as this one. I felt as though life was being revealed to me and I was understanding and thus better appreciating the world I live in. When art does that its fucking awesome (excuse the expression).

There's probably something else out there in TV world that I missed the first time or am currently missing that I would love. But for the love of god I don't want to know about right now, I've got things to do.

A shoutout to my esteemed oldest nephew who was one of the people who urged me to watch The Wire.

1 comment:

Johannes Hourula said...

Glad u finally binge-watched Uncle ;) Sheeeeeeeeaaaaaaat...I may have to watch it again now!!