Today I secured a copy of IMO the greatest thing ever made for television (psst: it's not TV, it's HBO!), the boxed set of DVDs entitled "The Wire". This is not Just Another Boxed Set (JABS), but rather the boxed set of a series that set a new high bar in the history of series made for TV. I've watched things before and since, and to my mind, nothing compares with "The Wire". This is Truth non-parreil. You may regret lifting up this ugly slab of concrete, but this tome lives with the finest Courbet paintings that master ever created. We're not talking cheesy Dickension portraits of America here. This series broke all the bounds of decency and took us into a place we'd rather not inhabit, and made us feel for the people trapped in that sad reality, and caused us to hope for people like Bubbles, and to cheer when he finally got straight, and to weep when gangsta-chicks finally got outsmarted by her students.... and so much more.
These so-called "Reality TV" shows make me laugh! You want reality, homey, come to Baltimore and strut the streets. We'll show you reality!
My fave character by a long shot is Bubbles, the lowest of the low, who ultimately cleans up his act and becomes a Ciizen. Therin lies a lesson for all of us. None of us has descended lower, nor risen above the predictions laid down by The System. To call "The Wire" a Dickensian novel transposed to the last dying decade of the 20th century would be to diminish it.
IMO, "The Wire" is everything that the post-print novel could and can be.
I'm currently attempting to organize a few private parties here in my building, dedicated to "The Wire": an all-weekend back-to-back session of each Season, one by one, punctuated with pizzas and hilarity and my friends quoting their favorite lines from each episode. As host and adjudicator, I absent myself from the competition, since I have memorized almost the entire script from every episode, and can quote freely, including bad attempts at the accents. Don't push me on this-- I can bury you! I have a telegenic memory.
Worst move you could ever make in a contest such as this: try me and my best friend Audra on any line from the most beloved "Miller's Crossing", by the most beloved brothers Coen. Try us! Choose at random any line from said movie and Audra and I will follow with the subsequent line(s), and we are prepared to bet serious money on said proposition. We've seen this movie so many times that you'd be throwing your money away to bet against us; so don't be stupid with your mother's inheritance. Keep it in your pocket and be the smart player.
Back to "The Wire", IMHO the greatest thing that ever happened to TV (yeah yeah yeah, it's not TV, it's HBO, I get it already).This series redefined -- actually, I don't know what it redefined -- since it's not exactly mainstream TV fodder, and it also pushed the boundaries of Alternative TV beyond Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue Homicide: Life on the Streets (incidentally, made by the same people as The Wire), and The Sopranos (not to slight them -- they pushed the bioundaries in that time and day, but the bar has moved higher. This invites an entirely new conversation, approximately equivalent to "Was Beethoven greater than Mozart, and was Mozart greater than Vivaldi, and recursively through the history of Western Classic musc"?
I know a little about the history of Western classic music, and a little about the history of East Indian classical music, and perhaps a fact or two more about the history of 20th century jazz, rock, punk and its descendants. After all, I did see Jimi Hendrix twice, once in Vancouver and a couple of days later in SeattIe. That said, I profess no expertise in this or any other musico-historical category, but I do love serious music, in all its genres and forms.
To conclude, if you haven't seen The Wire, and you're ready for some ground-breaking TV, buy or rent Season One and work your way through from there. I'd also recommend devoting an entire day to each season, and watching the episodes back to back.