Pop Culture Homework Assignment #3: The Wire

Television over the past few years has been an embarrassment of riches. There have been plenty of crappy shows not worth a second glance, but my current problem isn't that I can't find anything good to watch; it's that there's so much I want to catch up on, certain types of shows have to get put on the back burner. Deep, complex dramas are generally the first to get benched. That's not because I don't like them - if they're done well, there's no better kind of show.

The commitment they take can lead to some issues, though. I don't get HBO. I don't have a DVR. If I happen to miss an episode of a serialized drama, I could potentially be hosed for the remainder of the season. Sometimes, the best method is to wait for the season to end, and then shotgun all of the episodes over a concentrated time-span. It frees up your schedule and keeps details fresh in your memory. The only real hitches are the efforts to remain spoiler-free and the fact that you can't discuss episodes after you see them, because they've long since been dissected by others.

There are many shows like this that I've been meaning to get into. Mad Men was the first experiment, and went swimmingly. I decided it was time to get into another involved drama that everyone praises to the heavens, but that I hadn't seen a single minute of: The Wire. I literally could not find a person who had seen this show and didn't like it. A coworker of mine owns the DVDs, and enthusiastically loaned the first season to me.

This inaugural season focuses on the drug trade in Baltimore and the police's efforts to stem it. Far from being a black-and-white portrayal of good and bad guys, every one of the multitude of characters is a shade of gray. The drug dealers can be compassionate. The cops can be greedy. The show doesn't shy away from the way that drug addiction tears a community apart, or the way that society tries to combat these problems can be weighed down into irrelevance by bureaucracy and corruption. Those sorts of plotlines can make a show depressing in a hurry, but The Wire also has its moments of levity. As with most dramas of this type, aspects of the story unfold over many episodes, and there are about a thousand characters to keep track of, so this is a show that requires your full attention. I was happy to give it. Though I was worried this show wouldn't live up to its hype, it met every expectation I had for it, and I'm already looking forward to tearing into Season 2.

The Wire - Season 1: A-


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