Emmanuel recommended The Wire to me, and after watching the the first 3 episodes of season 1, I'm hooked. The Wire (imdb) is an HBO dramatic series that provides an inside look at the Baltimore Police Department. Less famous than fellow HBO productions The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, The Wire is no less excellent.
Shot on location in Baltimore, the show is gritty, nuanced and highly textured. Its creators are David Simon, an ex-reporter from the Baltimore Sun whose first book provided the inspiration for the NBC series Homicide, and Ed Burns, a 20 year veteran of the Baltimore PD. The Wire reminds me of the best episodes Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue, and from the start it has the impact that both of those series created. The Wire elevates the police drama art form with details and story complexity missing from normal television.
The storyline continues episode-to-episode as Avon Barksdale’s drug gang consolidates its influence in the Western projects and a special task force led by Lt. Cedric Daniels tries to learn enough about their operations to make arrests. The strength of the program is that characters on both sides of the drug war are developed, and the acting is uniformly strong. Dominic West does have a stand-out role as Det. Jim McNulty, a character about who his partner, William “Bunk” Moreland, wonders, “How is it you always have the world pissed off at you?” It must be his Irish charm.
The Wire commands your attention, but the careful viewer is rewarded with masterful dialog and a strongly compelling story arc. Debuting in 2002, The Wire is set to start its fourth season. The first two are available on DVD (amazon).
6/24 update: Early this morning I finished watching season 1, and it is amazing television. I was very positive in my original post but, in retrospect, I should have raved more. Every aspect of the show, from the opening credits that reference Francis Ford Copola’s The Conversation (amazon) to the conclusion of the 13 epsisode story, is meticulously crafted. The cast is huge (there are crews of drug dealers, junkies, informants, detectives, police brass, attorneys and federal agents) but there are no weak performances. Even the show’s theme song (a cover of Tom Waits - Way Down in the Hole by the Blind Boys of Alabama iTunes) is inspired. If you like police dramas you will love The Wire. I can’t wait to start season 2.