Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wire Is The Greatest Show In Television History

I heard it for years, over and over. Anytime I read about or heard anyone speak about the HBO show The Wire, the same phrase was always, (and I mean always) mentioned immediately; "The Wire is the best show in history". And it wasn't just the critics that I read making this claim, but also a few of my closest friends whose opinions I respect greatly echoing that same sentiment. It seemed there were two types of people - those who had seen The Wire and claimed it to be the best show in history, and those who had not yet seen it.

So for years I have been wanting to watch it, and never seemed to be able to get my hands on it. Until now. Thanks to HBO GO (which is amazing, and potentially life-altering) a service that allows on-demand viewing of all HBO shows in history, available on your iPad or computer if you subscribe to HBO. Suddenly all shows, all seasons are now open to be explored. And the first night that I downloaded HBO GO, I watched the first episode of The Wire.

The Wire is incredible for many reasons, but one of my favorite is the characters. Genuine, accurate writing combined with truly phenomenal actors blend to create a realism unseen in any television show or film that I have seen. Added to that mix is the spice of true life, non-actors from the mean streets of Baltimore that only lend more weight to the atmosphere of authenticity that permeates every aspect of the show.

Omar is one of the greatest, most original characters in history, and he is not even the "star". The characters are phenomenal, played with passion and believability. Why isn't Dominic West (McNulty) a star? Why isn't Wendell Pierce (Bunk) a household name? If I was a Hollywood executive, I would be hiring these actors immediately. Though HBO was wise enough to cast Michael K. Williams (Omar) in the fledgling Boardwalk Empire and Wendell Pierce in the struggling Treme we really need to see more of their vast talents.

But it is more than a pseudo-documentary. It is epic in scope, viewing the city from several seemingly disparate vantage points (from police to drug dealers, teachers to longshoremen, government administration to junkies) that when viewed as a whole, come into focus as an interconnected entity called Baltimore.

With confidence I can assert that yes, The Wire is the best show in television history. But it is more than that - it truly is a "visual novel" as some critics have described it, every bit as sweeping as The Godfather mixed with the gritty legitimacy of a documentary. The Wire supersedes television - it is too big for that small of a medium. No, The Wire is something else, something more significant than what we refer to as "TV".

Long live The Wire - the best show in the history of television.