May 19, 2008
The HBO series about Baltimore, Maryland – The Wire – offers five seasons of some of the best that television has to offer. Available now on DVD at public libraries and through video rental, The Wire is gritty, funny and leaves you thinking about it long afterwards.
The lives of ordinary working class and poor residents of Baltimore are illuminated with such honesty that the show could be mistaken for a documentary. It’s set in Baltimore, but it could be taking place in so many U.S. cities. The dysfunction of the schools, the courts, the police department and city services are all exposed.
The series is a fictional drama based on the life experiences of the show’s creators. One had worked as a crime reporter. The other is a Vietnam vet, retired homicide detective and former inner city school teacher.
Because the show is “character driven” it can seem “slow” at the beginning of each of its five seasons. Until you have been introduced to all of that season’s characters, which can take a few episodes, the show doesn’t pick up speed and suspense. Stick with it. You will be rewarded by a show that makes you laugh and makes you think.
Each of the shows seasons has a slightly different focus. Season One is about the “war” on drugs. Season Two focuses on the unions and job losses. Season three is about gangs and corrupt politicians. Season 4 is about children in the underfunded school system. Season 5 is about the news media and the homeless.
The Wire dramatizes the futility of the war on drugs, the underfunding of the schools, the corruption of the cops and politicians. It shows that the power games and politics that go on at work are the same wherever you go, whether your employer is the government, a school system, the waterfront – or a drug lord!
Throughout all five seasons, the path society is on comes across as a vicious circle. Reforms are ineffectual. The thought comes to a viewer’s mind that only a revolutionary solution points a way out.