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Jason Panella

The Wire (2002-2008)

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I don't think there's a season I don't like, and I like all of them for different reasons. I think my personal favorite is season 4: the school storyline is my favorite. Maybe that's because I know a bunch of teachers? I also really like season 2's stevedore story (and that could partially be because of my Polish Catholic roots). Oh, and I really love season 5's newspaper segments. I might be in a minority for that, though.

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Season 3 is a funny one - it's a bit dull and then the last four epsiodes are AMAZING. In fact, I would say those four episodes are the best of the whole series. Season 4, i love - I think it's impossible not to, those kids are incredible actors and really well written. It was good to have some comedy brought into the series, too. Most of the comedy up to this point relied on the usual detective locker room bantering. Series 4's comedy is somehow more engaging, more universal, I think.

Only 3 episodes in to series 5 but already I loathe the direction they've taken McNulty in. Entirely too predictable, saw that coming in series 4. He was far more interesting when he was off the booze and you could see his adult humanity. So far not too into the whole newspaper angle, though I love the head of staff in the newsroom. He's tops.

What do people think about Omar? Does his claim that he works to the rules of the game pass muster? Why is he so damn likeable???!!!

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Only 3 episodes in to series 5 but already I loathe the direction they've taken McNulty in. Entirely too predictable, saw that coming in series 4. He was far more interesting when he was off the booze and you could see his adult humanity. So far not too into the whole newspaper angle, though I love the head of staff in the newsroom. He's tops.

It seems like a lot of people feel this way. There's also another turn the show takes in the middle of season 5 that really frustrated folks (I won't spoil it, don't worry!). I just say: give it a chance. Wait to see where it goes. It think it all ties together nicely, even the Jimmy stuff.

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Oh I will. It's rewarded me well for my loyalty in the past (series one took a lot of getting into, and series 3 is a definite pot boiler).

I will perhaps not return to this thread until I've finished the series. I went into all the other series without knowing a single thing about them - and so I was rather frustrated when someone insinuated that my suspicion about McNulty getting back off the wagon was correct before I'd even finished series 4. Similarly, the above, whilst not a spoiler per se, is more information than I would like. My bad: I normally avoid threads on this site until after I've seen the film/programme.

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I will perhaps not return to this thread until I've finished the series. I went into all the other series without knowing a single thing about them - and so I was rather frustrated when someone insinuated that my suspicion about McNulty getting back off the wagon was correct before I'd even finished series 4. Similarly, the above, whilst not a spoiler per se, is more information than I would like. My bad: I normally avoid threads on this site until after I've seen the film/programme.

I apologize if I was the spoiler, gigi

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Oh no, no - not at all. It's my finickityness, and as I said, it's my own fault for reading a thread before I finished the series. One more episode down, I'll be back here before you know it!

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We don't have a thread on the movie Brooklyn's Finest -- we probably should; I didn't like it overall, but it's a more interesting film than most reviews let on -- but I thought it might be worth mentioning here that several cast members from The Wire appear in the film. This review mentions that the actors who portrayed Omar, Wee-Bey and Sen. Clay Davis are all in the film -- and they are -- although I thought I also glimpsed the guy who played Bubs in one quick shot (his character had no dialogue).

Just an FYI.

Huh. I just Googled to find the information about the cast similarities. Turns out that review I linked concludes with this, which might be of interest to the Arts & Faith crowd:

The movie is never that good again. "Brooklyn's Finest" has a biblical sense of justice to go along with all the Christian iconography peppered throughout. But the movie becomes less interesting once you realize that the characters' fates are inextricably linked to their actions - once you know that no bad deed will go unpunished and that, unlike in the real world (or "The Wire"), sin always carries comeuppance here. By turning "Brooklyn's Finest" into a morality tale, Fuqua lets the movie slip right through his undeniably talented fingers.

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I'm admittedly more than a little late to the party, but I finally just started watching THE WIRE. I finished the first season just this week. Loved it. The writing is excellent.

I'm encouraged by the word that THE WIRE gets better as it goes on, but having started season two, I'm finding it a bit of a slog. The stuff with the dock workers is boring me senseless.

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I'm encouraged by the word that THE WIRE gets better as it goes on, but having started season two, I'm finding it a bit of a slog. The stuff with the dock workers is boring me senseless.

Stick with it. It's a little slow-moving development wise, but the story gets more and more involved as the season goes on.

Still, I find it odd that so many people don't like the stevedore story arc. It's one of my personal favorite, especially since I grew attached to Frank Sobotka.

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Ryan, I think season 2 is absolutely essential to The Wire as a work of socio-political analysis. Near the end of the season -- and this won't spoil anything -- Frank Sobotka looks out over the Chesapeake and says, "We used to make shit in this country." Season 2 isn't as dramatically sexy as 1, 3, or 4, but in my opinion it's the series' greatest accomplishment. I still can't believe HBO produced a twelve-hour critique of the systematic undermining of organized labor and the effect that change has had on America's working class and its cities.

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Stick with it. It's a little slow-moving development wise, but the story gets more and more involved as the season goes on.

I'll take your word for it. Season 1 had such a terrific opener. The main characters received strong, memorable introductions, and the stakes were immediately laid in place. Season 2, as of yet, hasn't had the same memorable character work, and it's very slow to offer a sense of direction.

Ryan, I think season 2 is absolutely essential to The Wire as a work of socio-political analysis.

Maybe so. And I expect to have a different opinion about season 2 once I've completed watching it. But I can't help but feel that my complaints at this point could have been fully assuaged without compromising the integrity of the season's themes.

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At the time I watched The Wire, I thought season two would prove to be the weakest season. By the time I finished, it stood out as the most memorable.

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I'm kinda surprised that I haven't posted in this thread before now. My wife and I watched The Wire for the first time last summer and we absolutely loved it. It became my favorite show and since none of my friends had seen it, they all had to endure months of me talking about it. Since then, I've gotten 3-4 people to watch the show and even more people to add it to their Netflix queue. So far, none of those who have watched it have been disappointed.

We just finished watching the entire series again (in about 2.5 weeks, we discovered it goes a lot faster the second time through) and we love it even more. We talk about it over dinner, we hum the theme song, and every day since we've finished it we actually consider starting over at 1.01. There's really just nothing like this show. The writing, the acting, the direction, the story, the characters, the socio-political implications, everything. It has kind of ruined everything else on TV for us. Shows we used to love like LOST and Dexter often feel like they strike false/cheesy notes. Anyway, this is nothing that hasn't already been said in this thread.

The first time we went through the show I thought season 4 towered above the rest. However, this most recent time through I think I enjoyed season 5 the most. I love the dark comedy of that season. And some of the more controversial plots throughout the season (you know what I'm talking about) don't really bother me. I also loved the resolutions that season 5 provides. I think the 90-minute finale is my favorite episode of the series. It has so many great moments like

McNulty's wake, Carcetti hearing about the faked serial killer, the final musical montage, not to mention Bubbles casual trot up the stairs which may be the greatest emotional payoff of the entire series.

If there is one downside to season 5, it's that the season order was only for 10 episodes and so it feels a bit rushed in some places than the previous seasons. As a result, the newspaper storyline feels kind of slighted. After watching the season twice, I still don't know half the Baltimore Sun characters' names. That's a shame since some of them, like Gus, are great characters that I'd love to have seen more of.

Since a few people did this earlier in the thread, I'll contribute my own personal ranking:

1. Season 4 (flawless, the four kids are terrific, definitely the most heartbreaking season)

2. Season 5 (hilarious, I love how the series ends, I tell people that they have no idea how great the show is until they can step back and see the entire story)

3. Season 1 (great intro to the city and characters, somehow this is the season I always remember the most vividly)

4. Season 2 (often viewed as the weakest, I think this season is great because of the terrifically tragic story of the port characters, also the Tom Waits' theme song gives this one an edge in my book)

5. Season 3 (saying that this is my least favorite season of The Wire is like saying that it is better than 99% of all other television seasons ever. Some of the shows best moments are here, but the city hall aspects of this season are the least interesting points of the entire series for me)

A final note re: season 3:

I've heard that Season 3 is meant to be an analogy for the War in Iraq. If you recall, the season opens with the housing project "towers" falling and debris being kicked up on to the people and much of the season is about the turf war between Barksdale and Stanfield. Also, I think this is the season that the hoppers call their drugs "WMD's" and "Osama bin Laden," etc. I casually looked for other comparisons while recently watching it.

Anyone else read/noticed this?

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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It has kind of ruined everything else on TV for us. Shows we used to love like LOST and Dexter often feel like they strike false/cheesy notes. Anyway, this is nothing that hasn't already been said in this thread.

Yes, but this is what's so hard to explain to the considerably large majority of people out there who have never seen The Wire. Sure, I still enjoy a number of TV shows. But The Wire has shown us that a TV show does not have to be of poorer quality than other great works of art in film. A TV Show can be a great work of art - including top quality story, script & dialogue, and acting. I've had a hard time recommending The Wire to friends because they'll express mild interest and then recommend their favorite most recent TV show to me.

Them: "The Wire, huh? It's only on cable or DVD? I'll have to give it a try ... sometime (forgets The Wire), have you seen Bones or Burn Notice? I think you'd really appreciate the humor."

Me: "No, you don't understand. Something has changed in our generation. TV shows aren't the same anymore. It's like -"

Them: "I think it'd be pretty hard to top Lost. The plot in Lost was just so intricate and well-crafted - just such a great show. Epic really."

Me: "The plot in Lost ... ah ... I'm, huh ... amah ... you just don't ... gah ... how do I do this?"

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Recommending the show is difficult for me not because of the show's quality, but because of its sometimes explicit sexual content. Language, too, of course, but I don't feel comfortable telling my friends, "You've gotta watch this show!" without qualifiers.

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But The Wire has shown us that a TV show does not have to be of poorer quality than other great works of art in film. A TV Show can be a great work of art...

Exactly.

I've had a hard time recommending The Wire to friends because they'll express mild interest and then recommend their favorite most recent TV show to me.

Yeah, I know what you mean. When I talk about it or recommend it to people, I always get the same reaction. "I've never heard of that." Then I start by saying "Well, it follows a few cops in Baltimore--" "Oh, so it's like CSI or NYPD Blue?," they say. "No. No, it isn't." When I say it's the best show ever people think I'm just speaking in hyperbole (because I often do). But in this case, that's the truth.

Recommending the show is difficult for me not because of the show's quality, but because of its sometimes explicit sexual content. Language, too, of course, but I don't feel comfortable telling my friends, "You've gotta watch this show!" without qualifiers.

Yeah, I certainly don't recommend it to everyone. I know some people wouldn't find it interesting and others would find it offensive. It certainly is not a show for everyone and that's fine. 

Interestingly, I think the sex scenes are one of the few missteps in the series because they never fail to take me out of the world of The Wire and remind me that I'm watching an HBO TV show. Also, I don't think most of the sex scenes really serve a purpose and that is troubling for me in a show where "all the pieces matter" and everything seems very careful and intentional. There is at least one exception though.

I think the scene in which Carcetti is cheating on his wife early in season 3 and we see him looking at himself in the mirror while he is having sex with a woman he picked up at a party is pretty informative about his character. At that point we still aren't quite sure what to think of of this guy, but that scene tells us that he is really in love with himself. Could we have learned that same bit of info without a sex scene? Certainly. I didn't, however, learn anything I didn't already know about McNulty from his many sex scenes and I didn't learn anything about Kima from her out-of-the-blue lesbian sex scene, and so on. I always get lost in the world of The Wire, but those scenes always sort of break the "reality" of this world that Simon and company have so masterfully created.

 

Edited by Gavin Breeden

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I have one friend who's adamant that THE SHIELD is a vastly superior series to THE WIRE. Having never watched THE SHIELD, I can't comment. But I suspect a few of you guys might have something to say about that.

Oh, and my concerns about season 2 have completely disappeared. Season 2 rocks.

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I have one friend who's adamant that THE SHIELD is a vastly superior series to THE WIRE. Having never watched THE SHIELD, I can't comment. But I suspect a few of you guys might have something to say about that.

Does your friend also say that dogs can't look up?

paging Simon Pegg

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I tried The Shield's first season, it doesn't even compare. Steve Burgess compared the two five years ago, although I'd say he's just being Captain Obvious.

Subsequent episodes of The Shield quickly showed that Vic Mackey was really just a re-invention of the Dirty Harry character, the unorthodox cop who gets results. Detective Mackey is corrupt, and he breaks rules. But he is consistently effective—week after week, his approach is always vindicated. By contrast, geeky do-gooder Detective “Dutch” Wagenbach (Jay Karnes) is a boob, guaranteed to look foolish almost every episode. Moral complexity? Generally at about the level of a Tom & Jerry cartoon.

Then there’s The Wire, the show The Shield wants to be ... The Wire follows a narcotics squad that has succeeded in getting wiretaps on a drug dealer’s pagers and favourite pay phones. While the detectives battle to collect evidence, they must constantly watch their backs as superior officers seek to shut the operation down. The internal police politics portrayed here are both breathtakingly cynical and utterly believable.

Real moral complexity can be hard to pull off, especially on TV. The viewer’s urge to see conventional justice must be bravely resisted. The Wire features some of the most complex villains/heroes you’ll ever see. One of the best is D’Angelo Barksdale, a young drug dealer who has committed a heinous murder and yet emerges as one of The Wire’s moral centers. The Wire plays off the beat like good jazz. In fact the show is so determined to undermine dramatic TV convention that occasionally it can be infuriating. Key developments other shows would milk for obvious thrills sometimes occur off-screen, referred to only in passing. Other scenes are never explicitly resolved—the viewer must draw the appropriate conclusions. And pay attention.

Old discussion. Already settled years ago without question. Tell your friend he's allowed to like The Shield, but he needs to finish watching all five seasons of The Wire.

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Just as I don’t want to pit two movies I thought were great against each other, I don’t want to pit two cop shows Ioved against each other. But in today’s Tom Shales chat, a questioner suggests that Homicide: Life on the Street is superior to The Wire. Shales agrees—and so do I, although it’s a very close call:

UHF: One vote here for Homicide as best cop show ever. I miss it terribly but just as glad that it didn't hang around past its pull date. Best episode: the one where the guy gets wedged between a subway car and the platform - I get chills just thinking about it.

Tom Shales: And another vote from me -- I think. You know, some people prefer the event grittier grittiness of THE WIRE, a cable show, but Homicide is my favorite among cop sagas as well. And what a great cast. I dont think any of them have gone on to projects nearly as superior as Homicide was......

I watched Homicide during its entire run, following it from one night to another as it was moved around the schedule. It faded some in its final season, but was so good during its first couple of years that it could afford to slack off a bit.

Years later, I have fond memories of many characters on the show. That’s not something I can say to the same extent with The Wire, who are memorable for a variety of reasons, but to whom I never warmed, unlike the Homicide characters. That’s probably what sets Homicide slightly apart from The Wire for me, although I did love The Wire.

Edited by Christian

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Years later, I have fond memories of many characters on the show. That’s not something I can say to the same extent with The Wire, who are memorable for a variety of reasons, but to whom I never warmed, unlike the Homicide characters. That’s probably what sets Homicide slightly apart from The Wire for me, although I did love The Wire.

I thought it was here at A&F that I also made a hesitant claim that I like Homocide better in the long run. But I feel as if the comparison is largely apples and oranges. The characters are constructed differently, the story arcs are presented differently, etc...

Homicide certainly pushed harder on convention given its prime time context. The Wire is what happens when good TV writers are given as much room to play as they want to, which is a freedom Homicide never enjoyed.

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Homicide certainly pushed harder on convention given its prime time context. The Wire is what happens when good TV writers are given as much room to play as they want to, which is a freedom Homicide never enjoyed.

This is a pretty accurate statement, I think. I love Homicide, for what it's worth (I'm glad I italicized that!), but I have to disagree with Christian...as perfect as the first few seasons were (and they really were), they started losing me each season after that.

But lovable characters in the Wire? I don't know if a week goes by that I don't think about one of them with a smile.

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