white on rice - The Wire
Here begins a new section, that will be exclusively dominated by rambling, irrational, and un-spellchecked love letters to the things I’m addicted to that particular month. Things I can’t get enough of. Things I am all over, like white on rice.
And God help me, I’m addicted. But not to crack cocaine, or heroin, or alcohol, or oreo biscuits… but to The Wire. For those who aren’t on the take, it’s a TV show produced, filmed and set in Baltimore, Maryland, another original series put together by televisual giant of Olympian proportions, HBO (you know - The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm… just a few examples of the world-beating drama, comedy and documentary work they produce). On the surface, it seems like your average gritty crime drama. A workaholic loose cannon cop stuck between complacent, couldn’t-give-a-fuck higher-ups and a difficult family life, trying to do his job on the unforgiving streets of Anywhere, USA. Heard it all before, yeah? Sounds all a bit Andy Sipowicz, yeah? Big fucking deal, yeah? No, no and one two three times no.
Once you get caught up in it, The Wire unfolds like an engrossing novel, thrusting you into a world of gang conflict, institutional corruption, drug trafficking, murder, and some good old fashioned police work. From the corner boys to the mayoral candidates, nobody is spared beneath the spotlight of The Wire’s own brand of incisive social commentary. It carries a torch passed on by American noir of days gone by - ranging in film from Chinatown (1974) to Brick (2005), and in print from Raymond Chandler to Michael Chabon - but creating an altogether more “real” portrait of the cops and the robbers.
I know I’m a little more than fashionably late to the party - the final episode was shown in March of last year - but the BBC has just now decided to get their act together and give this incredible piece of work a proper airing.
I say proper airing, when what they’ve done is stick it so far up the arse end of the schedules, on a weeknight shift pattern as convoluted as the series’ labyrinthine narratives, they may as well have given the show its UK terrestrial debut in a little boxout on one of those phone-in quiz shows on ITV. What they’ve got going at the moment is one episode a night on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, then repeat these three episodes all in a row on Friday night. “Three episodes a week? How generous of them!”, one might say. But you only need to watch one episode to know this show wasn’t designed to be taken in triple measures. Each season has a self-contained arc, focusing on individual aspects of Baltimore society - but all the while weaving an intricate weave of character development and plot threads to be tied up. You’re supposed to watch one episode and mull it over, let the characters and subject matter knock around in your brain for a while before moving on to the next one - not baffle yourself silly by trying to take in a machine gun blast of information from three episodes in a row then forget who was who and what was what and why he got capped and what her motivation was.
I urge you to pick it up on DVD (the first season has a sale price in most stores) and move with it at your own pace - your brain will thank you.