The Wire – Season 1

There are no spoilers in here, but I suppose if you want to remain 100% in the dark about an 11-year old TV show, you could skip this one.

The Wire is considered by many, along with The Sopranos to be one of the greatest television shows ever, and certainly one of the pioneers of the so called “golden age of television.” I had never seen an episode, but as a huge fan of The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Mad Men I had a high level of faith that I would enjoy it. The show was created by David Simon, who first did the show Homicide: Life on the Street in the early ’90s, a show that ran for 122 episodes and 7 seasons. He has since gone on to do the HBO show Treme, which I am a huge fan of, despite most people finding it to be a little boring.

The first thing that jumped out at me about The Wire DVDs is that they are not in HD. The first season of the show came out in 2002, which was just as HD was gaining steam. Supposedly the show was shot on film, which means that it should be able to go to HD just fine, but for some reason they opted not to do so. The Sopranos debuted a couple of years before this show, and by this time in The Sopranos HD was in full swing I believe. The non-HD factor, coupled with that fact that during the first season pages and pay phones were used extensively, it really makes you realize how long ago 2002 really was1.

The first season, like most, does a lot to setup characters and arcs for the future. The main character of the show is a very stereotypical police detective named Jimmy McNulty2 who is divorced, and a bit of an alcoholic, but a good and ethical detective for the most part. McNulty gets put into a special task force to investigate Avon Barksdale, a drug kingpin in the Baltimore area. Throughout the season we meet lots of other cops and dealers, including many recognizable faces like Omar, who is played by Michael K. Williams (Chalky White from Boardwalk Empire) and Wallace (Michael B. Jordan a.k.a. Vince from Friday Night Lights).

The show is good, but after one season hasn’t quite shown me to be the “greatest show ever.” That makes sense since that doesn’t just happen overnight, but it definitely has some potential. For as much as people make Treme out to be so boring, this show isn’t all that action packed. It doesn’t have the same heart rate raising pace as Breaking Bad and is much more slow and methodical than expected. That is not a bad thing, because the show is compelling, the characters are solid and the stories are put together very well. It’s a little confusing in the early going understanding who is who and how everyone is related, but it definitely get’s easier as things go.

Some of the potential of the show is seen in the fact that there are no bad story lines, and no characters you cringe at seeing when they come on. Like Treme, it’s paced in a way that every plot twist and character development is carefully calculated and orchestrated. There aren’t a lot of crazy out of nowhere turns and nothing feels forced.

I am definitely pumped to plow through the remaining four seasons, although I have been warned that season two is the slowest/weakest of the bunch. The show is definitely on it’s way for me though.

  1. So much so, that at one point I thought perhaps this show was actually supposed to be mid-’90s until they made a couple of 9/11 references []
  2. Played by Dominic West who I know from the Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star []