Pre-tty, pre-tty good!!
Join Date: Oct 2001
Re: Official RedsZone Television Viewing Thread
Interesting take from Bill Simmons on The Wire when he watched it between seasons 4 and 5. I agree with him here, especially the part with him wondering why SO many more people watched The Sopranos than The Wire, yet The Wire was better in every way.
I found it fascinating that, in the same month that "Gridiron Gang" became the No. 1 movie, HBO ignored perpetually crummy ratings and renewed "The Wire" for a fifth and final season. After plowing through the first 37 episodes of "The Wire" in three weeks this summer, I agree with others who argue that it's the most important television show of all-time, surpassing even "The Sopranos" because of its ambition and social relevance. The "Sopranos" worked because the acting and writing was so exceptional, we found ourselves identifying with unlikable characters who were basically unredeemable (save for Tony's wife, his children and his therapist). We excused every horrible action because we grew to like these characters personally over the years. In real life, we probably wouldn't like any of them, and we would definitely be afraid of them. It's fantasy disguised as reality: Lose yourself in the show for an hour, digest it when it's over and move on to something else.
Well, there's nowhere to hide in "The Wire." The characters are stuck in Baltimore, a washed-up city ravaged by drugs, poverty and political corruption. Our closest thing to heroes are renegade detective Jimmy McNulty (a likable, hard-drinking iconoclast who disappears for much of Season 2 and becomes completely irrelevant in Season 4) and a gun-wielding nomad named Omar (a scarfaced Robin Hood, only if Robin Hood was gay and stole from drug dealers). We spend three full seasons watching Baltimore police break the city's biggest drug syndicate ... only to watch an angrier, more ruthless group of rival dealers immediately pop up in its place. The current season centers around four poor teenagers (all of them threatening to succumb to the drug lifestyle) and Baltimore's incompetent school system (which can't even begin to hope to save them), with the show elucidating in painstaking detail why these kids can't be salvaged: They have no role models and no chance to escape, and things will never change because the lead politicians and major police heads only care about themselves. There's no overall plan to save the city, no passionate leader on the horizon, nothing. All of it would take too much effort. Like a dead fish, Baltimore rots from the head down.
It's an exceptional show, and I'm not even sure "exceptional" is a strong enough word. Of course, barely anyone watches it. HBO deliberated over its renewal all summer until the gushing feedback for Season 4 left them no choice. Late to the party, I spent the past few weeks devouring the show, then the next week wondering what took everyone else so long to jump on the bandwagon, and more importantly, what took ME so long to jump on the bandwagon. Two weeks ago in this space, I explained how I'm one of those people who doesn't like when other people tell me, "YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS SHOW!" If anything, that makes me not want to watch it. I like to stumble across these things organically.
Now I'm wondering if I avoided "The Wire" because its central themes -- drugs, corruption, urban decay -- were realities that I simply wanted to ignore. Instead of being haunted by a show like this, it was easier and safer to skip it entirely. Most people feel this way, I'm guessing; it's the only conceivable reason why five times as many people would watch "The Sopranos" over a show that's better in every way. See, when most Americans dabble in inner-city TV shows or movies for our "taste" of street life, we're hoping for the Hollywood version. We don't want despair and decay, we want hope and triumph. We don't want the zero sum game of drug dealers killing each other, we want the Rock coaching juvie kids and turning their lives around in two hours. We want them to win the big football game, we want the movie to end, and we don't want to think about these people ever again.
That's the real reason why "Gridiron Gang" became the No. 1 movie last weekend, and that's the real reason why "The Wire" was barely renewed for a fifth season. Upon further review, maybe the problem isn't Hollywood after all.
Grape works as a soda. Sort of as a gum. I wonder why it doesn't work as a pie. Grape pie? There's no grape pie. - Larry David