I recently watched all 13 episodes of the first season of The Wire on the BT Vision on-demand service (which I must blog about at a later date). I watched them over the course of about 3 weeks, maybe 4 I can’t remember. I know, I’m a long way behind but the show never really took off here. It was tucked away on a smallish satellite channel for a while, and while BBC2 did show all the series, they did it nightly at 11.30pm – if you didn’t have a DVR, as I didn’t at the time, you were screwed and guaranteed to miss a few.
While I can’t speak to the realism of the criminal activity, the actual style of the show, the locations and portrayals, were very good indeed and certainly made it very believable. The dialogue was almost entirely in the local dialect or slang which made it really hard to follow at first, but once you picked up certain words it got easier. They never once diluted it for the audience, or if they did it was seamless.
There was a notable difference between the style of speech of the detectives and the gangs each with their own words (though with enough crossover). And a hell of a lot of swearing! Again that added to the realism, it wasn’t watered down or neutered for the sake of TV, which I loved. On the whole you really felt you were a fly on the wall, not watching a group of actors but perhaps some locals with cameras around.
It was a really interesting story, generally based around a detective (Jimmy McNulty) and a gang member (D’Angelo Barksdale, nephew of the area crime lord) and their respective troubles with each other and with their respective ‘superiors’, but also touching on the other characters notably in the police unit that grew up around McNulty as things progressed. The character development of the rest of the police unit was slow to get going yet worth the wait as I began to warm to even the most annoying of them by the very end.
Both the cop and the gang member were fairly low in their respective food chains, and both seemed out of place in their worlds. We saw the development of both characters as they interacted with their peers – and each other. They had long journeys.
I’m purposely not leaving spoilers, in the hope I convince anyone else to check it out who’s let the show pass them by so far. I really really enjoyed it.
My only real complaint was the final episode seemed a little rushed, it didn’t ‘feel’ like the rest of the series. I’m not sure if that was because the setting was so different by necessity, or if they had to rush production for some reason. I don’t think it ruined the quality of the series as a whole though.
Score: 9/10. It kept me coming back for more. A week has gone by and I still hear the calls of McNulty and Barksdale ringing out. Adult themes (murder, drug dealing) dealt with in an adult manner (no hiding away from the viewer) means this isn’t necessarily for the Midsomer Murder set, but if you’re willing to accept those things you will be greatly rewarded. If you liked The Sopranos or Homide: Life On The Streets* you’ll like this.
*now there’s another show I never saw enough of;
I have four more seasons of The Wire to watch but they aren’t available at the moment on BT Vision, which is one of the drawbacks of the system. I have plenty else to watch in the meantime, perhaps they’ll show up on this or another service soon.
I’ll post more of these series reviews ad hoc as and when I finish them. It does usually take me a while to get through them.