Thursday, 12 March 2009
The BBC has announced that it is to show all 60 Hours of The Wire spread across a number of weeks.
Those of us in the know, and that is hundreds of thousands of people in Britain with DVD box sets, are aware that is the greatest programme ever made for TV and could quite conceivably be the highest achievement in narrative cinema, if Dr Mark Kermode had not rendered this phrase a cliche.
The Wire is about the slow death of the American city told through the conventions of the cop show. The city is dying thanks to the drug economy and the venal greed of the institutions of society which turn a blind eye to the degeneration of Baltimore.
Politicians, the media, police and community leaders put self-interest first as the city they live in falls foul of the effects of crack cocaine and heroin addiction and all their attendant social ills.
The characterisation and acting are inspired. Brits Dominic West (above right) and Idris Elba play central figures Det Jimmy McNulty and drug lord Stringer Bell respectively. (Show creator David Simon has said: "Give them credit for playing these two very American characters.")
Michael K Williams and Andre Royo give stand-out performances as the principled non-cussing stick-up man Omar Little and Bubbles the troubled junkie respectively. Wendell Pierce as Det Bunk Moreland is absolutely flawless.
Most of these heroes are compromised in some way, some of the villains and anti-heroes are noble and virtuous at various points. It makes no apologies at killing off people you grow to love and it allows bastards to succeed. It is, in short, a lot like real life.
There are few happy endings and, in one case, something that could could have been an explosive and dynamic plot line was simply ignored without ever being mentioned again. (Bill Rawls and a bar is all I can say to avoid spoilers).
It has a great soundtrack of soul, rock and Baltimore hip-hop which only rarely penetrates the story when required.
The Wire, created by Simon and former Baltimore cop Ed Burns is a twisted love story to their city tied up in the form of a protest song about the inequalities in modern US society. Simon says that ultimately it is about how money and power route themselves into the American political system and how this effects the lives of 'ordinary' people.
It has balls and character and yanks you by the lapels, pulls you to its face and screams: "CARE ABOUT THESE PEOPLE, YOU BASTARDS."
Next week is The Wire week here on GM