the wire

"the wire" is an hbo show that examines the nature of inner city life in a penetrating and profound way. generally told from the perspective of the drug culture and the cops who investigate it in the city of baltimore, each season focuses on a different aspect of the nature of this lifestyle and culture. it is an american culture that is marginalized and of ignored in the mainstream of american life. but you cannot watch this show and not be impacted by the stories of how life is in many of our major cities, usually just on the other side of town.

i've been watching this show now for the past few months, and i just finished watching season 4--it was the best yet. there is one season left in the complete series, which i plan to watch soon. it has by numerous people been called "the best show on television," and i have to say the same thing myself. watching this show makes heroes or many of the other shows i have watched just look amateur. i mean really--they don't even compare.

now i have to say off the start that i can't really give a broad wide-sweeping recommendation for anyone to watch this show. it is graphic in many ways, especially in violence and language. the earlier seasons also show some skin from time to time. but it is not gratuitous. it is there because that is the reality of the world this show is portraying. i understand the idea that what you put into your brain usually finds a way to come back out--and that we are encouraged to think on the good and wholesome things. but if you think phil. 4:8 is admonition to shut your ears and eyes from the reality of the evil in this world, then you are not seeing the rest of scripture and denying that it is the sick who need the doctors. though there are sensitive spirits out there, and the graphic nature of this show would be too much for those perhaps. though the unwholesomeness or whatever you want to call it is never there for the glorification of it, that's for sure.

i started watching this show on the recommendation of others who have been spending time in the inner city of kansas city, testifying to the many similarities between the show and the lives of the kids they interact with in real life. along with its accuracy and exposure the show is exceptionally well-done from a story-telling perspective. it usually takes a couple episodes to really get into the story, as it doesn't tend to rely on cheap hooks and suspense-driven plot. like most really good things, it demands work from its observer. in that way each show is usually very "literary" in a sense, in that it uses themes and motifs to make points and tie together ideas and realities. it is a show of great substance even beyond the extremely well done storytelling. again it makes other television shows look like cheap entertainment. but then again i don't watch a lot of other television.

i felt compelled to write a post about this show after watching season 4. it has stayed in my head and really greatly impacted me. season 4 followed the lives of particularly 4 eighth-graders and their coming-of-age into the "manhood" of inner-city life. this is the first season to explore the education side as well. it is haunting to see what these kids go through, the choices that they are forced to make, and how hard it is to overcome. if you ever had any need to challenge your prejudices about poverty and "the american dream," the ideology that america is a land of opportunity and anyone can pull themselves up and become the great "self-made man," then you simply need to watch this season. though of course to really understand it and fully appreciate it you have to watch the first three. and then of course you'll be compelled to watch the last one.

do i think you should watch this show? yes, if you have the time. it is a big investment but the expanded time allows for such a greater depth of insight than just a film can portray. i think despite the violence and language and whatever impact that might have on you, i believe it will enrich your life and greatly benefit you as a human being--in a way that few other shows or films can do.


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  2. Hear, hear. Pay attention everyone. Luke is spot on here. This show is absolutely worth the ridiculous number of hours it takes to watch all five seasons.

    Caveat: As with any HBO show, it is filled with gratuitous sex scenes for the first couple seasons, but they finally got phased out around the third season or so.

  3. do you need to watch the seasons sequentially, or can you watch later seasons w/o viewing the previous ones?