Sunday, March 09, 2008

On The Wire

The last episode of The Wire aired tonight on HBO. I don't know how much I've mentioned the show before here on the blog, but I have loved it since the beginning and I agree wholeheartedly with the notion many have that it is the greatest TV show ever. You hear this kind of thing a lot. "It's the best ever." I say it a lot. About all kinds of things. The truth is, The Wire is the best TV show ever, because of its depth, its subtlety, its five year examination of a single American city, Baltimore, that stands now, and may for all time, as a living document of 21st century American society. In its five years, the show tackled a different aspect of the city with each new season, from the corners to the docks, the schools to city hall, and finally to the news room. I enjoyed the way they integrated the paper into the storyline, but it could have been a show itself; if the show had one failing this year, it was not maximizing this plotline.

The Baltimore Sun which creator/writer David Simon worked for and based some elements of the show on, seems to think so. They also agree with me that the Season 3 ending, when it really seemed it was the end, was perfect and tonight does not do better by it. Tonight's episode was excellent, but Season 3 was pitch perfect, deserving of the laudatory praise the show gets. Tonight seemed to be conscious of 'the Dickensian aspect' of the show. The series does feel like a Dickens novel at times, with Dickens-like characters - Prop Joe - but in its subtlety and complexity I felt it was more like Chekov. In any case, it is great American literature and proof that the energy that once lived in theater, then fiction, then film, now resides mainly in long form television. The Wire is a novel on TV, a five year movie, a docudrama, all of them combined.

Anything this great attracts criticism as much praise and click on the link above to catch a jaw-dropping take down of the show and Simon from his former employer. There is absolutely no objectivity in the piece, and to watch it devolve from a earnest review to a personal attack only reinforces the irony surrounding the entire subject of dispute. The Sun feels unfairly represented by Simon, think the negative aspects he chose to highlight in the show diminish the paper and here, in the actual paper, is an embarassing, shameful act of shabby journalism.

Here's a more fair (if positive) review. I will miss The Wire, but thank God for DVD. The greatest thing that can be said about art like this is that it makes you want to make such art yourself, to push yourself to reach for that level.

The New York Times on the finale.

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