The Wire is the best TV show you’re not watch­ing. Guy Davis ex­plains why.

Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide - - FEATURE -

T here’s a line in the fourth sea­son of The

Wire that sums up the dark, bruis­ing ap­peal of this tremendous drama: “ No one wins. One side just loses more slowly.”

That di­a­logue should pro­vide fair in­di­ca­tion that this gritty se­ries isn’t out to pro­vide uplift and op­ti­mism.

In­deed, as it prowls the streets of the US city of Bal­ti­more, spending time with cops, crooks, politi­cians, push­ers and every­one caught in the mid­dle, what be­comes clear is that cor­rup­tion and rot have set in to such a

As an unfl inch­ing look at a so­ci­ety where ev­ery­thing is con­nected,

The Wire is kind of im­pos­si­ble to beat.

de­gree that any ef­fort to turn the tide has the odds stacked against it from the start.

And all of that sounds like a great way to un­wind in front of the box af­ter a hard day, right? It’s true, The Wire isn’t de­signed to turn your frown up­side down. But as an unfl inch­ing look at a so­ci­ety where ev­ery­thing is con­nected, it’s kind of im­pos­si­ble to beat. It’s truly re­al­ity tele­vi­sion.

The Nine Net­work has aired the first four sea­sons of the show in the grave­yard shift, where in­trepid view­ers gen­er­ally find pro­grams that are: ( a) a lit­tle diffi cult to cat­e­gorise, ( b) a bit edgy, vi­o­lent, sexy or morally am­bigu­ous, and ( c) com­pletely bloody ter­rific.

It’s where the likes of The So­pra­nos and Six Feet Un­der have been found in the past, and it’s where the fifth and fi­nal sea­son of The Wire can now be seen. ( Mean­while, ABC2 is cur­rently run­ning the se­ries from the beginning, with the first sea­son about to con­clude and the sec­ond sea­son start­ing im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards.)

The se­ries was cre­ated by David Si­mon, a for­mer jour­nal­ist with the Bal­ti­more Sun who’s also re­spon­si­ble for an­other great crime drama, Homi­cide: Life on the Street.

And just as each sea­son of The Wire has slowly ex­panded its pa­ram­e­ters to take in more and more of Bal­ti­more ( sea­son four ex­plored the city’s school sys­tem, for ex­am­ple), this sea­son con­cen­trates on the me­dia, as well as law en­force­ment, the un­der­world and City Hall.

Sur­prise, sur­prise, the Bal­ti­more Sun is op­er­at­ing about as well as ev­ery­thing else. Cut­backs have made it diffi cult for over­stretched re­porters to do their jobs, while qual­ifi ed, ex­pe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists are the first to be fired.

But times are tough all over. The city’s po­lice depart­ment is un­der­funded to the point where the cops are forced to take buses to crime scenes and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a mur­der­ous drug dealer is put on hold be­cause there’s not enough money in the bud­get to pay the offi cers on the case.

Worst of all, the de­cay would ap­pear to start at the top, with the city’s mayor fo­cus­ing more on his fu­ture run for gov­er­nor than his cur­rent du­ties.

It sounds a lit­tle de­press­ing, I know. But it’s ac­tu­ally kind of brac­ing and re­fresh­ing to have a show – a fic­tional drama at that – by­pass­ing plat­i­tudes and telling it like it is.

We all have flaws and virtues, we all en­joy vic­to­ries and suf­fer set­backs. That ap­plies to the mayor run­ning the city, the jour­nal­ist work­ing their beat, the drug dealer on the cor­ner, the cop try­ing to bust the dealer. It ap­plies to us all.

The Wire recog­nises that, and it com­mu­ni­cates it bril­liantly.

It’s what makes it one of the finest tele­vi­sion shows on air, and one of the best ever made.

Op­pos­ing sides: Do­minic West as Bal­ti­more cop Jimmy McNulty and Michael K. Wil­liams ( inset) as

self-styled thug Omar.

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