Monday, January 05, 2009

I think The Wire is the best tv series I have ever seen

Have you ever watched the last episode of something and felt really sad that it was not going to be around any more? That was us last night when we saw the final bit of the fifth series of The Wire, a series about, well everything really.

The Wiki page tells you everything you need to know but I just want to say that I've seen a lot of series on television in which I have not cared a jot about the characters. I've found them just standard two-dimensional beings - good actors sometimes - but the parts have not been written very well. Criticisms I usually voice are when people are too good-looking to be credible, music that interferes and doesn't enhance, short choppy scenes full of exposition, gaping plot holes which will guarantee I'll stop watching there and then - I won't make allowances, boring themes. The Wire has none of this. I think it is simply perfect. Charlie Brooker also seems to be of the same mind.

The Sopranos used to be my favourite ever series and I thought it was pretty hard to find anything better. Normally, when I like the first of something, I'll buy the rest of the series so we can watch it back to back night after night. I didn't do this with The Wire because I hated the thought of not being able to have it to look forward to in the future. Consequently - because series 4 and5 were two of the Christmas presents I bought for Mr FF - we've watched this over a period of about 8 months, watching and re-watching every series.

We've needed to watch it with subtitles because lots of the dialogue is (how to put this) gangsta rap talk amongst the drug gangs of Baltimore. I know lots of people will instantly think 'oh, I don't like that sort of thing' ; well, we didn't think we did either. Yes, it's one of those gritty realistic slices of what life might be like for a lot of disadvantaged people but it's done in a way that is funny, caring and hard to watch sometimes but worth it - oh, it's so worth it. However, we said last night when trying to analyse why this particular series affected us so much, that if we had just been channel hopping on the tv and happened to come across it we probably would not have warmed to it. It's only because I've often seen it touted as the word of mouth 'the best series on television ever' that made me even buy the first series way back in March last year.

It's not just about the drug gangs; it also deals with the schools, newspapers,politicians, police, - in fact everything that makes a city work. It is set in Baltimore but it could probably be a lot of cities the world over. There's a smidgen of love story but done in a way that is not soap opera stuff (I never watch those in case you're wondering what other sort of things I like). In short, if you like intelligent drama that doesn't seem acted - try out the first series and then come back and tell me if I'm a complete tosser that doesn't know anything or - indeed - spot on and that you're about to go on and buy the rest of the series.


Henry the Dog said...

First to comment? Oh good. All I can say is THANK YOU. You have given mum something new to follow. Mum and Uncle Hugh always have some DVD series on the go. It was Shameless, then Spooks, then Gavin & Stacey, then Prison Break (which mum wasn't too keen on although she fancied that nice gay man Mr Miller), then Long Way Round - in between there was TV's Strictly, I'm a Celebrity, X-Factor - and now nothing. So mum & Uncle Hugh have been kind of twiddling their thumbs (they're not keen on Big Brother) so mum is now off to Amazon to buy it xxx

Henry the Dog said...

Reading my comment makes me think that mum & Uncle Hugh come across as very sad folk.....yeah, I guess they are;)

Lane said...

I've heard such good things about this series but never seen so much as a clip.

Great TV is so rare, I'll definitely keep this one in mind. Thanks:-)

Blu said...

I know what you mean about being sad when you get to the end of a story, I get like that with books sometimes.

Frankofile said...

I need to look into this, thanks. There really does seem to be nothing on at the moment!

French Fancy said...

Henry - hello buddy. It's not for everyone, it's not as accessible as some of the programmes you listed - although I liked the first few series of Spooks and enjoyed Gavin & Stacey. All I know is that I've never cared so much about the fate of a fictional tv character as I did about so many of the people that were in it. I kept getting really anxious about who was going to live or die. I thought it was marvellous.

Some of the crits levelled at it is that it is too bleak and 'gritty', as it is based on first hand reports of police and journalists. In fact there is a lot of truth behind it. I don't think your folks sound sad - it's good to have things to watch that you enjoy. I don't think I'll be able to settle down and watch anything for the moment though. I want to play series 4 and 5 again, this time with commentaries.

Lane - it's superb although I don't like lots of other things that people have raved about. I didn't like Desperate Housewives or Sex and the City. This is like the opposite to progs such as that.

Blu -yes, when a fantastically realised character is no more it is also depressing. Although I've not felt like that for ages with a book.

Frankie - Most tv is rubbish, well I think so and we go nights now without watching much more than the news headlines.

Cynthia said...

I do the same thing. Watch a series on DVD...and I prefer that it's completed...then I can watch, rewatch, critique and really process selection is driven by family taste...We had the "Six Feet Under" period, then "Friends" took over our lives, then "Gilmore Girls", then "House" I forgetting anything? For me DVD viewing is like a vist to the US...we didn't have TV for over 10 years-why?- partly bc it was a time saving decision as everyone was in school, partly bc there was no signal in the we have tv but I've lost my tolerance for commercials. I'll have to check out "The Wire" maybe it will appeal to everyone here.

LadyFi said...

I think I'll have to watch it on DVD! Sounds great!

nikkicrumpet said...

I can honestly say we haven't watched any series TV since Frasier went off the air. I just can't get into anything on TV these days. Well...except for my addiction to some reality TV lol

Anonymous said...

Hill Street Blues
Homicide life on the Streets
LA Law
The Paper Chase
Just some of the greatest series to come out of America. The last one was given to us last Chritmas and we tried very hard to ration ourselves it was so good. Just about now is the time to start watching it all over again.
Missed the wire: Thought it looked too hard but l will definately try again if and when it comes back.
Oh, just remembered
The West Wing...loved, loved, loved it.

Henry the Dog said...

Mum had already ordered the first series before she listened to that Charlie Brooker review - however after listening, it made her even more keen to watch it. I think the fact that he said "the show is so good it could fart in my face and I'd love it" kind of sold it to her:) Mum got attached to the characters in Spooks and Shameless and has all the series. She's even pre-ordered the new Spooks one, because she didn't want to watch it on BBC (it was on quite late at night). Those two series are the only ones where she actually got attached to the characters. In Spooks, it was Harry, Ruth (who left) and Malcolm.

Jennysmith said...

Goodness, FF, i don't know why you don't marry my husband! He thinks The Wire has been the best thing he has seen for a long long time. He has the DVD of the first series and is desperate to get his hands on the second one. Which my friend has, who is also mad on The Wire. Honestly, when those two are together, its The Wire this, The Wire that.

I don't even remember it on TV at all! But I know that Charlie Brooker has raved about it (never forgiven him for Dead Set!).

Have glimpsed at it a few times, its got people swearing and that. And got it mixed up with that thing with Robson Green. You can imagine how Husband sneered at that one! xxxxx

Britt-Arnhild said...

I never watch television, but I feel much of the same when I turn the last page in a book.....

La Bête said...

Yes. You've convinced me. I'm going to get hold of the box set just as soon as I've finished with Entourage.

justme said...

Not seen it! I rarely watch television, and always have a stack of DVD's that I have bought, but not yet watched. Maybe I will watch out for the DVD set now though!

French Fancy said...

Cynthia - I did enjoy Six Feet Under,although I think it got a little too sentimental at the end.

LadyFi - it's sometimes very difficult to watch because you get so involved with the characters that you really feel every plight they get in.

nikki- I loved Frasier. I think that is my favourite USA comedy series of all time.Except when Daphne's ma and bro turned up- they both got on my nerves.

Moannie - I've not heard of Deadwood but we are now looking around for something good to buy. I'm going to check it out this instance.

Henry - Why didn't Ruth and Harry end up together? Such a shame. I preferred Tom to Adam - nothing to do with looks, I don't know what it was.

Now, with The Wire, it will take a few episodes to get into. When we began watching it I felt I'd made a big mistake. By episode three we decided to stay up all night and watch the whole of the first series.

Jenny -listen to your husband in this instance. Forget the fact the characters swear - it really is bloody good. I don't know the Robson Green thing but I somehow don't think it would be for me. I've never enjoyed anything he's been in. I've got peculiar taste I think.

Britt - yes, a good book stays with you and you wonder what the character would go on and do.

La Bete - hello. Now of course I've got to go off and investigate Entourage.

justme - it is a bit depressing at times. I wouldn't call it sunny.I'm with you on not watching much tv though.

willow said...

I'm not much of a regular TV watcher, although I did feel very sad when Seinfeld went off the air.

Mama said...

Since I started blogging the TV has hardly gone on, Wire sounds good though and I could in fact watch this while sorting out my boxes and then get back to blogging. Kathy.

Bill Stankus said...

Since I find real reality over rated I think most TV which attempts to portrays reality just isn't my thing.

Femin Susan said...

Not seen it! I rarely watch television

lady jicky said...

I do not know it but will keep my eyes out!

Henry the Dog said...

FFancy - mum will persevere, I know she will. She watched the whole of Prison Break Series One, even though she'd decided that it lacked credibility after the first few episodes - "I've bought it so I'm bloody determined to watch it." Mum wanted Harry & Ruth to get together, and she preferred Tom too. I had to watch it, 'cause I have no choice in these things. I find most of it boring except Dog Borstal:)

French Fancy said...

willow - I never really saw many Seinfelds. I think it never really took off in the UK -I seem to recall it was on at a really bad time in the schedules

Mama - hello you. It's not really a background thing because there is such a big cast that you need to watch so you can follow the multi-strand story line

Bill - it is very real.
We watched one of the extra discs last night about its provenance and it's from the pen of an ex-reporter and an ex-policeman so they based it on everything they had experienced first hand. It's not easy watching by any means and it's exceptionally intelligent - that's probably why it's been a word of mouth success as opposed to the brigade who like bright sugar coated tv like sex and the city

Susan - we don't either, that's why we buy DVDs and watch them on a wall with our projector. It's our little home cinema

ladyj - I don't know if it would appeal. Like Jen said there is lots of swearing and gangsta type stuff - but for us it is fantastic - i've never been one for crime series but this is more than that. It's almost like a Shakespearian tragedy with the psychogical layers of the characters

laurie said...

ok, you are officially the one-billionth person to tell me to watch the wire. the one billionth.

everybody i know watches it. we rented it. couldn't handle hte violence. turned it off.

i hear it's the best-written show on tv. but i just can't watch people shooting each other. i am too old and scared.

so i'll just have to keep listening to my friends rave about it, and know that my cowardice means i am missing something very very good.

laurie said...

ps as far as i'm concerned? slings & arrows.

best tv show ever. ever. ever.

canadian. funny. poignant. sad. intelligent. wise. well-written. gripping. wonderful. shakespearean.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Me and my teenage son, Grizzler, never miss an episode of 24, I don't think anyone's mentioned that here... We find it rivetting!

I also like The Closer, with Kyra Sedgwick, when I can get to see it - The scheduling in the UK has been in and out like a navvy's boot!

I have Six Feet Under on DVD, but haven't got around to watching it yet - I did catch random episodes which I really enjoyed; Ditto, Boston Legal, anyone?

My guilty secret is Medium - I'm drawn to female leads, I think - on the spooky side, but the family is quite realistically portrayed, with all its spits and spats...

A real, or surreal, gem was Pushing Daisies, very alike to Amelie in the filming and cinematography. It's closing its second series in the US right now, yet to hit blighty's shores, with no chance of a third, I'm afraid owing to lowering ratings over the pond, sadly...

Vargas said...

I just started watching The Wire and I dig it. But Deadwood is taking over my headspace and time right now. Have you seen it? It's just marvelous. Again, it could be one of those shows people think they wouldn't like - Western genre, violence, coarse language, a rough life in the Old West but the actors are all amazing and it's so well written it draws you in and next thing you know, you're hooked!

Sarah said...

Ahhhh.. just randomly found your blog & know that we would be fast friends for sure. Or at least have a lot to discuss! What an amazing show & demonstrates that every once & awhile there can be some quality shows on TV. The fourth season in the schools was incredibly powerful & showed the struggle that teachers are up against. We are holding off on the last season because I just don't want it to be over. I also thought the character development was fantastic. No one- hero or villain was one dimensional or easily pigeon-holed. Clearly, I could go on for awhile!

Carol and Chris said...

I've completely missed The Wire....never even heard of it!! Thai TV is well, challenging and we don't get up-to-date series...we're still getting Black Adder!! Once series that I did love was West Wing...I thought that was incredibly clever.

Will keep a look out for The Wire once we are back :-)

C x

French Fancy said...

laurie - I can handle the violence but what I hate are shots of people fixing or anything involving knives. The Sopranos was also very violent but, again, the characterisations done so brilliantly that I could watch - with my eyes shut sometimes admittedly, but still hear all the groaning and screaming.

The first series of the Wire was the most violent I think. Once it gets on to the corruption in the municipality and the lack of resources in the schools,it puts the violence to one side.

I don't know slings and arrows. I wonder if a region 2 dvd is available?

Woman of no importance - I saw the first series of 24 and, I know I'm in the minority with the rest of the world, but there was something about it that I found a bit artificial.I know there were cliff-hanger endings that made one want to see what happened next but (even though I quite liked Prison Break which also had the same level of suspense with its endings) I found the characters to be a bit two-dimensional.However, I repeat, I must know diddly squat (quaint English slang there)because it was a huge worldwide success.

(phew, what a long paragraph)

Vargas - you are the second person to have mentioned Deadwood and I've checked it out. I gather the first two series are brilliant and then the third is not so good. The thing is that the actor in it - Ian McShane - a lot of English people know and love as an antique dealer named Lovejoy in a BBC programme of the same name. I don't think I could watch him in something serious now and take him seriously. Although I have read that he is very good in it.

Sarah -Looking forward to finding out more about you very soon.Sarah, just think, irl we could talk about The Wire for hours - that is how hard it has gripped me. I was so sad when the last episode of the last series finished - I won't spoil it for you (obviously) but I'll just say that they have done a superb job of tying up all loose ends. It is just so brilliant a series that we are now watching series one again - just got to the fifth episode.

Carol - You have time to sit and look at blogs? I've given you a bit of thought actually in the last day or so. Leaving anywhere is so hard and you've been so happy. I'm kind of getting anxious about all the goodbyes you'll be having to make.

Lucy Fishwife said...

Happy New Year! I've just finished series 3 - that's the quickest I've ever got through a Christmas present DVD box set (I got series 2 as well!)... my birthday is in Feb but I think it's unlikely we'll wait that long for series 4/5. I'm still not sure if it's quite as stellar as The Sopranos but damn, it's good TV. People do love to have a pop at the Yanks but when did we last make anything that good? Especially since I watched 10mins of the frankly cringeworthy "Demons" on ITV the other night and had to change channels out of sheer embarrassment at the depths to which British TV can sink...

French Fancy said...

Lucy - happy new year back at ya! See, I've gone all urban. How long have you been here?

Oh, Stringer Bell - you'd never know he was a Brit would you. Born to play Othello I reckon, if he hasn't already.

We talked long and hard - and still do sometimes - over what was better, The Sopranos or The Wire. Sometimes we think it's one and then the other.

I like the way the Wire was wrapped up though, more than the end of The Sopranos. I won't say any more until you've got through series 4 and 5.
I know David Chase has said 'well who would actually want to see Tony shot?', but I think the ending of The Wire is pretty faultless. With Six Feet Under all the aging make-up irritated me but I think that is my number three best ever series.

I don't know 'Demons' and after what you've said I don't think I'll seek it out. We are however looking out for recommendations from people who liked both The Wire and The Sopranos - any suggestions?