It seems that I am part of a very small group of people who share one opinion. This being that The Wire, despite its intense realism, is NOT “the best programme on TV”.
The Wire has, undeniably, become one of the most celebrated programmes to come out of the United States in recent years. Its graphic depiction of life in the rough ends of Baltimore is often harrowing, extremely brutal and immensely detailed; but addictive? I am less convinced.
Having been introduced to The Wire through a friend, I was promised I would be addicted within a few episodes. I watched season 1 and was still waiting for it to take over my life by the time I reached the end of the final episode. I stuck with it however as I assumed I HAD to be missing something, continuing to watch for the next two seasons. All the while I was trying to figure out exactly why I was not consumed by its so-called brilliance, despite everything and everyone else assuring me otherwise.
While it is a well made programme, it often feels highly pretentious and lacks any real feeling of enjoyment in my opinion. Unlike other US shows such as 24 and Dexter (both of which, I freely admit, have far less realism, particularly the former) I was not compelled to watch more than one episode per sitting. One of the problems with The Wire is that it attempts to depict a reality which is often excruciatingly tedious. This does not translate well into home viewing.
Creator David Simon has emphasised how The Wire exposes you to a different way of watching television. I realise that The Wire has received a major following and a heavy fan-base. In fairness all the characters are believable and each comes complete with personal battles. They are people whose lives are consumed by seemingly futile attempts to curb the ongoing violence around them. However it is hard to escape the apparent intellectual snobbery.
Additionally the often incomprehensible dialogue means that you regularly have to watch it with the subtitles on. Whilst this talk of “the street” certainly adds to the realism, it seems that the makers have forgotten viewers need to hear what is being said in order to follow the story. Subsequently for some this constant style of dialogue may prove obstructive.
For what it is (a gritty look at urban culture) the programme succeeds, however its unique style and nature will not adhere to everybody’s taste.
One thing which is clear about The Wire is that it is something of a “marmite” programme. Many people are either going to love it or loathe it. Whilst I certainly did not loathe it, it was difficult to love, despite my efforts.