The Wire: Season 1 (2002)

It was not intentional of me to ignore The Wire a few years ago, once everyone had belatedly discovered the series. I knew I'd get around to it eventually. I'm one of those people that hate being told/recommended things (music, books, movies etc). I like to discover things myself and then hoard and pour over them, have my own obsessions. In Finland, my only 'culture' I wish I could share more often is football. I have friends that I discuss this with, but I know no-one has the ridiculous level of anal obsessiveness about the sport as I do. Or am I being presumptuous? I do have regular wind-up discussions on Facebook about football, often post match. My Finnish friends are so often most eloquent when talking the beautiful game – it embarrasses me how they can express their thoughts on a match so much better than me (whilst using their third language).

Anyway, back to the The Wire. So, we're late with watching this. Someone lent us the first season, otherwise our Wire addiction would have had to have waited longer.  Dominic West (the English actor who plays central Wire character Jimmy McNulty) had been occasionally keeping our attention in check when we started watching the BBC series The Hour. The Hour is far removed from The Wire (a different era, British stiff upper lip mentality, quirky). We never finished The Hour and mid first season we jumped ship to The Wire. Lo and behold there was West, with a not so convincing American accent and an opposite character to his pompous womanizer from The Hour. It's so predictable how I was sucked into The Wire. It is good, and I'm sure it's going to get better.

There is something, sometimes, often/always corny about the series. But it's perhaps the fact that the creators of The Wire know something about real people, and real people are corny (and crude). The humor is the thing I love the most, never forced, always natural. Is it the greatest TV serial as some have claimed? Who knows/cares. I'm gripped though. It sealed it for me when I saw the great crime writer George Pelecanos had scripted a later episode (which would lead him to become very involved with the series). So, we're probably the last people on the block to have watched this. Season 1 is over 10 years old and stood up remarkably well. If you're saving it for later, be warned this stuff gets under your skin. Someone is already feeding our addiction by lending us Season 2.

OK, so I just listened to a radio show on Finnish radio where the question asked was does Finland need feminism in 2013? During the show a loud-mouth chauvinist said that racism is treatment comparable to the bad customer service he gets sometimes from women. (Many other infuriating things were said and implied about women and gender studies but I won't go there here) The interviewee in this particular bit of the program implied that people who complain about rasism in Finland are just weak and complain about something the average white male puts up with all the time. A white Finnish male was telling how things are in 2013. Thanks and goodbye.

About a month ago we finally began our The Wire experience, a TV series we had planned to get to years earlier. We were sucked in after a couple of episodes and the cursing was (unfortunately) infectious. During the first episode and the first 20 minutes or so, I had to adjust myself to what I had guessed at previously – The Wire is essentially a peeping-tom-view into a lifestyle and into living conditions that are formed through the American history of racism. If one is born black in America today, he may look up and see a black president in office, but most statistics for being black in the USA are not upbeat and certainly not a sign of equality. The fact that The Wire has been a smash hit all over tells many tales of where we are now. What color we are born matters still. That's a story the series definitely depicts.

The Wire cannot help but be social commentary while it narrates the specific plot of drug dealing and police work in Baltimore. It is much like Sopranos, in that it becomes easy to relate to the criminals. The Wire is also a lot like NYPD Blue, in that the corruption and misdemeanor of the police is in your face from the get go. After Season 1 I'm left with many questions about us people: is there such a thing as human goodness? Is innate morale a fiction? Are we all just playing life like a game ready to break rules and deals as long as we survive and are not caught breaking them? Are we cruel most of the time and good only for some seconds of a lifetime? Will there always be a new drug dealer to replace the one in jail or the dead one?


  1. I've never really realized it, but now that you Nick said it out loud - I'm exactly the same about pop culture recommendations! I have tons of bands, films and books on my recommendation list that I should listen to/watch/read, but it always takes quite a while before I can get myself into them. You know, the timing must be perfect and... you just have to feel like it.

    Anyway, The Wire is also on that list, but maybe just now isn't the time for it.

  2. Hey June

    thanks for commenting. Yes, the Wire was not planned viewing, which made it even more rewarding for just diving in.


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