Here's how much critics love The Wire: The show's Wikipedia page has has a running list of major publications, including Time and Entertainment Weekly, that have called it the best show on television. Yet the show, which kicks off its fifth and final season of exploring the darkest side of Baltimore on Sunday, has been mostly ignored by both awards shows and viewers.
As a relatively recent convert to the show myself, I can understand why it's had a tough time. The show doesn't hold your hand; it throws you headfirst into a world with dozens and dozens of characters, from drug dealers and their bosses to city government to dock workers to middle schoolers to the cops who step in when things go horribly wrong. I had to watch the pilot twice before I knew a single character's name, and it wasn't till the halfway point of the first season that I was confident I knew what was going on. The show is also unflinchingly realistic — which can make it seem brutally bleak. People are shot and killed, for any reason and no reason; sometimes good triumphs, but the picture is usually murkier than that.
Still, it's not all darkness and destruction, so read more.
For one thing, the show is funny — it's a subtle humor, an ironic humor, but it often makes me laugh out loud. For another, the main characters are complex but ultimately sympathetic; Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) has made more bad decisions than I can count (and I'm only partway through the third season!), and yet I can't help but root for him. And the show certainly deserves credit for its ambition, exploring what makes a modern city run — and falter — one piece at a time.
This final season focuses on the media, with segments set at creator David Simon's old employer, The Baltimore Sun. I'm rushing through my DVDs on Netflix so I can be ready for the series' finale; will any of you be watching with me? To watch a preview for this season, just read more.
Photo courtesy of HBO