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January 2014

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It is with great restraint that I describe "The Wire" as merely "the best thing I've ever seen on television." It's tempting for me to call this the greatest cinematic work I've ever experienced, period, but I need a bit more time to contemplate that.

Here is the story of Baltimore, of the War on Drugs, of America. The characters of "The Wire" range from obsessive to idealistic to sadistic to almost completely amoral, but one thing ties them together: they are all cogs in a machine that is utterly immutable.

"The Wire" is massive in scope, and plays out more like a series of 5 season-long movies. Individual episodes never stand on their own, and almost nothing is thrown away - seemingly minor characters and events will continue to echo throughout the course of a season. You cannot miss an episode of this series and you cannot watch it out of order.

The violence in the Wire is visceral, but not gratuitous. The street language used is amazingly colorful and entirely credible. The sets used are often actually in Baltimore, and the extras are often actual residents. Everything about the show feels real, in a way that I've never really seen from another TV program.

As the creators have noted, the main character of the series is really the city of Baltimore. The ensemble cast wends its way through the various organizations that infect the City: the gangs, the dock workers, the police, the politicians, the educators, the press. All of these systems are equally dysfunctional, and their systemic dysfunction ultimately infects the lives of their inhabitants.

It's easy to understand why "The Wire" was never widely accepted. It is not only much more complex than other shows, it's also horrifically bleak in a way that is almost never seen on American television. Please, please do not let that deter you - if you do not see this show, you'll be missing out on something truly incredible.

* This is the same review I placed on Amazon
** Yes, it's even better than Futurama, although it couldn't be more different

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