Monday, April 28, 2008

"The Wire" on Fire

For Betty and Bimbo, the Time-Space continuum is fluid and subjective. Betty thinks the Beatles had a big influence on Buddy Holly, Lucinda Williams on the Pretenders, and Green Day on the Ramones. Also, just because a TV show might have been celebrated and famously concluded many months or years, ago, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't announce its greatness here today!

Halfway through Season 2, Episode 2 of "The Wire", Betty is convinced she has a new favorite show. Even though the show is about sensing, intuiting, and hearing, the way "The Wire" LOOKS is a revelation. The camera moves like a hand-held, but not in a jittery way, not with fanfare. The Port of Baltimore in Season Two resembles nothing more than an orange and blue movie set by the sea. Quite the reflection on our post-industrial minds! And in Season One, you felt you could see each blade of grass in the low-rise projects, even without HD cheating! There's just nothing to distract you from the essentials. This means the script has to be really good -- and it is!

Betty is won over by the illusion that they could have shot this show with no props, costumes, or make-up and that would be fine -- it just looks like Life. Isn't so much great art like this? The illusion of effortlessness after hours of matching skin hues and hair strands to the reflection off the pavement. Kind of like being a detective!

Betty even likes it more than "The Sopranos"! [Maybe.] The crime stories have an irresistible populist, pulpy feeling that creates a nice tension with the beautiful industrial grittiness of the cinematography. Dominic West is a vulnerable and boundlessly curious Jimmy McNulty, a character who, like Helen Mirren's Det. Lt. Jane Tennison, answers the question "What would we be capable of if we weren't in love all the time?!". But even though McNulty is the character with whom the viewer is asked to relate, he is even less central, less dominant in "The Wire"'s many-peopled cast than Tony was on "The Sopranos".

Now, the show can at times fall off the wagon and get a little cheesy. Betty found the pawn shop detective in Season One epitomized this tendency. This is "The Wire"'s Achilles Heel. We'll see how it struggles with this temptation in Season Two.

Please chime in if you have thoughts on this breath-taking program. But please don't spoil the plot!

4 comments:

Zach said...

Re: McNulty and his centrality or lack thereof: just wait till Season 4 - perhaps the show's best.

And while i do think the fetishization of "good po-lice" (as Sgt. Landsman would put it) is troubling, I like the Lester Freamon character a lot.

Zach said...

Also, unfortunately hte director of photography, Bob Colesberry, who was responsible for the unique look of the series, died before season 3 started shooting. The "look" of the show changes somewhat in his absence, but it's still pretty great.

Betty & Bimbo said...

Ahhhhhh, Zach you're tempting me to just stay on the couch all day!!!

I'm halfway through Season 2; at first I resisted everything that was new about it, but I was just being stubborn; it keeps getting better and better. I can't wait for three and four and the discussions to follow...

Zach said...

Season 2 is fantastic. Bird's trial is one of my favorite moments from all 5 years, Frank Sobotka is one of the most interesting characters ever, and D'angelo's always amazing.

My brother saw the guy who plays Ziggy on 14th street a couple of weeks ago. No duck, though.