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The Wire: 4 seasons in 4 minutes
January 10, 2008 2:38 AM   Subscribe

Q. Everyone tells me how great The Wire is, but I've missed the first four seasons. Should I bother with Season 5? A. Yes. Ultimately, you'll want to buy the DVD's, but until then we've got The Wire: four seasons in four minutes. (Single link U-tube)
posted by PeterMcDermott (61 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was charmed up until I saw it was an actual promo made by HBO. Would have made an awesome individual effort.

I'm so excited for this season. I just can't take any other cop show seriously anymore.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 2:55 AM on January 10, 2008


HBO or no, I watched and pined.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:01 AM on January 10, 2008


Do you prefer Christ or asshole?

In short, I agree. However, despite it's commercial HBO tendencies, I still think it's a useful summary for anyone who has missed the first four and wants to catch up.

And just to derail my own thread a little, I agree that The Wire sets the bar for TV police procedurals, but for anybody who reads the police procedural genre, I'm currently in the middle of LA Rex by Will Beale, and I can't recall the last time I read a pp as strong as this ex-cop's first novel.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:08 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hires a spin doctor who looks like a bird ahaha

I thought with all the press that more people might be tuning in, but I guess not:

"The Wire." The fifth and final season debut of HBO's critically acclaimed drama suffered its smallest Sunday premiere audience ever, 1.2 million viewers.

Though this video kind of emphasizes that it's a tough show to get into if you haven't watched from the beginning. I guess the OnDemand numbers and DVD sales make up for the low ratings, but I'm still pretty thankful HBO actually cares enough about quality television that they saw it through to the end.
posted by palidor at 3:46 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watched via torrent, I can't afford that much cable.
posted by john m at 3:54 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gives and idea on just how complex the whole thing has been - is it something like 100 characters? And I think it misses out quite a few key plot twists. I had just about followed it and I've watched it all (compared to a similar one I've seen for Lost, which I've not watched).

It's all in the game.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:00 AM on January 10, 2008


I've just started this show after hearing all the praise. I'm almost finished with the first season, and I'm *really* curious how the show evolves for a full five. It's very good, though I've heard it's "the best TV show ever" more than once and think that's hyperbole.
posted by zardoz at 4:24 AM on January 10, 2008


I'm almost finished with the first season, and I'm *really* curious how the show evolves for a full five. It's very good, though I've heard it's "the best TV show ever" more than once and think that's hyperbole.

I had the same feeling. In my view, the third season is where it really hits its stride - by around the sixth episode it becomes a classic, and by the penultimate episode it's the masterpiece everyone says it is.

Of the people I've forced it on, maybe half have given up during season 2. Don't!
posted by stammer at 4:36 AM on January 10, 2008


Reminded me of Sopranos in seven minutes and the Lost recap (click on the recap video under the video window).
posted by sexymofo at 4:36 AM on January 10, 2008


did they have to use somebody from baltimore to do the voice. Listen, just because the wire is wildly popular does not give us a pass for our horrible accent. oeu Kay.
posted by LouieLoco at 4:46 AM on January 10, 2008


I had the same feeling. In my view, the third season is where it really hits its stride - by around the sixth episode it becomes a classic, and by the penultimate episode it's the masterpiece everyone says it is.

Of the people I've forced it on, maybe half have given up during season 2. Don't!
posted by stammer at 7:36 AM on January 10 [+] [!]


That's odd. I'm about to start watching S4, but S3 was rather boring in my opinion. Hamsterdam was a cool idea but got a late start and not much focus. The last two or three episodes were the only really good ones (hey, kinda like any given season of the Sopranos). I've heard a lot of comments that the show pretty much peaked during S2.

I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but it just seemed to me like S3 totally trashes all the character development up to that point-- nobody behaves much like they did in the first two seasons. On top of that S3 focuses more on inter-character drama than it does on the broadly defined "case" they should be working on; I sat through it for the sake of continuity and dearly hope S4 and S5 are better.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 4:52 AM on January 10, 2008


I think it would be a mistake to jump in at the start of Season Five. You would probably be able to enjoy it on some level, but it already seems clear from the first two episodes that this season is going to wrap up a lot of a different character arcs from past seasons. Furthermore, in my opinion the series is best watched on DVDs over a few days. That way you remember more vividly all the details of the past episodes and it all seems to tie in much better. I watched the first two seasons on DVD and then watched "live" from then on, and I really enjoyed the DVD marathons more.

One of the reasons I love The Wire is that they treat you as an intelligent viewer. They don't beat you over the head (at least, not too often) with things, and they expect you to remember who is who and what is going on. There are a million references to things that have gone before. Addicts like me can hear a line from McNulty and think "Uh oh, he's going back to THAT state of mind" and it may mean nothing if you are jumping into it now.

Honestly, I've watched it all and it was so long between Season Three and Four that I watched it all again, just to make sure I was remembering everything right. I acknowledge that this level of devotion might be a bit off-kilter.
posted by Lame_username at 5:00 AM on January 10, 2008


This was great, as it's been long enough between the end of season 4 and now for me to have forgotten a decent amount of detail. I still want to go back and rewatch the first four, as they've gotten kinda hazy.

Season 5 is off to a great start. The polygraph scene in episode one was worth the price of admission alone.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:04 AM on January 10, 2008


That's odd. I'm about to start watching S4, but S3 was rather boring in my opinion. Hamsterdam was a cool idea but got a late start and not much focus. The last two or three episodes were the only really good ones (hey, kinda like any given season of the Sopranos). I've heard a lot of comments that the show pretty much peaked during S2.
Season Two seems to be polarizing. I'm with you in that I thought S2 was great. My personal rank would be S4>S2>S1>S3. In other long geeky discussions with Wire viewers, there seems to be no consensus at all. I know people who think S3 was the best season of all. I think it all informs the answer that you should start from the beginning though. Story lines like Omar's in S5 are not going to work the same if you don't have the backstory.
posted by Lame_username at 5:04 AM on January 10, 2008


"The Wire." The fifth and final season debut of HBO's critically acclaimed drama suffered its smallest Sunday premiere audience ever, 1.2 million viewers.

Though this video kind of emphasizes that it's a tough show to get into if you haven't watched from the beginning. I guess the OnDemand numbers and DVD sales make up for the low ratings, but I'm still pretty thankful HBO actually cares enough about quality television that they saw it through to the end.


Remember, HBO isn't in it just for the ratings. It is in it for the subscriber numbers. Yes, there's correlation, but with HBO making The Wire episodes early with HBO on demand, it could be many of us watched it early. And with multichannel HBO there's a chance to see it several times versus regular TV when the single rating number matters. It's not TV. It's HBO. The $10.95 of my cable bill for HBO is the only part where I actually feel I'm getting my money's worth.

I came late to the Wire, just ahead of S4. Between Netflix and HBO on demand, I watched the first three seasons over the course of a three day weekend. I didn't plan it that way, but I would watch an episode and then want to watch the next one to see how it played out. A TV show hasn't done that to me before.
posted by birdherder at 5:29 AM on January 10, 2008


they expect you to remember who is who and what is going on

Sometimes I'd wish they throw you a bone though. They'll say someone's name once, and if you miss that it was important, you'll be totally lost when they reference it again. And they introduce so many unimportant characters that I find it really hard to keep up.
posted by smackfu at 5:45 AM on January 10, 2008


I watched the first three seasons over the course of a three day weekend. I didn't plan it that way, but I would watch an episode and then want to watch the next one to see how it played out.

That was how I discovered The Wire. I'd downloaded Seasons 1 and 2 of Deadwood, and watched them over two consecutive weekends. When I was done, I wanted to know how else I could pig out on so much pleasure, and that led me to do the same thing with Seasons 1 and 2 of The Wire. Subsequent seasons, I watched as they were released -- I couldn't wait for a season to end to watch the whole lot. I'm struggling not to watch episodes 5, 6 and 7 as it is.

Like you, I never planned on watching so much TV in one day, but after an episode ended, I couldn't stop myself from staying up until 5 and 6 am while I caught 'just one last episode before bed'.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:50 AM on January 10, 2008


Also:

When I saw that polygraph scene, I just about crapped. 'Oh no, I've seen this episode before!'. Did they use that same bit of schtick in Homicide: Life on the Streets or what?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:54 AM on January 10, 2008


"And McNulty's not drinking.

Yet."

Heh. I like the sober McNulty, but I'm not taking bets on his sobriety.
posted by waraw at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2008


Seasons one and three of The Wire were some of the best television I've ever seen. Two and four weren't as strong in my opinion, only good instead of mind-blowingly excellent. It just amazes me how many well-written and acted shows HBO comes up with. Sopranos, Rome, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Band of Brothers...
posted by wastelands at 6:21 AM on January 10, 2008


Oh yeah, and Omar... best TV anti-hero ever!
posted by wastelands at 6:23 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I watched via torrent, I can't afford that much cable.
posted by john m at 3:54 AM on January 10 [+] [!]

Gah, not to derail, but: Then you don't count. They don't know you're there, and you're not contributing any financial positive to their show, so you're a ghost. If you enjoy the show, stop being a vampire, and go at least rent the DVD or something. Content creators need to get paid or they stop creating content.
posted by cavalier at 6:26 AM on January 10, 2008


This is a commercial.
posted by hermitosis at 6:48 AM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


The one thing that confuses me: why is it compulsory for so many of the actors to be English? It took a while to get used to that guy from Queer as Folk having an American accent as Carcetti. It's cool that Stringer's English but I find it disturbing that my poshest friend knows McNulty from Eton.

(Finished season 3 last night. Me and Mrs Mocata are getting withdrawal symptoms, and it's two months until season 4 comes out here on DVD.)
posted by Mocata at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2008


(I should probably have said English or Irish on account of Aiden Gillen...)
posted by Mocata at 6:59 AM on January 10, 2008


Thanks for positing. Will miss these characters after this season :(
posted by xmutex at 7:02 AM on January 10, 2008


cavalier: "I watched via torrent, I can't afford that much cable.
posted by john m at 3:54 AM on January 10 [+] [!]

Gah, not to derail, but: Then you don't count. They don't know you're there, and you're not contributing any financial positive to their show, so you're a ghost. If you enjoy the show, stop being a vampire, and go at least rent the DVD or something. Content creators need to get paid or they stop creating content.
"

HBO and Showtime might have different assessments. They've both unofficially released unaired episodes of various shows. I suppose mainly as a buzz-building exercise.
posted by aerotive at 7:04 AM on January 10, 2008


This is the second time I've re-added HBO solely to watch The Wire, and as soon as the season is over, I'm going to cancel it again.

I look at it as the television equivalent of a Russian novel, it's bleak and there's tons of characters who intricately weave in and out of each other's lives. There are episodes that serve only as set up for things that will happen a few episodes later or even in the next season.

It's very well done, but it's also incredibly dense.
posted by drezdn at 7:05 AM on January 10, 2008


I think you'd be a fool to start watching Season 5 without watching the other 4 seasons first. Who cares about actually watching it live on TV?

Just go out and buy the DVDs; by the time you're done watching them, S5 will be out on DVD too. Far better way to watch.

It makes no sense to essentially ruin your enjoyment of the first four seasons just so you can watch the fifth when it's broadcast. Civilization has moved on -- "TV" shows on DVD are the way to go.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:13 AM on January 10, 2008


When I saw that polygraph scene, I just about crapped. 'Oh no, I've seen this episode before!'. Did they use that same bit of schtick in Homicide: Life on the Streets or what?

They did, but it originally came from David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets book.
posted by bayliss at 7:37 AM on January 10, 2008


I've just started Season Three and I see no reason to "recap" the stuff I've missed for the sake of seeing Season Five when it's aired on HBO. If you can actually catch up and watch all the old episode's sure, but don't ruin the show for yourself. It's good, enjoy it like it's something you want to see, not like you need to watch it right now, because all the cool kids are doing it.

As for the Season 2 debate, I can't compare to Season 4 or much of Season 3, but in the end I liked Season 2. It starts slow; I for one found the opening fairly hard to follow as well. Once it hits its stride, however, it's quite good. David Simon once claimed that he was ripping off the Ancient Greek tragedy, and I think that shows fairly clearly in Season 2. In contrast to the sprawling "Russian novel" style of the rest of the series, it's more tightly written, like a Geek tragedy. I'm not sure in the end if it will still wind up being my least favorite Season, but it's not entirely a chore to be finished. If you let yourself get into it, it's quite good. Also, shame on BET for cutting out large portions of the docks plot from when they air the episodes.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:52 AM on January 10, 2008


bayliss writes ""They did, but it originally came from David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets book."

Eponysterical!

Long standing David Simon fan here, so actually, I'd read the book before watching the dramatization. Same thing was true of The Corner and neither were published in the UK at the time.

Watching Bunk do it though, I could have sworn I'd seen him doing it before.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2008


zardoz : It's very good, though I've heard it's "the best TV show ever" more than once and think that's hyperbole.

It is, not matter how good The Wire may be, it's certainly no Automan.
posted by quin at 8:14 AM on January 10, 2008


I was wondering if the thing with the copy machine was meant either as an homage to Homicide either the book or movie, or a commentary on just how dumb some criminals are.

When the book was originally written, it would make sense that many people wouldn't know what a copy machine would look like or how it worked. Now, it seems less likely, so the kid would've had to be some what slow, or it was just meant as an homage.

In a way, it also goes back to the first scene of the first season which was also lifted from the book (and also involved Bunk).
posted by drezdn at 8:18 AM on January 10, 2008


For anyone who may not have seen season 4 yet, we just finished watching it and it's an absolute knockout. The kids give great performances, and Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield is menacing and brilliant. But the plots and story arcs are richer and more poignant than previous seasons, and the conclusion is devastating. I agree with the "best show ever" talk. The Sopranos was good, but the Wire rises to the level of literature.
posted by aLearnerRather at 8:22 AM on January 10, 2008


From what I understand, the copier/polygraph thing was something that occurred in real life, hence its inclusion in Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets. And it's an awesome anecdote, so I'm not surprised that it crops up in other Simon creations, especially because it actually fits the plot ("do more with less funding"), and not something shoehorned in just because it's amusing. So probably neither a homage to the book, nor to the Homicide TV show, nor a commentary on how dumb criminals are (though it is that, too), but including a real and amusing anecdote that dovetails well with the plot.
posted by Bugbread at 8:28 AM on January 10, 2008


I love the show, but I was a bit skeptical about the "best show on TV" moniker. Then I realized that I've watched four seasons without disenchantment, recommend it to everyone, and am considering buying the first season DVD set as a late bonus Christmas present for my dad, so I sat back and tried to think of a better show, and I can't come up with one. It's certainly not a perfect show, but I guess it may actually be the best show on TV.
posted by Bugbread at 8:30 AM on January 10, 2008


On top of that S3 focuses more on inter-character drama than it does on the broadly defined "case" they should be working on;

Damn. This is my pet peeve with multi-season TV shows. Eventually they become dramas solely about the characters involved and lose focus. If a show is on for more than one or two seasons then there is pressure to "evolve", "stay fresh" and "raise the stakes". I can appreciate that on a certain level; you can't have five seasons of the exact same thing. At the same time, it seems that in the process they end up losing whatever made the shows great to begin with.
posted by ODiV at 8:42 AM on January 10, 2008


why is it compulsory for so many of the actors to be English?

I read/heard and interview re the guy that plays McNulty... he apparently sent in an audition tape to the show via his agent where his wife was reading Bunk's lines off camera in an English accent. I think he was busy with theatre at the time and had no hope of getting the job so it was really rough and ready. The people making the show thought the result was so hilarious that they brought him over just to meet him... and the rest is history.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:14 AM on January 10, 2008


I totally agree with aLearnerRather. Having just finished season 4, that was the point where I suddenly understood what people meant when saying it was the best show ever. Season 4 was possibly perfect all the way through.
Puts a fair amount of pressure on 5 of course...
posted by opsin at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2008


Is this something I would need a TV to understand?

Sorry, someone had to. Maybe.
posted by lunit at 9:44 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


why is it compulsory for so many of the actors to be English?

What David Simon says in this interview with Nick Hornby (previously linked on metafilter) is that he didn't want known actors, fearing that they'd pull the viewer out of the show. Says Simon: "We cast very carefully, and I’m involved—as are the other leading producers—in every decision on every continuing role. We try to avoid those moments in which well-known actors appear onscreen and throw viewers right out of their sense of The Wire as a documentarian exercise. We don’t hire a lot of L.A. actors as a result; we lean more heavily on New York actors or even London stage actors, and wherever we can, utilizing actual Baltimoreans for small supporting roles. By having professional actors work off the real people, it makes the world we are depicting that much more improbable and idiosyncratic and, therefore, more credible."
posted by inigo2 at 9:48 AM on January 10, 2008


I am currently on S4, Ep.6. In fact, last night was one of those one-more-episode-before-bed nights and I ended up with no sleep. I am also one of the proselytizers and I think this show rises to the level of literature. I enjoyed Six Feet Under and the Sopranos, but they were much more episodic and full of digressions, relying heavily on the charisma of the actors.

I'd have to say that S1 is the best in that it's the most tightly focused and self-contained. I loved the expansion into the docks in S2 and they way they fleshed out the portrait of a dying industrial city. S3 felt too self-referential the first time; Stinger's story arc didn't feel as epic or self-contained as S1 or S2. The expansion into the political arena felt incomplete and rushed compared to the portrait of the docks, vying for time with the Hamsterdam plot and Cutty's new life as a boxing coach. However, after starting S4, it seems that they are picking up the threads of S3 and it looks much better in retrospect.

I can't decide if I'm going to DVR S5 and wait until the end to watch it all or watch it week by week.

Just...one...more...episode...
posted by Taargus Taargus at 10:06 AM on January 10, 2008


For anyone who may not have seen season 4 yet, we just finished watching it and it's an absolute knockout. The kids give great performances, and Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield is menacing and brilliant. But the plots and story arcs are richer and more poignant than previous seasons, and the conclusion is devastating.

Agreed. The intensity and the tragedy of the last 2-3 episodes are almost overwhelming. I think the show hit new heights in S4.

I'm looking forward to S5, and to David Simon's upcoming projects. I was lucky enough to meet him in a social setting a couple months ago, and heard a little bit about what he's working on (think Iraq and New Orleans).

Mrs. Artifice_Eternity is even luckier -- she went to the S5 premiere in Baltimore last week! Photos here.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:51 AM on January 10, 2008


I. Am. So. Jealous. of mrs. Artifice_Eternity.
posted by gaspode at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2008


You and me both!
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:20 AM on January 10, 2008


Oh damn, add me to the jealous list.

And there's little doubt that The Wire is the best thing ever on television, both from a content/character angle, and from the precise and very smart visual choices. Rome was close to it, at least for me, but the compression of Rome's second season (the missing 2 episodes) hurt it for me. Sopranos is solid, and better than a lot of television. West Wing was solid the first two and a half seasons. Studio 60 and the new BSG have their moments. Oh, and I have a softspot for the ill-fated but pleasant Wonderfalls. But in terms of pure Quality, it's The Wire all the way.
posted by hank_14 at 1:26 PM on January 10, 2008


The funny thing about season 4 is that Simon announced the subject and people were like "WTF, schools? That is going to be so boring!".
posted by smackfu at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2008


This is great. I don't own a television, so I don't watch television. But not it's like I watched The Wire, Sopranos, and Lost...and I never wanted to in the first place!

Because...television is o-v-e-r.

I love you guys!
posted by humannaire at 2:19 PM on January 10, 2008


Nice photos, Mrs Artifice_Eternity.

The Bunk: Vodka, Fresh Lemon Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice, Simply Syrup, Champagne.

McNulty: Jameson, Jameson, Jameson, Jameson, Jameson.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:34 PM on January 10, 2008


A testament to how great The Wire is can be found in how much you come to love characters that in any other show you wouldn't care about at all. Especially Omar, Bubbles, and Bodie. I can't think of any other show that could even set the stage for these characters to be portrayed in such a manner.

Watching a recap like this is amusing, but it especially doesn't do justice to just how amazing season 4 was, which you really have to watch Season 1 to appreciate. Whenever I suggest The Wire to new viewers, I preface it by explaining that they shouldn't think of it as a season of individual shows, but as a movie in 13 parts. I can see how watching it through the expectations learned from standard episodic TV can be frustrating.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2008


humannaire writes "This is great. I don't own a television, so I don't watch television."

I do own a TV, but that's not where I watch The Wire...there's no HBO in Japan, and The Wire hasn't been released on DVD here either, so computer viewing it is. In today's day and age, "I don't have a TV" doesn't really equal "and thus I don't watch TV shows".
posted by Bugbread at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh yes. I am one month in to the Wire now, just finished series 3. I can't think of anything better I've ever watched. The Wire + Torrents = Wet Weekend Bliss.
posted by Will Duck at 3:35 PM on January 10, 2008


Polygraph by copier is an old trick, or at least urban folklore among cops. (Though Barb should have known that the origin in Homicide was, at least allegedly, real.)
posted by dhartung at 5:17 PM on January 10, 2008


Jamie Hector as Marlo Stanfield is menacing and brilliant.

He's good, but that guy who plays Chris Partlow is fucking bone-chilling.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on January 10, 2008


He's good, but that guy who plays Chris Partlow is fucking bone-chilling.

Hells yes, although I prefer Snoop to both of them. She has sterling quotes in the first two episodes of season five.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:53 PM on January 10, 2008


Also, I'm glad we have a Wire thread about once a week these days. In the real world I bore my non-Wire-watching friends to fucking tears.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:54 PM on January 10, 2008


Could someone leak eps 3 & 4 already?
posted by smackfu at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2008


The Wire Prequels - Bunk and McNulty
http://www.amazon.com/gp/mpd/permalink/mN71VEUB9QMD1:m1JV4JCW9NX1X0
posted by RockBandit at 7:22 PM on January 10, 2008


smakfu: Could someone leak eps 3 & 4 already?
True 'dat. Eps 5,6, and 7 are just waiting, but I wouldn't dream of jumping sequence.
posted by tfmm at 8:13 PM on January 10, 2008


In today's day and age, "I don't have a TV" doesn't really equal "and thus I don't watch TV shows".

Ooh, I am so busted. You know, bugbread, that is one hundred percent solid true.

So I guess my real excuse is for missing out on television is, "Your favorite teevee show sucks." [Though not necessarily yours per se, bugbread.]

Now, can someone whip up one of the micro-wraps for Heroes? Preferably something without the Nickelbag soundtrack? I've been dying not to watch that show, too!
posted by humannaire at 12:09 PM on January 11, 2008


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