The Best Show on Cable That You Never Heard Of
Published on December 24, 2006 By Larry Kuperman In Entertainment
HBO's The Wire is, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best written and best performed adult drama on TV. Yet after 50 episodes it continues to fly below most people's radar.

I love good drama and I love ensemble acting. The Wire is a hard-hitting urban drama, set in modern day Baltimore. It has adult themes, dealing with on-going police investigations of drug dealers and is as real as today's headlines. In a unique twist, The Wire shows the events from both sides, which provides a interesting, compelling perspective. The show pulls no punches and is intended for an adult audience. (That is three times that I have used the word "adult" lest anyone say "this show isn't appropriate for kids.")

The show has been called "the best show on television by Time, Entertainment Weekly, Salon and others. Yet it has failed to garner an audience commensurate with it's critical acclaim.

The Wire was created and is produced by David Simon and is loosely based on the experiences of Simon's writing partner, ex-homicide detective Ed Burns. George Pelecanos, one of my favorite modern authors, is a writer on the show and received a homage when one of the characters is shown reading Pelecanos' book Drama City.

In addition to concept and writing style, what makes The Wire special is the ensemble approach to acting. If you are unfamiliar with the term, ensemble acting is defined as "an approach to acting that aims for a unified effect achieved by all members of a cast working together on behalf of the (work), rather than emphasizing individual performances." Arguably, the star of the show is the character of Jimmy McNulty, created and played by Dominic West. The focus of the initial episodes and the character that begins the investigation, Jimmy virtually disappears from some episodes only to reappear later on. His acting is superb, really convincing you that he is the character. Dominic West was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England which makes his struggle to assume an English accent for an undercover sting operation all the funnier. Mark my words, Dominic West will star in films and network TV shows once his run on The Wire is over.

But it is the street characters that make the show so, you should excuse the expression when talking about drug dealers, addictive. Take Preston "Bodie" Broadus, a low-level street dealer and soldier for the Barksdale crime family. After a few episodes, you become involved with the character in large measure due to the superb acting of J.D. Williams.

Or take the character of Omar Little, as played by Michael K. Williams. His character is unique: a smart, openly homosexual character who makes a living robbing street dealers. In one episode, Omar is called to testify at a trial. When the defense lawyer Maurice Levy tells the jury that Omar is a parasite who thrived on the drug trade, Omar turns that back at him, saying that they were both essentially the same in that respect -- he carries a gun while Levy carries a briefcase.

Season Four of the Wire concluded not too long ago, but is still available in some areas "On Demand." The first three seasons are out on DVD and are worthy of a look.

HBO series such as The Sopranos, Oz and now The Wire have been incubators for the next generation of great actors. If you want to watch well-written, well-performed drama, then The Wire should be on your list.

on Dec 24, 2006
Is a little to real for me, reminded me to much of my old life, so I discontinued watching it kupe.

Showtime has two series that are in my opinion better, one a so called mini-series called "sleeper cell" and a new one called "dexter" that just concluded the first season.
If you get showtime both of these are worthwhile watching, both are well written and very well acted. Both shows have gotten emmy nods for best shows in their catagories and best actors in same.

on Dec 24, 2006
Mmmm, no Showtime for me. I have heard good things about Sleeper Cell, but I will have to look up Dexter.

Yes, The Wire is very real and I can understand that putting some people off.

Thanks for commenting.