Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Wire: Not Now Showing on the BBC

Since writing about The Wire, I have watched yet more of it - I am now on to season four. I am excessively prone to saying things are the greatest, so I won't say this is the greatest TV series ever made, but I've never seen a greater. The writing will influence screenwriting for years to come - not just the black street patois but also the remarkable dialogue given to the cops and city officials. It is not simply realistic, it is literate, occasionally to the point of extravagance. The characterisation, meanwhile, is monumental. Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell are colossal figures - evil, heroic and alarmingly sympathetic - and, as in Shakespeare, even the briefest walk-on becomes a fully rounded human being. Of course, award-givers overlook it - though it has just received one Emmy nomination. The story about this is on the BBC web site. The BBC did not broadcast The Wire because, apparently, it could see no audience for it. This means we should not pay the licence fee because if the BBC is only looking for audiences, then it should not be subsidised by a hypothecated tax designed to protect the best, not necessarily the most popular, broadcasting. As it is, our great protector failed to pick up the greatest - there I've said it - TV show of this generation. The case for shrinkage is becoming overwhelming.

17 comments:

  1. Funny that the BBC did not think there would be an audience for The Wire. More or less the same thing happened in Ireland, RTE, (who if truth be told take all their tips from the Beeb) didn't get a hold of it either. Instead the excellent Irish language channel TG4 ran with The Wire from day one - which is where I saw it right from the start (smug I know). Quick aside - the interview on the BBC's Culture Show with creator David Simon was so tacky and embarrassing - the Culture Show is incapable of critical analysis. Finally which Wire character did you like best of all Bryan? Bunk just gets my vote, for staying alive and staying the course.

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  2. The BBC has consistently failed to pick up virtually all the greatest TV series ever made. The Simpsons and Seinfeld - which both of which they persevered with for a while - were rare exceptions, but they eventually let them go too. Otherwise, they accquire good purchases only by mistake, and shamefacedly bury them in graveyard slots. They did this with Larry Sanders, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthhusiasm, most recently Damages. And that habit spread to Channel 4, which lost interest in Homicide, NYPD Blue and others and dumped them in favour of hyped-up tosh like Lost (just as the BBc favours the equally h'd-up t of Heroes). The channel known as Five still shows decent US imports at sensible times, and drama-wise is often the best bet on terrestrial TV.

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  3. Yeah, I like Bun, jj,I also like Bodie for some reason -he's nasty in every respect. Omar is wonderful, of course. I dunno, I just dunno.

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  4. Yeah, I like Bun, jj,I also like Bodie for some reason -he's nasty in every respect. Omar is wonderful, of course. I dunno, I just dunno.

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  5. How can we watch it? I speak in my new role as television critic for an obscure intellectual magazine (as if there's any other kind). I know I ought to know already, but I'm not really cut out for this job.

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  6. It's on FX UK, Nick - a Sky channel. They're onto the last series.

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  7. Well after you, Nige and Capn'B raved about, I couldn't hold out any longer and bought Series One. Watched the first episode last night, and thought it was wonderful. It reminds me slightly of early Homicide, which was also set in Baltimore.

    The beloved, however, begged to differ; something about it "not being very cheerful". Can see I'm going to have to encourage her to get out on her own more.

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  8. There are jokes, Recusant, but the colossal sadness is inescapable

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  9. Nick - I envy that you've never seen it before. Order all five box sets (immediately), charge it to the obscure mag. And take three weeks off.

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  10. Bought series two last week on this blog's recommendation. I've seen two episodes so far. It's a bit grim. Is life really this awful, unless you want it to be. I was hoping for a few black jokes but may be more viewing will reveal them.

    Interestingly, the assistant at the HMV store perked up and said that everyone was talking about The Wire but she didn't know anyone who'd actually seen it yet. Maybe this word-of-mouth stuff will bear fruit soon, to the shame of the BBC.

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  11. I swear to God I'm not making this up but the editor of aforementioned journal has just emailed me


    Thanks for stirring up trouble with the Beeb, who will now issue a fatwah! What are you thinking of writing about for September? We
    need copy early next week. I wonder whether you share the general admiration
    for The Wire, the American drama series. I think I can see the point of it, but
    I am not sure. Of course the Americans have much more money to spend on
    drama and everything else.But why are they better at almost everything on TV?

    I had to confess that until Bryan brought it up I'd never heard of the Wire. Perhaps I should do the nature notes instead.

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  12. On the other hand it may be that the most important part of the BBC's name is the British bit. Their job should be to produce quality British programmes, and it's there that they should be criticised. In the case of the Wire it is not in the least bit surprising the BBC concluded that it would find no audience as it didn't find much of one in the states. The Wire is one of those shows raved about by critics but ignored by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

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  13. The fourth series is incredibly good- it manages to make even education fascinating. The odd short girl killer is one of the most frightening individuals I've seen on TV, and Omar's royal progress in his dressing gown to get the Cherrios is priceless. Nick, I fear I may have authored that thought.

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  14. I've just watched the first 2 series on DVD and it really is the best TV drama I've seen in ages. The problem now for me is that every time I try to watch another cop show it just seems so inauthentic and silly, especially the British shows like The Bill.

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  15. Sorry, haven't seen it yet, but if it's about a lot of homicidal blacks killing each other in a thrilling and entertaining way, er, should we be thrilled about how well made it is?
    I know, I haven't seen it yet, but I thought I'd ask.

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  16. Having seen all 5 seasons in the space of 4 weeks, I've been left now with an immense sense of emptiness and sheer disappointed with box in the corner, no longer does it provide the enjoyable few hours of entertainment it once did when I got in from work after a long hard day. It just sit there in a never ending loop of repackaged old rubbish, spewing out sounds which my brain has now managed to filter out as background noise. Unfortunately for me going back to watching TV after watching ‘The Wire’ is like going back to high school when your 23 and you’ve been to university. Yes it was good when you were 16, yes you had some amazing times and some you thought would never be topped but when you’ve spent years at university you would never really want to go back, not really especially knowing that it just cannot really complete with something much better.
    And that is where the wire has left me, having seen just what a good programme if not the best drama series ever made can give you, why or how can you settle for anything less.
    Having been lucky enough to have seen all the sopranos and the wire, its left me with one simple question, what now? There nothing out there that even comes close. And so it is with great sadness that the box in the corner’s time has come to say goodbye. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still use it to watch football on sky sports but other than that its time is drawing to a close.
    If anyone enjoys watching normal rubbish on TV then I would seriously warn you before watching the wire, it will not give you the same enjoyment it once did... trust me.

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  17. And now it's on the BBC (BBC Two, starting tonight). Finally. Can't wait to enjoy it all again.

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