I just got through the fifth and final season of HBO’s The Wire and this may be as good as television gets. While it never got the ratings it deserved, the critics were all over this show for its realistic portrayal of life on the streets of Baltimore. For those who haven’t yet seen it, The Wire is essentially a crime drama, centering on the drug trade and a special police unit set up to fight it. However, the show is really about how the city works and every season a new element or facet of life is introduced including the drug trade, the city port, the city bureaucracy, the ailing public school system, and the print news media. The show consists of many characters all playing various roles: the drug addict, the dealers, the gangsters, the bosses, the detectives, the politicians, the teachers, the students, the lawyers. In many ways, the audience gets to see how a single event or decision made in one corner and facet of the city affects another. The characters and their stories all entwine to provide a really provocative and realistic show. In many of the episodes, the child actors playing the role of dealers on the corners are no older than 12, while spewing profanities and code names in the same breath.
You get to see how the drug gangs invent systems of communication and you get to see how the police attempt to tap wires just to break that system. You get to see how an aspiring politician becomes mayor, and you get to see how experimental education programs get shutdown due to budget cuts. The Wire brings the rougher life in Baltimore from all ends of the spectrum and manages to cleverly tie them all together by the end of the 5th season just so the creators make sure the audience knows this isn’t just another show about cops chasing bad guys, but about how a city lives and breathes.
The Wire is as raw and realistic as anyone can hope to get to seeing how the cycle of life works in inner-city America, and it is hands down one of the best produced shows on television of the past decade.