In an article entitled "10 most important TV shows of the past decade", the Toronto Star lists The Wire at #1.
One of the great benefits of cable, in addition to freedom from the network limitations of content and ratings-driven advertising, is its ability to embrace and nurture shows of unusually high quality and relatively limited audience appeal. The Wire is the most extreme example, the best show on television nobody was watching.
The interwoven stories and characters, with an entirely different focus for each of its brilliant, all-too-brief five seasons, were ripped from the pages of the Baltimore Sun and the work of former crime reporter David Simon. His non-fiction bestseller, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was adapted as a similarly titled network series, which he also wrote and produced.
Inevitably frustrated by the constraints of network prime time, he pitched a tougher, even more downbeat version to a reluctant HBO, and then spent the next half-decade labouring in obscurity, beloved by critics and ignored by viewers. The final season, bemoaning the fall of print journalism, featured Toronto actor/director Clark Johnson, who also directed key episodes.
Unappreciated as it may have been, The Wire outlasted other prestige buried treasures that were to follow, such as Deadwood (three seasons), In Treatment (just renewed – barely – for a third) Carnivàle and Rome (two each). And there's always DVD.
The Wire, or The Greatest Show On Television, Ever™ as I like to call it, has been on my mind a lot lately. I'm ready to revisit all 60 spectacular episodes. If you haven't seen it, here's a taste of what you've missed. This is my favourite character, Omar Little, and his confrontation with Brother Mouzone.