Television That Is Better Than Most Books

The WireFrom the looks of its ratings, there’s a good chance you’ve never watched HBO’s “The Wire”, and that’s okay.  You probably haven’t heard much about it.  It’s not the kind of show most of the people you work with will stand around and talk about.  Honestly, it’s not the kind of show most of the people you work with can grasp.  But that’s not the fault of the show.

If you think about it, most television dramas are written for the kids you went to high school with who got through literature class either reading Cliff Notes or speed reading the whole novel in a night.  They could ace the test when asked to regurgitate the main events of the book and could tell you about the characters, plot and major themes.  There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, it’s just a reality–most people have a hard time thinking beyond what is merely written.  I think that’s the reason The Wire doesn’t get the attention it deserves from the average television viewer.  The Wire is literary television.

You walk away from each episode of The Wire wanting to talk about it.  When I say “talk about it”, I don’t mean “what do you think will happen next week?”  I mean you walk away actually discussing it.  If you watched it alone, you wish you had someone with whom you could share your thoughts.  It’s something that stays with you.  You come away drawing parallels to what you see happening in real life with education, politics, and the war on drugs.  You are forced to ask yourself some very tough questions about your own belief system and how it applies to situations you aren’t likely to encounter in your own life.  In effect, The Wire does all the things through the medium of television that good literature does through writing–it forces you to think.

HBO has shown each season OnDemand in the months leading up to the fifth and final season which begins in January, and they’ve also shown a couple of mini-docs about the making of the show and the reality it portrays.  Someone (I can’t remember who) commented in one of these documentaries that a possible reason the show isn’t a ratings success is that the majority of America just isn’t comfortable watching a program with a predominantly black cast.  But I’m not sure that’s the case.  I think the real reason may be that most Americans aren’t interested in making the intellectual investment to enjoy a show like The Wire.

I was probably wrong when I said that it’s okay if you’ve never watched The Wire.  I wasn’t considering my audience.  What I should have said is that it is okay that most Americans have never watched The Wire.  You?  I expect more from you.  Check it out on Netflix or Blockbuster and get ready for some serious couch marathoning.

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[…] on her stomach.  On my way home from Best Buy, I remembered where I read about the show, it was on Sadcox’s site.  I think the word for his view on the show is evangelical.  Check out his take on the show […]

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