Summer Viewing: The Wire Season 1 – Modern Noir

A while ago DoubleBitch and I asked you guys for some ideas of shows we should watch over the summer. I chose The Wire and, holy crap do I love. This. Show! This next bit is gonna be a little convoluted as I lay down some layers of background RE: the loving, but hopefully you can make sense of it all. **totally gonna be spoilers for season one in here**

the wire 001I’ve mentioned it before (I think, at least a few times) that I’m something of a really big comic book fan. I love the medium (yes medium, not genre, that’s a pet peeve of mine. It’s like saying ‘you know what genre I like? Movies.’ Anyway) and I’ve been reading them for just about two decades now. Like pretty much every comic fan I started out with superheroes (Spider-Man was my drink of choice) but over the years I’ve spread out, trying all kinds of different genres in comic form. Jumping now but I’ll get back to this.

So more recently, when I started to use Twitter naturally my first follows were a bunch of my favourite comic writers. One thing I noticed was that pretty much all of them were really into The Wire, and the final season that was airing at the time. Now that I’ve watched some, I understand why. It’s the dialogue and characterization that make this show. Every character love them or hate them, good or bad you care about them. It can be the slowest, least important scene with regards to the main plot but you’re just drinking it up, utterly enthralled.

the wire 002Back to those different comic book genres. As my web of comicy knowledge grew, I found that more and more of my favourite titles were crime and noir. Books like Powers, Sleeper, Gotham Central, Scalped and Criminal. I started looking into some crime and noir books and movies. It’s easily the genre that I’ve expanded into the most over the past five or so years, and one that many of my favourite comic writers have a deep love for.

Finally getting back to The Wire, which I honestly hadn’t really had any interest in until all these people whose work I loved were tweeting about it. I’d dismissed it as just another cop show (bit of an aside, nothing has drilled it into me that ‘cop’ has a negative connotation more than The Wire. It’s how they always say police), except on HBO so they’d say fuck a lot. I was so completely wrong (and I’m guessing by now you know that The Wire is modern noir, right?) about what the show was in a way that’s honestly embarrassing. I’m usually really good at reading a couple paragraphs, seeing some production photos and being able to figure out what a show’s about (or if not, at least that I’ll need to see it to do so), but with The Wire I was way off.

the wire 003The Wire is, as I said, modern noir. Certainly not the Philip Marlow, Sin City type of noir, instead it’s a modern setting, a realistic depiction of police work (they don’t solve all their cases! And they don’t get them one at a time, wrap them up and move on to the next!), and missing any of those classic noir characters. No hardboiled P.I., no sultry and mysterious femme fatale. Instead we just have a collection of very real, very flawed people. What it does have is that sense of inevitiblity. You know things aren’t going to go well. You know McNulty’s career is fucked regardless of the outcome of the case. You know Wallace isn’t going to get back in school. You know D isn’t going to change the game like he wants. You know Bubbles won’t be able to stay clean. All of this you know in your gut but it doesn’t make it any less intriguing watching them reach their fate, hoping they get something better.

This is getting long so I’ll stop there. Oh and sorry I didn’t explain noir at all in this post, people who aren’t familiar with the genre. That would have been a really long post, but please feel free to do some Googling if you’re interested!

I’ll be posting more about The Wire soon.


~ by Jerk on June 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “Summer Viewing: The Wire Season 1 – Modern Noir”

  1. You do know it’s only going to get better don’t you? Enjoy.

  2. So glad you are liking it! I went through all 5 seasons last summer and I was utterly captivated the whole way through. Like you said, you kinda knew the fates awaiting some of the characters but it was still compelling watching them get there. I became insanely attached to The Wire actors to the point that anytime I see them on something else I just yell “The Wire” and whatever their character name is. It thrills me. Well written, well acted, just all in all well done. And you find yourself drawn to these completely flawed characters, cop or drug dealer. Just a fabulous show. Looking forward to more of your thoughts.

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