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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2008
On the surface, The Wire is generically a cop drama, focusing on the attempts of a dedicated team of specialists to take down a drug kingpin. If that were simply the case, The Wire would stand as the best cop show ever made. However, it is so much more than that. The Wire is a dissection of a modern North American city, cutting through the socio-economic strata, depicting the lives of kids selling drugs on the corner, the bureaucratic management of police and their target-driven policies, the politicians attempting to balance what should be done against what needs to be done, school kids trying to walk a fine line betwixt education and the temptations of the corner and the drug barons organising their empire.

Even that description omits numerous other characters, plot threads and entanglements. More importantly than the Dickensian scope, The Wire has such a vivid sense of authenticity: much is shot on location in Baltimore, Maryland aka Bodymore, Murderland, that its depiction of life in an urban ghetto, the images of whole blocks of derelict slums, shattered lives, the poor and the desperate seem reminiscent of footage of Baghdad, post-U.S. invasion.

This authenticity might be derived from the fact the programme has two principal creators, David Simon, who worked for many years as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun newspaper and Ed Burns who is a former homicide detective who worked extended drug surveillance cases. Such is The Wire's authenticity, that one real-life dealer from Baltimore commented in an interview that the only unrealistic thing about The Wire is that no m*f* in it watches The Wire!

The Wire is another phenomenal HBO drama. Previous dramas from that station have included Oz, which had quite a few cast members that ended up joining The Sopranos or The Wire. Oz has an immediate brutality quite distinct from anything else. The Sopranos has a witty overt intelligence that is instantly recognisable. Deadwood has such sophisticated linguistic construction. The Wire shares the complex multi-levelled plotting of these great series but is a more slower-burning affair.

As with the above-mentioned dramas, the ensemble cast of The Wire is outstanding and it could be inappropriate to highlight any one person in particular. Omar, a guy who makes a living robbing drug dealers has garnered some media attention but for me, The Bunk brings some much needed humour to the series.

Never winning many awards, having much commercial success or any high profile media interest, The Wire has nonetheless come to be regarded as quite possibly the finest drama series ever made. That's a big sell but entirely justified. There has never been anything approaching The Wire's depth before. Watch this series and all others seem one dimensional in comparison.
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VINE VOICEon 13 October 2008
Another HBO masterstroke. David Simon and Ed Burns creation The Wire is so good it literally spoils other TV for you. You watch CSI and Criminal Minds and it feels like an insult to your intelligence.

Each series takes on a different "theme" or institution; in the first series it examines the workings of the drug trade and the police in Baltimore. "Bodymore Murderland" says the graffiti.

From the very outset this show is palpably different, the characters are complex with good and bad sides. The lines of what is good and isn't are blurred you don't root forthe cops. The casting is inspired and the characters plausible due in no small measure to the fact that they are either Baltimore characters or an amalgam of a number of characters. Bunk and Bubs really existed.

Series two moves into the crumbling docks and deals with the economics and the death of the port in this once great and proud harbour town.

Series three centres upon town hall and the corruption and the importance of demographics in deciding who runs the town.

Series four goes into the public education system - where the parallels between the statistics over real results in the education system and the police resonate with much of what is going on in the UK.

Series five closes this great drama by examining the role of the press and its effects upon perception in the city - where what goes in the front page is not the most important story. The death of honest investigative reporting in favour of sensationalism. The heart breaking series closing montage demonstrates that life goes on. There are no fairytale endings. Life goes on.

The storylines and characters are inventive and brave. This series is made for DVD it's complex and rewards the patient and intelligent. David Simon himself describes it as a visual novel - which is a great analogy, once you get past the scene setting early episodes and you can't put it down. Without the irritation of commercial breaks you can get with the narrative thread and the pace of the story lines. In amongst this seemingly bleak background there are stories of hope and despair but there is a humanity to the whole thing.

60 hours of absolute gold. It says much for how subversive this show is that irt has been continually overlooked by the Emmys. I think David Simon must be proud.
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on 12 September 2008
Having watched all 5 series in a very short space of time (over the past 2 months)this might colour my review slightly, however as of writing I can safely say that there has never been anything better I have seen, and that probably extends to movies as well as previous television series.

In a programme of great, great characters (the list is endless, Omar, Avon, D'Angelo, Bubbles, Daniels, Bunk, Rawls - not exactly likeable but certainly brilliant, and of course Stinger Bell) Jimmy McNulty rises just about to the top - quite simply one of the best and most enjoyable characters you are likely to see.

'Multi-layered' is one of those descriptions that you read and often it doesn't mean that much, but is some critics attempt to sound intelligent, but in this case the definition is spot on. This can be viewed on so many levels and each series brings something different. The story regarding Bubbles in itself is a masterpiece, they could take out all his scenes from across the 5 series and put them into a film, and it would win oscars across the board. To an extent Omar's story runs parallel, and whilst this doesn't pull on the heart strings in quite the same way, it is still exceptional.

My only slight criticism would be the level dips slightly in my opinion in series 2 (although people do disagree with that, so maybe is just how I see it and how I loved the storyline and characters of series 1 and 3) but 3,4 and 5 are exceptional. In a very, very (very) sad way by the end these characters felt like your friends, and it was pretty emotional that last episode montage.

Before it was the Soprano's, which I loved and was fantastic, but ultimately it didn't sustain it too well over the whole period, and don't think it had the depth of the Wire and did focus on one character a lot more, even if Tony Soprano was one hell of a character. I certainly don't remember as feeling as 'involved' in that as with the wire.

Films I have seen since, even very good ones, have felt slightly odd and light - how can a film develop a character over 2 and a half hours in the way this has done over 60 hours. Impossible.

One word of warning, if you're expecting a Prison Break / 24 / Lost type series, you're in the wrong place. This isn't cliffhanger television, or popcorn television in the way those programmes (much as i enjoy the first 2, not seen lost) they are fun and enjoyable, but ultimately there is no real depth to them.

And another - pay this the attention it deserves, you need to sit and watch this properly, not be doing other things whilst its on, it requires, and deserves, your full concentration. You will be rewarded.

One tip - I needed subtitles for a lot of it, it does help.

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on 18 September 2008
The thing that worries me when I see a load of 5 star reviews is "has this just been written by a bunch of undemanding fan boys?". I have certainly come across this in other areas of Amazon.

However there's no getting away from the fact that after 2 or 3 episodes of the Wire you realise you are watching something special. This is the Band of Brothers of urban crime shows. I will do my best to try and summarise why these series are so special into 3 main themes.

Firstly each series covers just one case. Unlike something like CSI things aren't neatly wrapped up in 1 hour. It shows the methodical nature of police work with police officers hardly ever touching a know like real life. The series are happy to take their time, characters slowly develop sometimes over many series much like a great novel. This makes you care about the story, and you start to really care about the characters.

It also means the characters are rounded. Detective McNulty is the closest the series comes to a lead and the idea of a hard drinking cop isn't new, but it's the layers to him that count. At times he's the most reliable cop on the case at others acting like a self destructive animal because he's human and very, very drunk. But the story doesn't just dwell on the cops, the drug dealers have full blown characters too and you start to care for some of them like Michael in series 4 and 5 or of course the economics lecture attending Stringer Bell who wants to make the drug business more like a business using real economic models- now that is genius!

Indeed as the series continue they don't bin characters they add more so each series has a theme, the first is about the cops and the drug dealers, the second has all that plus the economic decline of a once great port city and how this effects the dockers, the third adds politics with the race to become mayor and how that makes police jobs harder, the fourth shows the decline of the inner city schools and the fifth adds the media into this heady brew.

Secondly the series are uncompromising, good people do bad things, bad people some times do the right things and there are no quick fixes to anything. Some episodes leave you shocked when a random act of violence can change a whole character's story. The Wire is certainly thought provoking.

Finally there's the change of tone. In the hands of the lesser writer this would all be unwatchably down beat, but the makers know this and so add light and shade to the whole thing. Characters laugh and silly things happen (I love one scene where the police trick one low level street dealer into thinking a photocopier is a lie detector machine) and at times when people do get a bit of luck or do the right thing, because they've been through hell it makes the happy moment even sweeter.

So if you've never seen them you really are missing out and if you have seen them then it's time to watch them again.
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on 3 August 2009
There is not much left to say about The Wire so I'm not going to post yet another extended homage here. Suffice to say that everything you've heard/read IS true - that The Wire IS the greatest achievement in the history of television drama, the consistent standards of storytelling, writing and acting DO hit hitherto-unknown heights and, yes, all other TV dramas do seem one-dimensional and pedestrian by comparison. But therein lies the problem with The Wire: BEWARE! - this show can seriously damage your relationship with your television. Within a week of finishing the final series I decided I had no further need for my TV and got rid of it. Every other TV drama (especially from the BBC and ITV) seems like so much cheaply-produced, semi-amateur shallow garbage compared to The Wire. This series has completely destroyed my appetite for any more TV and so far, about a month down the line, I feel a lot better off without it.

As regards this box set, don't miss the bonus features full of excellent interviews, reflection and analysis. It is especially interesting - bizarre even - to hear each actor reveal which part they had originally auditioned for.

And it's very difficult to see how The Wire ever can - or will - be bettered on TV.
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on 6 May 2009
The very first episode of "The Wire" hits the ground running like it's already half way through a season. It doesn't stop to explain jargon, there's no incidental music (the only time you'll hear music in an actual episode is at the end of the last one of each season), it seems both laid back and relentless at the same time and your head is spinning with everything that is going on.

I look on the early episodes of "The Wire" as a test. If you kept watching, if you persisted, you are worthy, and what a treat lies ahead. "The Wire" is one of those rare series that leave a real imprint. You don't just watch it, you live it. Most def.
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on 2 March 2009
I bought this box set last month and after just finishing the final episode of season 5 i have to say its one of the greatest shows i have ever seen if not the greatest. The characters are compelling and the story could only come from lots of research. There are may times through out the series where i was shocked that this kind of corruption would happen on such a large scale but at the same time are pretty sure it does. The extra features also show an interesting look into the real world we live in and how it has influenced the show but what makes this show what it is is how it treats its audience with respect believing that we can work things out for ourselves with out being force fed the facts countless times as most other television shows. Quite simply a masterpiece that should be watched by everyone old enough to.
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on 28 October 2008
Unless you've lived under a rock - or not read a broadsheet paper for a while (or ever) - you'd be hard pressed to escape the intense glow of praise that has been heaped on this TV show.

The show is remarkable for many reasons and will hopefully 'raise the bar' in terms of standards of TV production. It is refreshing to see a TV company (HBO) to stick by a series that didnt set the ratings on fire. The Wire demands a lot of its audience. Firstly, the novelistic and labyrinthine structure offers no quarter as no flashbacks or lengthy
exposition are given to keep casual viewers in the loop. Unusually for TV, there is a predominately black cast, which mysteriously, even in this day and age still presents a problem to some. Most crucially, plots are not tied up in the comforting morality tale format where good overcomes evil. Life is not like that, people are not good nor evil, rather products of their environment and prone to corruption, false promise and decay. The complexities of society and its institutional dysfunctions that are illustrated here determine the fate of the character in line with their social standing. Compare this to most police procedurals (which are generally escapist, finger pointing exercises) from both side of the pond, it is extremely radical stuff.

Fantastic acting, unorthodox storylines based in fact, inter-twining plotlines and a refreshingly raw approach make this vital viewing. This is an intelligent milestone in a largely stupid medium.
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on 19 June 2015
The only thing that has managed to rival the sopranos. this show is probably the greatest tv of all time. anyone who spouts the praises of breaking bad or game of thrones without having seen this is not to be listened to. WATCH
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on 19 April 2009
I'd already tried to watch the opener of the first series twice before but was put off by the swearing and difficulty in deciphering the language. However the weight of positive reviews persuaded me to try again.

The problems of clarity are still there but your ear does tune in after a while. As for the swearing - well, this is how the characters would speak in real life. If you can't get beyond that, then don't bother watching.

If you do continue then you are faced with a multitude of characters and plot lines with not everything making sense at the time. This series does not spoon feed you!

So, be prepared to be challenged.

Is the effort worth it?


Well filmed, well acted, intelligent and thought provoking. Also, dangerously addictive so you might as well buy this boxed set as you are going to want to watch the whole lot anyway.
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