I missed The Wire on TV and have been wondering whether to buy a box set. I see that the majority of reviewers give it 5 stars and many of those reviews are well-written. I also see that a few people have scored it 1 star, and have made serious efforts to justify that, and I conclude that I probably would not share their tastes. What concerns me, however, is the vitriol aimed at negative reviewers: Well written vitriol but, I feel, worryingly disproportionate. This brings me to the realization that part of the reason I didn't get round to watching it on TV was the number of people who demanded that I did in this same, somewhat aggressive, way. I have a completely open mind about the series, and I have respect for many of the people involved with it - but can anyone explain why viewers are SO extreme in their reactions to it? I am a discerning viewer myself, and have seen many important and brilliant films and much good television, but I can't imagine becoming this intense in my defense of any film or television. What is it about The Wire that inspires this reaction? Please don't tell me it's brilliant and I've never seen anything quite like it or reiterate what it's about and how good the performances and characters are - I get that ;)
I noticed that nobody has replied to this - and it is quite a tough question.
Yes, it is very marmite.
The best answer I can give you is that, unlike many TV series that are fast-paced, glossy and have strong musical scoring, the Wire has a slow pace, is not at all glossy in terms of presentation (SD at 4:3) or subject matter (neither the gangs or the police are portrayed in a particularly sympathetic or damning fashion), and it doesn't use music to set its energy level. By the standards of mainstream studio fare, it's quite subdued and could even seem bland. If you watch TV for easy to follow plots, charismatic shiny characters, regular action scenes and clear good and bad guys, there's not a lot in the Wire for you.
And that's OK - dofferent strokes and all that. There are plenty of people who hate Twin Peaks and Lost because they are different too. But I think that when a series has such a powerful reputation, people start feeling defensive if they don't "get it", and that leads to a strong negative reaction. I think that's all it is.
For the people defending The Wire, I can say that I have been a film/TV buff for 30 years or so, and I believe this to be the best TV series ever made. But it's really hard to explain why, because there aren't that many series like it, and it is slow, etc etc. So I think people want to explain why it is so good, but because that's hard to articulate, just end up raving about it.
I would say these two things: 1) If you are the sort of person that notices strong character actors and appreciates them as much as big glossy hollywood stars, you will probably like The Wire. 2) If you like the psychological subtext and character development in series such as Dexter, Cracker, Babylon 5 or Breaking Bad, or films like Blade Runner, you will probably like The Wire. If you like any of those series *only* because people die and things get blown up, you probably won't like The Wire.
I don't want to portray it as being only for frowny intellectuals - far from it. More than being intellectual, it has a feeling of authenticity and soul that most series seem to lack