This review is from: The Wire: Complete HBO Season 1-5 [DVD] (DVD)

It’s ancient history these days and The Wire simmered for years but some may still not yet have discovered it – hard to believe I know. Series one is the challenge because what is an apparently nerve stretchingingly slow intro to life on the streets of Baltimore, is actually ever so clever. Taking time to set up a full narrative arc in a TV drama is rare but The Wire shows how it pays off. Just when you think you can take it or leave it, the disc pops out and desperation for season two kicks in.

img_1617If you’re looking for cops and robbers, CSI procedurals or the Sopranos your time is wasted here. The Wire chronicles the disintegration of an American city and its state apparatus. This is an incisive look at the rotten core of policing save for a few to whom justice and law still count for something; it lifts the lid on putrefying political culture and the inevitably endless war on drugs, played out against the backdrop of a city divided on ethnic lines, its very fabric crumbling under the strain.

The Wire used excellent writers and made the names of Dominic West and Idris Elba among others. It is a skilled, forensic social commentary for our times and near perfect TV drama. The star performance comes, arguably, from the row houses and docksides of the city itself. Baltimore is in Maryland and as I found out when I visited in October 2008 it’s locally known as murderland. There’s plenty of shiny regeneration but across the city and in some of the areas where The Wire was filmed it can be close to a vision of hell. And…it kicks the living daylights out of Breaking Bad. No contest.