The Corner – HBO Miniseries

After three episodes of The Corner (I am trying to ration them a bit) I can report that it’s pretty good.

For The Wire fanatics, it’s the undeveloped low-budget version. It would probably seem really good if The Wire didn’t exist. This series allowed us to get The Wire in its full glory, so even if it was rubbish it would be worth watching.

Each episode in the series takes a Baltimore individual and shows his or her story, with a focus on the dissolution of the neighbourhoods. The actions and the dialogue can be as witty as parts of The Wire. Central concerns are the same, with a focus on how the family reproduces the fractured relationships of the neighbourhood, similar to the focus on the kids in Wire Series 4. The street shots are the same neighbourhoods used in the Wire. Lots of the action takes place in the Series 3 Hamsterdam area. Many of the same production team were also involved, and some stylistic marks of the Wire, such as the introductory quote and the good credits music are present in embryonic form

Most of the cast are the actors who appear in The Wire, often cast in diametrically opposed roles. Several Central Wire police are street addicts or dealers in The Corner. The Series 4 headmistress is a clam shop supervisor. Avon Barksdale is hustling for scrap to sell, and so on. This adds another level of entertainment value that can not have been foreseen by the original team. You can watch it, picking out actors and trying to remember who they were. For instance, I think I saw Method Man in there. I have a suspicion that one character is an unfeasibly young version of the main female police officer from the original team – the one who gets moved to Homicide in Series 5, as part of the first Mayor’s plan to sink the expanding investigation in the period leading up to an election.

The focus on individuals builds up into a composite picture, with each person forming a part of the others’ stories and each instalment sheds more light on the previous episodes.

When compared to the Wire, it is less than satisfying. The stories (so far) are unremittingly dismal, focusing only on those at the bottom of the heap, the moralising is too overt and the characters aren’t consistently strong enough to carry so much interest. The Wire has such an incredible array of fascinating morally complex characters from all social levels that this series can’t compete with its scope and complexity. However, it is brilliantly experimental televsion in itself.