Charlie Brooker tries to get you to watch the Wire

Charlie Brooker has just struggled to do the Wire justice on FX. And failed. But you can’t blame him. No one can really do the Wire justice. All you do is end up saying “Best TV programme ever made” or “work of art”

He started out funny and fanatical. He was basically agreeing that it’s really boring listening to people banging on about such and such an American tv programme being great. But in any case, you can ignore them all because only the Wire was worth watching. And it’s “a true work of art.”
Then there were various talking heads, a few of whom were recognisable, saying “it’s a work of art” and so on. Someone said a freind from America had said it was the best thing that had been on TV since Abigail’s Party . Alexei Sayle said “Hi, my names Alexei and I’m a Wire-aholic”

The rest of the programme was pretty pesh. It even achieved the seemingly impossible and used clips in a way that made the Wire look corny and formulaic.

The interviews were so focussed on the British and Irish actors in the Wire as to have Brooker forced to misrepresent the plot. He introduced Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) as the leader of the Barksdale crew. Argh. This rides roughshod over a whole subplot, in which Stringer is manoeuvring his way through the ranks to take over. (Starting as the dumber but tougher Avon Barksdale’s sycophantic sidekick, he works in his own ideas about puttting the Barksdale gang on a standard commercial footing and goes for Avon’s crown.)

The talking head suggestions as to why the greatest TV series ever made wasn’t even remotely popular threw up the likeliest reasons as being that
(a) most people are too stupid to appreciate it,
(b) it’s very complex and cumulative so you have to commit to the whole thing or it’s too hard to follow and
(c) its cast is 70% black, so it would never reach a mass US audience. All probably true.
(Plus the extravagant use of cuss-words, I suspect, given that the Charlie Brooker trailer show had to blot out half the dialogue in its clips. It’s probably never going to be on mainstream TV. But, then, as one of the talking heads said, you want everyone to watch it but you also want it to kep it as your own secret.)

The main point here is that you can’t do the Wire justice. Everyone who loves it is awestruck. You just end up gushing or saying ludicrous things like “it’s your civic duty to watch it” as Charlie Brooker did at the end, “or else watch celebrity goose-wrestling on ITV6.”

4 thoughts on “Charlie Brooker tries to get you to watch the Wire

  1. My husband worked for the U.S. Department of Labor, and in the 80’s his ‘territory’ was Baltimore. I am here to tell you that The Wire’s protrayal of Baltimore politics is right on the nose.

    By the way, if you listen to the dialogue carefully, you can tell who the native Baltimoreans are. A true Baltimorean pronounces his city Balmer and his state Murlan. njs

  2. Thanks a lot, Nancy. It certainly always had the ring of truth to me.
    The pronunciation. 🙂 That’s something to watch out for on the UK re-reuns.

  3. I have to side with Charlie Booker on the Stringer as leader of Barksdale crew issue, although I guess it depends very much on how you classify ‘leader’. Right from the first series, it was pretty clear that Stringer was the real brains behind the operation and was most visible out on the street and keeping everyone in check. He’s the one who the crew looked to for instructions, answers, help or support, the one they most feared and respected – most of them had never even seen Barksdale. Avon was the leader in name only.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say Booker “rides roughshod” over the subplot as I don’t think there really IS a subplot about Stringer ‘manoevering through the ranks to take over’. From calling the shots in season one, Barksdale going behind bars in season two is the final step to really putting Stringer at the top, so there is no manoevering required. The subplot we see in series two and three is not Stringer manoevering to take control, but continuing revelations about just how much control Stringer already exerts in terms of their legitimate business interests, (most of which were also revealed in series one, so clearly this has been going on for some time). If anything, the subplot is Barksdale’s dawning realisation that Stringer is running the show and – in season three – Barksdale’s attempts to regain control and get the organisation back to its roots.

  4. Jason
    Thanks for the comment. OK. I’ll have to give you the right of it in terms of who really runs the Barksdale organisation on a day to day basis. Stringer certainly outclasses Avon in intelliigence throughout all the episodes.

    I’ve just been watching Series Three again where Avon comes out of jail ready to stamp on Stringer’s “legitimate” business plans, sort of suggesting that he has no intention of giving up control to Stringer and still treats Stringer as lieutenant.

    Series 5 is awesome. I haven’t posted anything about it because I don’t want to post spoilers….

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