I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it on this blog, but The Wire is, hands-down, the best show on television. It’s certainly the best police drama to ever appear on TV, in part because it’s so much more than a police drama that it falls outside of genre. Better than The Sopranos. Better than Deadwood. Better than Six Feet Under. Better than the triad of jittery, anxiety-ridden comedy–Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office. Better than The Simpsons in its heyday (and seasons three through five are hard to top, folks). Better, even, than Star Trek: The Next Generation.
In a long, wonderful ode to the show, Alan Sepinwall explains why the show’s so great:
Where most other dramas are content to include one or two minority cast members and puff out their chests about diversity, The Wire features literally dozens of interesting, significant roles for actors of color. Simon, ex-cop Ed Burns and their writing staff (which includes acclaimed crime novelists Richard Price, Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos) juggle what can seem like a hundred different subplots and pay them off in satisfying fashion at season’s end. They don’t tell you what to think of their characters, or even whom to agree with when characters debate morality, public policy and every problem plaguing urban America today. They just want you to think, period.
Simon and Burns are both believers that the War on Drugs has now become more harmful than the drugs themselves, but their agenda transcends any one political ideology. What The Wire says, repeatedly, is that The System–government, business, law enforcement, everything that runs this country–is broken and that the guardians of The System are too committed to defending the status quo to even try fixing it. It’s not a case of corrupt or evil people choosing to ruin things for the rest of us; it’s people of all moral calibers making decisions within the established context of their own institutions (the police force, City Hall, drug corners) without regard to how they affect the world at large.
There’s more, much more. (And here’s a printer-friendly version.)