Having been sans famille (which is apparently teaghlaigh gan in Irish; thanks iGoogle) for a few weeks now, I’ve managed to catch up on a number of movies and TV that I have missed on these past couple or five years.
I’ve managed to watch:
* Iron Man 2 (entertaining, and frustrating because it had all the working parts of a good movie, except for perhaps a coherent story)
* The Brave One (a terrible Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard flick from 2007)
* Hustle and Flow (a surprisingly good Terrence Howard pimp-turned-rapper movie form ’05)
* Swingers (revisited, to see the storytelling technique Jon Favreau first developed, to be ultimately used on Iron Man 2)
* Rounders (revisited, probably my favorite poker movie)
* the first half of the last season of Friday Night Lights (amazingly one of the best TV shows of the last few years, though nothing compares to its phenomenal first season; Go Lions!)
* and the first four episodes of The Wire.
But you knew I was going there.
The Wire (HBO, 5 seasons, 2002-2008) is regularly lauded as one of, if not the best, television drama of the past, well, ever. At least of the last 10 years, which of course really means “of all time.” I never saw the original run, and never managed to find or make the time for it on DVD (er – or Blu Ray, Netflix on Demand, torrented AVI, etc. Seems like we need a word to encompass everything post-broadcast).
This is despite hearing rave reviews, from people like friend & penmonkey Chuck Wendig (@chuckwendig or Terrible Minds) my favorite TV critic, Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall or Hitfix). Apparently there’s a university course on it (Harvard, natch.) (Oops, there have been at least three, and Duke and Middlebury both did it before Harvard). So I finally fired up season 1, episode 1, “The Target.”
If You Walk Through the Garden, You Better Watch Your Back
“The Target” opens with blood streaked pavement and a body. Detective McNulty, who seems to be our hero (or at least our protagonist), sits on a stoop with a fairly helpful young black male witness, talking about the deceased: Snot Boogie. “Doesn’t seem fair,” says McNulty, about the deceased’s unfortunate nickname. “Life just be that way, I guess,” replies the witness. Snot Boogie watched the local back alley craps game every week from the sidelines. And once a week, every week, as soon as a big pot of money built up, Snot would dash in, grab the pot, and make a run for it. And they’d chase him down and beat his ass, but never more than that. So McNulty asks the obvious question — if Snot stole the money every week, why did they let him play? And the witness replies: “Got to. This America, man.”
A solid opening for what has so far been four fairly strong episodes. But it’s also been a bit of a slow burn, to say the least. Not Rubicon slow, of course, but that show is not described as the “best teevee program in existence,” (Ryan Creighton, of Untold Entertainment). So I’ve been impressed, but not blown away. There are a lot of characters, a lot of angles, and a big city to cover. Yet. I expect good things to happen. Tumblers to click. Things to fall into place. Blow up, maybe. But this has got to stand against my favorite TV shows, which include none other than:
* Mad Men
* Friday Night Lights (the first season is almost perfect)
* Breaking Bad
* The Shield (the sequence in the pilot where the Strike Team gears up to take down Two Time, and Kid Rock’s Bawidtaba is blaring, always sends chills down my spine. Let’s not even talk about the brutal, breathtaking journey to its ultimate, irrefutable ending.)
* The Sopranos (which is, to date, my personal favorite for “best teevee ever”, only marginally edging out the list above).
I’m sure I’m in the for the long haul with The Wire but I’m not a total convert yet. Now, on to episode 5…