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Anya Kamenetz Headshot

Hooked on The Wire

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In case you haven't heard, The Wire is the best show on television today, maybe the apotheosis of the form.

The Wire is an urban drama, both in the euphemistic sense of young black men standing on street corners facing life and death, and in the true sense that it takes the entire city of Baltimore as its canvas. The season-long plots weave together characters in the police force, mayor's office, ports, unions, gangs, public housing, and now this season, public schools. The level of art is high, but the level of social impact is higher.

I know this only because my fiance and I were forcibly addicted to the show by a dear friend who showed up as a houseguest at our apartment Christmas week 2004 with the first season on DVD, and camped out in our living room watching episode after episode until we had overcome the initial difficulties of tight, close-to-the-vest plotting, shocking violence, Bawlmore accents, and terse gangster dialect and were deep, deep in. With the help of the Internet we caught up on every season, every episode, in a matter of weeks, one or two a night, and then waited helplessly like Bubbles jonesing in his squat until the beginning of the fourth season nigh three weeks ago.

Now, all of a sudden, everybody knows that the Wire is the best show on television. Bill Keller and the New York Times, blogger Jason Kottke, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, even Stephen King. It's hard not to feel a little proprietary, like, where were y'all when renewal hung in the balance? but any fears that the show may have jumped the shark were laid to rest in the first scenes of the new season.

In fact, I think the show's time may have finally come--because it provides the catharsis a post-Katrina America needs. I've spent a total of three months in New Orleans this year, and the resonance with this season of the show is palpable. It's all there--the unspeakably eerie image of dead bodies moldering in abandoned houses. The hopelessness of a mayoral campaign where race trumps all. The vibrations and machinations of total urban breakdown. And the faces of the kids for whom we have to keep trying.

If you, too, are hooked on the Wire, my same dear pusher-friend has started an excellentgroup blog on the subject. David Simon reads it, and so should you.