Finished watching the last episode of HBO's "The Wire" series earlier this week. The series was quality, start to finish. Smarter than any other television I've seen, and smarter than most films, art house or not. And besides that, dramatic and compelling - in the sort of way that you're rooting for everyone, despite them often times going against each other. That is to say, the characters are human, and continually remind you of that, and so they pull you into their lives, their worlds. There is no bad guy — I take that back, there are a few, but they're human too - damaged by life and their own selves.
The series' creators, David Simon and Ed Burns are writers. It shows. But what also surprises me is the effortless style of the camera. It's verité at its best - you don't notice the camera like you do in most shows that are either stylized (ie. adding MSG to the drama by manipulating the presentation) or are trying to seem real by being handheld and gritty (just more MSG). The show just has a determination to follow the story (and it's a big, 60 episode, 5 season story), and everything, the camera included, is subservient to that. Which is how it should be.
That is why HBO dramas such as "The Wire" and "John Adams" are so potent - they dispense with spectacle and put story in charge. And because they're serial dramas where the story doesn't reset every week but constantly develops, they work at the same level of complexity as a novel. When you finish a season of "The Wire" you look back over a distance you just can't get from a two hour movie.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate the series than to clue a few others in on this vastly under-celebrated show with some of my favorite moments: