Saturday, 4 April 2009

I don't like The Wire

There. I said it. I know everyone loves it. I know I have friends who evangelise it constantly. I know people who I respect and admire love it. But no, I don't like it at all. And not only that, but loads of people told me it was great and I should watch it, and when I did, it turned out to be a soap! What's wrong with people? How do they not get that I don't like soaps? If they'd just said 'it's a soap about police and drug dealers' then I wouldn't have had to spend about eight hours figuring it out for myself.

That's not to say it's bad. Far from it — clearly the production values are very high and I have reason to believe it's terribly realistic and generally a better portrayal of drugs gangs than viewers are used to. I get all that. But there is a reason why documentaries don't last sixty hours, and that reason is that it's mind-numbingly tedious. And I get that one of the show's aims is to display the volume of bureaucracy that the police face if they want to actually get anything done, but bureaucracy isn't quite as entertaining as The Wire seems to think it is. That's why Catch-22 is not simply a detailed account of all the various rules and regulations relating to combat pilots. That book exists, presumably: I expect it's given to combat pilots for reference purposes. It's so far failed to capture the public's imagination like Catch-22, and I put it to you that's the same reason that The Wire was never big news.

The bottom line, to me, is that The Wire is not entertaining. It's terribly worthy and gritty and all of that stuff, but it's also very, very dull. Nothing at all ever happens in it. I watched the entire first series, 13 hours of television, and I think I could safely summarise every major plot development inside one minute. Compare that to Dexter, 24, The West Wing or Murder One — loads of stuff happens in those shows and they're shorter. After 45 minutes of Dexter I find myself itching to see the next episode. After 45 minutes of The Wire I find myself struggling to pay attention to the last 15.

And part of me feels that I ought to watch it anyway. Sure, it's not entertaining, but maybe I'd like to think I'm the kind of person who can appreciate its other qualities rather than just looking for instant gratification from sitcoms. But actually, no. I'm not that guy and if being that guy means watching The Wire then I'm glad I'm not, because he's a pretentious snob. Okay, so I could watch the remaining four seasons of The Wire, or, I could watch 47 hours of documentaries and learn more things on more subjects and be entertained. There's no reasonable goal I can think of that can be best achieved by watching The Wire.

The Wire belongs in some kind of a gallery where I can feel happy that it exists while otherwise entirely ignoring it. It doesn't belong on TV. It's too boring for TV. Too relentlessly, utterly boring.


Mark Taylor said...

I think you could have pretty much just left this post at the title.

Andrew said...

I could, but given the number of people who see the title as some kind of blasphemy, I thought an explanation was polite.

Also, I've never seen anybody criticise the show for any reason at all (not that I've especially tried to track down such an opinion), so I wanted to say slightly more than 'I don't like it', just so that someone had.

Mark Taylor said...

You didn't say very much more, though. You mainly said it was boring, repeatedly, which unless you have some perverse love for being bored is basically the same thing as saying you don't like it.

It basically just rubbed my critical impulses up the wrong way.

Andrew said...

I see what you mean, but if I just write 'I think The Wire is dull because nothing happens in it' then I risk a bunch of fans turning up and tediously explaining to me how that's deliberate and how it's meant to be structured like a novel.

But it's not, it's structured like five extremely long novels in which not much of anything happens.

Jim said...

Ah, so I'm not the only person who thinks The Wire is monstrously over-rated and crushingly dull after all.

Good post.

Jessica said...

Yes. THANK YOU. I'm so tired of people not understanding why I don't like The Wire and feeling like a jerk for having that opinion. Good post. :)

Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly. Most boring and uniteresting show I have ever watched.

Kurt said...

I know The Wire isn't for everyone but no one that's seen more than the first season has posted and I've never heard anyone that has seen the entire series say they didn't like it. The first season is a little gritty with a narrow scope focusing on the drug trade which most of us can't connect to because it isn't seen in our neighborhoods but that just sets up the next 4 seasons. The city opens up to show you the dying working class, police/political structure, the school system, then how the media attention effects all of them. It seems like a little more goes wrong in the show than could in real life, I hope anyway but it's done that way to make statements throughout the series. After watching so many tv directors crank out slightly tweeked clones of top rated network shows, why wouldn't you be interested in something different? Btw, the 4th and 5th seasons are why everyone says this show is the best and they wrap up this series excellently, give it a chance.

Andrew said...

I did give it a chance. I sat through what, thirteen hour-long episodes? It utterly failed to grip me. Perhaps the reason that nobody who has seen more than the first series has said they don't like it is because nobody who didn't like it bothered to watch past the first series.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I just finished watching the first season, and eps of the 2nd season before giving up. Perhaps many started watching it later and it was better, but it seems that people that started from the beginning were also hooked right away. I just don't see how this show is ever going to interest me. For the record, I do generally prefer "serialized" like this (ie - current favs of Lost & Dexter) and am very bewildered as to what others see in it. I'm also watching The Shield right now and am halfway through season 1, and that one I AM enjoying a lot so far - things HAPPEN!

Anonymous said...

im very open minded and i love american shows, but the wire bores me, i want more "the shield" and less "eastenders"

Anonymous said...

You can not like it, but the claim that "nothing happens" is demonstrably false, and what pisses off a lot of fans I think. You're right, there aren't usually any BIG HUGE events in a single episode. Everything is sprawled out. Most of the big plot arcs stretch out over multiple seasons.

I would argue that more happens in The Wire than in any other TV show. What might make it seem like "nothing happens" is that there are usually many different stories going on at once, and you only get a little piece of each one in a single episode. Over time, all the pieces add up. The show just requires patience. Some people have it, some don't.

Andrew said...


I watched AN ENTIRE FUCKING SERIES. I didn't enjoy it. I'm not watching four more. That's not giving it a chance -- that's watching the entirety of a show I don't like. Only a moron would do that.

Anonymous said...

It is refreshing to see others who don't like this show. I have spent a great deal of time in newsrooms and police stations and I find the dialogue and characters contrived. It sounds to me like a bunch of dorky white guys trying to sound tough and "black." The cinematography is gritty and realistic and the plotting is good, masking the fact that the rest of it is contrived and boring. It reminds ,e a bit of David Kelley who I also don't "get" -- too much unbelievable quirkiness too. Hope Treme is better.

Anonymous said...

To be completely honest, this utterly ridiculous. I can understand some people liking the wire less than others, absolutely, but to say nothing happens seems kinda silly. I love Dexter as well, and Dexter isn't really any more fast paced than the wire. I'd say the first 3-4 episodes of the wire, while youre still getting familiar with the characters, can be tedious. but the reason the wire, like dexter, is so good is because you get wrapped up into the characters and their stories.

When is it that Dexter is most exciting? Is it when he's killing people? Or is it when the suspense of him getting caught builds up and builds up to a point where you need to watch the next episode. Where Doakes gets closer and closer to catching him, or Rita asks more and more questions? those are the exciting moments, and they are exciting because you care about what happens to Dexter. You care because the show is good.

The wire certainly isn't a bunch of gun fights every episode, but besides the first few episodes where the characters are introduced, something significant happens to all of them every episode. Their stories get built up more and more and it is very exciting and very action packed and so much happens because you care about the characters. you care about the characters because the show is good. so if you don't care about the characters, okay that's fine, but to say "the show is good but its boring" is wrong and contradictory. if the characters bore you in a character based story, you certainly don't think its good. so if you really somehow watched it and didn't like it, be man enough to say you don't think it's good or you don't think it's well made because the characters don't do it for you. don't hide behind the made up excuse that it is boring.

Anonymous said...

just to emphasize, have you even read catch-22? what exactly happens in catch-22? he runs missions then they up the missions then he runs some more then they up the missions then he runs some more then he goes to rome then he runs away. the reason catch-22 is so goddamn good is because you care so much about Yossarian. Catch-22 is made the same exact way as the wire. it is strictly character driven in order to expose the world the characters live in. So what youre saying is you somehow found a way to not connect or like any of the characters in the wire. sweet.

Andrew said...

I have read Catch-22. I liked that it satirised bureaucracy by exaggerating it to absurd levels and applying it in places it doesn't belong. The Wire just presented it and said 'hey, look at this bureaucracy'. I didn't like that so much.

It's true that I didn't connect to most of the characters. Most of them were morons or bastards or both, and while I'm sure that was deliberately done to up the realism, I found I didn't like them and I lost interest. I kept watching, but it demanded more attention than I could give it, so when something I cared about did eventually happen I expect I missed it.

The thing I think Dexter did best was to take an emotion that most people have -- fear of everyone finding out your secrets -- and making it very real and scary. The universal emotion I got from The Wire was being pissed off at bureaucracy and morons in government. I can get that from the news, and I care what happens in that because it's real.

I'm not going to say it's not good because obviously it is. But I can't expect anything with genuine merit to appeal to everyone, so I can't expect to like everything I recognise as good. And yet people genuinely argue with me when I say I didn't enjoy it. What the fuck? Do they think they'll convince me I did?

Anonymous said...

the reason you dont like the wire is because you are an idiot. its that simple. for anyone to comment on the series as a whole without having seen it is ridiculous. if youre not hooked by the first 13 episodes it means that you are not intelligent enough to enjoy it. in fact i think its a good thing. leave it to the folks with brains, go and watch your friday night lights and csi reruns

Andrew said...


cheese_boy said...

I've started watching The Wire, again. I say again because I tried twice already; everybody around me tells me that I would like it, that I should like it; I don't.

My intelligence and ability to "get it" are questioned, almost on a daily bases. I hate it.

Cynthia said...

I'm on Season 2. Sometimes the dialogue makes me feel like I'm watching an after school special, or "Our Town: the Ghetto Edition". Also, maybe I don't know enough about stevedores, but the story lines in Season 2 just aren't believable. My husband is an investigator, and has just given up on it. He feels the same way.

Gilaine said...

Thanks Andrew, it needed saying.
I struggled through the 1st episode after much haranguing from most of the people I know. I found it bland and would agree with the earlier post saying the dialogue was contrived. It had been pitched to me as something totally ground-breaking but I was really disappointed to discover it was just another DA drama. I honestly thought it would try to portray the dealers' and gangsters' humanity, but it sought to stereotype them in the same old lazy patronising ways.
I know it's a different country, but I know a few guys who grew up in the gangs of Manchester. They just don't relate to each other in that almost formal way the wire does it. I live in London now and the number of white, middle class Londoners who purport to know about drug dealing gangs because they've watched the Wire is hilarious!
Another part I found unrealistic is the level of attention they get from authorities when just going about their lives. So have the authorities in the US (same applies to UK) suddenly starting giving a fig about black-on-black crime now? Because I know the Gooch boys over here get left to it until they start flaunting it out in predominantly white communities.
I don't understand the fanatical, almost religious, devotion that Wire fans have. I've seen real tears shed over criticisms, and had a screaming row with my boyfriend when I had the temerity to suggest that it was somewhat unrealistic. The attitude of the anonymous poster here sums it up entirely. There must be something wrong with you if you don't like the Wire, surely?
As I've hopefully demonstrated, I have legitimate criticisms, largely different from yours, though I agree on the tedium, and I'm a very sharp cookie; certainly sharper than one who omits apostrophes for fear of incorrect usage.
(That was a cheap shot, sorry, I just couldn't resist!)

Bells said...

i'm sitting through season 3 with my husband, trying to understand why we're bothering. We watch a lot of great tv, stuff that is considered well written and valuable, and every episode of this bores to me to tears. I like slow moving scripts. I like stuff that takes a while to build. But I can't even tell you what goes on in the wire half the time. So little to grab onto it. Yawn. One big fucking yawn. Even with the gorgeous McNulty, who is really an arsehole.

Bells said...

i should add, I see the inate value of this show as it compares to dross like NCIS etc, but its not enough to save it for me.

Anonymous said...

I completely feel what you say in your initial post. I sat through the full hour of the first episode and it dragged on like I couldn't believe. I willed myself to like it, WILLED, but I just could not see the appeal at the end of it. I'm going to try watching a few more episodes, but my hopes are not high.

After people giving rave reviews about the show and prostrating themselves in a worship pose before it, I expected it to actually be gripping, but I think you're entirely accurate - it is quite mundane, slow and the characters themselves are neither fascinating nor endearing.

Anonymous said...

just typed "am i the only one who didn't like the wire" into Google!

I didn't like it either!

Doesn't compare to The Sopranos or the even better Madmen.

Just didn't believe it, nothing new, stereotypical acting, characters and sets.
Yawn. Just glad I didn't manage/waste a whole series.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh, I'm a tough black female cop holding my own in a man's world .... but I'm also a sweet lesbian trying going to night school to improve myself!

Ohhhh, I'm a stereotypical headcracking Irish cop .... but I'm also delightfully good at puzzles!

And so on. The 'characterization' of this series consists of taking stock characters and giving each exactly one unexpected twist, thereby making them 'complex'. It is enjoyed by people who also like CSI, or are so brainwashed by hype that they've already decide they love it before the first episode.

I have to post anonymously because my friends would disown me if they knew what I thought -- there is a religious response from the converted...


Andrew said...

I can happily enjoy CSI. It's fun if you don't take it too seriously.

The Wire has very little appeal if you don't take it far, far too seriously.

Eurasian Sensation said...

Of course you don't HAVE to like The Wire. And no one should really hate you for disliking it.

Indeed, most TV viewers in the English-speaking world have either never seen The Wire, or watch it for a short time, completely don't get it, declare it to be boring, and then get back to watching Two and a Half Men or whatever.

Here's a parallel for you - I don't have much taste for wine. When connoisseurs rave rapturously about the amazing qualities of some rare and expensive vintage, I have no idea what they are talking about, because it all tastes the same to me. I could say the same about opera, which personally strikes me as unbearably tedious.

Perhaps The Wire is like that wine, or opera. It's not for everybody, but the people who like it do know what they are talking about. And it is popular with people who generally have good taste, if it were possible to measure such a thing. If you are a person who purports to have good taste and you still don't like The Wire, then perhaps it's not that there's something wrong with the Wire. Maybe it's you.

So it's not that I think you deserve a flogging for heresy. It's just that... well, I can't help feeling sorry for you, because you'll never experience what I've experienced through The Wire, which touched my soul in ways that no other TV program could come close to doing. And yes, I realise that makes me sound like a sanctimonious prat. But did I mention it is the greatest show ever?

Dan said...

Dude, I work in TV, and I feel ya. I'm a big fan of serialized, high-concept shows (when they're done well), but The Wire misses the mark completely (IMO).

I'm on Season 2 now, just because I've got nothing else to watch at the moment. Like you, I get a lot of people telling me to 'give it a chance', but if you've seen an entire season of a show and still aren't hooked, you've done your bit. To go further, I think Treme is pretty boring too. It all just feels so contrived. Meh, to each...

William said...

Thank you for this blog post. It's very satisfying to see the reasoned arguments of the non-converted vs the ridiculousness of the frenzied Wirettes.

"If you are a person who purports to have good taste and you still don't like The Wire, then perhaps it's not that there's something wrong with the Wire. Maybe it's you."

Please. Deliberately trying to antagonise someone by telling them they have no taste, added to your earlier comment that we go back to watching "Two and a half men" shows your opinion up for what it is.

Ewan said...

Couldn't agree more - watched the first season was bored and frustrated throughout.
Most over rated show in Television history

Ewan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tbirdy said...

I'm on Season 5, because it's free on The Audience Network. I think the show is very good and I've enjoyed many of the characters. That being said, do I really like the show? Not really. I think I watch it because think I should. It has some fine attributes, but I don't look forward to the next episode as I did with The Sopranos, or I do with Breaking Bad. It is well-made, and I suppose fairly true to life, but maybe watching documentaries would serve the purpose better than watching something fictional that's good for me.

pablo666 said...

Agree totally. After finishing The Sopranos I wanted to watch something that was rated as highly. If you google 'Whats the best TV show ever', The Wire pretty much comes top on every site. So I went with it and watched the first season. All I can say is I wasted a good few hours of my life. Nothing exciting happens, characters are boring and dull and I would even go as far to say its bad acting. So I have since watched Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead and both piss all over The Wire!!

Barbara said...

I am getting very tired of the "If you don't like The Wire then you must be an idiot" argument. Is this how people are measuring intelligence now? Oh yeah, the first thing I do when trying to figure out if I'm dealing with an intelligent entity is to sit it down in front of The Wire and then ask it to rate the show out of ten. Anything less than 5 out of ten means I can eat it.

Myself and my husband are halfway through season four. We will watch all of them eventually. It's taking a while because it is, IMO, quite dull in spots. Yes, it's realistic. Yes, there's good character development. But it is just not grabbing me as most other HBO shows have in the past. I agree with the original poster who says that perhaps a few different documentaries would have dealt with the in depth subject matter better than a fictional show.

I too was pretty much bullied into watching it by friends and family. My life would not be complete it seems without watching a television show. Well I've watched it, and while I find it mildly enjoyable, I feel I could have certainly lived my life without it.

Obviously, this makes me an idiot. I clearly don't enjoy it more because I don't understand it. It couldn't just be that it's not my cup of tea. Before the pot shots start flying and people tell me to go watch Two and a Half Men etc. I'll give you my personal list of shows I feel are better than The Wire.
In no particular order:
The Sopranos
Battlestar Gallactica
Game of Thrones

Remember, it's just my opinion, offered in the spirit of free and open debate. I haven't threatened your family or stolen your shoes. Try to keep calm.

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant, so glad I am not the only one to think it is completely overrated!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this show was suggested to me because I liked breaking bad, and tbh, I also found it unspeakably dull. I'm up to season 3 now, its been a long slow haul, watching it is like work. Funny thing was, season 1 I thought it was ok but massively overrated, but season 2 was horrid, and kind of ruined it for me. Omar is cool though. For the record, anyone who thinks i'm an idiot cos i didnt like it, I basically spen 4 years curing cancer at a university lab after 4 years earning a degree- I'm no dope; liking this show is not an intelligence test. Get over it.

Angeline Quick. said...

My husband (and I thought the rest of the known universe) loves this show. He too said that I didn't give it enough of a chance even though I watched many episodes from more than one season. I thought it was cheesy, overdone, racist and atrociously acted though apparently I am wrong and it is the exact opposite of all of those things. Shows what I know. Funny that years after you wrote this post, people will still be finding because they typed "Am I the only one who doesn't like The Wire" into Google.

Angeline Quick. said...

I feel sorry for anyone who hates or feels sorry for someone because they don't like a TV show. Though it's nice that you have found something that makes you feel cool and/or gives your life meaning. RIP The Wire.

Sport Scientist said...

The wire is hideously dull. I lasted six episodes, and what I often hear is "you didn't give it long enough!" The irony here is that a show cannot really reveal anything more of itself after six episodes, that is, the style of the show, the characters, the tone etc. will all be very clear within the first six episodes. I need to feel intrigued by some means to continue, whether it is the unfolding of a plot or simply the interesting characters. The wire fails on both accounts. Just more proof that style does not win over substance.

Will said...

It's extremely comforting to find out that there are many other people who think The Wire is boring as shit. If I want realism, I'll watch a documentary. If I want entertainment, I could still watch a documentary and likely find it more satisfying than The Wire.

Not a Fan Either! said...

Currently I am watching season 1 of The Wire with my spouse, who has already watched the entire series.He raved about it and is pretty much insisting that I watch it I don't watch much TV and consider myself a bit of a TV "snob." But - I'm just not that into The Wire. I don't understand the slang! I feel like I should be watching it with subtitles! Yes there are interesting scenes (when D teaches the others about chess) but I'm just not that into cop shows to begin with. I wish I could talk my spouse into getting back to watching Mad Men but I fear he's got The Wire Fever and wants me to watch all five seasons. :/

napadavid said...

I couldn't agree more with the majority of people here... I googled the same thing am I the only one who thinks the Wire is a boring piece of crap... for the life of me I can't figure out what everyone is raving about... it's so f-in dull!!!

Anonymous said...

Just want to post that I feel the same way. After having many people recommend the show to me I decided to sit down with the wife and give it a chance. Over a couple of weeks we managed to get through the first season and halfway through the second. Then we just kind of forgot about it and never found the will to start it up again. It's not really terrible, its just not very good. If I wanted to watch mediocre TV, I could just surf to a random channel.

Anonymous said...

Me too I don't like The wire.
I only watched season 1 and I don't understand why so many people say It's the best show ever made.
It's frustrating me because I have the feeling to miss something.
I love The Sopranos, Rome, The Shield, Breaking bad, Game of thrones, Deadwood, Boardwalk empire, But The wire is a mystery to me.

lily cohen said...

thank god i found this. i didnt care if i was the only one who hated it, but this is lovely. what kills me is the comments like, "but you just didnt give it a try" haha how many times do i have to eat a food to know i dont like it? art and food are subjective, and i dont have to like it. i think it sucks. and people who love the wire think if they talk long enough you will suddenly love it as much as they do.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the Pilot after hearing it's the best show in the history of the universe. It was boring and slow. I won't waste my time with the rest of the first season, let alone the entire series.

Anonymous said...


I just started watching The Wire on discs from Netflix (they don’t stream it). My boyfriend and I like to watch good shows either streaming or on disc—we don’t have cable. We usually watch one or two shows at a time in their entirety, or at least a full season if the show is still airing. This way we get the full continuity of the storyline. I’m telling you all this because I want you to know I am enthusiastic about high quality television, and am not an idiot just because I don’t like The Wire.

We decided to watch this show because of all the hype and rave reviews. I was excited and watched the first season with an open mind. By the end of the first season, I had my doubts. It seemed ok, but the best show ever made? Having watched many of the shows already mentioned—Rome, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Deadwood, and especially The Shield!—I just didn’t get what the hype was about. Now we are in the middle of the second season. My boyfriend seems to like it, but I am really sick of it. It’s everything that has been said before…cheesy dialogue, stereotypical characters, a plodding soap-like tempo, and boring. (Yes, “boring” is a legitimate criticism of a tv show!)

My major criticism of the show is the lack of interesting characters. I think by the second season I should see some compelling human traits and relationships (think Vic Mackey and Walter White). Instead, the male characters are mostly ignorant jerks of one form or another. The female characters all seem to be one-dimensional and unremarkable, existing only as extensions of the males. Other shows mentioned have female characters that are as complex and interesting as the males (think Carm Soprano and Atia of the Julii).

The women of The Wire are either harpies or sex objects. Maybe the writers thought they were throwing female viewers a bone by adding a straight-talking lesbian to the cast, but in my mind she is really just another male character repeated over and over in the show, fully equipped with the nagging wife at home. The one heterosexual female cop doesn’t really want to be there. Is the message that women aren’t really as capable or don’t have the same level of dedication as men? The lack of any interesting characters is the reason I will not be watching past the second season, which I am actually ok with. (I’m not above wanting to find out how the second season ends…)

The few positive comments about The Wire here complain that the criticisms stated are not worthy or valid. But I don’t hear any real positive critique of the show, either. What is actually so good or great about it? “It changed my life!” is not a substantial comment on the quality of the show. Neither is “You just don’t get it!” Wow…come on, tell me something concrete that makes this show better than The Shield or Breaking Bad. A good show has to have compelling characters (both male and female), interesting relationships, and at least a few surprising revelations or unexpected plot twists.

BTW, if you are interested, I just found a couple of good BBC shows—The Fall and Hit & Miss—both streaming on Netflix. They may not be “gritty realism,” but if I’m going to be a couch potato, I at least want to be entertained.

Simon said...

I dutifully watched the whole first series and found it to be cliched, long winded and populated with unrealistic characters. It is this purported 'realism', so vaunted by the show's admirers, that I find most troubling. The drug world portrayed in The Wire completely lacks the feral, edgy quality of the real life criminal fraternity that can be encountered in documentaries or decent fiction. The Wire's criminal crew seemed to me to have escaped from some obscure episode of Starsky and Hutch - and carried with them that bland 'made for tv' vibe. Needless to say further series will remain terra icognita for me....

Steve Myers said...

Well, thank Cheezus nobody here was working at HBO from 2001-2008. Yikes.

The Wire has kind of taken on a life of its own in the annals of television, so there’s no point denigrating people who don’t like it except to note their irrelevance. I guess I do have a problem with people who think it isn’t “realistic”. That’s just objectively stupid. The show was written by a Baltimore journalist who covered crime for years and a former Baltimore police officer. The first season was devoted entirely to a case similar to one the two worked on back in the nineties. The cast is populated by people from the area, including former (and current) politicians and criminals. It avoids gritty cop show clich├ęs for – to me – more interesting truths (e.g., how often does a cop on this show fire his gun?) If you believe it isn’t realistic, that says more about your misapprehension of reality than anything.

And I think that’s the problem. Most of the TV shows listed in comments here as an example of something better than The Wire are in fact good, but nowhere near as original or well-done. They focus on a small group of characters, there are usually one or two protagonists throughout the show, and cliffhangers abound. The acting can be good, the characters can be good, the cinematography can be good, but there’s nothing innovative going on here.

Breaking Bad, Dexter, the Sopranos, whatever, generally fit this description. Deadwood kind of charted more ambitious territory, and gave you an actual feel for the setting, but the crappy non-ending really took away from it. As for the three others mentioned above…. Those stories are just about the mechanics of storytelling. They could have been set anywhere, really. Breaking Bad could have been set in any major American southwest city, you learn nothing about Albuquerque or its role in the North American meth trade. Dexter could have been set in California. The Sopranos could have been set just about anywhere in the eastern US (people just like to pick on New Jersey).

Deadwood could only have been set in Deadwood, and The Wire could only have been set in Baltimore. Those two shows avoided the tendency to create another serial killer/mob/family drama (what BB was at heart) program set in some place that served mainly for beautiful/gritty establishment shots. That gave them room to create more characters, more detail, more social commentary, more stories, more life. Shows like this just operate on a different plane from protagonist & cliffhanger driven projects, even if many of the latter are really good (and all the shows I’ve mentioned here are really, really good).

So there’s nothing wrong with disliking The Wire, but yeah, like most fans I would not want to experience television the way detractors do. I agree that “pity” is a strong way to put it; I reserve pity for the clueless girl at my college who confessed that, frankly, she just had trouble telling all the black people apart from each other.

Mateus said...

Hahaha, what an absolute dick you are...

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mateus, stop talking to yourself.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone.
I'm the one who left a comment on 4 January 2013 10:28.
Excuse me if i made mistakes because english is not my language.
Few months after that comment, I decided to watch the rest of the show and it was pretty good, specially season 3 and 4, but season 4 is really the best season.
So I changed my mind about The wire: It's a good show that worths to be seen but I don't think it's the best show ever (The Sopranos is the number one for me)
Then, when I finished to watch the entire show, I watched season 1 again and It was almost like the first time I saw it: so boring, this season stinks.

Anonymous said...

People worship this show these days, as though it represents some pinnacle of entertainment. It's a great show and all, I really, really enjoyed it, but the fact that people hold it up as an incredible portrayal of modern life worries me. People understand that it sensationalizes what it shows right? If you want a realistic portrayal try actually studying some decrepit slums. At the very least study statistics and watch some documentaries. Better yet, go make a documentary. Using a fictional TV show (even one with non-fiction roots) to suggest policy reform or describe the pervasiveness of poverty is just stupid. It's a show, people, a television show. Don't forget that. And let's not lose ourselves in the writing. Sure, some of it is great, but some of it is also cheesy and hamfisted. Same goes for the cinematography and characters. It's a good show, but don't force it to be more than that.

CT said...

Just ran across this post. I've been suffering through The Wire recently after having heard it is "THE BEST TELEVISION SHOW EVER!" I've gotten through the first two seasons and just started the third. I don't think I can continue. This show is not made for a guy with my tastes. I applaud its grittiness and real world approach. They've done a good job giving the characters depth and fitting them in this world. I just would rather not watch it. I prefer escapism to this sort of show.

And I think I can appreciate something for what it is, believe that it is high quality, but still come to the conclusion it's not for me.

Thanks for the post you wrote five years ago. It's good to know that I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

It really does feel like 40min finished scripts stretched to 60mins.
They don't have to deliver information so slowly.

It feels like scripts that haven't been edited to get to the action sooner. Action being character advancement and development - not necessarily shoot outs or whatever.

I found it very dull and I've given a chance to season 3 and tried watching it a number of times.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the main post, and with many of these comments. I find The Wire to be absolutely insufferable on pretty much every level. My basic problems with the show:

- The themes are insanely redundant. The show pounds the viewer over the head with the same didactic messages over and over ad nauseum. It's like sitting through a really generic class on local governmental politics.

- The pacing. The show teems with the kind of self-important writing that is meant to signal "quality", but is really just a front for a lack of sufficient material to fill up 60 minutes.

- The characters. Not only does the show fail to imbue any of them with enough traits to make them likable, but it's actually presumptuous enough to think that the viewer automatically cares about all these characters from the get-go. Doesn't work that way. I don't connect to or understand these characters - and because of how the show fails to develop them, I really don't want to.

- Exactly what about this show is meant to be entertaining? Is it the knowledge that we're being made aware of the suffering of other people? If so, I can just as easily view a news report or a documentary (as the main post points out). Is it the idea that enjoyment can be derived even from watching the plight of lower-class citizens? If so, doesn't the show border on sadism? Is it the satisfaction that, by putting thought into the subtleties of the series, we can come away with the knowledge that... we've understood the very points that the writers have foisted on us for the sole intention of making us aware of them, regardless of the fact that there's no actual entertainment to be derived from the series beyond that? If so, is there any possible way to view this series as entertainment without being considered completely pretentious?

- The fans. This show has the most annoying fandom of any series I've ever seen, bar none. Say you don't like this show, and the fans turn into rabid, immature little children who resort to the kind of adolescent immaturity that you'd never expect to hear from people who profess to being serious admirers of a supposedly brilliant show. Apparently, the fans think that by insulting your intelligence or your taste in television shows, they've succeeded in justifying their existence, or some similar garbage. That's all nonsense. If the fans truly believed in their pwecious wittle show's excellence, they wouldn't resort to the half-assed mockery that I keep seeing everywhere. But hey. I don't like The Wire, so I guess I must not be able to see the merit in insulting others while offering no real substantial proof to back up your opinion. /sarcasm

Let the elitist fans scream their throats raw over my little post if they think it'll make their lives any more bearable. Whatever floats 'em.

olafolaf said...

I actually liked the first season. After that it's just totally downhill. Aspects of the show are captivating but the parts just don't fit together. It's like watching several movies at the same time, minimum two of them very very tedious.
The main fallacy of this show past it's first season? There is no THEME connecting it all (capital ALL, otherwise? NO story).

Bottomline I wish someone would make a fan edit with lots of stuff just cut out. It would be a great show. Or several great shows.

Wade said...

Thank you. I was hoping there was a support group for people who found The Wire boring, cliched, badly written, and horribly acted. I love most of the series that have gotten great critical acclaim--Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones especially--and felt like the rug got pulled out from under me when I first saw The Wire, expecting to go nuts over it like everybody else, and realized I simply hated it. I made it a season and a half the first time, then tried again recently and made it two and a half seasons. That's it for me. This show is not just overrated but is in fact terrible.

NewYorkChick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NewYorkChick said...

Word. All the posters agreeing with my own instinct just prove to me that I'm not missing anything here. I've only watched the first four episodes of The Wire, but I personally feel I gave it more than a fair shot. If a show can't do a single thing to hook me in FOUR HOURS, I'd be silly to watch any more. The fact that so many people feel exactly the way I do about The Wire suggests strongly to me that watching more would be a waste of my time.

I loved Breaking Bad, Dexter (until it jumped the shark), The Sopranos, and many of the other high-quality series mentioned here. And I'm certainly not stupid; I'm working on my second graduate degree at an Ivy League university.

The Wire just bored me. I won't say it's boring, since clearly not everyone thinks so, but it bored ME, and that's OK.

Someone brought up the comparison to opera earlier. I'm a huge fan of opera, and go to between five and eight per season -- I have done so for the past 20+ years. I would never tell anyone they were stupid for not liking opera, so it really rubs me the wrong way when someone tells me I'm an idiot for not liking The Wire.

ETA: I think what really bugs some Wire fans about posts like these (i.e., otherwise clearly intelligent and culturally literate people saying they don't like The Wire) is that it robs them of some of their feeling of superiority that they get from being Wire fans. Somehow some people seem to believe that watching The Wire and enjoying it means they are somehow above all the rest of us. Well, you're not -- just like the fact that I enjoy opera doesn't make me any smarter than someone who watches CSI, NCIS, Two and a Half Men or any of the other shows that have been mocked here. What entertains someone simply is not a measure of intelligence. But believing it is certainly says something about your character.

Dobie said...

Thank you!!! Man im glad someone has the ba!!s to say it. (I know this is an old post but its new to me.) I hate The Wire, i watched half of season 1 and half of season 4 and boy was it painful. I kept wanting it to get better due to the high ratings yet it never did (for me). I guess the ratings is one of those phenomenons that has heppened to a few other shows in the past. I fell asleep a lot during episodes too. Like the OP wrote "nothing happens" the characters are lame & theres no story.

Troy Duncan said...

The wire was horrible and I only say this because of how highly it was recommended and how horrible it actually was I had somebody tell me it was better than the Sopranos that's my favorite show and they were horribly mistaken the wire is boring nothing happens the acting is decent and the main character is just hard to listen to

Anonymous said...

Thank GOD I'm not the only one!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Sweet. Lord. Is it just me, or is reading the comments of people slamming you for NOT liking The Wire...JUST as productive and interesting as WATCHING The Wire? I am still stumped by the person saying that Catch 22 and The Wire are similar - wha?! Satire is lost on the masses. Yes, The Wire is well-produced. Yes, it's colorful and gritty and has a large cast. Yes, the people cast do an exceptional acting job with what they are given to work with - that's a lot of talent there, faithfully performing and portraying characters. But...I can't stand it, either. I find myself wondering if the show's popularity has something to do with "reality" TV and the increasing lack of discernment with which we tend to accept "entertainment" that any broadcast entity shovels our direction.

Your critics remind me of way-back, when I had audacity to boldly state that I cannot stand Tom Cruise (this was just about when Top Gun came out), and later on when I again got audacious and said that I felt that Jerry Maguire was a horrible waste of film, one of only a handful that I actually could NOT watch more than halfway through...even if he hadn't been played by Tom Cruise, I thought the character was an ugly narcissistic person who I would never want to meet, and I didn't care whether or not he was somehow redeemed by the dishrag of a female character who was unlucky enough to have taken up with him. PHILISTINE! Suddenly, I was not allowed to have my own opinion - people couldn't resist putting me down, attacking my intellect, or personally maligning me for qualities I possess that have no bearing on my personal dislike of Cruise or Jerry Maguire. And this was IN PERSON, pre-internet. Overreact much, people? How is it that shallow created-for-profit entertainment products have become our sacred cows, worth threatening and attempting to do harm to our fellow man if he/she dares to have a dissenting opinion? Crazy shit, there.

Anonymous said...

The sopranos and deadwood are much better than the wire

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness there are others like me who find this horribly overrated. I watched it about five years ago and made it through the first season and thought it was ok but didn't feel the urge to keep watching ASAP. A year later I had major surgery and a lot of free time so decided to give season two a go. Lasted a few episodes before I stopped. Now I recently tried re starting from the beginning because of how everyone raves at how amazing it is and I barely made it through season one and I think that's it for me. I just can't get into it for pretty much the same reason the original article states.

Anonymous said...

I'm probably one of the few people who didn't really like the show but still watched the entire thing (I will often do this unless I think a series is completely shitty).

I would give the Wire 5-6/10, and no more than that.

As somebody said before - it feels too much like a 5-season documentary film.

First of all, I just don't see where the supposedly multi-dimensional characters are. Fans of the Wire will usually talk about how "it portrays cops as not all that good and criminals as not all that bad" or something to that effect.

Basically on the cop-side you can only see certain foibles - cutting corners on the job, insubordination, drinking and whoring. This is frankly too little in this day and age to really count for anything approaching a grey zone.

There are only a couple of instances when a character does something truely ulterior, like Prez beating up a kid, or Hauk and Carver taking some drug money on the low-down. But later Prez reedems himself as a super-caring teacher, and Hauk and Carver never descend down the dirty cop path further.

McNaulty IMO could not be more stereotypical a movie-cop even if they tried - Irish, drinking, divorced, womanizer, but with his heart in the right place and the balls to go with it.

Bunk - a stereotypical Cool Black Cop (who smokes cigars, because of course he does!)

Lester Freamon - unambiguously good throughout the show (again - I'm not counting examples of going against or around orders from the brass for the greater good, since that doesn't constitute a transgression in most people's eyes - who ever likes institutions?)

Kima - I don't really why they deciced to write her as a lesbian, since it doesn't add or detract anything from anything (she has the same dull marital issues as the rest of them, just with another woman and an adopted kid).

On the gangster-side I would say it's a little better re: character-depth, but this only goes for Omar and the Barksdale's people (Stringer more than Avon). Later on when Stansfield group appears, they're pretty much just lifeless killing-machines (except that one ghetto kid they take on board).

Maybe simply because there are so many characters in the show they could not manage to give them more extensive stories, but it is what it is.

All in all, the show failed to make me care about who gets caught/killed, who gets demoted/promoted, and whether the cases brake or not.

One other technical thing I would mention is the horrible sound editing. I am not a native speaker yet usually I don't need subtitles for movies and shows, but with The Wire they were just indispensable to me (normally I would still have to Google some police abbreviations and Ebonics, but with a better quality of sound I would at least be able to hear clearly a word or phrase I don't know the meaning of).

I also agree that The Wire fans tend to be hard tu suffer. Now, I actually do feel that liking disliking certain cultural products is an indicator ("an", not "the") of intellectual level, but it's more in terms of "leagues" than specific works - there very well could be a difference between somebody who loves Dancing with the Stars or some shit like that, and somebody who likes, say, Sopranos. But differences between a Soprano-fan and [a sophisticated show of you choice here]-fan will be probably slight.