Right Down Through The Wire, Even Through The Fire

“Many a tear have to fall, but it’s all in the game.” – Tommy Edwards, 1958

Anyone want to discuss The Wire? If you haven’t seen it, this post contains a few spoilers but you’d probably have to read between the lines to get them, as opposed to “Can’t believe ___ got shot in the end.”

For an entertainer living in LA and as a political junkie, I’m quite behind the times on this one.  The thing is that I have sort of a policy against watching non-comedies on television.  I grew up on sitcoms so that’s what I know.  It’s impressive/embarrassing how many episodes of comedic TV I’ve watched – and how many times I’ve seen these episodes.

I’ve answered one of my podcast questions in a previous post: What could you give up most easily – books, TV, music, or movies?

It’s TV. Even though it’s better than it’s ever been (along with advertising, as opposed to music and movies, which continue their steady decline), it remains the medium with which I could most expeditiously dispense.

  • Dramas especially are just such a time commitment. Furthermore, my OCD ways force me to watch a show in its entirety and in chronological order.  Plus, I’m easy to amuse; hard to impress.  So, I could fall in love with a sitcom within four or five episodes.  Doesn’t work that way with me for drama/action… I’ve watched about ten episodes of Mad Men.  I love period pieces.  I worked in advertising.  And I just won’t get past the fact that I feel this is a chick show.  Can’t get into it.
  • Perhaps I love complex shows because I’m willing to work… LOST and The West Wing were thinkers.  So, it’s a paradox.  I am down to dive in but I need to find the time to do so.  The cool thing about TV-seasons-on-DVD is that it feels like they’ve converted play to work.  “What’d you do last night?”  “I stayed in and watched the last five episodes of The Wire.”   “Nice.  You got a lot done.”
  • You can’t help the way you’re… wired.  TV is character-based; movies are event-based.  I think in terms of events.  They happen and then they’re done.  As such, I have two screenplay ideas I want to develop.  While I have TV ideas, I can’t fathom thinking of myriad different situations (the “sit” of “sitcoms”) in which to place the characters.  As difficult as it is, I can imagine writing a book, making a movie, and producing a song.  How one conceives of and actually creates a TV show blows my mind.

As such, I’ve only ever seen The West Wing, LOST, and now, The Wire.  I watched all of TWW on DVD.  LOST, I did the first two seasons on DVD, the third on iTunes, and then caught up with it in Season 4 and watched it live with its dwindling but committed audience thru the bitter(sweet) end of 6.

So… The Wire.  At the urging of my brothers and my friend, Raman Sehgal, I watched the first two seasons on DVD… and in fact, I had seen the first season two years ago but never got around to the second.  I started over.  Time Warner Cable finally got HBO GO, so I cashed the rest of the series online.  HBO GO is the most amazing invention ever and – not to jinx it – I can’t believe it’s free with an HBO subscription.  They have a ton of HBO shows all ready to stream online.  Incredible.  I’ll always prefer the “lean-back” experience of TV on a big screen vs. the “lean-forward” of a laptop but the show is so gripping that I just had to bust the whole thing out as efficiently as possible. And I kept it so much on the down-low that I thought I myself was committing a crime. I didn’t want to tell people I was watching it lest somebody give away the ending.

Is The Wire the greatest TV show ever?  It’s definitely up there.  I can see how people make that claim.  I’ve made a lot of fuss over the differences between Best and Favorite, even going as far as attempting to define greatness.  In short, Best refers to an objective, step-back-and-try-to-evaluate-without-passion POV, whereas Favorite feels more personal and dependent upon one’s tastes.  As such, since I’m so into politics, it’s difficult for me to place any show above The West Wing.  Aaron Sorkin is a genius.  It’s also hard to top LOST in terms of the emotions it made you feel.  So, it may be a three-way tie for Favorite.

For Best… It’s definitely a better show than LOST.  And I figured out why; it occurred to me once I came to this realization:  The Wire had no flashbacks.  That’s amazing.  It told the story in a purely linear way.  How in the world do you evince character development like that?  By amazingly compelling story lines and depicting those moments that would truly convey what the characters were thinking and feeling.  It employed very few devices at all.  LOST was full of emo music, slow motion montages, and all that jazz.  Wire, on the other hand, felt real and, to use the word everyone did to describe it, gritty.

Favorite Season:

It’s hard to say, but right now I’m thinking I’d go… 5, 3, 1, 4, 2. But I loved 2, too.

Favorite Characters:

  • Omar – An unoriginal top pick, I realize, but the man is the Joker.
  • Cutty – I usually like to watch characters descend into darkness but he was one of the few that rose; the empathy he engendered was unmatched given how little screen time he got, relatively speaking.
  • McNulty – The main character was unbelievably likable, despite (or because of) all his flaws.
  • D’Angelo – I go for the conflicted ones and no one depicted the Good/Evil struggle better.
  • Daniels – He was the best boss you could hope for in the messed-up world in which they (and maybe we) live.
  • Sobotka – What a turnaround… you go from hating the guy to truly rooting for him by the end.

The Wire contained so much wisdom and wit.  My favorite quotes:

Pajiba.com ran a very good blog post that also linked to two 100 Greatest Quotes from the show…


My personal favorites:

  • “No one wins.  One side just loses more slowly.” – Prez
  • “Girl, you can’t even think of calling this sh*t a war…. Wars end.” – Carver
  • “I got the shotgun. You got the briefcase. It’s all in the game, though, right?” – Omar to Levy the defense attorney
  • “Come at the king, you best not miss.” – Omar
  • “Kill an everyday workin’ man and all. I mean, I do some dirt, too, but I ain’t never put my gun on nobody that wasn’t in the game.” – Omar to Bunk
  • “A man must have a code.” – Bunk to Omar
  • “A wise man does not burn his bridges until he first knows he can part the waters.” – Norman
  • “See, that’s why we can’t win…. They f*ck up, they get beat. We f*ck up, they give us pensions.” – Herc to Carver
  • “You cannot lose if you do not play.” – Marla Daniels
  • “Ain’t no shame in holdin’ on to grief, as long as you make room for other things too.” – Bubbles
  • “I can’t wait to go to jail.” – Bernard after his girl said, “You’ve got to be the stupidest motherf*cker I’ve ever dated.”
  • “The world goin’ one way; people another, yo.” – Poot after Bodie said, “Thought you said it was getting warmer.”
  • “Don’t matter who did what to who at this point. Fact is, we went to war and there ain’t no turnin’ back. I mean, sh*t, it’s what war is, you know? Once you in it, you in it. If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie. But we gotta fight.” – Slim Charles
  • “There’s games beyond the f*cking game.” – Stringer Bell to Avon Barksdale
  • “Worryin’ about you be like wonderin’ if the sun gonna come up.” – Omar to Brother Mouzone
  • “You start to tell the story, you think you’re the hero, and then when you get done talking…” – McNulty
  • “That will teach you to give a f*ck when it ain’t your turn to give a f*ck.” – Bunk to McNulty
  • “All the guys at the bar, Jimmy, all the girls; they don’t show up at your wake.  Not because they don’t like you.  But because, they never knew your last name.  Then a month later, someone tells them, ‘Oh, Jimmy died.’ ‘Jimmy who?’  ‘Jimmy the Cop.’  ‘Ohhh,’ they say, ‘him.’  And all the people on the job, all those people you spent all the hours in the radio cars with, the guys with their feet up on the desk, tellin’ stories, who shorted you on your food runs, who signed your overtime slips.  In the end, they’re not gonna be there either.  Family, that’s it.  Family, and if you’re lucky, one or two friends who are the same as family.  That’s all the best of us get.  Everything else is just…” – Beadie
  • “The king stay the king.” – D’Angelo Barksdale
  • My name is my name.” – Marlo
  • “Shame is some tricky sh*t, ain’t it? Makes you feel like you want to change, and then beats you back down when you think you can’t.” – Walon
  • “Look the part, be the part, mothaf*cka.” – Prop Joe to Avon Barksdale
  • “You know what the trouble is, Brucey? We used to make sh*t in this country, build sh*t. Now we just put our hand in the next guy’s pocket.” – Sobotka
  • “All in the game, yo.  All in the game.” – Omar
  • “A life, Jimmy. You know what that is? It’s the sh*t that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.” – Freamon to McNulty
  • “The bigger the lie, the more they believe.” – Bunk
  • “You follow drugs, you get drug addicts and drug dealers. But you start to follow the money and you don’t know where the f*ck it’s gonna take you.” – Freamon
  • “I’m doing like one of them marriage counselors.  Charge by the hour to tell some fool he need to bring some flowers home.  Then charge another hour telling the bitch she oughta suck some cock every little once in a while.  You know, keep a marriage strong like that.” – Prop Joe
  • “They can chew you up, but they gotta spit you out.” – McNulty
  • “If I hear the music, I’m gonna dance.” – Greggs
  • “I’ll swallow a lie when I have to; I’ve swallowed a few big ones lately. But the stat games? That lie? It’s what ruined this department. Shining up sh*t and calling it gold so majors become colonels and mayors become governors.” – Daniels
  • “Marlo’s an as*hole. He does not get to win. WE get to win.” – McNulty to Bunk
  • “You don’t think I’m gonna send any of my people up against Brother? Sh*t, that nigga got more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery.” – Prop Joe
  • “Business.  Always business.” – The Greek
  • “Not at home, I imagine.” – Gus after Templeton asks, “Where am I going to find homeless people?”
  • “Like… how do you get from here to the rest of the world?” – Dukie to Cutty
  • “You’d rather live in sh*t than let the world see you work a shovel.” – Daniels to Burrell
  • “Look, forgiveness from other folks is good, but ain’t nothin’ but words comin’ at you from outside.  You want to kick this sh*t, you got to forgive your own self.  Love yourself some, brother.  And then drag your sorry ass to some meetings…. What the f*ck do you wanna hear?  That you’re strong enough to do this by yourself?  Gettin’ clean’s the easy part.  And then comes life.” – Walon to Bubbles
  • “They’re dead where it doesn’t count.” – Fletcher
  • “Man, money ain’t got no owners. Only spenders.” – Omar, after Marlo said, “That’s my money.”
  • “I like that ring too. [pause] Boy, you got me confused with a man who repeat himself.” – Omar to Marlo
  • “A lie ain’t a side of a story.  It’s just a lie.” – Terry Hanning
  • “We got our thing, but it’s just part of the big thing.” – Zenobia
  • “Game’s the same – just got more fierce.” – Slim Charles to Cutty
  • “Let’s be clear, Det. Freamon. When I f*ck you over, you’ll know it. You’ll be so g*ddamn certain, you won’t need to ask that question.” – Rawls to Freamon
  • “Conscience do cost.” – Butchie
  • “‘Deserve’ got nothin’ to do with it.” – Snoop to Michael
  • “Middle management means that you got just enough responsibility to listen when people talk, but not so much you can’t tell anybody to go f*ck themselves.” – Bunny Colvin
  • “Couple weeks from now, you’re gonna be in some district somewhere with 11 or 12 uniforms looking to you for everything. And some of them are gonna be good police. Some of them are gonna be young and stupid. A few are gonna be pieces of sh*t. But all of them will take their cue from you. You show loyalty, they learn loyalty. You show them it’s about the work, it’ll be about the work. You show them some other kinda game, then that’s the game they’ll play. I came on in the Eastern, and there was a piece-of-sh*t lieutenant hoping to be a captain, piece-of-sh*t sergeants hoping to be lieutenants. Pretty soon we had piece-of-sh*t patrolmen trying to figure the job for themselves. And some of what happens then is hard as hell to live down. Comes a day you’re gonna have to decide whether it’s about you or about the work.” – Daniels to Carver
  • “Yeah, now, well, the thing about the old days: they the old days.” – Slim Charles
  • “Somewhere back in the beginning of time, this district had itself a civic dilemma of epic proportions. The city council had just passed a law that forbade alcoholic consumption in public areas; on the streets and on the corners. But the corner is, it was and it always will be the poorman’s lounge. It’s where a man wants to be on a hot summer’s night. It’s cheaper than a bar. Catch a nice breeze and watch the girls go on by. But the law is the law so what are the western cops gonna do? They arrest every dude for tipping back a High Life, there’d be no time for any other kind of police work. And if they look the other way, they open themselves up to all kinds of flaunting, all kinds of disrespect. Now, this is before my time but somewhere back in the 50’s or the 60’s, there was a moment of goddamn genius by some nameless smokehound who comes out the Cut-Rate one day and on his way to the corner he slips that just bought pint of elderberry into a paper bag. A great moment of civic compromise. That small wrinkled ass paper bag allowed the corner boys to have their drink in peace and gave us permission to go and do police work. The kind of police work that’s actually worth the effort, that’s actually worth taking a bullet for. Dozerman got shot last night buying three vials. Three. There has never been a paper bag for drugs. Until now.” – Bunny Colvin
  • “Mm-hmm, a grown-up.” – Bunk after McNulty asks him, “You know what they call a guy who pays that much attention to his clothes, don’t you?”
  • “Sheeeeeeet.” – Clay Davis
  • “Let’s go home.” – McNulty (series’ last line)

So, which show is next?  I only watch something once enough people whose opinions I respect have suggested it.  I should make a Survey Monkey to figure out what it should be… The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica… anything else?

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