Monday, 30 March 2009

Get wired up the wonderful Wire

Tonight (Monday, March 30) the BBC will do something quite unprecedented in its long and proud history.

For, if my understanding of the situation is correct, they will be screening a 60-show American drama series from start to finish every single night. It will run on BBC2, after Newsnight, from Monday to Friday and whole swathes of their schedule has been arranged to fit around it.
The show, therefore, must be something pretty special. And trust me, it truly is.

Just by way of a starter, it is Barack Obama’s favourite show on TV, but beyond that, magazines and newspapers from Time and The Chicago Tribune in America to The Guardian and The Independent over here have hailed it as possibly the greatest television show ever made. One reviewer said quite simply that the world is divided into two sets of people – those who have seen this programme and love it and those who simply haven’t yet seen it.

The programme is called The Wire. Never heard of it? Then don’t worry, because large sections of the public haven’t either as it was only previously shown on television in this country on a very obscure satellite channel called FX.
What has catapulted The Wire into our consciousness is a modern-day phenomenon of watching television – via the box set. There was a time when the only way you could watch the next episode in a drama was to wait until the scheduler allowed you to do so, but as people have grown to love top-class, lengthy American dramas such as 24, Lost and the magnificent West Wing, people have been snapping up the box sets at an incredible rate. Then they watch the shows as and when THEY want to.

And this is why I think the Beeb’s scheduling of The Wire to run on consecutive nights to keep up the pace set by box sets is so inspired.
For the record, I would add my own voice to those who would argue that The Wire is quite possibly the greatest TV series ever made and I think you could only really enjoy its multi-layered, multi-faceted, in-depth story lines if you watch them close together as it is a series full of nuances, subtleties and seemingly random moments that only make sense in other, later episodes.

For those who don’t actually know, The Wire is focused on the drugs culture in Baltimore and it looks at it from every conceivable angle. It is a rough, tough and gritty and nothing is black and white, nothing is clean cut and there are no compromises whatsoever to language or to traditional beginning-middle-end storytelling.

OK, tonight's kick off time of 11.20pm is rather late but it's worth it. Get ready to get wired.

No comments: