Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forAugust 24th, 2008 | back to home

24 August 2008
Filed under:Academia,Arts Reviews at8:18 pm

I’ve been watching my way through The Wire, which has had lots of good press from critics and academics and I am trying hard to like it, but after seeing up to series 2 episode 3 I have to say I’m a little disappointed. It has revealed something about multi-stranded TV stories that has been at the back of my mind for a while now. They can enable more depth, but they can also be a lazy scriptwriter’s shortcut. How? Because if you have five or six storylines and a dozen characters working in each episode, each individual one can be sketchily outlined and as long as you keep getting distracted by the next strand the viewer may be kept too busy to notice.

For all The Wire’s air of worldly cynicism and its ‘tackling the big issues’ the characters are often cardboard, the situations cliched and its treatment of the issues superficial. Its framing of the war on drugs in the Baltimore projects for example suggests that it is a battle between good cops, drug peddlers who are mostly amoral or evil and a corrupt system wedded to drug money that fails to support the cops. There is in what I have seen so far little discussion of the folly of tackling the drug supply problem without in some way dealing with the demand for drugs and the environment which fosters it. Season 2 seems to be even more one-dimensional in its treatment of people smuggling/trafficking.

Then again, I find it difficult to point to any television series outside of The Sopranos and the first season or two of Lost which I have found truly satisfying lately so maybe I am just expecting too much…