A few months ago I bought Year 1 of The Wire. I am now half way through Year 3. This is fantastic TV if a little bloody and full of bad language. But both these attributes are real life scenarios, unfortunately, so to try to produce a police drama in downtown Baltimore without them would be like traditional James Bond without the blood - meaningless entertainment.
The Wire was produced for HBO, a premium cable channel in the US which can do this sort of thing as cable boxes come with parental controls, etc., etc. The realism is chilling but so often it is the clever script, filming and editing that makes the program so compelling. Couple these with excellent characterizations of the many lead players and the experience is complete.
Why do I like The Wire? Well, when we lived in Houston we lived in or perhaps I should say next to areas that are similar to those depicted in the series. At one residence we were separated from a series of run-down apartments by a power line easement but the apartment residents found a way to cut across and we would wake up to empty bottles of malt liquor thrown onto the front lawn. On one occasion a stolen car was chased straight into our fire hydrant with not so spectacular results (i.e. the Hollywood fountain effect was not there!) Two weeks later, after the city repaired the hydrant, it happened again!
Weekend nights were often punctuated by gunfire as drive by shootings down Sherwood Lane were the norm. So often the gunfire would go blam, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam. Six chambers in a revolver. There is a scene in Series 3 where an ex-con is handed a semi-automatic with 15 rounds in the magazine. He complains that revolvers are better because they don't jam - I suspect he's right!
When we finally moved to Montrose I went to a resident's meeting and heard naive neighbors complain about firecrackers being let off at night. I asked them how many bangs there were and explained that they may not have been firecrackers!
Stef Lewandowski has just posted an interesting take on The Wire, suggesting that there is a lot more to be gained from the series than simple entertainment. I would agree but of course we can all probably come up with a different set of experiences. Just as we probably all have a favorite character. Mine, for the record, is Bunk Morland.