THE WORD is out. The jig is up. The worms are out of the can. The Wire, television’s best-kept secret, has just gone mainstream. First came two articles two days in a row, in last week’s Guardian. The first was a worshipful piece on how the architecture of Baltimore was the real star of The Wire (bullshit; the story-telling and casting director are the real stars). The second was an interview with Dominic West, aka McNulty (pictured above), arguably one of the biggest stars of the show. In the interview, West revealed, amongst other things, that Zadie Smith had run up to him in the street and told him how much she loves the show. (Guess who’s looking for an ‘in’? The show is part-written by a crack team of David Simon, Ed Burns and a few novelists, including George Pelicanos).
Then came a reference in an Alan Moore interview (thanks Sinéad), who said, “The absolute pinnacle of anything I’ve seen recently has got to be The Wire. It’s the most stunning piece of television that has ever come out of America, possibly the most stunning piece of television full-stop.”
I couldn’t agree more. Then, a few nights later, as I was passively sitting with one eye on Corrie, scouser Lloyd suddenly says, “it’s like The Wire round here, meeting on street corners.” When Corrie references something, you know you’re busted. The cat is officially out of the bag.
This weekend, I had to admit the game was finally up, as the papers gave blanket coverage to the show to mark the start of season 5 on FX (nice interview with Omar (pictured below) in the Guardian that reveals that scar is 100% real!).
For about four months now, I’ve been living in the demi-monde of Wire obsessives. A half world where conversation consists only of Wire-related topics, vocabulary incorporates phrases like “Aight” and “true dat” and everything is sieved through a Wire filter.
Last week, in Wire limbo and desperate for a fix, I hunted down some books by David Simon, the show’s creator. I had never been in the True Crime section before. I felt embarrassed. True Crime has its connotations. In my mind, it’s read by the same kind of people who buy those bumper crossword and wordteaser books that you find left behind in hospital waiting rooms. To add to my embarrassment, I couldn’t locate the bloody books. The man behind the desk told me they had Homicide and The Corner on the shelf, but the computer lied! With some detective work (see, it’s taking over my life), I located Homicide misfiled in the Crime section but couldn’t find The Corner. So I asked the girl. She looked downstairs in the storeroom. She looked upstairs in the overflow section. She looked back in the True Crime section, which I had already exhausted. I just looked bereft. She took my number and promised to locate a copy and ring me once she found it. True to her word, an hour later, I got the call. When I went in to pick up the book, I had the kind of heart-warming conversation that is a privilege of being a Wire fan. The man behind the customer service counter said he had never read any David Simon books before as he handed them over. Have you seen The Wire, I ventured? ‘Twice!’ he replied. I told him to shut up, as I haven’t seen all of Season 5 yet. You know there’s a new show starting in America that David Simon wrote, I say, thinking I’m the cool one with all the insider information. “Yes! Generation Kill! Started Tuesday night!” he replied. We smiled to ourselves, recognising fellow obsessives. We said goodbye awkwardly, feeling we had shared something and thus our departure should have been something other than formal and stilted.
For those of you lucky enough not yet to have seen The Wire, Channel 6 just started showing Season 1 (I think it’s just two episodes in) at 9.25 on Thursday nights. But be warned, you will end up spending more and more of your time (and eventually all of your time) thinking about the show, talking about the show, reading books that inspired the show and generally proclaiming your love for the show that is, possibly, the most stunning piece of television full-stop.
Oh, and a final word to the unconverted: It’s better than The Sopranos. Enjoy.
p.s. Just found this New Yorker profile of David Simon. Like I said, I’m obsessed.