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Culture, Leisure

Talking on The Wire

by Brandon Edmonds / 08.04.2010

You can’t really tell what sex you’re seeing. This person walks into a giant hardware emporium. They’re young looking with a tiny frame, their pants on the ground. Corn rows and a doo rag – oh, and they’re black. It’s Snoop. She’s a killer for a drug gang. Nobody has ever talked (or walked) on television before like she does. Her unforgettable voice is a blurred drawl – a shy, self-cancelling murmur ominously suggesting early withdrawal from high school and the well-tested belief that actions speak louder than words. Snoop is terrifying. She attentively discusses nail guns with the middle aged sales guy. He impresses her with his expertise (and she casually lays hundreds of dollars over the asking price on him from a monster bankroll – not bothering with the square rigmarole of receipts and tills). She respects workers good at their job. She is herself a pains-taking craftsman. Snoop wants the nail gun because she and her partner in death, fellow hitman Chris, are hiding ‘bodies’ from rival drug crews in vacant lots (ghetto lots still empty from ‘white flight’ in the seventies, when the moneyed and able escaped inner city breakdown for the suburbs). She’s happy with her purchase, and can’t wait to try it out. That’s how the fourth season of ‘The Wire’ opens. And it captures in a nutshell what the show does so well: subtly enacting the structural continuity between crime and consumption, the complicity between regular and illicit economies, quietly naturally dramatizing the devastating priority of market forces over people’s everyday lives. Pushers, legislators and retailers speak the same language: profit.

That’s just one scene and the show is teeming with scenes as suggestive and rich as this one. HBO’s ‘The Wire’ is absolutely as good as television gets. Not much can match it in other formats. It brings the news with the disturbing veracity of quality rap. It details social contradictions with the fearless insight of the best progressive thinkers. It has the gripping visual fluency of a great movie. You’ll find it on the syllabus at major universities. You’ll find it in the blogosphere routinely nestled amongst the top 3 TV shows of all time. It is by now speedy shorthand for establishing the intelligence and sensibility of strangers: Know The Wire? Yup. What do you think? It’s weird. See ya. It’s been called Dickensian, novelistic and confusing. There really is nothing like it. You may initially need a primer to decode it. But believe me, if you haven’t, you NEED to watch it. Make Mondays on etv at 10.30pm (just after the news) Wire time. Non-negotiable, near religious Wire time.

We’re tracking the series on Mahala. After each show, I’ll spew my thoughts the next day and then throw open the comments feed to yours. Like a book club. Without books or wine or that woman who always arrives late. Hopefully we’ll all get the most out of the show this way. Together. Next show is on Monday 12th April @ 10.30pm on Etv. The channel shows two episodes back to back – which is great. So you’ve already missed the first two. No biggie – just go to the HBO site and find the synopsis for each episode on the Wire page, and get caught up. Don’t forget to watch episodes 3 and 4 this coming Monday. Etv. 10.30pm. Just after the news.

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