Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘The Wire’


In which we recommend some telly

Regular readers might remember that, back in the mists of time – well, December – I mentioned that we’d been watching The Wire on DVD. And that it was very good. None of the bogus and ridiculous “science” you get on CSI;* not much patronising or heartstring-tugging, no deus ex machina and no wrapping the plotlines up inside an hour; just lots of what was – to someone who doesn’t know anything about the real thing, like me – lots of realistic investigative work.

Well, we’ve finally finished watching Season One, just as it finally makes its way onto the BBC. And, to be honest, I’m glad we had the DVDs to watch it from. It took us six months to do, twice as long as it will take BBC2 to show it. It’s a complicated programme, and we ended up watching several episodes twice because we hadn’t been concentrating the first time. In the end, we had to make sure that we only tried to watch it when we were definitely wide awake, otherwise we’d end up missing half of what went on. If we’d tried watching an episode on late night TV every week, we’d have been baffled – we had enough trouble with Dexter season two, just finished on ITV1,** and as unlike The Wire as it is possible for a cop show to be.***

I did wonder, idly, about recommending The Wire to The Parents. They’ve always liked police procedurals, both on telly and in books, and long-form dramas, so, I thought, they’d probably love it.**** But then, I remembered, how much The Mother tuts at the slightest hint of a bad word. The Wire has realistic dialogue.***** It wouldn’t work out. Before they were ten minutes into the first episode, she’d have asked to turn it off.

If you’ve seen the mysterious trailers for The Wire on the BBC, and you’ve not heard of it, go and watch it. It really is good. Very good. As for us: we’ve had the Season 2 DVDs sitting on the bookshelf since Christmas. As soon as we’re properly awake, they’re going in the DVD player. Hurrah!

Update, April 2nd 2009: BBC2 currently seem to be showing episodes of The Wire daily. Meaning that, for one thing, they will whip through the whole series in under three weeks; and for another, if you didn’t start watching on Monday then it’s already too late. Tonight is Episode 4, and the plot is already well under way.

* insert your favourite “CSI [somewhere]” joke here. I’ve mentioned CSI Bedminster myself before, and Half Man Half Biscuit have produced CSI:Ambleside.

** I’m still not used to the name “ITV1″. In my mind it’s still the old federated network – Yorkshire TV where I grew up.

*** Dexter, though, certainly had more tension. Even though we knew full well that there are at least three more series after the one ITV have just been showing, we were still on edge at practically every cliffhanger.

**** Unlike us, they have a DVD recorder, so it would still be compatible with their in-bed-by-10 lifestyle.

***** And at least one scene where every single word of dialogue is a swear word. Every word. A bit like the opening scene in Four Weddings And A Funeral, but set at a scene-of-crime.


In which my disbelief loses some of its suspension

Just recently, we’ve been spending a lot of time sat indoors in front of the telly, watching season one of The Wire, which a friend was kind enough to buy us on DVD, saying: “it’s the sort of thing you’ll like”. And, indeed, it’s very good. I’m not normally a fan of police dramas; but The Wire is good enough to stand as a drama on its own without the “police procedural” aspect of the show.

One little tiny thing, though, made me think: bah. One little detail they slipped up on: right at the start, in the opening credits. It’s the curse of knowing too much about anything, being able to spot the detail mistakes in any sort of fiction. The Wire is so named, at least in part, because a lot of the police’s evidence comes from phone tapping;* the credits features closeups of surveillance equipment,** phone-tap gear, spectroscopic voice analysis screenshots, and so on. Including this gadget:

Screen capture from The Wire's opening credits

That thing at top right. It’s got lots of nice blinky LEDs – you can’t see on a still, obviously, but the lights move in a regular step. Problem is, I know, from work, exactly what that is. Lots of computer geeks will. It’s a cable tester – you can just about make out the words on it – for 4-pair cable, the sort used mostly for Ethernet.*** I keep one in my toolkit, with the cable crimps, because it’s invaluable to check if you’ve crimped a good joint. It’s also absolutely no use for tapping a public phone. Ah well. Just that one little mistake by a set dresser, and it disappointed me a little.

* Hopefully that isn’t giving too much away there.

** One thing that puzzled us: if it’s set in this decade, why do all the cops use 1970s-era Nikon cameras for surveillance, and not the equivalent digitals? Or, for that matter, why are they forced to write up reports on Smith-Coronas?

*** Or, to be fair, for some office phone systems. It’s also worth pointing out that although it’s used for Ethernet cable it doesn’t prove a cable is any good to use for for Ethernet – it’s easy to make a cable that will pass this electrical test but not work as a network cable.