The Wire

The Wire, in TV shorthand, is The Best Show That’s Ever Been Ever Shown On TV Ever. Ever. A whole world full of internal political struggles, deep wells of human feeling and street-slang straight out of hip-hop albums and Blaxploitation films fills the screen, leaving fans of the show breathless and utterly hooked. However, such investment requires a certain mindset. Fans of the show are akin to devotees of The Smiths, besotted and humourless in the face of criticism. This has left the show occupying a weird space… but is it one destined for failure?

There was a lot of talk about the show when it resided on some non-descript satellite channel. The hundred thousand or so felt like they were on to something that no-one else was likely to share, very much like a teenage faced with a new favourite pop group. Something uniquely theirs… something that everyone else will come around to, enabling a gloat of ‘I liked them before they were famous’.

So when BBC Two announced that they were to grab the show and share it with a bigger audience, it looked for all the world that the show was going to be all-conquering. It was going to make the leap from underground phenomena to real deal, big time telly. However, there was a catch.

Unfortunately for anyone who didn’t have multi-channel and no inclination to buy a box-set of a show they may not like, Auntie decided to air the show every single night of the working week.

This ensured that, basically, if you had a life away from TV, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the show, which is unashamedly complex. This meant that, should you have another show on at the same time that you favour, you’d miss vital plot-twists. This meant, that should you have no desire to be in front of the TV set in such concentrated periods, you were going to end up walking away wondering what the fuss was all about.

And this seems to have happened. Since the show aired on terrestrial, the fervour seen in broadsheets and message boards has died down. Quite simply, the BBC have managed to reverse the fortunes of a show on the ascendency and turn the general mood into one that can be summed up in a shrug.

It would certainly seem that part of the charm of the show was that it wasn’t available to all. Investment was required before you even gazed on a single frame. Terrestrial TV viewers don’t have to make any emotional investment in a show before flicking over. That’s the beauty of it.

Quality television has to be immediate like a pop-single, yet fulfilling like a movie. The best shows on terrestrial TV over the past couple of years have managed this. Look toward the imported Dexter. Look at ITV’s The Fixer. Life on Mars managed to hook people in quickly and then keep them rooted to the spot, begging for more.

The Wire simply trundled into view with an air of self importance clearly not shared by viewers. In fact, the way it was offered out by the BBC suggested that they didn’t believe in the show either. It smacked of getting points for kudos, rather than holding a strong show, ready to blow minds.

Immediate comparisons to The Sopranos are a little obvious, but telling nonetheless. Channel 4 gave us the show once-a-week, leaving us desperately itching for more, talking about it between transmission. The Wire arrived with great fanfare, then sloped off to fight it out between the rest of the graveyard shows.

As a result, The Wire has been something of a failure. The show only captured the hearts and minds of those predisposed to believing the hype… and seemingly, they waned after a while, when they simply had something else to do.

Only the truly great shows can keep an entire TV nation rapt and The Wire simply couldn’t manage it.

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