Monday, March 03, 2008

The Beautiful End

I'm glad I'm not the only one upset about the final episode of the final season of The Wire. The episode we watched this week almost cracked my heart in two by the end, and I have no understanding about how they're going to sew it all up with only one show remaining. I was talking to a friend via email last week, and he said something about television rotting your brain. It's not a new argument. It's one my mother employed a great deal growing up (we were allowed one hour of television a day, either before dinner or after dinner) and we never watched TV at the cottage. That's entire summers spent without any kind of artificial stimulus.

But I'd argue that shows like The Wire are art, not television. The difference between a truly great movie that changes the way we see the world and one that's there just to pass the time. The Godfather vs. Fool's Gold. The Wire has maintained a level of excellence and utter bravery from the moment it hit HBO. Never the ratings juggernaut like The Sopranos, I'd argue that it's been far more consistent in terms of quality than that other HBO tentpole; and it has another ace in its hand, something else that's rare in TV production -- that's the fact that it gets BETTER as the show goes on. How many 5-year-old shows do you know that are actually getting better with each season and/or episode that airs? Exactly.

And as with all great art, perhaps it gets misunderstood in its own time, arrives perhaps before the audience is truly ready for it, but at least HBO had the decency to run with it for 5 truly excellent seasons. My life has been enriched by the storytelling, made me understand the world in a different way, and ripped my heart out of my chest on more than one occasion. All things the usual brain-rot (American Idol anyone) is missing hovering out there on the waves. I will mourn the loss of the corners, say goodbye to the po-po, root for Jimmy, hiss at Marlo, and frankly, will never look at television in the same way again. Especially now that in addition to the end of The Wire, the networks now might take Riggins away too.

In that case, maybe said friend was right and I need to read more books.

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