I’ve been on one of my typical hiatuses from blogging lately, but with none of the usual excuses. My last novel is in the can, I’m waiting on page proofs, and though it’s been pretty rough going, I think the next book is officially under way. But other distractions have come up. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes career work at the moment (more on this at a later point) and dealing with some tragedy around the house. Our beloved dog, Bogi, has been diagnosed with what is most likely liver cancer, and so, with the visits to the vets, and keeping a hawklike eye on his behavior, one ends up a little exhausted.
Like much of the world, when exhausted I tend to settle in front of the TV. I’ve never made a secret of this, nor of my growing love for that particular form of narrative. As a writer, the thing that usually excites me most about my art is not character or plot, but narrative structure. And the best television series, I’ve always thought, lie closer to the novel form than the simplified structure of films, or even playwriting.
Given this conviction, it’s a surprise that I only recently started to watch HBO’s The Wire. In conversations about television, this show often comes up, with high very praise. Now that I’ve finally watched it from the first season, and am now fully into the fourth, all I can say is, “Wow.”
I’ve stated before that I thought Battlestar Galactica was perhaps the best show going these days, and I know some people snickered at this. I still contend that it’s up there with the best, but The Wire has really altered the television format, and my own expectations.
For one, it’s typical of television that the critical viewer make more allowances than he might for a film or a novel. Overdramatic acting, gee-whiz family cliches, and over-descriptive dialogue intended to give backstory in a quick, if awkward, way. But in The Wire there’s no need for this generosity on the part of the viewer. The dialogue feels natural throughout, and it’s seldom less that perfect.
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