The Wire Season 3

With television awash (drowning?) in crime scene procedurals (CSI: Gramlich’s Bathroom?) and improbable police dramas, it’s shocking that the best series on television not named Battlestar Galactica, and unquestionably the best and most realistic in the "po’lice” genre, still flies under the radar, fighting for its renewal life at the end of each season, despite the near-deafening clamour of critical acclaim. Call it the curse of HBO, where top dogs like Six Feet Under (even, fittingly, in death) and The Sopranos still hold sway in the court of popularity and excellent shows such as Deadwood get cancelled before fulfilling their story arc. However, with season four now under way and season five just approved, The Wire will avoid Deadwood’s fate and get to finish on its own terms. True, while The Wire is at its core a "cops and robbers” or, actually, "cops and drug dealers,” show, arguably no other show in television history has done as much to humanise characters on both sides of the thin blue line, demonstrating the strengths and faults of its protagonists and antagonists. While season two flipped the script, placing the inner city drug trade of Baltimore in the background to concentrate on its ports, the blue-collar workers (crime), smuggling and the choking corruption, season three again switches gears to examine the political machinations of Baltimore — the atrophy, corruption, plotting and backstabbing — while bringing the city’s drug trade back to the forefront, including a radical experiment to reclaim the streets of one district by "ignoring” drugs. True, The Wire may be "challenging” for viewers, especially those trying to tune in mid-stream, with its sheer number of characters, but the core police, drug dealers and various other players remain constant even with the deluge of new political faces, and no show juggles volume and detail as well. Season three also features one of the greatest television deaths/executions of all time — that of drug lord/entrepreneur Stringer Bell — a perishing that, in a panel interview with creator David Simon, is revealed to have been planned to transpire in the first season, but the character of Bell proved too strong and endearing, and was Detective McNulty’s white whale for the next two seasons. In terms of extras, The Wire continues to eschew the standard "making of” or featurettes and instead delivers numerous episode commentaries and Q&As with Simon and company, which, while more intimate and detail-revealing, can be overly kiss-ass, especially the academic Q&As. Still, to label The Wire "one of the smartest, most ambitious shows on television…,” as The New York Times has (and which is proudly splayed on the box), doesn’t even begin to cover the platitudes the show deserves. (Warner)