By Mike Bax
“We’re building something here… and all the pieces matter.”
Detective Lester Freamon
The Wire, a show revered by genre fanatics the world over, has numerous wonderful quotes, but this one sums up the show itself from both a creative standpoint as much as a summary of the show itself.
What creator David Simon pulled off during the five seasons of The Wire is a template for the way television SHOULD be made for years to come – a high concept, superbly cast and even more superbly written episodic exploration into the mechanics of American society told through the city of Baltimore and the factions of people that live within its confines.
The Wire never achieved a particularly high viewership during its five season run on HBO. Shows like The Sopranos, Sex In The City, and Six Feet Under continuously overshadowed The Wire in viewership and popularity. But NEVER in ratings. The Wire always got props from entertainment critics taking the time to watch it, and from fans who took the time to tune in during its original broadcast.
This Blu-ray release of The Wire marks the first time the show has been made commercially available in a 1.78:1 widescreen remaster format. With HD television now the industry standard, the Wire’s original 1.33:1 pan and scan broadcast format has often been the thing that new viewers seem to get hung up on (“how come the show LOOKS so shitty compared to other HBO shows out there?”). The Wire was originally shot in 35mm. In between seasons two and three, the show was given the option of flipping to HD and showing in 16:9 aspect ratio. However, the creators felt that the style established in the first two seasons should be the way the final three seasons should look, and they stuck with their 1.33:1 pan and scan composition. If you’d like to know a bit more, check out this online article by David Simon here. It’s a genuinely informative and entertaining read: http://davidsimon.com/the-wire-hd-with-videos/
So what does The Wire Blu-ray REALLY mean for new and old viewers alike? If nothing else, the show LOOKS and SOUNDS so much better than the original commercially available HBO DVD’s. Those DVDs have been watched (numerous times by myself) and I can honestly say that getting to look at the Wire in this new 1080p presentation took my breath way during a few episodes. The city of Baltimore seems bigger and more open in this presentation. The composition and power of some of the scenes during the five seasons of the show achieve more impact because of this presentation. In layman terms; The Wire Blu-ray is where it’s at.
All of the features from the previously released DVD’s are included in this Blu-ray edition. The only new feature that has been done on The Wire recently was the cast reunion filmed at the PaleyFest in October of 2014. This footage resides online, but is presented here in high definition for your viewing pleasure. In attendance are John Doman (William Rawls), Larry Gilliard, Jr. (D’Angelo Barksdale), Seth Gilliam (Ellis Carver), Jim True-Frost (Roland “Prez” Pryzbylewski), Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar), Sonja Sohn (Shakima Greggs), Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland), J.D. Williams (Bodie Broadus), Michael Lee (Tristan Wilds), Bob Wisdom (Bunny Colvin), producer Nina K. Noble, and creator/executive producer David Simon. Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty) and Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) aren’t present but do send video messages during the broadcast.
I am one of the zealots who deems The Wire amongst the best that television has to offer. Without going into essay-length hyperbole on the mechanics of the show’s many wonders, I will say this: I’ve never seen a television show that has been able to convey a feeling of winning-a-war-while-losing-the-overall-battle like The Wire. The show isn’t for everyone. It’s often dark and things don’t work out for every character. It’s an honest show. You really do feel like you are looking into the mechanics of police work, organized crime, the school system, politics and the media. The ensemble cast, many of whom were unproven at the time of The Wire have gone onto great things in the years since the original broadcast. It’s a rare show that gets better with each passing year and, now on Blu-ray it will continue to do so in a presentation format that truly services the merits of the show in the best way possible.
A must-have Blu-ray set for anyone’s bookshelf.