Tuesday, September 19, 2006

It Was Killing McNulty...

…but it’s saving my marriage. Yes folks, The Wire is finally back on TV, after a punishing absence that left me watching dust settle and making shadow puppets on the wall for entertainment.

Could it be as good as I’d hoped? I’d watched all the episodes from the first three seasons until I’d virtually memorized them, and had been counting the days until Season 4.

And it was brilliant. I must admit to cheers when I saw that Prez was back. The first Wire episode I ever saw was season 2, episode 10, which is one of the very few that starts off with music. Johnny Cash, and Prez is pinning up all the pictures and targets on the board while Herc and Carv are putting tracking devices on vehicles. It was all coming together visually. The only words spoken were by Prez, when he’s done, and steps back and says Fuckin’ eh*. I was hooked, and of course, if you’ve seen that episode, you can imagine I was flipping out by the end of it.

Whenever I watch the show, I have the sense of genius at work. Someone able to pull hundreds of threads together and weave an intricate portrait of crime, the drug trade, the state of education, the corruption of politics… This isn’t some fluff show with no substance, a show that’s entirely forgettable. It’s a show that cuts to the core. It humanizes drug dealers, it humanizes killers. It vilifies the politicians who contribute to the problems that force people to operate outside the law to put food on the table.

It is, in short, real.

The dialogue is tight, crisp, so convincing. In fact, if anyone is having difficulty writing dialogue, I suggest watching season 1 on dvd, then season 2. Well, hell, all three seasons, to be honest. One of the things The Wire does is move across boundaries, through different groups of people. You’ll hear cop talk, regular talk, drug dealer talk. But by hearing it all in the same show, you start to pick up on the differences. If you can identify what makes someone sound like they’re a street dealer and what makes someone sound like a cop and what makes someone sound like a politician, you’re a long way toward being able to replicate authentic dialogue in your own stuff. Best to go out on real street corners, but a close second is listening to The Wire.

Beyond that, it’s entertaining. The way that the show compares routine things we don’t give a second thought to, to tools of the trade gang “muscle” would use to kill someone is genius.

I feel like the show is off to an incredibly tight start. Already, you can see where it’s heading and the worst thing about it was that I knew I’d have to wait a whole week for episode 2, which just sucks.

Now, I said it was saving my marriage, and that’s not a complete exaggeration. Our schedules have been so hectic lately that we’ve seldom had time to sit down to a meal together, or when we have we’ve been eating out.

But yesterday felt like old times. I actually cooked, Kevin came home to food ready, and we cuddled on the couch and ate dinner while we watched The Wire. And we’ve managed that two weeks in a row now.

I’m a self-confessed obsessive workaholic, so it’s good for me to have something that makes me stay out of the office at night. A great TV show can do that, and there are damn few of them out there. Can’t honestly say one debut for this year has gotten on my radar yet. Mind you, I’m tired of starting to like a show and then seeing it pulled – which has happened to half a dozen shows I regularly watched over the past few years. Now, I’m down to The Wire and The Shield. and occasional fixes from Law and Order SVU.

Writers, if you’re like me, always remember to try to find the balance. I know it’s tough, but there has to be life outside of your work. After all, it tends to be life that makes the work meaningful, and it’s life that generates the ideas for your work. Don’t forget that.

And if there are any good TV shows you’ve seen debut this fall, fill me in.

JT Ellison sent me this joke. I'm not sure if she wanted me to tell anyone it was from her, though.

The next time you see a little old lady with shaky hands, you'll remember this lady:

A little old lady, well into her eighties, slowly enters the front door of a sex shop. Obviously very unstable on her feet, she wobbles the few feet across the store to the counter.

Finally arriving at the counter and grabbing it for support, stuttering she asks the sales clerk: "Dddooo youuuu hhhave dddddiilllldosss?"

The clerk, politely trying not to burst out laughing, replies: "Yes we do have dildos. Actually we carry many different models."

The old woman then asks: "Dddddoooo yyyouuuu ccaarrryy aaa pppinkk onnee, tttenn inchessss lllong aaandd aabboutt ttwoo inchesss ththiickk...aaand rrunns by bbaatteries?

The clerk responds, "Yes we do."

She asks: " Ddddooo yyoooouuuu kknnnoooww hhhowww tttooo ttturrrnnn ttthe ssunoooffabbitch offffff?"

* note the Canadian translation – I don’t know how y’all spell it in American.


John Gooley said...

You've convinced me, I've obviously got to get hold of The Wire. I don't think it's been on TV here (maybe it has, most of the time I don't know what's going on) but it's definitely on DVD. Yes, I've put it on this week's list. The Wire, The Wire.

I really like your new blog layout.

JT Ellison said...

I didn't read your post just in case there's a giveaway -- we didn't see last season and are catching up. But it is one of the best shows on TV, no doubt.
Awesome new look! Love it!

JT Ellison said...

I love that joke, by the way. I take full responsibility for being off-color.

Sandra Ruttan said...

John, I think you'll love it. Well, I think most people who read this blog will love The Wire if they don't already. You watch the opening shot of episode 1 season 1 - it's pure brilliance.

JT, no real spoilers... I don't think. And that is a great joke, very naughty.

And I'm glad you guys like the new look! I forgot to put my stat counter back up though. Ooops.

angie said...

That's got to be one of the better naughty jokes I've read in a while.

Still haven't seen The Wire yet (i'm one of those freaky no-tv people), but it's on my DVD rental list. You're a helluva saleswoman. Kinda scary...

Sandra Ruttan said...

Angie, I do okay with selling stuff like The Wire, or books by others. I never thought about keeping track of how many people emailed or remarked, "I got a Rankin book because of what you said on your blog" but I guess I should have. There have been tons.

And most recently, Laura Lippman books and Stuart MacBride books, and I know Cornelia's debut secured a few sales from here.

It's easy for me to be passionate about what I love. And it's genuine. I guess that comes across, because people warm up to it. I don't think it works the same for me with my own stuff, because my own personal insecurities mesh in with my enthusiasm about my own work.

So I doubt this will become a hotbed of sales for SC in the exact same way. Still, it's going to be interesting.

James Goodman said...

Oh, I absolutely love The Wire. It is so well written and performed, how could anyone not?

pattinase (abbott) said...

My favorite is Rescue Me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I don't know James!

Patti, Kevin loves that show. And I have enjoyed what I've seen of it, but I just can't watch it. The whole firefighter thing, and imagining Kevin out there on a call wreaks havoc on the nerves. I can't watch any firefighter stuff now.

But I love the soundtrack!

Karen Olson said...

The Wire is one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. Smart, really really smart.

That said, I am also anticipating this season of Gray's Anatomy. Where The Wire is smart, GA is insipid, but oddly appealing in its own way.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Karen, I've heard good things about Gray's Anatomy. I'll have to bear that in mind.

Trace said...

Ah, the writing of Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos. Can't beat it. I don't have access to the wire because we don't have Showcase. A show I got really hooked on in NY was Weeds, which is also on Showcase. Try it out. You'll friggin' love it. You'll want to rent the first season on DVD. I think the second season may have started. I also love The L Word. Can't get that either!

Anonymous said...

Once again, a joke that is so wrong. Very, very, very funny, but wrong! norby

Sandra Ruttan said...

Trace, in Canada The Wire is on HBO, but I don't think it's on Showcase. You might want to check that.

Norby, yeah. Wrong, but very funny.

Eileen said...

At last- new TV shows. I was at the point where I might start turning to Judge Judy.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Eileen - Judge Judy? That's like the acid test. You know it's bad when...

Although occasionally I don't mind Court TV.

angie said...

I forgot to say that "fuckin' eh" is "fuckin' A" in American-speak/spell.

Andrea Maloney said...

Sandra, love the new look to your blog and website! And yes I've reserved the 1st season of The Wire from my library. You have convinced me I have to check it out and since i don't get it on our tv I'll have to get the dvd's. :)