TV Surfin’: ‘The Wire’
Friends and family are often asking me for my thoughts and opinions regarding which television shows are worth watching. If it’s aired anytime in the last 10-15 years, I have an opinion on it. But it’s not always a one way street; sometimes it’s me forcing my friends to watch shows so I have people to talk to when said shows introduce ridiculous things like sleep whittling and Daniel Grayson writing poetry. Either way, it puts a smile on my face when someone tells me they liked a show I recommended to them. Which is why I’ve decided to unleash my insane wealth of TV knowledge on the world in my “TV Surfin'” series.
Each installment I’ll pick a popular or well received TV show, discuss why it’s worthy of praise and suggest three shows of similar integrity, genre, or subject that I think viewers and fans of the initial TV show will like. I’ll also tell you where on the Internet you can find these shows to stream or to buy.
First up is a show that many people tout to be one of the best, if not the best, TV show of the last decade: HBO’s gritty crime drama ‘The Wire.’
There’s a fairly good chance that you missed the show when it originally aired on HBO, but that’s OK, because most people missed it. Oddly enough, for a show that is now declared to be one of the best, it was not heavily watched during its five-season run on HBO from 2002 to 2008. Most TV critics whose job it was to review the show knew the brilliance of the writing and the outstanding performances by series stars Dominic West, Idris Elba, Lance Reddick, Michael Kenneth Williams and Sonja Sohn, but every day folks just weren’t tuning in. For all of its critical praise, the show was never nominated for an Emmy Award.
For reasons scientists still don’t understand, ‘The Wire’ only started to attract an audience after its series finale aired. Today, four years later, I dare you to go to a party and casually bring up ‘The Wire’ in the conversation. I am willing to bet a floppity jillion dollars that at least one person there will be willing to spend the next several hours talking at you about how the show is the greatest show of all time. I know this because there’s one at every party. And no one likes that person. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me to watch ‘The Wire’ – and I was one of the few who watched it as it aired – I’d have at least $5. So if you’re that person at parties, take a breath, chill out, and please take a look at the following shows. Because as phenomenal as ‘The Wire’ is, it might do you some good to spread your wings a bit and experience something new.
Each show below is in the same vein as ‘The Wire,’ a drama series existing in the gritty, grimy world of criminals and cops. And while they might or might not have the current clout that McNulty and Omar have, they’re all worthy of your time. It’s possible that you’ve already seen them, and it’s possible that they’re brand new to you. If that’s the case, I hope you’ll at least take a chance on them. Who knows? Maybe next year you can go to the party and be that guy who introduces everyone to ‘Luther’ and then you’ll really look cool.
Luther (2010 – Present)
Idris Elba is the Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor who stars as the titular character of the psychological crime drama ‘Luther’ on the BBC. The show itself has been nominated for several awards, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries in 2012.
Genre: Crime, Drama
More about Luther
Seasons: Two (S1: 6 episodes; S2: 4 episodes)
Synopsis: A dark psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba as Luther, a detective struggling with his own terrible demons, who might well be just as dangerous as the depraved murderers he hunts. On a moral crusade, too often with only his convictions for company, John Luther is a brilliant but deeply troubled man, a philosophical cop possessed by the insoluble problem of evil and justice in a Godless world. Luther shines a light where others fear to tread, into the hearts and minds of psychopaths and killers, and the shadowy spaces of his own soul (iTunes).
The Shield (2002-2008)
Michael Chiklis starred for seven seasons as the morally ambiguous and corrupted cop Vic Mackey on the FX drama ‘The Shield.’ Mackey is the leader of the Strike Team, a four-man anti-gang unit based on the LAPD’s real-life Rampart Division CRASH unit. The critically acclaimed drama racked up the awards, including an Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama for Chiklis in 2002.
Genre: Crime, Drama
More about The Shield
Seasons: Seven (13 episodes/season)
Synopsis: Breaking the conventions of the cop genre, this popular and critically acclaimed series plays out in the tough, morally ambiguous world of an inner-city Los Angeles police precinct in which the line between good and evil is crossed every day. Michael Chiklis has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his portrayal of Detective Vic Mackey, leader of the elite Strike Team, an effective but corrupt cop who operates under his own set of rules. The young precinct head, Capt. David Aceveda (Benito Martinez), doesn’t like Mackey’s tactics and wants him off the force, but veteran Det. Claudette Wyms (CCH Pounder) understands Mackey and knows how to play both sides of the fence. In the fourth season Glenn Close joins an outstanding cast that also features Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins and Michael Jace (iTunes).
Southland originally aired on NBC and though it was critically praised and was renewed for a second season, NBC canceled it before the second season even saw the light of day. Thankfully, the folks at TNT saw the show’s promise and bought the rights to the show. The show will begin airing its fifth season in February 2013.
Genre: Crime, Drama
More about Southland
Seasons: Four (S1: 7 episodes, S2: 6 episodes, S3 & S4: 10 episodes)
Synopsis: From John Wells, the Emmy-winning producer of ‘ER’ and ‘The West Wing’, comes ‘Southland’ — a raw and authentic look into a Los Angeles police unit. From the beaches of Malibu to the streets of East L.A., this fast-moving drama with an outstanding ensemble cast takes viewers inside the lives of cops, criminals, victims, and their families. John Cooper (‘Band of Brothers’’ Michael Cudlitz) is a seasoned Los Angeles cop assigned to train young rookie Ben Sherman (‘The O.C.’’s Ben McKenzie). And although Cooper’s harsh, tell-it-like-it-is approach often leaves Ben questioning whether he has what it takes to be a cop, he remains on the force. The outstanding ensemble cast also features ‘Ray’’s Regina King as Detective Lydia Adams, ‘ER’’s Tom Everett Scott as her partner Russell Clarke, ‘Crossing Jordan’’s Arija Bareikis as patrol officer and wannabe SWAT team member Chickie Brown, and ‘Day Break’’s Michael McGrady as Daniel ‘Sal’ Salinger who oversees fellow gang detectives Nate Moretta (Kevin Alejandro) and Sammy Bryant (Shawn Hatosy) (iTunes).
Note: Photos courtesy of HBO, BBC, FX and TNT.