Let’s hear it for small packages
I might be out of Wire-related thoughts for this week, but it doesn’t exactly help that I can’t read anyone else’s. At Salon, James Hynes’s piece in the “Life” section warns me straight-out that it’s chock full of spoilers. Had I not stumbled upon a warning somewhere else on the interwebs, I would’ve probably had some joy denied me by Jacob Weisberg’s Slate onslaught. Only dear Heather Havrilesky deigned to handle this like a television program and not give it away all at once. But since her entire voice depends on the ritual of weekly viewing, it makes it seem like an either/or proposition: take The Wire as a visual novel deserving serious treatment, and you lose the right to enjoy it in episodic fashion.
I have as many weighty opinions on this show as anyone, but as I declared last week, that shouldn’t cost it its medium. It’s probably misleading to throw the word “innocence” out there, considering how far we are from sitcom territory. Yet if the discontinuous narrative seems to defy television conventions, can’t we also assume that it’s comfortable as defiant television—maybe even invested in that tension? To construe The Wire as an uninterrupted epic, is ultimately kind of an insult to the consensus “finest American broadcast ever.” If The Wire is masterful television, surely this also implies an original take on serialized process. Jumping ahead of viewers, which cuts them out of the discussion while denying the value of their incremental experience, is kind of rude. Most importantly, though, it’s neglecting part of what makes this such amazing art, whether you’re talking technical innovation, shrewd storytelling, or capacity to dispense enjoyment.