The Wire

When a series is chosen by Barack Obama as his favourite TV show, you know it’s going to be cool. Stand up comedian David O’Doherty made the joke that he knows people who love The Wire so much they can’t even describe it in words. “So what do you think of The Wire?” He asks, “blaaeerrrrrghhh!” the afflicted Wire fan replies. Unfortunately I frequently fall into this category, so writing a coherent review is proving quite difficult for me. The story follows a team of Baltimore police officers, over the course of 5 years, who specialise in surveillance operations on organised criminal groups. As can be expected with an HBO series, the baddies and goodies are very indistinct from each other: you know their life stories and their complex backgrounds and the show itself doesn’t force a judgement on anyone. So much time and effort is spent on developing the rich palette of motives, desires and flaws in the main cast: be they police chiefs, officers on the street, drug dealers or corrupt union officials; that the plots can simply unfold infront of you without any clunky explaining scenes. Acting talent is so abundant in this show that it makes most other programs, and even many films, look weak and feeble by comparison. Each individual series stand proud as a brilliant self contained achievement of script writing and vision, starting with a simple premise for a case to be built and following through the police and criminals running along side-by-side trying to outsmart the other as well as bringing in the complex legal and political interplay involved. The levels of complexity build as the show matures, in my opinion reaching its absolute peak in the dying episodes of series 3. Although it requires watching the preceding 30+ hours as a warm up, I would call the penultimate episode of series 3 as The one hour of television drama that everyone should watch. HBO are slightly overly sex obsessed when it comes to their productions (see: True Blood) but the gratuitous amounts of sex scenes in The Wire are needed to help with the characters interactions with each other.

However, it is not as an ensemble piece that The Wire excels, although it does so anyway; rather it is through the creation of stand out, completely three dimensional characters who feel for all intents and purposes people you actually know in real life. Bubbles, McNulty and the terrifying Omar are to name but three, but the whole cast is a collection of perfectly matched acting skill and razor sharp scripting. The final series lost its way, although the bittersweet final montage went most of the way to redeem it for its sins; and other than the slightly frustratingly slow pace at the beginning of the first two series, I have nothing else to fault this show on. Hell, even its theme tune makes my hair stand on end. Along with The Sopranos, The Wire cements HBOs status as the King of incredible adult drama. Matt Allinson

True Blood

Based on the popular Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by author Charlaine Harris, True Blood was first introduced to viewers in 2008 by Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and Academy Award winning writer of American Beauty, writes Lucia Podhorska.

In a world where vampires have come out of the coffin and are living openly alongside humans, the main character Sookie Stackhouse is a waitress at Merlotte’s in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Played by Anna Paquin (Academy Award winning actress from The Piano), Sookie is 25 years old and a telepath – she can hear what other people around her are thinking. This might seem like a gift, but when you have a boss – Sam – who is in love with you and a brother – Jason – who won’t stop thinking about sex, it’s more of a curse. But all this changes when Merlotte’s gets its first vampire customer in the form of Bill Compton. Bill is tall, dark and handsome and Sookie can’t hear his thoughts. Naturally, the two are drawn to each other and a romance blossoms. However, all is not well as their small town appears to have a serial killer on the loose, targeting women who associate with vampires. Throw in some shapeshifters, werewolves and gorgeous vampire sheriff Eric Northman and Sookie’s life will never be the same again…

On the surface this may sound like just another Twilight or Vampire Diaries, but thankfully none of the characters are in high school anymore. While there is plenty of romantic drama, True Blood would not be an HBO show without blood, gore and sex galore. By making vampires a part of society and lobbying for equal rights, the books and show are also able to cleverly use these creatures as a metaphor for other demographics that have been discriminated against. But what is also wonderfully refreshing, is that the vampires are all three-dimensional characters and are not easily placed in the good or evil category. As a viewer, I think this is really important, because it always keeps me guessing. I love finding out what has happened in the past to make the characters the way they are and with some vampires over 2000 years old, you can count on some interesting history. All of the characters are engaging and the casting has been wonderful throughout, notably Nelsan Ellis as Lafayette, who takes the theory of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ to a whole other level. Evan Rachel Woods, probably best known for her movie Thirteen, is also a joy to watch as the Queen and I’m interested to see what happens with her character in season 4.

I find the show, which has received numerous awards including an Emmy and Golden Globe, to be completely addictive, causing me to watch all three seasons in three days and making me order the books as well. I am now half way through re-watching season one after only one week and am still hooked. And if that’s not the best compliment, I don’t know what is…

Next week weíll be reviewing Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. If youíre interested in writing about a TV series, either new or classic, or reviewing everything youíve watched during the week, then donít hestitate to email us at tv.felix@imperial.ac.uk