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Thread: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

  1. #1
    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    The Wire, which ran on HBO from 2002 to 2008, is hailed by its cult followers as the best TV show of all time. In terms of the quality of its writers and the script, it is perhaps the best show HBO has ever done (and that says a lot, considering all the amazing HBO original series). Obviously it doesn't match the production values of shows like Rome, Game of Thrones, and John Adams simply because these require unique costumes, wholly-manufactured sets, and CGI battles representing the reality of life in the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods, respectively. However, the resources given to The Wire was more than enough to produce a brilliant crime drama set in present times. TV critics have said that its story reads as pure literature, with its complexity and character development on par or even upstaging much more widely-acknowledged shows like The Sopranos.



    So what do you guys think? Do you think it's still the best show HBO has ever done? And if so, by what parameters? The script alone? Or should we include acting and other factors?

    Personally I enjoy watching it the most, although if I absolutely had to pick something else it would be Rome.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Why do we limit it to HBO? But in any case, the Wire is probably the best thing that came out of TV whole (who knows what place Deadwood would have occupied on this list if they had let it finish). No other series ever came close to it in terms of end result. Yes, there series with better acting (Sopranos) and more sexy (Rome) and awesomely epic (GoT) or intrinsically subversive (BB) but the sheer concentrated rage and despair of Simon, put in such vivid packaging, is something I'm afraid we'll never encounter again.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    It always seemed as dreadfully boring to me,

  4. #4

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Despondent Mind View Post
    It always seemed as dreadfully boring to me,
    I understand that. It was a slow burner, and if you have no interests of a, erm, sociological nature, watching it can be a chore.

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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garbarsardar View Post
    Why do we limit it to HBO?
    Well, I happen to like shows like Burn Notice. However, not only do I think shows like that are on a level beneath The Wire's quality of writing and commitment to portraying things as realistically as possible, but including all shows is perhaps too broad a scope for one thread. I thought narrowing the focus to HBO, which produces more than enough material for discussion, would be more than sufficient. Cinemax and Starz have some great shows too...perhaps we could broaden the discussion to include pay television services like them, while still excluding the rest of cable programming because that would be too much.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    After re-watching a bunch of HBO (drama) series on Amazon (not counting miniseries like band or John Adams), I'd rank them:

    Wire
    Boardwalk
    Rome
    Game of Thrones
    Sopranos
    Deadwood (I also wish they had let it finish, but it went downhill the last season)
    Oz
    Carnivale
    Six Feet Under

    Also I think Breaking Bad is a better show than the Wire, the ending certainly. By the end of the Wire I found McNulty and Bunk pretty obnoxious so I was way more invested in seeing how Walt and Jesse ended up (both shows burned through their best antagonists before the end).

    Also Mad Men is better than a lot of HBO shows including The Sopranos, outside miniseries and some currently airing series I don't think anything else from Showtime/Cinemax etc. is on HBO's level (which is why they've revamped their focus and spent so much recently trying to get something to compete).
    Quote Originally Posted by Garbarsardar View Post
    Why do we limit it to HBO? But in any case, the Wire is probably the best thing that came out of TV whole (who knows what place Deadwood would have occupied on this list if they had let it finish). No other series ever came close to it in terms of end result. Yes, there series with better acting (Sopranos) and more sexy (Rome) and awesomely epic (GoT) or intrinsically subversive (BB) but the sheer concentrated rage and despair of Simon, put in such vivid packaging, is something I'm afraid we'll never encounter again.
    Sopranos has some very good acting by Gandalfini and the supporting cast of mobsters (I watch Lilyhammer purely for Steven Van Zandt), but watching the series again recently I just don't like the dynamic with the therapist or many of the later season storylines. I found myself fast forwarding, and then didn't even bother watching the last few episode because I really didn't care about anyone by then.

    Boardwalk which I think has even better acting also has a problem with some questionable storylines taking up some seasons, but it is much more fulfilling than The Sopranos.

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    Roma_Victrix's Avatar Gatorade, is it in you?
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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Good point about Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad for that matter, even though the latter is not an HBO series.

    To be honest, I'm a little surprised no one has come in here yet arguing for Band of Brothers as the best material HBO has put forth.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Good point about Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad for that matter, even though the latter is not an HBO series.

    To be honest, I'm a little surprised no one has come in here yet arguing for Band of Brothers as the best material HBO has put forth.
    I just don't think it is fair to compare a mini series to a drama that spans multiple seasons. Band is great, but if we are ranking HBO miniseries I would put John Adams ahead of it even (WWII fatigue hurts Band by comparison I think, it isn't as if there are a ton of great John Adams or even American revolutionary oriented dramas to compare it to).


    I guess in the same way that it is not fair to compare cable series that run 10-12 episode long seasons to network shows that have dozens of episodes a season (though they do this on purpose to milk advertising dollars and should be rightfully criticized for being less about dramatic storytelling as much as network shilling).

    It might not also be fair to compare Rome, Carnivale (though no one really has/would probably) or Deadwood to shows that went much longer because you are giving them the benefit of the doubt that they too would not run into late season problems retaining what made them so attractive in the first place.

    I suspect HBO's casting department must be really amazing to have near perfect casting of historical figures in shows like Boardwalk and John Adams not to mention the great casting of most of their other shows. That or they don't interfere as much in the process as other networks but given how much overlap in actors (many of whom got their break on the channel) there is they must have some hand in it.

    Having said that, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrel are following Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the next season of True Detective??? This will either be a chance to showcase some deeply hidden talent these two possess, or it will be shameful end of that series. Especially with Fukunaga no longer directing, in fact they are going to use a different director every time, I just don't see how they can pull this one off.

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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    It was a awesome serie!

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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by tarvu View Post
    Having said that, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrel are following Mathew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in the next season of True Detective??? This will either be a chance to showcase some deeply hidden talent these two possess, or it will be shameful end of that series. Especially with Fukunaga no longer directing, in fact they are going to use a different director every time, I just don't see how they can pull this one off.
    Different actors in a different setting and with a different story is one thing, but a director aside from Fukunaga? We'll have to see how that pans out. I'm guessing not as good, but I'll suspend judgment and give the upcoming 2nd season the benefit of the doubt. The first season was pure cinematic orgasmic awesomeness. In fact, the writing may very well have been better than The Wire aside from the weird inexplicable paranormal thing in the very last episode when they finally find the killer's hidden lair in what he calls "Carcosa." It certainly had some amazing cinematography, especially in that episode where McConaughey was extracting that biker gang guy from the drug house on foot. How long again was that one continuous take without cuts? Five minutes straight? That was impressive. It reminded me a lot of that staircase scene in The Protector with Tony Jaa, only without Thai martial arts.

    However, I think that The Wire has some of the best cause-and-effect plot devices ever conceived. It's incredibly intricate in that regard and very realistic.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    In fact, the writing may very well have been better than The Wire aside from the weird inexplicable paranormal thing in the very last episode
    Who said was a paranormal thing? i mean i didnt see it that, way, nor i felt was realy not explained, for me it has alot to do in showcasing Rust psyche and life strugle, from losing his daughter to his alucinations to the acceptance of his inner feelings on the matter.
    I mean i didnt felt was necessarily a magical or paranormal thing going on.

    I would add True detective and Fargo to the list that already being mentioned in this thread.
    And reserve a nice spot for Hannibal, wich cinematographicaly speaking is gorgeousas well, with very good acting in it.
    House of Cards both the 90s BBC show and the netflix american version is worth a mention, for they are sublime pieces on their own. Kevin spacey and Robin Wright specialy are amazing in that show.

    The Wire is great, but it is the best Drama TV show ever? meh among the best no doubt. But i dont find it necessarily superior to others we already talked about.

    PS: Ok they are not HBO, true to be told i dont care wich network they come from
    Last edited by Knight of Heaven; September 25, 2014 at 08:12 PM.

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    Halie Satanus's Avatar Emperor of ice cream
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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Hmm. The second series of the 'The Wire' was a snore fest, as if the writers wanted to show all the facets of undercover work but then realised we want to see popo vs hoods and (dis)organised crime at it's grittiest level rather than corruption in the wider scope. It was a great series but was it really better than NYPD Blue in it's heyday. I don't think so.

    True Detective's first series was a class above, though with only six episodes it's a lot easier to throw the kitchen sink in.

    Sopranos, a different beast altogether. We grew with those characters and were apart of their personal lives, good and bad.

    OZ.' In terms of breaking ground OZ took a jackhammer to the TV series format and shived it in the showers with a sharpened toothbrush. No character was safe as leads and supporting cast were dispatched in ever increasing violence. yet OZ wasn't just a gore fest, the intricate schemes and plots gave all the killing purpose and made the ridiculous seem plausible. Can you imagine a prison scheme staying open after a prison guard had his eyes cut out..

    Deadwood will always be the one that got away... As Mr Wu would say 'HBO..........'

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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Halie Satanus View Post
    True Detective's first series was a class above, though with only six episodes it's a lot easier to throw the kitchen sink in.
    I find TD to be highly overrated with lots of pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo that never got anywhere. It tried to be smart, but ultimately failed badly.

    Deadwood will always be the one that got away... As Mr Wu would say 'HBO..........'
    I think that The Wire is the best show ever produced, with The Sopranos as a close runner up, but Deadwood will always be the apple of my eye.


  14. #14

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo that never got anywhere
    I think you didnt get the show.

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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Knight of Heaven View Post
    I think you didnt get the show.
    I think I saw it for what it really was. A great packaging, essentially a good story, good acting, but in its attempt to be smart and artsy, it ended up being a balloon that popped.


  16. #16

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Speaking of overrated (not sure I agree on TD though I also felt the finale was a bit of a let down), what is the most overrated HBO series?

    I would make a case for Six Feet Under. It launched Alan Ball's career giving us True Blood and Banshee (what a national travesty these two shows were), and is lauded by critics as amazing and is often considered HBO's best series alongside Sopranos and The Wire.

    Why?

    I cannot think of a show with such (needlessly) detestable characters. None of them are likeable, they are all emotional wrecks with very little to redeem themselves. How does living in a funeral home explain a family of complete narcissists? Ruth Fischer is maybe my most hated archvillain to ever appear on HBO, she might not have the body count of Joffrey, Adibissi, Stringer Bell or some others but only because of the setting she is living in. She is so completely self absorbed, and yet can't help but interfere in the most obnoxious ways in her children's lives. Just an awful, terrible person that I really have trouble watching whenever she is on the screen.

    Her children aren't much better, but she is the worst female character I can imagine. By comparison it is hard to believe how much hate characters like Margaret (Boardwalk) and Skylar (BB) get despite at least actually having genuinely sympathetic reasons for behaving the way they do, even if it is often irrational. I have to think maybe Alan Ball has mother issues of his own but some people who see the show for some reason don't immediately point out what an absolute monster she is.

    Anyways it is an interesting concept for a show, but between Alan Ball and the cast I just hate it (I'm currently watching it for the second time on Amazon in the hopes that a decade might have changed my feelings on it).

    Alan Ball simply cannot write characters that are likeable. Sookie, Mr. Banshee (I refuse to recall his name), and most of their supporting characters are all one dimensionally flawed awful, selfish s.

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    Halie Satanus's Avatar Emperor of ice cream
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    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joar View Post
    I find TD to be highly overrated with lots of pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo that never got anywhere. It tried to be smart, but ultimately failed badly.
    Nic Pizzolatto (writer) said, very early on, that it wasn't what people were making it of it. All the supernatural stuff going on was what people wanted to see (largely prompted by the director) but ultimately the bad guy was going to just be a bad guy. Matthew McConaughey's character "Rust" Cohle took the audience down the proverbial rabbit hole that was never going to lead where we thought it was, ie: we were never going to find a boogy man with any thing more to him than a sick and twisted mind. I wouldn't say it failed, I doubt any one would have been happy if Chole and Hart had come to a nasty end being sacrificed to some backwood corn god.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Other than the Wire, all the best tv was on normal tv...
    One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas.
    -Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gaidin View Post
    Other than the Wire, all the best tv was on normal tv...
    Like what? What shows has network had in the last twenty years that compare to cable series?

    A billion generic sitcoms, cop procedurals that don't hold a candle to The Wire? Reality television?

    Even comedies where network has had the best known hits like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm does that style better. The only reason network ever had talent was because it was for a long period of television history "the only game in town". Now it is where people go to sell out, and it shows in the laughably poor quality of 99% of their series.

    Quote Originally Posted by Halie Satanus View Post
    Nic Pizzolatto (writer) said, very early on, that it wasn't what people were making it of it. All the supernatural stuff going on was what people wanted to see (largely prompted by the director) but ultimately the bad guy was going to just be a bad guy. Matthew McConaughey's character "Rust" Cohle took the audience down the proverbial rabbit hole that was never going to lead where we thought it was, ie: we were never going to find a boogy man with any thing more to him than a sick and twisted mind. I wouldn't say it failed, I doubt any one would have been happy if Chole and Hart had come to a nasty end being sacrificed to some backwood corn god.
    No but they could ahve explored the conspiracy/occult aspect of it which went nowhere. Even if the point is that those people were untouchable they could have devoted more of their season to trying, or showing why they were untouchable rather than throwing out red herrings related to Cole's psychosis (which I'm not even really complaining about, just that the finale was anti climactic and no where near the quality of the best episodes of the season). The rest of the season kept me in anticipation of what would happen next, and the finale did not leave me as satisfied as I expected to be. It wasn't terrible, and I liked the speech at the end but there should have been more to leave off on before that or a better method of finding him/killing him than we got that involved the conspiracy more.

    Maybe he just wrote himself into the corner and had to end it abruptly, but are you saying you weren't disappointed at all in the finale?

  20. #20

    Default Re: Is The Wire Still the Best HBO Series?

    Quote Originally Posted by tarvu View Post
    Like what? What shows has network had in the last twenty years that compare to cable series?

    A billion generic sitcoms, cop procedurals that don't hold a candle to The Wire? Reality television?

    Even comedies where network has had the best known hits like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm does that style better. The only reason network ever had talent was because it was for a long period of television history "the only game in town". Now it is where people go to sell out, and it shows in the laughably poor quality of 99% of their series.
    Person of Interest
    Leverage
    Blacklist
    White Collar
    Continuum

    to name just a few.

    See, something you gotta learn, it doesn't really matter if it's "procedural". The cool part is when they put a twist on it, like making such a sort of procedural show into a philip k dick world conspiracy show in Person of Interest. Or a modern episodic Robin Hood team in Leverage. You get your episode stories, sure, but there's still that overarching plot of the season that seems to be all HBO can get a hardon for and they don't bother with that episodic story that still manages to finish itself in 55 minutes. And that just gets annoying. There are only a select few shows I can bother with the plot investment for that. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, The Wire.
    One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas.
    -Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Let's think the unthinkable, let's do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.

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