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The Wire: Britain officially hooked

March 30, 2009
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During its run and especially during its final season, The Wire was one of the most discussed television programs by critics and journalists, particularly by writers at this publication. And while the American media’s response to the show was robust, it’s being matched in spirit and size in the United Kingdom right now. Starting tonight, BBC2 airs the entire series of The Wire at the rate of one episode per day. And while the Guardian‘s coverage of the program was nearly encyclopedic during its original run on the cable network FX in the UK, now that the series is going to be available to everybody via broadcast television, more media outlets are responding to it.

The Times offers an overview of the show, complete with some helper pointers for people who have never seen it. (In a lovely twist for all the American viewers of BBC America who were gratefully insulted for the cable station airing Skins with subtitles for its cast’s Bristol accents and slang, Times writer Stephen Armstrong suggests turning on the subtitles for The Wire since the “cast mumble in heavy Baltimore accents much of the time, and the script is littered with city-specific drug slang and cop jargon.”) The Independent provides a glossary list of such slang used in the series, such as “re up” (“Restock package from drugs wholesaler”) and “shameful shit” (“Unethical behaviour”).

The BBC itself is pushing the series on its web site, including an interview with British actor Dominic West, who famously created Baltimore cop Jimmy McNulty, and an essay about law enforcement television drama by pioneering British television writer and producer G.F. Newman, who created the original Law and Order for the BBC in 1978.

The Telegraph offers five reasons to watch the show while Style Editor Emma Hartley is curious about the BBC’s decision to air the series now when it’s readily available on DVD.

All of which is standard mainstream media response to a television program that has reached a critical cultural mass, but some of the most compelling responses to the The Wire have come from non-American writers, such as this fascinating analysis from the Irish Left Review. (And thanks for bringing it to my attention, Spectator blogger Alex Massie.)

Of course, the BBC is currently returning the excellent-television-program favor right now on BBC America with Ashes to Ashes Saturdays at 8 p.m. E.S.T., the blithe sequel to Life on Mars starring Keeley Hawes as a 2008 detective and criminal psychologist transported back to 1981 after she gets shot in the pilot episode. Great fun.

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