I'm a relatively recent convert to The Wire, an HBO TV series that is consistently described as "the best show on television," despite its small viewership compared to other series. After pretty much all of my friends vouched for The Wire, I finally gave it a shot -- despite HBO describing it as a "police drama," which is categorically uninteresting to me. After watching the first few seasons, I discovered that The Wire is actually a sociopolitical study of an American city (Baltimore) dressed up as a cop drama. The series covers a surprising range of political issues -- drugs, police violence, union politics, international shipping, education, elections, and next season: the media -- by focusing on how they apply to Baltimore, creating a detailed, nuanced study of modern inner city life. The "wire" referenced in the title (a wiretap executed in the first and second seasons) is just one aspect of the series, which slowly and deliberating expands its scope with each episode, entering broad new territories with each season.
The fourth season DVD set was released last week (rent it via Netflix). The fourth season focuses on Baltimore's politics and education system, showing the political rise of a mayor-elect, and a former cop trying to be an inner city math teacher. If you've never seen the show before, you should start with Season One and stick with it -- watch at least three episodes so you'll see the scope of the show. If you've been away from the show for awhile, let me encourage you to pick up the Season Four DVDs, make some popcorn, close the blinds, and turn off your cell phone.
The fifth (and final) season of The Wire starts on Sunday, January 6, 2008. If you're an HBO subscriber with Comcast, the show will premiere new episodes one week early via "On Demand," making you the envy of your neighbors! That means you can host a New Year's Eve party for the first episode if you so desire. While you wait, check out a series of recent interviews with the show runners (warning -- some have strong language, as does the show!):