These past two months have been spent more or less binge watching the brilliant and now digitally remastered crime drama The Wire. The first three seasons I spent entranced in VHS quality nitty-gritty of Baltimore’s ghettos. About half way through the show, I made the upgrade to HBO’s recently released Hi-Def version – and what a difference it made.
Regardless of the format, The Wire is one of those shows that so aptly documents what life is like – from the underbelly of the streets to the high offices of government, and everything in between. Stories weave in and out with the artistry of Shakespearean subplots. We see Bubbles rise and fall, rise again, fall again, over and over until he finally warms our heart with his phoenix flames. We watch Randy Wagstaff fall through the cracks, while Namond is rescued from his own fate. Prez finds a new calling. Lester goes from bad cop to good cop to bad cop. It’s a panoply of ups and downs.
The digital remaster will undoubtedly usher a new generation of watchers into its fan-base, but in the polishing and gilding, that grit is lost. The wide angle helps it become more accessible, but part of the fun of watching the old version is the nostalgia, and the real-ness that it provides. After all, the shocking discovery of picture text-messaging doesn’t resonate the same way on an HD Wide Screen TV…
The one place where The Wire fell short, for me, was in their bow tying in the final episode. Duquan succumbs to the lure of heroin, and for me that was one heart break too many. Perhaps he will become the new Bubbles, and if there’s ever (god forbid) a sequel, maybe he will fill that hole. There’s no way to condense those five seasons that go from the streets to the school to the front steps of the governor’s house in a single article. The only thing to say is it’s worth watching – and if you need to have a shining glimmering hi-def picture to reel you in, so be it.