A Television Show That Will Make You a Better Writer (and Make Me Irrationally Emotional)

Publish date:

There will be better and more coherent posts regarding the series
finale of the Wire, but I just wanted to offer my final
recommendation/plea as a writer. "The Wire"--for those who haven't
heard/seen it-- was a show that was on for five seasons on HBO
depicting inner-city Baltimore through all the different arms of city
life: the drug trade, the city police department, the mayor's office,
the unions, the newspaper, the city schools, etc. The series finale
was last night. Like my profile on Friendster, it is now retired.
And--although I do have a penchant for hyperbole-- I swear to you
that I am not being overly dramatic when I say that "The Wire" is and
will forever remain the best and most complete form of entertainment
I have ever experienced. And that goes for books, movies, television,
internet shows starring Michael Cera, AND my roommate performing
"Kiss from a Rose" at the Japanese karaoke joint in the Fenway. And I
love karaoke.

Each season is a chapter in the most complicated and utterly
authentic tele-novel ever written. It was created by a former
Baltimore Sun reporter and a former Baltimore detective, and the only
writers they've brought on to collaborate with are urban crime
novelists: George Pelecanos, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, etc. And
they just nail it. All the characters are so well developed, so real
feeling, so spot-on with their dialogue, so perfectly placed with
their own arcs, and internal conflicts, you can't help but grow
despondently attached to them. I cried when my favorite character was
killed. Legitimately. And he did (mostly) bad things.

I have been watching this show since it first came on, and although I
normally take a loserish pride in staking any sort of trendy claim
about discovering something, I have told everyone I've ever known to
give it a chance. Anyone that will listen to me. I have pitched this
show like I had some sort of major investment, like I would somehow
benefit financially from its success, like it was written by one of
my (financially well off!) siblings. But I don't have any sort of
publicity deal. I just appreciate art and think this show is
important enough that everyone should watch it. Yes, it has bad
language (authentic cop/drug dealer talk!), and violence, and other
vices that may offend, but I guarantee that watching this show will
improve your ability to see and develop full characters and recognize
the greatness that comes with real authenticity in writing. The
entire show sounds improvised and ad-libbed, but according to what
I've read, hardly any of it deviates at all from the script, which is
the true litmus test of real dialogue writing. Even my dad (MY dad!),
who won't do anything I ask him and shies away from publicly
admitting he helped create me, begrudgingly watched the first season,
and ended up secretly watching all the other seasons behind my back
because he didn't want to admit I was right. Friends, The Wire is a
show for writers. Trust me on this. Rent the first season, watch the
12 episodes, and if you don't like it or at least see what I mean, I
will (probably) personally mail you a check for $8.99 in Netflix
expenses. OK, so I won't write you a check but you will definitely
not be invited to my Annual Wire Anniversary Gala next March
(featuring Kim Kardashian!).

Ok. Whew. I'm sorry. I'm all choked up. I will now step down off of
my soap box, dry my eyes and resume what's left of my regularly
scheduled blog entry.

I am on deadline again for Boston Magazine, trying to finish up a
quick essay piece re: an interesting phenomenon in city social
circles. For fear of someone stealing my idea, I will NOT be more
specific. My plan of attack is to write several hundred word blocks
in stream-of-conscious fashion for two hours straight until I find
something that actually sounds clever/accurate and then fashion my
entire piece around that insight. FYI: I do NOT recommend this tactic
for the GRE writing section.

This was really great, friends. Let's do it again Thursday.

Also, the songs of 1998 will resume with Thursdays entry, but I was
reminded last night that every make out scene from BH 90210 had this
song playing in the background, and so it needs to be all over my
Internets. You win, Steve Sanders!

No, I don't want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your
heart). With you.

Wicked Game,
Chris Isaak

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