The Wire-The Complete First Season (2002)
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers - Episodes 1, 2 And 12
|Year Of Production||2002|
|Running Time||759:38 (Case: 780)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (5)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
With all due respect to the other great contenders for best TV show (shows such as The Sopranos, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, The Shield and Deadwood), David Simon’s thirteen part TV novel The Wire is quite simply the best TV show ever produced. That’s a massive claim, and I don’t deny it. I also stand by it. I can guarantee you that if you take the time to sit down in front of this series and take the full 13 episodes in, you will find yourself a convert and making similar claims to your friends and family.
Set in Baltimore in 2002, The Wire begins with disgruntled murder Detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) beginning to piece together a series of murders all traced back to a name nobody on the police force has even heard about – drug kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris). When Avon’s nephew D’Angelo “D” Barksdale (Larry Gillard Jr. in an utterly exceptional acting role) is acquitted of murder when a state’s witness is turned, and another state’s witness is subsequently murdered, McNulty sees this as his opportunity to get enough political momentum behind putting together a task force to take down Barksdale. But in a system where the cops are often as reprehensible as the drug dealers they are trying to put away, and everybody on both sides has political ambitions and something to lose, building a case where the money is more important than the drugs is hard when you always have to watch your back.
It has been a long time since I have come across story telling this good. None of these characters is a wholly good person. Indeed, a lot of them are downright horrible. But in each of them is a spark of humanity that, little by little makes them likeable for what they are – human and fallible. McNulty’s task force is composed of a number of the dregs of the Baltimore police department. There is Lieutenant Daniels, a commander with ambitions and a chequered past, a spoilt kid with a bad attitude who has kept his job only because of his family further up the chain of command, Prez Pryzblewski (Jim True-Frost), two hotshot but less-than-intelligent narcotics cops, Herc Hauk (Domenick Lombardozzi) and Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam), and a couple of alcoholics from the property division. Amongst the waste there are a few diamonds: Detective Shakima Greggs (Sonja John), a policewoman with the smarts and a grudge, and Detective Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters), a former murder investigator demoted to pawnshop detail after running a case too successfully. And to help out in the projects, the crew enlist the aid of local long-term junkie Bubbles (Andre Royo).
On the other side of the fence there are the foot soldiers, Bodie (J. D. Williams), Wallace (Michael B. Jordan) and Poot (Tray Chaney), all of whom work down in ‘the Pit’ in the low rise projects under D’Angelo. Then there are the officers with a stake in the high rise projects, Orlando (Clayton LeBouef), Wee-Bay (Hassan Johnson) and Stinkum (Brandon Price), and at the top of the chain Avon’s right hand man Stringer Bell (Idris Elba). And mixing it up in between is ruthless thief Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), who makes his living by ripping off drug dealers. But rather than being faceless ‘bad guys’ to be brought down, each of these people has a life, with friends, family and lovers. Barksdale himself comes across as a savvy and street smart individual, who cares as much about his community as he does about his business. D’Angelo is both human and at time wise, with too much heart for the business, but determined not to let his family down. And even the foot soldiers are likeable in their own ways.
With an ensemble of characters like this it was a given that The Wire was going to be a classic. But what is more impressive is that there is not one wasted scene in this entire series. Each scene is its own story, telling an important part of each character, and each scene adds to the greater whole that is this richly textured cinematic TV novel. There are also some absolutely ingenious moments of TV here, including an entire scene where two characters manage to piece together a murder and seemingly convey whole sentences, feelings and emotions simply by using the word ‘f***’. It has to be seen to be believed. This show also has one of the best explanations of chess I think I’ve seen for a while, where the whole chessboard is put into drug dealing parlance. These are just two of this show’s utterly unassuming and yet brilliant moments – original, hard hitting, and sometimes just too brutally realistic.
To give you a plot synopsis of this series would not only be impossible, but also an injustice to both the series and to you. What follows is simply a list of how the series is spaced out across these 5 discs:
1. The Target (62:09)
2. The Detail (57:46)
3. The Buys (55:04)
4. Old Cases (59:30)
5. The Pager (60:03)
6. The Wire (59:20)
7. One Arrest (59:10)
8. Lessons (56:05)
9. Game Day (56:44)
10. The Cost (55:33)
11. The Hunt (56:22)
12. Cleaning Up (56:19)
13. Sentencing (65:33)
You will not find a better show on TV that addresses so much in such a small way. Taking full advantage of its 13 episode canvass, unrestricted by censorship, political correctness and the burdens of commerciality, never once pandering down to its audience, The Wire is, in short, a masterpiece.
Transferred here in 1.33:1, Full Frame, non-16x9 enhanced, this is this show’s original aspect ratio so there is no call to cry about the lack of a widescreen presentation. This was filmed this way, and was always meant to be shown in Full Frame.
Overall, the picture is a little grainy and prone to far too many film artefacts. Colour is also a little washed out, although part of that may be an intentional look of the show.
The image is for the most fairly sharp, although there is a mild softness to some scenes. Shadow detail is pretty good, which is important given a lot of pivotal parts of this show take place at night or in darkly lit areas. You will have no difficulty discerning what’s going on, it’s just that this lacks the clarity of a cinematic transfer, which is a shame, because it really shouldn’t.
There are no glaring MPEG artefacts, but there are a disturbing number of film-to-video transfer artefacts. The various brick buildings around Baltimore, particularly the projects where most of the action takes place, are far too prone to moire effect and aliasing. While I have software that tries to compensate for these problems, they are still evident in some scenes. Worse yet is some annoying macro blocking in the background on closely grouped lines. There is minimal background low-level noise thanks to the software I have, but the macro blocking is painfully evident.
Thankfully the print is largely free of dirt and other film artefacts. If you look for these things you will see them, but this is a very clean print overall.
Subtitles are available in a lot of languages – a full list is available above. They are white with a black border, clear and easy to read, and the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles follow the dialogue pretty closely.
The dual-layer pauses do not seem to be placed during any of these episodes. I watched the whole series very closely and did not spot one dual-layer pause during an episode. If someone does spot one, please post a note below.
Audio is available in a fantastic English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and also an alternative French 2.0 Dolby Surround overdub. The French track seems adequate, but otherwise unremarkable. The English track deserves a little more attention.
The most important part of this show is, by far, the dialogue. Thankfully, there has been a lot of work done here to get the dialogue reproduced cleanly with a total lack of sync issues. The accents and inflection of speech are all well rendered.
The range is excellent, and is put to good use not only with the music but also in the surround sound information. This is one of the few TV shows I have reviewed on DVD that has gone to so much effort to try and create a cinematic surround sound presence. While it is no DTS-ES track, there is plenty of information here.
The subwoofer gets a surprising amount of use, not only to add clarity to everyday noises like car and truck engines, or to make the gunshots painfully realistic when you hear one, but also in surround scenes such as the helicopter search scene. Great stuff.
|Surround Channel Use|
All menus are presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame, with the theme music and various snippets off the wire in 2.0 Dolby Stereo.
Presented in 1.33:1, Full Frame, these are a set of stills outlining the events of each episode and where to find it in the set. Useful for fans who have seen the show before, but DO NOT read this before you watch the show for the first time.
Presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, the following episodes contain an audio commentary:
Unlike most commentaries, which I find are generally an excuse to have the commentary added as a special feature and let someone drone in a monotonous voice, these commentaries are actually extremely engaging and interesting and well worth listening to.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The R1 release of this series looks to be largely identical except for the Region coding and the video format, and I would hazard a guess that this is simply an R4 clone of the R1 original. This would explain a lot of the video artefacts I am seeing here. If anyone knows better, leave me a note below.
The Wire is without a doubt the best TV show produced.
Video is, unfortunately, far from perfect, having been simply converted from an NTSC master.
The sound, on the other hand, is excellent.
The extras are light, but what there is on these discs is very interesting.
|DVD||Momitsu V880N Deluxe, using DVI output|
|Display||Hewlett Packard ep7120 DLP Projector with 80" Widescreen HDTV Projector Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Digital Accoustics Emerald 703G - Centre, Front Left & Right, Rear Left & Right Satellites, Subwoofer|