The Wire

So, I started watching this show. It is simply put… amazing.

But I had a thought while watching it. This show is very similar to E.R.

  1. They are both full of terminology not known to people outside that world.
  2. They both deal with people having to work their way up a nasty chain of command.
  3. There is plenty there about the interpersonal relationships of the cast.
  4. Both shows are full of great unknown (and known) acting talent.
  5. Both are hour long dramas as well.

Just some observations. I am currently about half way through season 2 and loving it.

(changed up my terminology to sound less blunt)

Oh this is going to be fun.

Basically a cop version of ER. I, what? I mean…

So is House. So was Star Trek. So are plenty of shows set against the background of anything other than what you’re exposed to in day to day life. Certainly enough shows to make it an unremarkable similarity between ER and The Wire.

I don’t remember enough of ER to know how big a role this played, but this hits pretty close to the central themes of The Wire regarding things like the chain of command, bureaucracy, and other failings of big institutions, whether government, social, or criminal. So yes, here is something The Wire is definitely dealing with.

Oh you meant to say it’s like Lost.

See also: Other television shows.

I was going to jokingly add “6. They are both TV shows!” but then I realized you pretty much said as much with point 5. And 1, 3, and 4.

I don’t remember a lot about ER, so I can’t totally dismiss the idea that maybe it has a lot of specific and notable similarities to The Wire, but you certainly haven’t brought up much to support the claim.

I’m being a jerk, sorry. I should probably just encourage you to continue watching The Wire. It’s probably the best show I’ve ever seen, and I’m happy for you that you’re watching it.

So as not to pile on you, I will just say that I would hold off trying to define what The Wire is or is similar to until you get later into the show. For example, having seen the entire program, I would not even call The Wire a cop show. I don’t think it’s much like ER at all.

I am not saying it is ER. I am just saying it is the equivalent of what E.R. did medical shows. E.R. did a ton to legitimize the medical show. The Wire basically raised the bar for police dramas.

Also, W.S. re-read what you wrote. It was basically… “I don’t know ER… but I am still right.”

Also… multi-quote… c’mon dude…

Dude, what? The medical drama is a staple of American television. E.R. didn’t do anything critically speaking that (say) St. Elsewhere didn’t do ten years before it.

But your big problem here is that The Wire isn’t a police drama. It looks like one now, in the first season. But trust me, it isn’t.

E.R. was most notable historically for its pacing and editing. The medical drama has been legitimate on TV for decades.

ER did a lot to legitimize the soap opera which is the main hook of the show. The characters were interchangeable, and as Gray’s Anatomy would later build on, you can pretty much do anything in medical garb and not be called a show for dumb shits so long as you put the hospital stuff front and center. I would argue House has strayed dangerously in that direction as it has run out of steam.

The Wire is not a soap opera. It is an epic drama where you don’t replace characters so much as layer them. It takes plotlines that would be season story arcs in a lesser series (that could span many genres) and uses them for a single scene that may not even have any words in them, just as part of the context.

If it has a problem, it is that it would do much better in an era where the internet couldn’t turn it into another team based entertainment argument. I submit this post as proof of concept.

I didn’t realize people hated E.R. so much. Watch the first few seasons again. It kind of spiraled off into mediocrity near the end, but it really was a huge boost to the genre. It won 22 emmy awards for god’s sake. It is a crime that the Wire had to live under the shadow of the Sopranos for its entire run.

If E.R. is a soap opera… then every dramatic show is. Hell… the wire is then. All the stuff with McNulty’s kids and wife… and his lover? C’mon. Everyone is acting like the Wire is a television god from which no other show can possibly even stand seconds in its presence. They are so unbelievably similar in a lot of ways.

The Wire is a better show, because it was not on network T.V., it goes much deeper than E.R., it has an over-arching plot with a clear ending, and it has a lot more freedom with locations and characters.

I didn’t think I was going to get the vitriol that I got for just making a simple suggestion, but they really are similar. E.R. is a bit more heavy on the characters than the plot… but things still happened on that show in the ER. A big part of the way ER was set up was to bring you into the little world of hospitals that you never saw before. Crichton wrote the show from his experiences in medical school, and they did a lot to make the show as realistic as possible. This is very similar to how the Wire does things with the Baltimore PD and the entire narco homicide detective and drug dealing scene. It is clearly written from experience, and to be realistic.

T.V. is serious business I guess.

Someone hasn’t even made fun of you for starting a thread for something that already has like six other threads devoted to it. So if anything, I’d say everyone is going easy on you.

Who’s hating ER? People are just saying it has no more to do with The Wire than any other decent one-hour drama. And anyway, NYPD Blue was the ER of cop shows long before The Wire came along.

I don’t hate ER at all. Like I said, it changed the standard for pacing in TV drama. It also was more accurate medically than any medical drama before it. I simply don’t think it’s very much like The Wire. For example, by the time the show ends, I’d argue most of the most memorable Wire characters are not cops or relatives/love interests of cops. They’re the criminals and a couple of the City Hall and school people. E.R. never focuses to the same degree in the long term on patients, and has no real equivalent of the City Hall and school aspect.

Or for not starting this new thread in P&R where it belongs, as The Wire is sacred.

It’s also a super-realistic look at Baltimore politics.

The best part about The Wire, and the part that Jon has only started to discover (midway through season 2) is how it explores all the angles. Not only one side or the other (good guys, bad guys) but you are going to get into the unions and politicians and schools, etc. etc. etc.

I haven’t really seen NYPD blue, but I guess that would be an apt comparison as well.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that they both use a lot of the same tactics to bring a viewer deeper into the show. They both play with the home-lives of the characters. They both have shocking moments and deep tragedy.

There are some even funnier similarities. They both begin with some talking and a shocking event that fades into the theme music and title cards. They both also end on still shots with camera pans and music. (ER often cut to commercial quickly and came back with the credits over stills, but they had a similar way to end things)

And yes, I have only seen one season to completion, and it reminded me a lot of why I liked E.R. so much.

Please, enlighten me if there are any other similarities or differences in the show. I wanted a discussion, and this started of with responses as if I was somehow degrading the wire by making comparisons. (I edited my original post to sound less demeaning, that was my fault, I didn’t mean to sound that way)

I’d argue that if anything, the Wire is an incredible survey of a certain kind of American city. Baltimore, St. Louis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, cities of a certain age, a certain racial history, a certain style of politics, a certain level of dysfunction. Not quite New York, not quite Detroit, though there are still some accurate parallels to both.

The fact that:

A. you think it’s a Cop show
B. think that it has a “clear ending”

Disqualifies you from passing comparisons on it quite yet. Watch through the end of season 5 and then let us know if you think it’s similar to ER in anything more than the most superficial way.

Also I can’t resist this:

They both begin with some talking and a shocking event that fades into the theme music and title cards.

So ER is like Law & Order? Also an hour long drama, also with good actors, also with obsure terminology.

And I’d argue that the Wire is intended as an up close and personal examination of the ways institutions fail, betray, forget, and grind up the individuals inside them.

So ER and The Wire are the only series you’ve ever watched?