Stripped Wire

Robyn and I started watching “The Wire” last week. This doesn’t mean watching cables outside, but a highly recommended TV series labeled by some as the best thing since the West Wing. That may be true. There’s even a university course dedicated to dissecting it. But three episodes in, it hasn’t really gripped me. It’s hard for me to put a finger on just one thing. There’s a lot of swearing. I’m not really all that sensitive to swearing – Robyn is though. I don’t like watching television my wife isn’t comfortable with. It makes me uncomfortable in turn. The dialogue is certainly pacy. Which is nice. That was part of the West Wing’s charm. It has compelling characters. Which is another box ticked.

A lot of the discomfort I think I’m feeling is to do with the scenery. Half the scenes with the villains are set in Strip Clubs. I confess I don’t see why this is necessary. It’s hackneyed. The Sopranos already did it. Suddenly the strip club is essential for gangster office chic. Is that what it’s like in real life? Should we be more concerned about K-Rudd’s notorious visit to Scores? Was he really getting down and dirty with the seedy underbelly?

There’s a long, well documented association of organised crime and the flesh trade, and by association the drug trade. And The Wire is certainly pushing for the “gritty reality” crime drama merit badge. That’s the vibe they’re going for. So I can understand the move from a screenwriting standpoint. It doesn’t make as much sense from a commercial standpoint. The “cult hit” nomenclature is an oxymoronic attempt to sell more DVDs. It means “non mainstream success” or “salvageable bomb”. Nobody sets out to make a cult classic.

You’ve got to wonder if steering clear of material that is likely to make husbands uncomfortable to watch the show with their wives is part of the recipe for commercial success. I know I’d feel more comfortable watching without the gratuitous nudity. I’m not sure if this is just because I’m a Christian or if non-Christians feel the same awkwardness. Obviously my moral compass has a lot to do with my Christianity. But this just seems like a case of bad commercial sense. The people who get kicks out of all the gratuitous nudity are unlikely to switch off because of its absence. It’s almost a lack of confidence in their product.

You’ve got to wonder what strip clubs are thinking of this premium exposure. Does it help or hinder their cause to be portrayed as the ubiquitous criminal hangout? Even in 21, the Kevin Spacey card counting flick the team of college card counters made a Vegas strip joint their “out of casino” headquarters.