How to convince someone to watch The Wire?
October 16, 2007 10:03 AM   Subscribe

How do I convince someone to take the plunge, and make the Watch THE WIRE?

Give me links to the most convincing reviews, articles, youtube clips, etc that attest to the fact that The Wire is the best TV show ever made and that it is worth the time commitment.

Or give me your personal sales pitch. What would YOU say to convince someone who is very hesitant to watch?
posted by shotgunbooty to Media & Arts (47 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I had the DVD of season one sitting on my shelf for over a year before I was so bored I gave it a shot. I was glad I did. Totally surprised me. For some reason I thought it was a show about sports writers, I think I may have confused it with Arliss.

So my sales pitch is...if what is holding you back is fear of a show about sports writers, fret not and give it a try.
posted by ian1977 at 10:06 AM on October 16, 2007

very hesitant to watch

WHY are they hesitant to watch? If we know that, we might be able to offer solutions.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:08 AM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: Brandon, the person is just lazy and stubborn. I need to excite him. I need to sell him so hard that they can't help but put in the effort himself and go out and rent or borrow a DVD or heaven forbid download a torrent. So I'm looking for ammo.
posted by shotgunbooty at 10:14 AM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: Why The Wire is the Best Show On Television.
posted by dead_ at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2007

Unfortunately, The Wire takes a few episodes to hook in, so it's not really something you can just show an hour of and expect them to get it.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:17 AM on October 16, 2007

Getting someone to get into a show is sometimes as easy as just forcing them to watch a few episodes in a row, preferably the first few of the series. Call it *getting hooked on the narrative*. It's worked on me.
posted by inconsequentialist at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2007

Off the top of my head, without Googling it, I don't know what The Wire is about. And the name just doesn't give me any information—is it a spy thing (a wire as in a concealed microphone)? Is it a media drama (a wire as in a newswire)? Is it something else entirely? And on another level: Are past seasons out on DVD yet, so I can catch up? I don't have cable: Is it available on regular network television? I don't get home from work until 5:30 or 6 p.m. most weekdays: Is it on during regular prime-time television hours?

Those are some things I'd need to find out before I'd be willing to even consider watching it, and as such, they may be some of the barriers you'll face in trying to convince someone like me to watch it.
posted by limeonaire at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2007

This article on slate begins "The Wire, which has just begun its fourth season on HBO, is surely the best TV show ever broadcast in America. "
If for no other reason (and there are lots and lots of reasons) I think this is show deserves respect for the fact that the writers know when to finish it.
posted by bernsno at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2007

Well, when my friend was first telling me "You need to watch this show! It's like Shakespeare in Baltimore! With crack!" I was all "Aw, man! I don't want to watch Shakespeare! I want to watch something entertaining, something that isn't... good for me."

I don't know what finally convinced me, but when I did, I was shocked - shocked, I tell you! - by how profoundly entertaining this show is. Yes, it's very, very good. But it's the kind of good that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and takes you on a wild ride, not the kind of good where you feel bored and virtuous while watching.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:19 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, dead_ beat me to it. Touche dead_
posted by bernsno at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2007

I like The Wire a lot. I think it's a great show.

That said, just hand 'em a DVD. The individual episodes work fine on their own, methinks. If that doesn't work, then you have no chance.

Anyone too "lazy and stubborn" to watch a television show (God help him) is really beyond all hope.
posted by koeselitz at 10:22 AM on October 16, 2007

However, I find that season openers / finales are generally the most exciting and encapsulated episodes. The Wire has had several good ones. One of those episodes might be concentrated enough to cause addiction.
posted by koeselitz at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: Because it's a show that feels smarter than I am; where all the characters make decisions I can understand, or come to understand, and not the dumb plot-contrivance decisions that are standard in most programs. Because the villains are & aren't, and everyone feels human. Because it's a show in tones of grey, and yet thrilling in it. Because it deals with love, friendship, death, children, drugs, crime, the school system, the political system, urban studies, gender, and almost everything else. Because it has the most varied characterization of non-white (and to some degree, gay) characters of any show ever. Because there's no one main character, per se, at least overall; and instead it's the city of Baltimore that is the main character, tragic and multifoliate and teeming with life.

Also: OMAR.
posted by Marquis at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2007 [10 favorites]

Please just keep it our little secret. You can tell your friend I said that.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:49 AM on October 16, 2007

I love it now, but man, is it slooooow going at first. You can't multi-task while watching, either. I got into it via watching the DVDs on a portable DVD player during a boring commute, and it still took me 3-4 episodes to convince myself to keep going.

Now I love it and see all the richness and depth, but it took a whle.

Also, fans of The Wire can be most obnoxious and smug about how great it is, which does not help.
posted by GaelFC at 10:52 AM on October 16, 2007

Sounds like you need to have a "The Wire" marathon party for the first DVD or first 3 or 4 episodes. Make the sort of munchies your friend likes and get'em on over.

Note, though, that I've never seen The Wire, though it's on my list of things too watch. I mention this because I've had instances of friends hyping a movie or show to the nth degree and when I finally watch it, I'm like "That was good, but not really worth the hype". It's a show, not the second coming, so maybe knock back on the hype and just be more casual about it. After reading this thread, I'm almost convinced the show will cure disease and bring peace and enlightenment to me. If it doesn't I'm gonna be pissed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2007

TV Trope: Hype Aversion: the specific avoidance of a work mainly because of how much you're told you'll like it.
posted by smackfu at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2007

Off the top of my head, without Googling it, I don't know what The Wire is about.

Part of the reason for The Wire's lack of Sopranos-level success is, IMO, precisely this problem. It's really hard to define what the show is about. There are recurring characters from year to year, but each season focuses on a different aspect of similar themes. I read somewhere that one of the creators said the show was about how we are all worth less. I like that.

It's like Shakespeare in Baltimore!

Hmm, I think I prefer Slate's "Dickensian" take.

Also: OMAR.

posted by mkultra at 11:13 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, I knew nothing about The Wire until now, but y'all have convinced me to watch it.
posted by tastybrains at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2007

My personal resistance to watching the Wire is that it sounds like it would be violent and depressing. Periodically I try to get fans to convince me that it isn't violent and depressing so that I can watch the best show that's ever been on television in the universe, but so far all the enthusiasts have agreed that it is in fact violent and depressing.
posted by yarrow at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2007

I didn't care to watch a cop show drama, but The Wire is so much more than that. It's about the society we live in, how it's constructed, and what that means for all of us. It's a profound and deeply entertaining show, though it takes two or three episodes for that to sink in. I'd have to say it's better than any show or movie ever made.
posted by xammerboy at 11:27 AM on October 16, 2007

Best answer: The Guardian's TV columnist Charlie Brooker is a massive fan of The Wire - he recently made a documentary about it for FX over here. You could view it here but a) I think the site employs some sort of IP filtering as it says it's only for UK viewers and b) it's not working at all for me (I'm in the UK) so either my connection's playing up or they've taken it down. Anyway, I'm sure it's floating around somewhere if it's not working from that location. He's also mentioned it on his BBC4 show a few times - here's a clip.

I've not actually watched The Wire myself but Brooker is scathing about most things on telly so if he likes it, it's probably brilliant.

(Completely off-topic, but the first three series of Screenwipe can be viewed here if you like that clip.)
posted by terrynutkins at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Part of the problem is that people are fanatics about some merely ok stuff. Like Firefly. I'm sure there are people who would say that was the best TV show ever. It can be awfully disappointing when stuff doesn't live up to the hype.

So it might help you to back down on the hyperbole. You don't need to tell them it's the best show ever or show them articles that say that. Just tell them it's a good show worth watching, and be OK if they don't get into it.
posted by smackfu at 11:32 AM on October 16, 2007

Honestly, it's no more violent than an episode of CSI. As far as depressing goes.... This is an angry show that has something to say. Not everyone wants to listen.
posted by xammerboy at 11:32 AM on October 16, 2007

Violent and depressing? I find the show to be hopeful, honest and deep in its emotional portrayal of the world and the all-too-human characters that inhabit it--their emotions are in fact our own, and watching them move through Baltimore is captivating as we root for them in their struggles.

This serves the dual purpose of opening upper-class America's eyes to the problems that plague our inner cities, and helping us identify with those that are usually written off as lazy, addicted, or just plain stupid. Any real fan will echo those sentiments of connection, understanding and really just pure joy at become so attached to the men and women, addicts, cops, dockworkers, politicians and drugdealers of The Wire.
posted by dead_ at 11:35 AM on October 16, 2007

Wow, you really shouldn't use the term "real fan".
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on October 16, 2007

I watched the first two episodes of Season 1 and gave up. Just couldn't see myself getting into it despite the rave reviews.
posted by yeti at 12:02 PM on October 16, 2007

Because it's a show that feels smarter than I am.

That is key for me (I've just started season 1) -- the way the show refuses to talk down to me. If I don't get a reference or remember exactly who someone is, they don't really care -- I'll pick up on it eventually. So many shows feel the need to beat the viewer about the head and neck with exposition and explanation, and it is so refreshing to not have to deal with that.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:28 PM on October 16, 2007

Nick Hornby interviews David Simon:
My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2007 [9 favorites]

I'm like yeti, though I only watched an episode, maybe even just 3/4th's of one or a long group of one season's highlights, and after much prodding by seeing people proclaiming it the best thing ever. I'm not seeing it. It doesn't impress me at all. It seems like just another violent show, and the slate article does mention that it's easy to mistake it as one.

Perhaps someone can explain why a certain episode is fantastic. All the fandom just seems to be spoken in generalities. General themes. Tell me some specific episode, how it was constructed fantastically and brought in this principle and that principle and worked against the idea that blah blah blah. I mean normally that might be asking a bit much for a tv show, perhaps not, but if it's going to knock me into next week, can somebody at least describe the specific force and impact of the blow?
This serves the dual purpose of opening upper-class America's eyes to the problems that plague our inner cities, and helping us identify with those that are usually written off as lazy, addicted, or just plain stupid.
Perhaps that's why. I was thinking that maybe it's people who are aware of all these things and who know how much a show like this needs to be seen by the upper class. But are they taking it that way? I watched it (I'm not upper class) and I imagine those people it's aimed at shaking up (who need to be) are just going to watch it as a cop show, with a bunch of violent minorities. I appreciate that the show is apparently very good, but at the same time I'd love to see a show that critiqued the things this show is purported to critique, without it seeming like I'm watching New Jack and Boyz in the Hood every other week, and exclaiming about how "life affirming" it is.
posted by cashman at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2007

Thank you for this thread. I bought Season One of The Wire a couple of months ago - based purely on a friend's recommendation - and it's been sitting on my shelf unwatched ever since. Until now, that is, 'cause I'm gonna go watch the first episode right now!
posted by hot soup girl at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2007

Start with:
"Look, it's a good tv show. Some ways it's not as good but in a few ways it is way better. How? Well, sometimes the acting (like in season two) is a little clunky. But on the other hand it's telling stories that you just won't see anywhere else.

Give it a whirl. Here's the first season. Don't listen to the hype. It's just, you know, a good show, and if you watch it every week, like any other show it builds really really well."

Don't tell them about the good stuff. Undersell, undersell, undersell. Get them to watch five episodes, sit with them, make a casual thing of it, and that should make them want to keep watching.

Then, by the middle of season two, and certainly by it's end, they'll realize they are watching... something utterly unlike tv. Something that (insert hyperbole here.)
posted by From Bklyn at 1:15 PM on October 16, 2007

Here's one simple description:

It's a "cop show" that gives you both the cops' and the criminals' points of view... and that shows both cops and criminals as flawed but fully dimensional and fascinating human beings, stuck in a very screwed-up world. It is nothing like any other TV show I've seen.

Having just started on season 2, I know I am now ruined for conventional television crime dramas. Even The Sopranos seems gimmicky and unbelievable in comparison.

It does take at least 2 episodes to fully appreciate the journey this show is taking you on. After that, I think almost anyone would be hooked.

(FWIW, I got to meet David Simon recently, under very weird circumstances -- we were fellow guests at a wedding held on a yacht, along with Clarence Thomas! Simon is an extremely cool, grounded, no-BS guy, who used to be a crime reporter -- utterly atypical for the TV biz. His show is the same way.)
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2007

Perhaps someone can explain why a certain episode is fantastic.

The Wire is, IMO, not episodic the way that most shows are. Very few tell a self-contained story. Occasionally, you'll see the payoff of a developed plot line, but generally each "episode" is nothing more than a one-hour segment of a 14-ish hour story.

I've been watching it on DVD, which seems a much better way to do it than week-to-week.
posted by mkultra at 1:50 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can use my first-hand experience: It was on HBO On Demand and I decided to check out the first episode. I had heard great things and wanted to see what all the talk was about. 13 hours later, I was finished with season 1.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 2:20 PM on October 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

The Wire is just great. It can't be explained better than that, IMO.

You won't like it if you require every episode to have a payoff, though. They very rarely do. The series is very much like real life in that respect.

I was hooked by the first episode I watched on HBO so many years ago. It required a lot of patience, although that has changed now that you can watch all the episodes at once on DVD. ;)
posted by wierdo at 2:26 PM on October 16, 2007

There is one scene from season one of the Wire that haunts me. I find myself thinking about it at random moments. When people ask what movies I've been watching, I'll turn the conversation over to TV then start talking about The Wire. Once, I played out the scene over the phone for a friend. He was shocked and just said: Wow.

**I'm going to spoil that scene just a little. Anyone who hasn't watched Season One stop reading!**

Its when two of the younger drug dealers have to confront their friend who has become lackadaisical from using drugs (the one that was sent to the country by the bay). They bait him into the very apartment where he seems to be a guardian to a bunch of parent-less kids. The kids aren't there and he looks for them. When finally the three of them are alone together – our victim backed to a corner – they raise a gun and berate him. He begs for his life. He begins to cry. The other friend begins to cry. Then they shoot him.

I haven't done this scene justice. You'll have to watch it.
posted by paulinsanjuan at 2:34 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Kind of a longshot but any chance your friend has seen the movie Seven Samurai? They have a lot of similarities in plot, pacing, characters, and themes. People who enjoy The Wire seem to have enjoyed Seven Samurai.
posted by junesix at 2:41 PM on October 16, 2007

"I'd love to see a show that critiqued the things this show is purported to critique, without it seeming like I'm watching New Jack and Boyz in the Hood every other week."
posted by cashman at 1:06 PM on October 16

Funnily enough, I think this is exactly the kind of attitude that keeps The Wire from ratings like The Sopranos despite the Accolades. The Cast and subject matter are off-putting to some middle class whites, who are probably missing out.
posted by Student of Man at 3:44 PM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for rave reviews from prestigious newspapers & magazines, check metacritic (dot) com. Search for "The Wire". I've never seen so many high scores from so many reviewers for anything on the site before.
posted by troubleon14thst at 3:47 PM on October 16, 2007

I like SEVEN SAMURAI. I like Shakespeare. I've been reading in Entertainment Weekly that "The Wire" is so frigging amazing that it will cure cancer and make all other shows weep in its wake and I typically see some value in the things they get rabid over. I love purposeful violence. I dig urban decay. I even like crime procedurals and fuzzy morals.

I watched all of season one in a weekend (I was sick and bedridden). It was OK, I guess, but I would have rather rented a few good movies. I mean, it's better than Law & Order, but certainly not one of the best things I've ever seen. If it hasn't come so highly recommended from a person who has very similar taste to me in films, I wouldn't have sat through it. I kept waiting for that magical, "A ha! This is what makes it amazing."

I think, for TV, it's pretty good. But competing with all things I could watch? Meh.
posted by Gucky at 3:47 PM on October 16, 2007

I don't like violent and depressing shows, which The Wire is, but I love this one. It is, as has been noted, also hopeful, honest and deep.

As several have said: Undersell. Each season builds on, and is better than, its predecessors, with the possible exception of season four. As a result, it takes a while to really understand why it's such a gratifying and engaging show. Keep in mind that asking someone to watch The Wire is kind of like asking them to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies. Four times. Talk about how a certain scene affected or enlightened or educated you, and not so much about OMG BEST SHOW EVAR and that might be more persuasive.
posted by anildash at 4:25 PM on October 16, 2007

I watch a lot of TV. Really, a lot. Unhealthy amounts. It's a bit of a problem. And yet, when you ask how to convince someone that a TV show "is worth the time commitment," my only response is that, quite frankly, it isn't.

Basically what you want to know is, "How can I get my friends to waste an hour of their lives every week," with a dash of, "Why don't my friends like what I like?"

You like the show. They might not. You have nothing better to do. They might.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:38 PM on October 16, 2007

Response by poster: Reggie, you obviously have not seen the Wire.
posted by shotgunbooty at 4:52 PM on October 16, 2007

Correct! (Based on the article linked above, I definitely will. Still, I stand by my statement.)
posted by Reggie Digest at 5:02 PM on October 16, 2007

Forcing someone to watch something you're really passionate about but they're resistent to can often backfire. I can think of many occasions when friends of mine have raved about a book or movie or TV show until I caved in and gave it a try. Almost everytime it felt like a huge chore. Aside from the ridiculously high bar set by my friends' hype, there was the added pressure of having to find at least some merit in the work so I wouldn't offend them. There have been tons of albums, books, and movies that I hated at first for this reason and only came to love them when I tried them on my own a few years later.

The Wire is one of the best TV shows ever made. It will be around for the rest of you and your friend's lives. Its quality is such that the show's style and format will likely filter down into the rest of popular television. It will be written about and referenced ceaselessly. It's not going anywhere. You've given your recommendation, now give your friend time to discover it on his or her own.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 8:29 AM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]
Season 1 Recap
Season 2 Recap
Season 3 Recap

I find the recaps to be very useful for exactly the same purpose.
posted by sonicbloom at 11:55 PM on December 3, 2007

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