The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Best Things Makes You Earn The Right To Enjoy It Rather Than Just Giving You It …

Television gets a bad wrap these days.

Out of date.

Out of touch.

No longer good.

But the reality is, we’re kind-of in a golden age of television.

There’s an immense amount of shows out there that are amazing … from documentaries like Netflix’s Schumacher to series like Succession through to mainstream TV channel shows like 24 Hours In Police Custody … even though the first time I watched the show, it was about a drug cartel who had been operating in the village we had just moved to in England.

What made it more amusing is that one of the criminals was called Robert, another was called Campbell and they drove a blue Audi … so when Rob Campbell – ie: me – arrived in Hundson with his family in a Blue Audi, the neighbours looked at me suspiciously.

Or should I say ‘more suspiciously’ than normal.

Now of course there have been a bunch of amazing shows over the years … amazing for their writing, acting and craft. Some went under the radar like Glenn Close’s Damages … some had instant critical acclaim, like The West Wing, The Newsroom and Mad Men.

But some … well, there’s a few that gain instant cult following but over time, get more and more recognised for what they did and how they did it.

The show, The Wire is one of those.

First broadcast in 2002, it’s a show that started small and then just grew in terms of the stories, context and issues it swallowed into its storylines.

It never felt fake, even if you came from a place that was a million lifetimes away from Baltimore, where the stories were based. There’s many reasons for it.

The writing is amazing.
The casting is perfect.
The acting is simply superb.
The craft and attention to detail is insane.
And they wholeheartedly embrace the ugly, inconvenient truths about racism, wealth and systemic racism that most shows – even today – do all they can to ignore or dilute.

And then there’s one more thing.

It has no musical score.


That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have music. It does. But it is an integral part of what is going on at that moment in that scene rather than some incidental, indirect orchestration designed to inform the viewer how they should feel.

Similar to the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan – all you hear is what you would hear if you were actually in the place they are.

Nothing fake.
Nothing contrived.
All 100% raw and real.

What this does is create a very different experience watching the show.

There’s this conflict between feeling more directly into what you’re seeing while also giving you a sense of uncomfortableness. A nervous edge.

Things are not wrapped up in tidy bows.

Episodes don’t follow classic Hollywood tropes.

Details that can appear to mean nothing suddenly reveal their relevance weeks later.

And it’s for this reason I love the way Charlie Brooker – writer of Black Mirror and ex-TV reviewer for the Guardian – talks about the show in terms of ‘rewarding your attention’. It’s such a perfect articulation.

The Wire demanded you paid attention.

Demanded it.

Not in an academic explanation sort of way, but in terms of committing to it.

Watching everything going on.

Not just in the foreground, but the details all around the environment.

The streets.
The language being used.
The slight nods and movement.
The music being played by others.
The characters in the background..

Details someone from those streets needs to know to survive those streets …which is why viewers who paid real attention, were rewarded with something much bigger than what was just said on the screen.

It was a show that left you feeling you have gone through something.

Not watched, but truly experienced.

Experiences that stick with you. Change you. Question, consider, work-out, hypothosise and – to some degree – feel scared and pressured by.

While there is a lot of shit on the screen these days, TV isn’t dead.

In fact, in some ways, it’s never been more alive.

It’s just the best shows don’t want to give it to you on a plate, it challenges you to see if you’re worthy of watching it … of getting it.

And in our spoon-fed, superficial world, thank fuck for that.

In other news …

It’s a national holiday here on Monday so there’ll be no post on that day. Not because I like you, but because you’re not worth the effort to write one. Hahaha. Have a great weekend.

17 Comments so far
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The Wire was brilliant television. I have revisited it many times and it still communicates the same intensity as the first time I watched it. I really like this post, especially the premise of “rewarding your attention”. That is a brilliant bit of storytelling advice, though I suspect it would fall on deaf ears with so many thinking the way to attract attention is over stimulate with instant gratification.

Comment by George

you know you sound like a fucking grandad with this comment. youll be saying how the music today is just fucking noise and you could keep your front fucking door unlocked in the good old days.

Comment by andy@cynic

but i agree with you. id just say it in a much cooler fucking way. throw in some tiktok reference shit and youre down.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahahaha … it does sound a bit old, but I get your point and I do agree with it. Especially the instant gratification bit. It still blows my mind that brands still approach digital in particular, with such a singular, superficial approach.

But then it still blows my mind what many brands think constitutes ‘building a brand’ these days.

Which also makes me sound old. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

you are old. campbell. fucking ancient.
yes im older than you, but youve looked worse since you were in your fucking twenties.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is a great post. I loved The Wire and this post is going to make me watch it from the beginning with fresh eyes. Some great lessons in this Rob, thanks. This has been a good week, which is amazing for a blog 15 years old.

Comment by Pete

a good week? ok, he wrote some less than shit posts but its taken him 15 years to pull that shit off. thats even defeating the law of fucking averages.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH

Keeping me real since 1989.

Comment by Rob

some fucker has to.
my invoice is going to be fucking huge.

Comment by andy@cynic

you didnt have to write this post like it was an episode of the wire. dont get me wrong campbell, its not bad, but its way too fucking long for what youre trying to say. the title of this post is ok. youre not living up to it on here..

Comment by andy@cynic

Another excellent read Robert. I was late to The Wire but it was a piece of extraordinary storytelling. This post helps explain to me why.

Comment by Lee Hill

Michael K. Williams was a giant.

Comment by DH

Yep. What a huge loss … and so young. Given yesterdays post, this is not the thing I needed to think about. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Took 20 years to agree with you.

Comment by Billy Whizz

i hope youre as disgusted with this campbell as i am.

Comment by andy@cynic

At least it’s The Wire. [or I’m assuming it is]

If he liked Queen, I’d never be able to listen to them again.

And no Billy, I’ll know you’re saying you do in the hope I never will listen or talk about them again,. You’re as transparent as a greenhouse, hahaha.

Comment by Rob

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