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about the smartest show ever

12 November 2008

Sunday I finished Season 1 of The Wire.  I’ve been working on it since I got back from Vietnam, an episode or so a week, until this weekend…when I blasted through the last five. OH. MY. GOD.

In the last episode alone, there’s:
I GET all the stuff I didn’t quite buy before about this being the best show on television…it’s so full of everything that makes a good story.

it’s so complicated and messy and unboildownable. like life.

it’s so GOOD i have to stop and think about why it’s not bad. so much tv is formulaic and predictable. mindless. it seems so silly to throw around phrases like “transcends its medium”…but The Wire does. 
A lot of TV is absolute crap. what was that new reality show? hole in the wall? what do we gain from that? did King of Queens ever once make anyone’s soul feel expanded? 

i’m a 100% a The Wire disciple,  and have become an evangelist, singing its praises to everyone i know.
it’s so smart. it’s so funny. it’s so complicated. it’s so full of surprises.
i’m smiling like i just met the love of my life. 

i want to write now, too.  Stories as complex and full of truth. that reveal the best and worst of people. that make you care and pay attention.  

[god, i can’t wait for season 2.] 

and i’m sitting here realizing, i’m having this kind of artistic afterglow because of a TV SHOW. 
it’s just like the end of a good book. how you want to both devour and savor the last pages. it’s that same feeling.
the feeling i get when i encounter new ideas and rediscover old ones. All that hokey stuff about art’s power to transform you…it’s true. it’s absolutely true. good art reminds us that life is so beautiful and disturbing and worth it.

[from a TV show!]

i remember when i was little, and i’d hear statistics about too much tv being bad for kids, i’d always get defensive, and say I’m smart because i watch a lot of TV. true, i digested a healthy diet of PBS, but even “bad” TV taught me cultural references and social interaction. 

I remember in second grade, my teacher and student teacher were trying to remember the word for when something is the same forward and backwards. “PALINDROME!” i piped up from my place in line. [I loved being a nerd. i’m sure i exhausted my teachers.] know where i learned that? Square One TV

hm. so maybe i’m a bit of a tv snob, and mostly only sing the praises of HBO and PBS children’s programming…
Interesting that I’m having these thoughts on the day I learned that John Leonard died. His impressive career as a journalist and critic expands beyond who he was to me: that guy on CBS Sunday morning who used big words in his movie reviews. Many a Sunday morning, eating my cereal before church, I’d listen to him talk about Foucault and have absolutely no idea what was going on, but I knew he was smart, and I envied his vocabulary and deadpan delivery. In his tribute this Sunday, Charles Osgood said Leonard was “our dictionary, thesaurus, collection of quotations and literary allusions all in one.” Leonard said himself, “I spend half my life reading and the other half writing…which means I don’t get out much.” His was a life to live up to.

I don’t want to be an intellectual snob, but I do want to be an intellectual. It’s a constant conflict of desires to be smart and well-liked [you know, Valedictorian and Homecoming Queen…]. Maybe that’s why I love The Wire so much. It’s smart and popular…
Trust me. Go rent the DVDs. Add it to your queue. You’ll be glad you did.

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