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I could join in the chorus of approval hovering over this US crime series with all the usual stuff about how hard-hitting, powerful and compelling it is, but we've all read those sort of reviews for films/tv a million times before. It's almost as if critics long ago agreed on a bland lingo to use and us lot follow suit. If I like this, then assume there's nothing wrong with the acting/music/photography/sound/direction/mis en scene/etc etc blah
Instead, I'll keep it simple. This series works like a good book. For me it started slowly and thoughtfully, slightly dull even, and then during episode three I suddenly realised I was hooked. The main reason is The Wire is all about one story, one plot. A bit like Murder One if you remember that, but better I think. The characters emerge slowly out of the action, and as they do, you care more and more.
I would recommend this to any Sopranos/24/West Wing type fan as it matches America's, and HBO'S in particular, recent quality. But I would also suggest the dvds to someone who would normally go for a more literary film, or someone who's into Austen TV dramas. It has the same in-depth feel as a novel and you will remember it fondly afterwards.