Month: August 2012

The Wire (season 1)

When you walk through the garden, you gotta watch your back. Well I beg your pardon, walk the straight and narrow track. If you walk with Jesus, He’s gonna save your soul; you gotta keep the devil way down in the hole.

~”Way Down in the Hole,” the song featured in the opening credits of The Wire

After my previous post regarding the background and conception of HBO’s The Wire, I assume that my viewers know what to expect when sitting down to watch the riveting first season.

In the pilot, we’re introduced to Detective Jimmy McNulty, a flawed but well-motivated detective who attends a drug-related murder trial and is appalled by the fear and intimidation that the drug-dealing Barksdale organization spreads to potential witnesses. Because of the threat of Barksdale’s people, many witnesses who step forward in such cases are often harassed, tortured, or murdered. After the trial, McNulty talks to the judge about the influence of drug trafficking operations in West Baltimore and the murders that often go with such activity. McNulty adds that the Franklin Terrace towers and low-rise apartments have been controlled by Avon Barksdale and his enforcer, Stringer Bell, for almost a year, and that no one in the Homicide Division has been able to make sense of the puzzle.

When state witness William Gant is murdered in the project courtyards at the end of the pilot, the main events of the season are set into place. McNulty joins his partner William “Bunk” Moreland, Lt. Cedric Daniels, and Detective Kima Greggs as the main players in the investigation of Barksdale’s operations. The supervisors of the case, who often threaten to shut it down, are the slimy, politically-motivated duo of Major Bill Rawls and Deputy Commissioner Ervin Burrell. They assemble a rag-tag group of screw-ups and low-ranking officers re-assigned from other departments in order to investigate the Barksdale crew.

In addition to Barksdale and Bell, the drug-dealing crew includes Barksdale’s nephew D’Angelo, and youngsters Poot, Wallace, and Bodie. All four deal with supplying dope to addicts in the low-rise courtyards of Franklin Terrace.

Other major characters include the dope addict/police informant Bubbles and his hapless sidekick Johnny, the good-humored Sergeant Jay Landsman, and promising young Detective Sydnor. A middle-aged detective from the pawn shop unit of the Baltimore PD, Lester Freamon, becomes a major player in the wiretap of the ongoing case in the first season.

Arguably the show’s best-written character is the Barksdale organization’s nemesis, stick-up artist Omar Little, who robs drug dealers at gunpoint and redistributes the money (like the Robin Hood of the streets). Little, played tremendously by Michael K. Williams, proves to be the thorn in the side of drug traffickers all over the city.

As with many shows, The Wire gets increasingly better as the season goes on. It takes patience to watch, but the impeccable writing and acting gets the job done and keeps you coming back for more.

Created by David Simon

Executive Producers — David Simon and Robert F. Colesberry

Co-Producer — Karen L. Thorson

Produced by Nina Kostroff Noble

Starring Dominic West, Sonja Sohn, Lance Reddick, John Doman, Deirdre Lovejoy, Frankie Faison, Wood Harris, Larry Gilliard Jr., Idris Elba, Andre Royo, Michael Kenneth Williams, Clarke Peters, Jim True-Frost, Tray Chaney, Michael B. Jordan, J.D. Williams, Delaney Williams, Corey Parker Robinson, Hassan Johnson, Seth Gilliam, Domenick Lombardozzi, Peter Garety, Clayton LeBoeuf, Robert F. Chew, Brandon Price

Rated TV-MA

“Uncompromising.” —The Boston Globe

“Astounding.” —USA Today

“Compelling.” —The Chicago Tribune

“Gritty.” —The Washington Post

“Daring.” —Time

“Best show on TV.” —Newsweek

TV review – The Wire

HBO has always delivered classic, award-winning TV shows – The Sopranos, Oz, Sex and the City, and Six Feet Under, just to name a few – but in 2002, studio executives were reluctant to put a crime drama in a regular TV time slot. They felt that they were re-inventing the wheel due to their already-sterling reputation as a studio that aired new and innovative shows.

Enter David Simon, an ambitious writer who had previously worked for The Baltimore Sun as a police reporter. He had developed a friendship with writer/producer Ed Burns, who had once worked for the Baltimore Police Department. Both had been frustrated by their experiences living and working in Baltimore, and they decided to create a crime drama that dove into the problems of bureaucracy in the workplace.

Simon had already enjoyed some success for HBO’s The Corner and NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, and he returned to HBO after penning the pilot episode of what became known as The Wire. He was met with skepticism from both studio executives and the mayor of Baltimore , but eventually got the project green-lighted.

When you sit down to watch The Wire, you will literally be transported into real life in a modern U.S. city. The title is metaphorical, as viewers are flies on the wall to a wiretap of real life. Each hour-long episode delves deep into problems facing urban areas in America in an unprecedented way.

Right off the bat in the pilot, you can tell that The Wire isn’t your granddaddy’s cop show. The show is formatted in a highly realistic way, from the cinematography to the costume design all the way down to the impeccable writing. There are no flashbacks, no voiceovers, and no catching up on what you missed. On The Wire, Simon forces you to pay attention. And he does a very good job at it.

To further the point that the show is basically real life, casting directors refused to find big-name, well-known Hollywood superstars, instead electing to find mostly unknown character actors who appear perfectly natural in their roles. There’s also no real soundtrack to the show, unless of course, it comes from a car radio or a boombox. All these elements combine to make the show a gritty, powerful experience.

Furthermore, these characters are far from cookie-cutter cliches. Every single one of the 50-plus characters on this show has real emotions, feelings, and sensitivities. Although many frequently use brutal methods and techniques to get what they want, there’s no stereotypes allowed. Every character is a three-demensional human, and the actors that play them are nothing short of breathtaking in their performances.

The Wire does not gloss over the ability of people to become corrupt and evil. No one is immune to power, and no one is 100% motivated by good ideas. As I said before, every character is portrayed as a real person – albeit deeply-flawed.

Simon and Burns were not expecting the show to take off immediately – or at all. Actor Andre Royo, who plays the homeless drug addict known only as “Bubbles,” puts it this way:

“We always thought The Wire would never fly. It’s long, it’s low, and it has so many characters.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to wonder why this show wasn’t canceled. Its slow pace and methodical approach can alienate viewers who are used to mainstream TV entertainment. It actually was almost canceled twice, but the immense acclaim for Simon’s work left HBO with no other choice but to renew it. Throughout all five seasons, The Wire did not take home a single Emmy Award and was only nominated once (Simon blamed this on the show’s slowly-developing, complex plot, a heavily African-American cast, and a bad weekly time slot on the network).

However, review website Metacritic rates it as one of the best-reviewed series in TV history (98% positive), and critics continue to regard it as an uncommonly deep crime drama that re-invents the genre entirely.

This show does not feature exciting car chases, open-and-shut murders, or a satisfying payoff at the end of each hour-long episode. In a “visual novel” format, every episode is like a chapter of a book. It’s an approach that eventually pays off, but can lose the interest of people along the way. You have to be patient, and remember that justice doesn’t always get served – just like in real life.

One week!

So a week from today, Aggie football is kicking off its 2012 season at home versus the Sacramento State Hornets.

I’m super excited for this year! We’ve got all the pieces in place, and it really looks like we can get to where we need to be if all the puzzle fits together. Coach Walker’s doing a super job getting his team ready, and the four new assistants he hired in the winter are really starting to make an impact.

Coach McManus is running virtually the same offense that we ran last year with Coach Martin, while David Elson is the new coordinator on defense. Both look like they’re capable of coaching a great team.

Brad Bedell (offensive line) and Romeo Bandison (defensive line) are the other two new faces. Both are doing a great job, especially with our incoming recruits. I think both lines will be very much improved this season.

Andrew Manley is our quarterback, and he made great progress with his knee rehab in the offseason. He should be back for an encore after a terrific start in 2011. We’ve also got some great depth at running back, as well as some talented receivers and tight ends.

Well, I wish all the Aggies best of luck as they prepare for Sac State in the upcoming week. Go NMSU!!

 

 

 

Is culture the enemy?

How should a Christian relate to culture?

As someone who was brought up in a conservative, Fundamentalist church, I’ve heard all my life about how horrible the secular world is, how modern-day culture has become twisted, and how Bible-believing Christians should have nothing to do with it.

But is that really the right approach to culture from a Christian perspective?

As many things as Fundamentalists have done right, they have failed to recognize that the world is not the enemy; Satan is. The only reason the world is living contrary to Biblical principles is because they’re buying Satan’s lies.

A separatist worldview regarding modern-day culture is unhelpful and even detrimental to the cause of Christ. Look no further than Paul, Joseph, Esther, Daniel, and other Scriptural figures to see how Christians can influence the world in positive ways.

The aforementioned examples were known for working with non-Christian figures and individuals, be they secular Romans, Egyptians, or Babylonians. They were not known for hiding from the world and being like Jonah, who ran when he was asked to confront Nineveh.

Many modern-day Christians use 1st John 2:15 to justify their beliefs that the world is sinful and should be avoided at all costs. But a closer look reveals that the meaning of the verse is that we are not to love the world or participate in ungodly things. That doesn’t mean that we should avoid the world and live in a Christian subculture.

The bottom line is this: are we going to be like Jonah, who ran away from culture, or will we be like the many other Biblical characters who obeyed God and influenced society for good? The ball’s in our court. Christians shouldn’t be sitting on the sideline, pointing fingers at culture and saying that the world is dying. If anything, we  as Christians haven’t taken the initiative to save the world. We need to make up for lost time.

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” ~Jesus, John 12:47