Jul 23

Try TV on Us: The Essential Beginners Guide to ‘The Wire’

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 4:48 pm

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If you’ve ever had a conversation in the pub about your favourite TV dramas, there are dozens of candidates that could easily be floated. We’re living in a time when American cable dramas are so richly written, beautifully shot and wonderfully performed that you’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite out of the current crop, let alone from the history of the medium.

But if you were to ask 100 TV savvy viewers what they thought the best show of all time was, we have no doubts that the winner in that contest would be The Wire. And thanks to blinkbox’s new Try TV on Us offer, you can now watch the very first episode on us.

Created by David Simon, a former writer for the Baltimore Sun and ex-Baltimore Police Detective Ed Burns, The Wire is a cop show unlike any other. The characters are based on actual criminals and cops from Simon and Burns’ years on the job. The episodes filled with the kind of thrilling details that regular cop shows would never think of including.

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The first season sees a detail of Baltimore Police detectives tasked with prosecuting a West Baltimore street gang headed up by the mysterious Avon Barksdale. In order to learn more about the structure of the organisation and collect evidence, the cops have to monitor the pay phones and pagers used by the gang to communicate with each other. This phone-tap is better known as ‘The Wire’.

One of the most common things you’ll ever hear about show is how seemingly difficult it is to get into. Down to the sheer number of characters we’re introduced to in the first few episodes, it can be tough to keep track of who everyone is. It has a steeper learning curve than other shows but the little effort you put into the first few episodes will pay off with some of the most satisfying, absorbing and intelligent TV you will have ever seen.

If you’re ever having trouble remembering who is who and what they do, just take a glance at the character guide we’ve prepped below. Trust us: it will come in handy.

NOTE: This Character Guide is designed not to spoil any significant plot points.

The Barksdale Organisation

Avon-Barksdale Avon Barksdale: The Police have little background information on Avon Barksdale. They don’t even have a current photograph of him. But everyone on the streets knows that he controls the drug trade in the towers and low-rises of West Baltimore
Stringer-Bell Stringer Bell: Barksdale’s second-in-command, Stringer Bell is an intelligent lieutenant, charged with handling the economic side of the organisation. He’s ruthless, ambitious and always the Smartest Guy in the Room.
Soldiers
Stinkum Stinkum: One of the primary enforcers in the Barksdale organisation, his responsibilities include re-upping (resupplying) the dealers in the Pit.
Wee-Bey Wee Bey:  Perhaps Barksdale’s most trusted soldier.
‘Pit’ Crew
D-Angelo D’Angelo Barksdale: Avon’s nephew and a Barksdale Organisation crew chief. After narrowly avoiding a murder conviction, D’Angelo is relegated from a position a highly profitable ‘tower’ to working the ‘Pit’: a West Baltimore low-rise.
Bodie Bodie Broadus: 16 year dealer, working under D’Angelo Barksdale. He’s the de facto second-in-command of the Pit crew.
Poot-Wallace Poot & Wallace: Bodie’s teenage friends, the other dealers working in ‘The Pit’.

The Police

The Detail
McNulty Det. Jimmy McNulty: A veteran of the Homicide division, McNulty is good police. Disillusioned, yet idealistic: he’s also a divorced, alcoholic womaniser with all sorts of trouble on his plate.
Bunk Det. William “Bunk” Moreland: Having worked in Homicide with McNulty for years, The Bunk is a similarly competent and moral cop. The only difference is his slightly healthier attitude towards the chain of command and his own position within the department.
Daniels Lt. Cedric Daniels: The principled, yet ambitious Narcotics lieutenant is the man lumped with the unenviable task of leading the investigation against Barksdale.
Kima-Greggs Det. Kima Greggs: Well-respected in the Narcotics Division, Greggs has managed to excel in her department by cultivating a number of ground-level informants who provide her with critical tip-offs. Even higher ranking cops know better than to step on Kima’s toes.
Hauk-Ellis Det. Thomas ‘Herc’ Hauk & Det. Ellis Carver: Working the Narcotics Division alongside Greggs, their style of policing is best defined as ‘shoot first and ask questions never’.
Prezbo Det. Roland ‘Prez’ Pryzbylewski: Prez come with a reputation of vast incompetence, having been transferred by department after department looking to get rid of him. He’s kept his job this long only thanks to his his father-in-law, the commander of the Southeastern district.
Lester-Freamon Det. Lester Freamon: This veteran police comes to the detail from the pawnshop department, the most dead-end of desk jobs. But don’t let his granddad glasses and jumpers fool you: he’s natural police. Freamon can often be seen working on his doll furniture, which turns out to be a lucrative side-business. No joke.
Other
Dep-Com-Burrell Deputy Commissioner Burrell: A high-ranking police bureaucrat with eyes on the big job, Deputy Commissioner Burrell cares more about reducing crime statistics than reducing actual crime. When Judge Phelan leans on him about Avon Barksdale, he assigns Daniels the case but ensures he gives him the fewest resources possible.
Maj-Rawls Maj. William Rawls: Commanding Officer of the Homicide Unit. Career-oriented to the max, he doesn’t like loose cannons blotting his ledger and ruining his case-clearance statistics.
Phelan Judge Phelan: While presiding over D’Angelo Barksdale’s murder trail, Phelan sees the case evaporate when a key witness recants her statement. When McNulty explains that it’s the handy work of D’Angelo’s Uncle Avon, Phelan sees an opportunity to build a reputation as an anti-drug judge. He pressures the Deputy Commissioner into setting up a police detail to investigate.
Rhonda-Pearlman Assistant District’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman:
Public Attorney assigned to prosecute the Barksdale Organisation.

Miscellaneous

Omar Omar Little: The Robin Hood of Baltimore. Omar only steals from drug dealers, making sure not to harm anyone who’s not “in the game”. It doesn’t necessarily make great business sense, but a man’s got to have a code.
Bubbles Bubbles: One of Det. Gregg’s most reliable informants. He’s an addict with a ‘entrepreneurial’ streak which has gotten him into trouble more than once. His value to the police lies in his incredible memory for faces and his willingness to do anything for twenty bucks.

Watch the first episode of The Wire on us. It will almost certainly be the smartest thing you’ll do all week.

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