The Wire, now in its third season, comes from David Simon, the writer of Homicide: Life on the Street and The Corner. The show examines the Baltimore drug trade by following the people on the street; those pushing the drugs, and those building a case against them. The pilot episode opens with D'Angelo Barksdale getting off a murder charge because a witness was coerced into changing her testimony. McNulty, a homicide detective, has a frank discussion with the judge in the case and explains that D'Angelo is the nephew of Avon Barksdale, the man who controls the drug trade in the projects, both the towers and the low-risers. Barksdale has kept off the police radar until now, but the *@ has just hit the fan. The judge calls the deputy of police, who then involves Majors and watch commanders, and everyone is pissed at McNulty. A detail is organized under Lt. Daniels (narcotics), and a group of misfit cops from other divisions are assigned to it. They have to gather enough evidence against Barksdale to break his hold on the projects, and put him behind bars.
The Wire asks the viewer to commit to watching the entire season. Think of the season as a book, with each episode being a chapter. You won't get any satisfaction from reading a single chapter in a book, just like you won't be satisfied by watching one episode. However, watch them all and you'll find the show very enjoyable.
I think The Wire is HBO's hidden gem. We always hear about The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, but ask someone if they've seen The Wire and you'll probably get a blank look. I was looking forward to the show when HBO first announced it. I knew David Simon's work from Homicide, and I knew the story would unfold over 13 episodes. It's also an HBO show, and I'll try out any series they air. The show was everything I expected, and I enjoyed it immensely. I think I prefer stories that can be told over a number of episodes because it's closer to reality, and because it allows minor plot lines to develop which leads to a fuller story.
HBO has done an outstanding job with the transfer of this show. It's presented in its original aspect ratio (1.33:1), and the transfer is top notch. There aren't any specs of dust or other debris, and there are only a few scenes where a bit of grain pops up. HBO has also provided their standard lack of features on this release; no chapters after the opening, and no "play all." At least they're consistent in their lack of understanding what goes into a good TV release.
HBO has provided us with a number of audio options for the release; English Dolby Digital 5.1, and English, French and Spanish 2.0 mixes. I listened to the 5.1 track, and it was fairly good. The show is dialog driven, and there aren't any problems in that department. The rear speakers are used very little, and I'm fine with that because the material doesn't need to rely on ambient effects like a sci-fi series would. If you need subtitles you can select from English, French and Spanish.
There are 3 commentary tracks in the set; episode 1 (David Simon), episode 2 (Clark Johnson) and episode 12 (David Simon and George Pelecanos). These are average commentary tracks, with too many dead spots. There are some interesting sport, but the tracks aren't very captivating.
I find myself writing similar closings for reviews of HBO sets; great show, crappy DVD set. With a suggested retail price of $100 US, I guess I expect more than HBO is willing to deliver. The Wire is a great show, so why is it shafted when it comes to DVD? This show is currently in production, so why don't we have ANY involvement from the cast? Why don't we see any behind-the-scenes material? I often tell people it's unfair to compare one TV set to another, but how can you not? Warner Bros is selling 22 episode season sets for $60 (ER, The West Wing and Without a Trace) that have more extras than HBO sets, and they're doing it for $40 less. Hmm...more episodes, more extras, almost half the price. HBO, if you have to charge more for your TV sets then include more special features so consumers don't feel so screwed. HBO has started including surveys in their DVD sets, but they don't ask consumers any questions over the price of the set, though they ask a number of questions about what special features they like on their sets.
There's no way I would recommend that someone buy this set. I'd recommend the show in a heartbeat, but this is worth a rental, not a purchase.