I can hear ringing in my ears.
Red tops! Red tops! Got that WMD!
This constant feeling of emptiness and willingness to do anything to get a fix. Wait. Am I delirious? This must be what withdrawal feels like.
All this coming from someone who just finished watching The Wire DVD box set. I can only imagine how hard it’s been for tried-and-true Wireheads, as today marks one year since TV stood still and HBO’s The Wire officially went dead.
The show mastered the “Baldamore” twang, the grittiness of the city. Corner boys and crackheads, politicians and the press, this show ran the gamut of life in Charm City.
Describe The Wire in one word? Smart. It didn’t knock you over the head with “this is this” and “he is this.” There weren’t explanations of the heavy jargon or unfolding plot, just full-speed ahead; if you missed it, too bad. Catch it on the replay.
It was so smart, subtle and quick that I wikied every single character, every single season, just to relive the show’s brilliance. After being glued to my computer screen for hours, Googling The Wire turned into an obsession. I wanted to know the back stories, the plot lines that were just too damn smart for me to understand.
It was a slow path to my addiction. The first couple of episodes didn’t get me hooked, but after listening to D’Angelo explain chess, with its pawns and kings, to Wallace and Bodie, I couldn’t get enough. In the second season, there’s a confrontation between Omar and Brother Mouzone that stands out among the muck of the port. “I keeps one in the chamber in case you ponderin’.”
Welcome to Hamsterdam in season three, where the lot behind abandoned row houses is a safe haven for druggies and their pushers.
Michael, Randy, Dukie and Namond. The fantastic four in season four. We see them all evolve over the last couple seasons. Michael, the soft-spoken leader turned unassuming assassin. Randy, the innocent foster-care kid turned hardened group-home teen. Dukie, the musty computer whiz kid turned street junkie. And Namond, the troubled heir to the Wee-Bey throne turned great debater. What a whirlwind.
And then, there’s the blink of the fifth season. You blinked, and it was over.
I don’t understand how this critically acclaimed show didn’t win TV’s biggest honor. No one has expressed that better than Time magazine columnist Joe Klein. "The Wire hasn't won an Emmy? The Wire should get the Nobel Prize for Literature!”
My obsession went really deep. Last summer, I met Darrell Britt-Gibson, the actor who played O-Dog. When he killed one of my favorite characters, Bodie, I seriously held a bit of animosity toward him. That’s how deep it was to me. The characters had infiltrated my life, and as they—Omar, Stringer, D’Angelo, Snoop, Prop Joe—went out like Gs, I dreaded watching the next episode.
After a series of montages, I heard that driving beat. Then suddenly: black screen. Over. Done. No fade to black. No pretty bow to wrap it up in. No elixir to revive me from this withdrawal.
As Bubbles said in the last season, ''Ain't no shame in holding on to grief. As long as you make room for other things, too.''
But for me, the problem is that this state of mourning has left me empty. There aren’t any shows on TV today that match the caliber of The Wire. Not one.
I’m sort of a TV fanatic, from the sleazy to the sophisticated. But now that I’ve savored The Wire’s five-course meal, how can I return to scraps and leftovers? The Wire has officially transformed my love for television. Now I don’t know what to do.
It’s been five years since I last felt this way about a television show. Soul Food, TV’s longest-running black drama, ended in 2004 after five seasons. The Corner, by The Wire’s David Simon, was a six-part miniseries in 2000 following a West Baltimore family, battling the “dope-fiend” and “corner-boy” blues.
There is Grey’s Anatomy, by black director Shonda Rhimes, but that lost me after Izzie started talking to—and having sex with—her dead fiance.
Then there are today’s not-so-funny sitcoms. They hardly do it for me. It’s not like this is the ’90s, when sitcoms dominated network TV. You know the lineup: Fresh Prince, The Cosby Show, Family Matters, In Living Color.
Remember Thursday nights on FOX? Martin, Living Single and New York Undercover? But as for all-black casts, the pickings—if you can find them—are still slim.
In the 2008 fall season, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris, both on the CW, were moved to the worst TV time slot—Friday night—in possibly the biggest precursor to their cancellation. (Although I do know a couple folks who make it a point to stay home Friday nights to watch The Game.)
It’s more than a little disheartening.
What are my eyes watching in this withdrawal from The Wire? Old shows. Circa 1994. You know, Martin Payne, Khadijah James, Cliff Huxtable, Whitley Gilbert and ’em. Syndication and DVD box sets are the best gifts the TV gods have given us.
Erin Evans is copy editor for The Root.