The Wire - what am I missing?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Linto, Jan 9, 2012.

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  1. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Everyone from my best friend , to my favourite critic Charlie Brooker, says this is the best TV programme ever- FULL STOP

    I have now watched the first two episodes and it hasn't captured me at all.

    Even with the subtitles, I can't really understand what is being said, I certainly wouldn't call it English! This obviously isn't helping, I must be missing at least 40% of the storyline

    So after two, should I stick with it? Or is it just not for me?
  2. tmtomh

    tmtomh Forum Resident

    Well, lots of street slang, no doubt. I love The Wire and think it's probably the best show in American TV history - but, I was not captivated by the first season. I watched about half the episodes and almost didn't start watching Season 2. But Season 2 (which, ironically, some folks consider the weakest) is amazing IMHO - and Seasons 3 and 4 are simply incredible.

    So I would say, stick with it - you'll get accustomed to the dialogue and language, and I'm guessing you'll find it worth it sooner or later.
  3. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter


    do ALL Americans understand 100% of what's being said?

    This is the first programme in my own language I have had to watch using subtitles since Rab C Nesbitt!
  4. hutlock

    hutlock Forum Resident

    Cleveland, OH, USA
    I seriously doubt that. Plus, bear in mind that not only is a lot of that street slang, but it is often REGIONAL street slang -- so what they say in, in this case, Baltimore isn't always the same way they would say something in, say, Atlanta.

    Also: show is more than a few years old now, and street slang terms are constantly being reinvented. No doubt that has some effect on comprehension levels too.
  5. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Give it up. For someone who "certainly wouldn't call it English!" it's only going to get worse.
  6. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I guess I just wasn't born for these times
  7. Larry L

    Larry L Well-Known Member

    Dallas, Texas
    Keep watching. It may take a few episodes to take hold. It really was a great show.
  8. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter


    MEMPHISSUN Forum Resident

    If you can"t understand the GOVAN PHILOSOPHER RAB C.

  10. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I can now, it took me a couple of series with the subtitles!

    do you understand the Wire?
  11. 93curr

    93curr Forum Resident

    One of the reasons I love the show so much is that they don't condescend to the audience. Street slang from the corner boys, cop slang from the police, dock slang from the stevedores, legal slang from the lawyers - all of it as authentic as they can make it without expositional dilogue or anything else unrealistic to make it easy for the audience. Part of the reason language subcultures evolve is so that the participants can tell who's one of "us" and who's one of "them." It's not suppsed to be understandable if you're an interloper. And no one's more of an interloper than a television audience. This is (allegedly) how people in these subcultures talk in real life, and you're expected to figure it out for yourself. If you're used to the contrived dialogue on network TV cop and lawyer shows, it can be a bit like being tossed in the depp end of the pool. Keep treading water and you will learn to swim.

    And, no - of course I didn't get everything the first time out. That's what makes rewatching the episodes so rewarding. I probably understand about 85% by now (years later). Once you get the rhythm of the language, the context becomes clear(er). Think of it as language immersion. Just be glad David Simon hasn't adapted 'Finnegans Wake' for TV! (yet)
  12. Geoff

    Geoff Forum Resident

    I'm watching it at the moment. Understand the slang more as I go along, although sometimes I still need to switch on the subs. It is definitely worth persevering with in my opinion. It takes quite a while to really get into, as the plots are quite slow moving, but the longer it goes and the more areas that are covered (I'm up to season 4 and as well as the drugs gangs, it covers city politics/mayor's office, jail, the school system etc), the better it gets.
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround All you need is one killer track

    Some actors on the Wire are British - like Dominic West and Idris Elba ("Stringer" Bell).

    Idris Elba quote from imdb:

  14. Linto

    Linto Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks, I will keep on trying
    my friend tells me its better than The Killing (Danish) vol 1, so I really
    am expecting something special.
  15. Mike B

    Mike B Forum Resident

    New York City
    It took like half a season for me to get into it, not because of the dialogue (I'm from New York and while there are still many differences and accent and slang, it's no foreign language to me), but because of the pacing.

    On the other hand, I'm not a big believer that one MUST work super hard to force oneself to like some entertainment.
  16. Stick with it. Will be worth it. All seasons are amazing.

    I stuck with Life On Mars and Prime Suspect to name just 2 of my favorite British shows and glad I did. Although Cracker got me from the first episode.
  17. ellingtonic

    ellingtonic Well-Known Member

    The Wire is the best American show ever made IMHO. The slang is part of the appeal - it makes the show more realistic. I liked it from the start but it was probably half way through the first season before I was hooked.

    At the same time it may not be for everyone.
  18. kippy

    kippy Forum Resident

    Chicago, IL, USA
    The Wire is the best drama ever produced. It took me 4-5 episodes of season 1 to get sucked in, and it gets better and better. There is a lot more going on in each episode than you realize.
  19. kwadguy

    kwadguy Forum Resident

    Cambridge, MA
    No way you're going to be able to follow all the street dialect, even if you're born and raised in the US. But it doesn't matter. You'll get what's happening even if you miss some of what, exactly, is being spoken.

    Great show. Great acting and, as others have noted, does not condescend to the audience. Because of that, though, you have to watch in order and you have to pay attention. The show expects you know who these characters are and what they've done.
  20. HGN2001

    HGN2001 Mystery Picture Member

    Thanks. Now I know to avoid this show. I'm not entertained when I don't understand the language.

    More power to those of you who are.

  21. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    Stick with it, very few shows are as worth the trouble. I know you won't have any trouble understanding the dialogue in the scene in the first series where McNulty and Bunk check out a murder scene...
  22. mdm08033

    mdm08033 Forum Resident

    I concur. Stick with it. I live next to Camden New Jersey which could double for the streets of 'Bawley' where they shot The Wire. I serverd jury duty there a few years back I had a hard time understanding some of the testimony. After a day I could get past it but in the end I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how not to strangle someone and attempt then incinerate a living person.

    Be sure to check out Treme from the same creative team.
  23. Tim S

    Tim S Forum Resident

    East Tennessee
    I like it, and I'd say I understand about 95% of the dialogue - maybe being from the South helps a little. When I cant understand the exact words, I still get the meaning.

    I agree that the show is very good - I do have to say it's really depressing and dark, its a long, cold look at some very hard events and lives. I have to give it a rest sometimes, cause watching too much gives me much less faith in the world and my fellow man.

    btw, I think the actor that plays "Bubbles" is absolutely awesome - in a huge cast that can really act its *** off, he still stands out.
  24. live evil

    live evil Well-Known Member

    I agree with most of the postings.
    I watched the first few episodes when they originally aired, and I stopped watching.
    It did not grab me at all.
    I went back later and rented season 3 (or 4), and I found it to be the one of the best dramas ever.
    Right up there with the first 2 seasons of the Sopranos.
  25. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    I recommend sticking with it, it actually gets even better.

    I'm not a TV junkie, but there is no show that I've ever watched that is as good as The Wire. After you've watched all 5 season, you will find it impossible to watch garbage (IMO) shows like CSI, and every other drama that is on network TV right now. Yes, I mean it. I know a lot of folks here love these faux-dramas at 9pm every night, but they really are like eating McDonald's for dinner and calling it fine dining. I've have tried to make it though a few prime-time dramas, but they totally insult the audience, with the characters, and the writing. They cost a ton of money to make, so they have to appeal to 20 year olds, 70 year olds, and advertisers, at the same time. The Wire seems to appeal to people who want good urban drama, without the forced one-liners and ridiculous plots on modern network TV dramas.

    I think it's better than the Sopranos, because after awhile, even the Sopranos writing seemed to be trying to hard. The Wire stayed focused on what made it good, all the way through.

    And yes, the cast is excellent. I think I've seen virtually all of the major (and minor) cast members go on to other TV shows after the series ended. They are soooo good in The Wire, you instantly recognize them from the series. There is none of that "where do I recognize them from" when you see them years later, because each person is cast so well, and is so memorable from The Wire.
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