I have to confess that I was one of those people who tried to watch "The Wire" a couple of times and wound up not being able to get past five minutes of watching it. Too gritty, too inner city. Who wants to watch all those desperate people living in such desperately degrading conditions? Finally, after several years, two friends of mine--a psychiatrist and a director of programming for one of the well known cable networks--insisted, once I gave it a little more watching, I was hooked. I finally rented Series 1 and I was hooked.
So, why is this show so good?
1) Character development. It is the work of genius to be able to develop such morally complex characters and, somehow, make them interesting, even fascinating, and make us care about what happens to them. Omar is probably the one character that stands out from all the others. He's a stone killer. He's gay He's a thief that is a parasite on drug dealers. Yet we find him incredibly fascinating and somehow appealing. He has the most uncanny instinct for survival, an ability to appear and disappear at will, overcoming the drug dealers' best efforts to foil him. He seems to have no family connections, the closest thing to it being the blind bar owner. When he is informed of the latter's death, he stands stock still and his eyes fill up with tears. And you just know he's going to be out for revenge. Other stone killers also draw us into their lives and make us intrigued by how they live, how they think, how they make decisions--Barksdale, Stringer, Marlo, to name a few. And then there are the many underlings--Poot, Chris, Spoon? (Chris' partner and fellow hit person). And we haven't even gotten to the cops--McNulty, Bunk, Greggs, Treanor!
2) It takes into the interlacing worlds of the drug scene, the life of the police as seen from within, the waning days of dock workers and unions, the school system, the newspaper business, and finally, city politics.
3) The actors are incredibly good.
4) The acting is incredibly good. Which means the directing is brilliant, as well.
I guess that's good, for starters?