The Wire: The Complete First Season(Warner Home Video, 10.12.2004)
Who can tell all those CSI's and Law and Order's apart on TV? I'll tell you what beats them hands down: the HBO series The Wire, whose dynamite first season is new on DVD. It's the utterly addictive story of Avon (Wood Harris), a brilliant Baltimore ghetto drug lord and the cops who haunt him. It's created by David Simon, a writer for TV's Homicide --whose fourth and fifth seasons (partly directed by Kathryn Bigelow) are also out on DVD.
The Wire makes Homicide look fussy and neurotic, and its characters, often based on real people, stand head and shoulders above network TV's cardboard cutouts. These are not just explicators of forensic science, and Simon studies their moral dilemmas with the subtlety of a novelist and the concentration of a chess master.
The Wire puts you inside the heads of criminals gnawed by conscience, and so ingenious they can almost think their way out of the trap that is their fate. You've never seen a more fully human junkie informant than The Wire's Bubbles (Andre Roya), nor a scarier, tougher gay character than Avon's rival godfather Omar (Michael K. Williams).
The Wire is better on DVD than on TV, because the subtitle function helps you follow the streety dialogue and twisty plot. This show is also great because it dramatizes what Solzhenitsyn knew: "The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart. This line shifts... Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and in the best of hearts, there remains one small corner of evil." -- Tim Appelo