Tuesday, April 15, 2008

C21 epic

The greatest consequence of The Wire (and its companion long-arc shows, many of them having seized the advantage of cable programming to risk the experiment) is a historical inversion. For a long time it was the case that movies were long and television was a short form. The TV show had 23 or 46 minutes for a narrative to complete itself; a movie had 90 minutes, two hours, three! Movies haven't changed (indeed, uncoincidentally, the Hollywood length creep of late-century seems to have begun to reverse itself), but The Wire is about 65 hours long, divided graciously into five location-based chapters. Movies are now the short form, television the long form. About the experience of narrative duration in video games, the results aren't yet in.

Even this is not the greatest achievement of The Wire; that is its incomparable casting of African-American actors (and in at least one case, African-British). It remains a mystery why Hollywood, with its vast budgets, reach, and expertise, can't catch up or even approximate the show's achievement. Except that it's no mystery at all, but rather a fact inseparable from that of duration: because the actors on The Wire will have many hours to develop their characters, they have no need to employ telegraphic acting devices to define their characters within a brief few minutes — a set of stock signals known to every Hollywood performer and ticket-buyer, and in the case of non-white actors, generally referred to as "stereotypes."

Jane Dark again, here

2 comments:

Language said...

Just thought I'd let you know that Anatoly Vorobey, one of the stars of the Russian blogosphere, wrote an extensive description of this and the bouquiniste post, starting off by identifying you as the author of "the best book I've read in recent years." (He also has an English-language blog, which he says he's going to update more regularly, though his post promising that is titled "triumph of hope over experience"...)

"Post-Google" by TAR ART RAT said...

people- well, Tod mainly, who said "We are in a Goldan Age of Television, in a way") and blogs, keep telling me how grat the Wire is- alas, until I get through all 4 seasons of of Battlestar Galactica I just don't think I#ll have time... then there are the first few seasons of 6 Feet Under which i have been intending to watch (still looming overhead, even though the series is finished) yep- they're still out there, still really good... it is true,though- once dominant TV has to now compete with many other mediums to get people's attention and money, so it has blosomed in the form of a dozen or so series, which are truly great...
much better than anything on-air/available previously...