The setting is Baltimore, and the characters are on both sides of a battle between the cops anda drug-dealing ring. The narrative is that of one long mini-series, with the story spread over all 13episodes, rather than having self-contained units. The principles include Dominic West as thecop determined to bust the ring (though his reasons for wishing to do so are rather self-interested), and the prime target is Larry Gillard, Jr., a mid-level dealer who, after getting off a…urder rap, is himself busted down to street-level.
As one would expect from David Simon, the writer of the book Homicide and thecreator of The Corner, the tone is gritty (even moreso than the other series, since there isthe added liberty of being an HBO production). The series avoids flashy stylistics and cop showcliches (such as excessive hand-held camerawork), and is, as Simon puts it in the commentary, asinterested in how institutions (legal and otherwise) deform the individual as it is in the crimenarrative itself. Powerful television, using the medium to its fullest.
The sound comes in both 5.1 and 2.0 options. The score, instantly memorable, has beengiven a strong, propulsive mix, with a funky bass. The sound is crisp and clean, with nodistortion on the dialogue, and the background noises have an expansive feel coming from thefront speakers. There are, however, virtually no surround effects.
The fullscreen picture is sharp and free of the grain that plagues so many TV transfers. Theblacks are excellent, as are the flesh tones, and the colours are strong and rich, but still keeping agritty tone that perfectly complements the mood of the series. There are no edge enhancementproblems.
HBO TV offerings are often very light on extras, but this set is an improvement, with threeepisode commentaries. David Simon takes care of the pilot, director Clark Johnson deals withEpisode 2, while Simon is joined by crime novelist George P. Pelecanos on Episode 12. Thediscussions are all very articulate and informative, with Simon leaning more toward thestory/thematic side of things, and Johnson taking care of the behind-the-scenes details. The seriesindex with detailed episode summaries is a useful little extra. The menu’s main score is animatedand scored, while the secondary screens are scored.
Ambitious, smart, entertaining television. No wonder the networks are in danger ofbecoming obsolete.
Special Features List
- 3 Audio Commentaries
- Episode Index