What if HBO's The Wire, a gritty crime drama set in present-day Baltimore, had actually been a British serial published the mid-1800s? This the premise taken in a recent post on the Hooded Utilitarian blog.
In the piece, The Wire is proclaimed to be a sprawling, "Victorian masterpiece" written by Horatio Bucklesby Ogden. The post also states that the detail-dense story has been unjustly overshadowed by the works of Ogden's contemporary, Charles Dickens, perhaps due to its challenging, bold, and complex story lines which interweaved from week to week. For shame, yo!
[jump] The parody literary essay, which actually demonstrates a fine understanding of how publishing and readership worked during the time, argues points for a series of writings that never existed. However, for those who have seen the series, many statements made are surprisingly spot-on:
The genius of The Wire lies in its sheer size and scope, its slow layering of complexity which could not have been achieved in any other way but the serial format. Dickens is often praised for his portrayal not merely of a set of characters and their lives, but of the setting as a character: the city itself an antagonist. Yet in The Wire, Bodymore is a far more intricate and compelling character than London in Dickens' hands; The Wire portrays society to such a degree of realism and intricacy that A Tale of Two Cities--or any other story--can hardly compare.
The blog piece also includes some great art featuring Omar, McNulty, and Moreland in a very British world playing cops-and-robbers. You can also read three pages from the "original publication" of The Wire (the constant use of the word "fuck" must have been quite scandalous at the time).
While the real Wire will never be a serial piece published over 150 years ago, we think it turned out for the best as an award-winning American television series.