Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge



Into my fourth straight week of unrelenting, mind-numbing sobriety now. At the outset, I told my friends that if they were ever doing any, you know, non-alcohol related activities, they might consider inviting me along. To date I’ve had only one offer. (Whether this is a reflection on my company or their proclivities, I wouldn’t hazard to guess.) Last Thursday, my sister texted to say that she was about to drive across the city on unspecified errant. To be honest, I don’t know which is sadder – that she invited me, or that I accepted.

Other than that, I’ve been pricking around, taking on some extra work and trying to get into The Wire. I know I said I wouldn’t write about The Wire. I lied. (In other shock revelations, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, friends come and go and you can’t always get what you want.) Fuck it, whaddiya gonna do?

Some thoughts then on the ‘greatest television series ever made’. After some early bouts of Dominic West-induced narcolepsy, I’ve started to warm to it. Certainly watching it on television, rather than on my laptop in bed was a smart move. Yesterday, I finished Series One and, today, I went right out and picked up Series Two. So I’m not saying that it isn’t entertaining.

But given the claims made by others on its behalf, both here and elsewhere; and given also that its a HBO production; I cannot help but compare it to what I consider the paragon of modern television drama. Based on the first series, I’m afraid it comes up short:

1. As a central character, McNulty isn’t a fraction as complex or engaging as Tony Soprano. A hard-drinking, maverick Irish cop? Come on, it’s been done a thousand times… In the Sopranos morality, Cosa Nostra is a virus that infects everything it touches. For all the talk of moral ambiguity, McNulty seems to me a pretty conventional white knight character. The fact that he’s played by a square-jawed, conventionally handsome actor does little to alleviate that suspicion.

2. It’s not as rich or as cinematic as the Sopranos. Every other scene takes place in either the grass at the low-rises or the cops basement hangout. And the supporting cast isn’t nearly as formidable as the Sopranos’ either.

3. It’s not as funny as The Sopranos. With so many great qualities going for it, its easy to forget that the Sopranos was a fucking funny show. The Wire isn’t. The Sopranos had Paulie, Christopher, Anthony and innumerable other wiseguys and buffoons for comic relief. The Wire has that fat guy who’s the Commissioner’s nephew. I rest my case.

4. No one gets whacked? Admit it, half the reason we watch gangster dramas is to see characters get bumped off, preferably without warning and at the hands of someone they trusted. On the few occasions this happens in The Wire, it takes place off screen, and only after it’s been clearly flagged. Give me Pussy begging for his life on the high seas any day.

October 29th, 2009.

33 Responses to “MENACE II SOBRIETY”

  1. Karl Says:

    Much as I agree that The Sopranos is superior to the Wire, I think you’re fighting the wrong fight here. It’s not Sopranos vs. Wire, it’s Sopranos and Wire vs. Greys Anatomy and Gossip Girl.

    Or actually Sopranos and the Wire in a tag team royal rumble against everything else ever made.

  2. Colin Says:

    @Eoin – gotta get a little defensive here. Without spoiling.

    1. McNulty is no white knight, retrospectively speaking. And Tony Soprano had his stereotypical moments too, don’t we all? Sopranos ruled for 3 seasons then it became a more bumpy ride. David Chase never meant for it to last so long. The Wire was always planned for 5 seasons. One big interconnecting story.

    2. Supporting cast was stronger with Sopranos, no doubt on that. But the Wire has it’s share of scene stealers too.

    3. Give ya Soprano’s funny edge here too. It does make me laugh on occasion, but I never watched the Wire for humour, camaraderie maybe.

    4. “No one gets whacked”, heh, patience, Daniel-san, patience. And come on, the little kid in season 1. Rough.

    Maybe you and the sister can check out Ikea, get a coffee table. I hear the Swedish meatballs in the restaurant are both reasonably priced and delicious.

  3. Eoin Says:

    @ Karl – you may well be right, I’ve never seen Greys Anatomy and never heard of Gossip Girl.

    @ Colin – I’m on the phone handset and, since we appear to be in agreement on most things, I won’t get into a long reply.

    Having just watched Series 2, episode 1, I realise I made an error in my original post. Herc, who was the comic relief character I was talking about above, isn’t the comissioner’s nephew, that’s a different guy.

  4. keep watching Says:

    let’s see what you think after the full run of the show. The Wire builds, one season on the next.

  5. Longman Oz Says:

    Man, are you going to regret that “no one gets whacked” remark! You’re playing with the 5-season pros here, bush leaguer!

  6. Conal Says:

    Save your breath! As he admitted in his frank and revealing dislike-of-Meatloaf post – Eoin’s a contrarian.

    keep watching eoin, i’m interested to hear all the reasons you come up with for not liking the wire


  7. Eoin Says:

    Watched first two episodes of series two last night. Take back everything I said about McNulty being a square jawed soap opera hunk. You see him in that water rats uniform? Oh my god, he looks like Frances McDormand in Fargo…

  8. Lisa Says:

    I am not getting involved in this one, I’ve said my piece on The Wire and that’s that. I am not even gloating in anticipation of how much you’ll eat your “no one gets whacked” words.

    As regards the sobriety thing, well, plenty of suggestions from this quarter for alternative activities but most of them involve somewhat dramatic lifestyle changes: move to a non-drinking culture like Canada, learn to ski, take up distance running, that sort of thing.

  9. Lauren Says:

    It definitely gets better, 2 & 4 are undoubtedly the best seasons (I think I watched S2 in about a day and a half). That said, I agree with you – it’s not better than The Sopranos. As good, maybe, but not better.

  10. Eoin Says:

    I think it’s obvious what must have happened. After a sluggish first season, some hot shot young TV executive (a la me) came in and said, you know what’s wrong with this show? McNulty is just a big square-jawed moron and no one ever gets whacked.

    And they then went out and retooled the show on that basis. So in a way you should all be thanking me that it got better!

    P.s. Internet gone today. Replying from my phone so apologies for short answers…

  11. Dave Says:

    Yeah i’d say that’s what happened alright. To be honest, I’ve never seen the Wire either. Is this a recommendation or what Eoin?

  12. albinicus Says:

    I’m probably the type of wire watcher the fans hate the most in that i’ve seen random episodes, from god knows what series, months apart from each other on late night BBC2..i have enjoyed the 2.5ish episodes i’ve seen though which included a fair few whackin’s

  13. massey Says:

    The only episode I saw was the one where McNulty gets whacked by an eskimo riding a skateboard. Man, did not see that one coming.

  14. Andrew Says:

    I’m in the opposite position to you, in that I’ve seen all of The Wire and am now getting into the Sopranos (about halfway through season 2). I wouldn’t really feel the need to compare them, as they’re two very different beasts. The other commenters are right in saying that you need to be patient wit The Wire. Season 2 is almost entirely different and took me a while to get into, but ended up being one of my favourite seasons of it.
    And yeah, Jimmy turns out to be less of a cliché than he first appears.

  15. Paul Says:

    McNulty’s most interesting quality is that in any other series he’d be the hero, in The Wire he’s just another asshole who thinks he knows better than everybody else. This comes more into focus as the show unfolds. For me, Series 3 is the highpoint of not just The Wire but television – it’s what the medium was invented for.

    Oh, and as for the ‘getting whacked’ thing – Series 1 revolves entirely around the fallout from a couple of ‘whackings’ that have life-changing effects on D’Angelo and Omar. Death gets treated with a bit more respect here than in The Sopranos, it’s not just an episodic gimmick. (spot the non-Sopranos-fan in the room).

  16. Eoin Says:

    I’m on episode four, season two now. Jesus, if someone doesn’t clip this Ziggy kid soon, I’ll do it myself.

  17. Conal Says:

    lmao. fucking ziggy hahah

  18. Pluck Says:

    season 2 is the best-frank and nick sabodtka, the greek, hell i even think ziggys cool…

    can i ask you why you came off the sauce eoin?was it you made a hole of yourself 1night and swore off it or was it a case you just got bored with the whole thing and said this is a bit shit, there must be more than this?i get the impression its prob not the former given some of the comments-some of them yer own now to be fair-on here.

    no1 else is asking and the wisdom that led them to keep shtum is not taught in any of the national schools…but then i suppose, in my defence, tact isnt on the national curriculum.

    fairplay to you anyhow.id given you 2 wks!

  19. Eoin Says:

    To tell you the truth Pluck, I punched a baby. That was probably the wake up call I needed, to be honest like.

    Ah no seriously, I just did it to prove I could do it, first of all, and I suppose also to get fit or something.

  20. ben Says:

    “It’s not as rich or as cinematic as the Sopranos.” I think the bleakness of it all is the point being made about the American city.

  21. Eoin Says:

    Fair enough, but I could make a point about how cruel and unfair life is by going out and kicking a stranger in the balls… so… you know… Er, what was my point again?

  22. michelle Says:

    Eh, You sure your not on the Sauce there Eoin?

  23. Eoin Says:

    Definitely not on the beer last night, no Michelle. Watched about four episodes of the Wire back to back tho.

  24. Colin Says:

    “Watched about four episodes of the Wire back to back tho.”

    One of us, one of us!

  25. Lisa Says:

    How about a lifestyle trade-off this weekend Eoin? You can go for a run and I’ll go on the razz for the first time in 7 months.

    I’m still waiting for the Club Orange and your credibility as a cultural commentator, by the way.

  26. Eoin Says:

    No, you were to give me a can of Club Orange in return for my credibility as a cultural commentator.

    But since we made that deal, I’ve learned that I’m Ireland’s 12th most influential tastemaker, so my has gone up a little.

    Can of Club and a ham and cheese sandwich.

  27. Lisa Says:


    Well obviously I’ll have to give this considerable thought. I can see I’m dealing with the right cute hoor here.

    On the other hand you have to speculate to accumulate and it’s not as if you’re demanding a box of Chocolate Kimberley or something.

  28. Conal Says:

    pair of food flirts

  29. Paul Says:

    Er, yeah, Ziggy. Fuck. I really can’t explain Ziggy. Or his big fake cock. But I suppose there has to be a flaw in every perfect work of art or something along those lines. Jeezus. Ah well, even Ziggy has his moment (in his case, his final scene is the one where I realised what the point of him was. I can’t explain it to you but you’ll know it when you see it).

  30. Eoin Says:

    @ Paul – he has a large penis, I’ll give him that. Actually, I’m now halfway through series 3. (Let’s just say I skipped treat or treating this weekend.) And I still don’t know what the fuck the point of Ziggy was.

    Series two, possibly my favourite so far tho.

    @ Conal – what the hell is a food flirt??

  31. Colin Says:

    @Eoin – “what the hell is a food flirt?”

    Watch ‘Nine 1/2 Weeks’ with Mickey Rourke and Kim Bassinger to learn more.

    Don’t watch ‘Last Tango in Paris’.

  32. Lisa Says:

    With a ham and cheese sandwich?

    What is this seamy mire into which I’ve strayed?


    […] Going to Watch Television Now, I May Be Gone for Some Time (October 14th) Menace II Sobriety (October 29th) 10 Reasons Why ‘The Wire’ Sucks Balls (November 11th) January 12th, […]

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