The Wire (and other HBO shows): Legitimizing Television

After reading a third article about The Wire for this class, I have begun to realize that The Wire (and the other HBO series that came before it) have legitimized television watching in a way that no other network has done before. At the very begining of “Invisible City” the article explains that it is simply part of a series of articles about The Wire ranging from the show’s “complez portrayal of black America” to an article that discusses The Wire’s “view of life as a chess game.” What this, in addition to the other articles, had made me realize is how profound of an effect The Wire has had on the academic work in television.

In the articles and essays we have read before, the emphasis was always on structure. Where did network shows come from? How were network show’s strucutred? Who is the author of a network show? In these articles, however, the issues are actually related to the content of the show itself. The questions the show asks are precisely the questions the authors of the articles are trying to answer. Unlike in the essays before, there is no need to defend the analysis of television, it is simply understood and the analysis actually occurs. Perhaps similar articles exist about other shows (such as Homicide or even earlier network shows) but as far as I can tell, this type of full analysis based purely on content of a show has only come about in the recent past. I cannot help but assume that the emergence of HBO and its profound, vastly different series (both in terms of style, and more importantly, context) have helped bring television studies from simply being a study of structure to an actual study of content. The question is, will this analysis of content find its way into network television as well or will it be confined to HBO series forever?

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