It is almost impossible for a TV show to be perfect. Everything – from the acting to the writing to the directing – needs to be perfectly in sync, and needs to both start out and sustain that level of quality. That being said, Freaks and Geeks is a perfect show. It is funny, sad, beautiful, and occasionally uncomfortable — often all at the same time. Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give the show is that it doesn’t feel like TV – it feels like you’re watching real characters going through real problems and having real conversations.
This realism is really the hallmark of Freaks and Geeks. While other high school shows went for schmaltzy romantic storylines, zany plots, and featured characters who acted more like 25 year olds than high-schoolers, Freaks wasn’t afraid to zero in on the inherent awkwardness of adolescents who are still trying to grow up.
The success of “The Sopranos” allowed HBO to put up a slew of similar shows, unable to match the quality of the channel’s original crime family hit. But a few have measured up quite well. Of these, there is probably no better example than “The Wire.”
Set in contemporary Baltimore, season one begins with a relatively simple plot: a special investigative unit in the Baltimore City Police Department is tasked with busting up a drug-ring run by gangsters in the city’s western housing projects. From here, as the investigation gains steam and the seasons pass by, things become a bit more complicated as the detectives begin to make connections between the drug-ring and various members of the Baltimore community. The result of all this is anything but the standard version cops and robbers. The show paints nuanced portrait of Baltimore, exploring how the city deals with its crime problem, but also depicting daily life in the city’s various ethnic and economic subunits.
Through all of this, creator David Simon is able to maintain a stark sense of realism. This especially comes through in how the Baltimore City Police Department functions. Instead of working like a well-slicked machine, “The Wire’s” police department often barely functions. Indeed, many officers make a habit of brutalizing petty criminals and commanders don’t pursue difficult cases in order to keep their stats positive, just to name a few things.
Along with this engaging plot, the show is bolstered by a competent acting core: including, Lance Reddick, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Dominic West. This combination makes for a both thrilling and thought provoking viewing experience.
*Unfortunately, “The Wire” like many great HBO shows, came to an end last year after a five year run on the network.
If people have been wondering what the youth has to say about issues of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and inequality they have finally spoken and are now being heard. Russell Simmons presents a series on HBO called Brave New Voices, it follows teams across the United States hoping to make it to the annual national slam poetry competition. Slam poetry differs from regular spoken word; it is used in gauging a judges score of a performance and produce a winner.
The Twin Cities is also thriving in spoken word, I got to attend the first Urban Griots Award Show this past April and I was opened up to a new world right here in our great city. Minnesota’s youth slam team, Quest for the Voice is also on their way to Brave New Voices in Chicago, IL next month.
Check out one of my favorite performances from BNV 2008:
“Ugly Sunset” by Mike Gerbino
Written by Rachel Summers