Inevitable Wire Backlash

It has begun. And I must say that I sympathize. The extent of the critical consensus on the show's awesomeness is a bit odd. The extent to which people who aren't TV critics (myself, say) have decided to become volunteer boosters for David Simon is positively creepy. Nevertheless, though the backlash is understandable, it's unjustified. The Wire really is the best television show ever. The consensus, however, is just one of several pieces of evidence for the proposition that it won't hold that title very long. In a mature medium, you're just never going to have everyone agreeing. But the history of people even trying to create what would today be recognized as quality television programming is simply very short. Nothing from before the 1990s holds up at all and even something as good as the beloved Buffy is rather mechanically crude compared to a contemporary understanding of how you're supposed to put serialized drama on the screen.

Someday, someone or other will decide they ought to actually try to compete with HBO in terms of putting good shows on the air instead of just having stuff (Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica) just fall into their laps. Or maybe there won't be television networks at all and everything will be sold individually On Demand, building a high premium on intense fan loyalty into the distribution system. That's when you're going to see the true Golden Age of Television, a period in which critics seriously disagree with each other about which shows are best, and in which you won't see the Best Show Ever title turn over as rapidly as we've seen in the Sopranos-Wire cycle.