The Visual Style of “The Wire”

Posted filed underDesign, TV, Videos.


It’s not just President Obama’s favourite TV show, it’s probably the best and the smartest TV series ever made and if you haven’t seen it, you may simply not like TV at all. Well, that’s ok, but then you should really read David Simon’s “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets”, the best non-fiction book written in long time. Seriously, you wont regret it.

The Wire premiered on June 2, 2002 and ended on March 9, 2008, comprising 60 episodes over five seasons.

Each season of The Wire focuses on a different facet of the city of Baltimore. In chronological order they are: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the print news media. The large cast consists mainly of character actors who are little known for their other roles.

Now, Erlend Lavik has created an in-depth analysis of The Wire’s visual style and techniques called “Style In The Wire.” And by in-depth, we mean “36 minutes of pretty brilliant comparison and analysis.” For instance, Lavik, who is an Assistant professor in the Department of information science and media studies at Norway’s University of Bergen, points out that the music in The Wire occurs organically and that any music is also heard by characters and not used as audience cues. Lavik also goes into detail about techniques like the use of 4-by-3 aspect ratio, the influence of documentaries on the show’s style, the use of rearview mirror shots, and how the show actually trusted the audience’s intelligence in avoiding obvious visual cues. It’s an absolutely fascinating breakdown of the show that seems to transcend all those surface arguments Simon has railed against.

If you want more, check out Studies of Long-Form Television: THE WIRE