The Wire

Wendell Pierce as William “Bunk” Moreland and Dominic West as James “Jimmy” McNulty in the HBO series “The Wire.”

Nothing but nothing can equal the full-throated experience of sitting in a darkened auditorium and watching a 10-foot-high “Deadpool” kill three bad guys with a single bullet. And making jokes while he does it. But the theaters are closed for now. What to watch?

The TV channels that we pay extra to see have made some enjoyable series. We can start there.

HBO, a frontrunner in prime TV production, made what some consider the finest, most realistic crime drama ever made, “The Wire.” HBO produced 60 episodes over a five-season spread. We like it when we have lots of episodes to binge on. I give the major credit to the gritty success of the series to creator/writer David Simon. Simon covered the crime beat as a staff reporter for a Baltimore daily newspaper. He knows the underside of Baltimore as well as anyone who isn’t a convicted felon. These 60 episodes set a new, higher goal in terms of realism and truthful portrayal of a particular slice of American life. It makes for frightening and fascinating viewing.

Englishman Idris Elba has a recurring role in which he speaks in the patois of an inner-city American gangster. I would watch the series again just to see him act.

We can also view another early HBO series, “Rome.” This British series, filmed in current day Rome, lasted for only two glorious seasons. It depicts the historical events beginning with the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar and ending with the first part of the reign of Augustus. We get to see into the lives of the famous people of that age. The acting by a cast of seasoned, mostly British actors is superb, as are the sets and costumes. As the series evolves, it centers on the lives of two Roman soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. These soldiers have a slender historical mention, having been named by Caesar in his writing. Vorenus and Pullo were the only individual soldiers ever specifically named by Caesar.

Series creator Bruno Heller said of the historical record, “This series is much more about how the psychology of the characters affects history than simply following the history as we know it.” Accepting the tinkering around the edges of the historical record a bit is rewarded to the viewer by a better, deeper understanding of how the Romans of the classic era actually thought and interacted.

London, born actor Damian Lewis, has made a brilliant career by portraying Americans in three different TV series. HBO, again, brought us the inviting, seemingly authentic, and profoundly moving WWII drama “Band of Brothers.” Lewis plays U.S. paratroop officer Dick Winters, who wrote the biographical book upon which the 10 episode series is based. This was the most expensive per episode series made at that time.

Not finished, Lewis played in 31 episodes of “Homeland,” again as an American soldier. “Homeland” continues and continues to be worth our time, even without the Lewis character.

Lewis currently plays an American financial mogul in the still current “Billions.” He plays off against the always intriguing Paul Giamatti. Giamatti plays a driven, ambitious New York federal attorney who hopes to jail the driven, ambitious mogul. Neither man has a pristine moral stand, which makes the series interesting and often compelling.

Always pay attention to the ratings if you have children. Most of these recommendations are R-rated themes.

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