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Critically acclaimed show ‘The Wire’ returns in high definition

Airs Jan. 5 on HBO

Stacy M. Brown | 12/26/2014, 7:49 a.m.
In a move that many fans would argue to be tantamount to Leonardo da Vinci touching up the Mona Lisa ...
For the first time since the series ended in 2008, HBO will air all five seasons of David Simon’s critically acclaimed television show “The Wire,” beginning on Friday, December 26, 2014. The network will air a high definition version of the show on Monday, January 5, 2015. (Courtesy Photo/HBO)

In a move that many fans would argue to be tantamount to Leonardo da Vinci touching up the Mona Lisa or Mario Puzo adding paragraphs to “The Godfather,” David Simon and HBO have re-mastered the critically acclaimed HBO series, “The Wire.”

The cable network will begin airing it anew in high-definition on Monday, January 5, 2015.

“To their great credit, once we alerted HBO production executives to our absolute interest in the matter, they halted their scheduled fall high-definition release and allowed us to engage in detail,” said Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter who created “The Wire.”

“Over the past several months, looking at some of what the widescreen format offered, three things became entirely clear,” said Simon, 54, who also wrote the book that became the basis for the hit NBC television series, “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

“First, there were many scenes in which the shot composition is not impaired by the transfer to high-definition, and there are a notable number of scenes that acquire real benefit from playing wide,” he said. “An example of a scene that benefits would be the one from the final episode of season two, when an apostolic semicircle of longshoremen forms around the body of Frank Sobotka. It’s fine as far as it goes, but the dockworkers in the scene are all that much more vulnerable, and that much more isolated by the death of their leader when we have the ability to go wider in that rare crane shot.”

Simon, who posted an entire entry on his website about the re-mastered version of his hit show, cited numerous other examples that should thrill viewers.

Simon heaped praise on the series’ co-producer, the late Robert Colesberry, for much of the show’s visual storytelling. “We composed our shots to maximize a film style that suggested not the vistas of feature cinematography, but the capture and delicacy of documentarian camerawork,” Simon said.

Of the new wider shots, he conceded that, “There are scenes that clearly improve in high-definition and in the widescreen format, [however] there are some things that are simply not as good.”

To mark the release of the re-mastered version of “The Wire,” HBO will begin airing a marathon of all five seasons beginning with Season 1 on Friday, December 26, 2014. It’s the first time since the show ended in 2008 that all 60 episodes of the show will air.

“I don’t care if you’re from Baltimore or from China, you have got to be excited about watching ‘The Wire’ in high-definition,” said Andre Hemphill, a communications major at Howard University in Northwest.

“Sometimes, high-definition is over-blown when it comes to sitcoms and certain other television shows,” said Hemphill, 20. “But, this should give us even more of a look at the streets of Baltimore and it should put us right there with the actors.”

The show, a gritty depiction of Baltimore’s drug scene from the perspectives of the dealers and law enforcement, has remained a critical favorite since its final episode, said Kirthana Ramisetti, a journalist with the New York Daily News.

In five seasons, the series tackles Baltimore from different fronts during a brutal drug war. It highlights the death of the working class, the city’s political culture, education system and life on the hard-knock streets of Charm City.

“The show is considered to be one of the best television shows of its era,” Ramisetti said. “It helped launch the careers of actors Idris Elba, Michael K. Williams and Michael B. Jordan, all of whom have gone on to enjoy success in both television and film since the show ended.”