The Sopranos vs. The Wire

..and why not?
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The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby PENK » 04 Sep 2010, 00:27

A few threads recently have touched upon this subject, and there's an undercurrent whenever either is spoken about, so let's have it out at last.
The two most acclaimed and talked-about TV dramas of our era. Rated by many as the two best of all time. You can like, even love both, but you have to pick one. I'm not going to lower this to a poll: they both deserve more in-depth discussion. What's it to be?
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Matty Red Sox » 04 Sep 2010, 13:39

What about Deadwood?
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby PENK » 04 Sep 2010, 16:23

Deadwood is good and all, but it's not in the same league, I don't think. These two are the critical giants: as I said, "the two most acclaimed and talked-about TV dramas of our era".
I expected a bit more interest in this thread. :?
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 05 Sep 2010, 11:45

Pretty much everywhere outside BCB, it's acknowledged by critics that The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. It's very popular with, erm, real people too.

As far as I've been able to gather, apart from myself there's only Johnny Slider here who's a really big fan. In a recent poll it was trounced by the fucking Simpsons, for fuck's sake. You do get the odd grudging praise from others, but this is usually followed by something snotty like 'but of course it doesn't have the sophistication of The Wire, which is of course the greatest blah blah blah'.

I haven't given The Wire that much time - the episodes from season one I've seen were good, but much of it was too complex for me to follow, if I'm honest. And it appears to lack humour, which is a major failing.



The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. I'll be watching this thread to see if anyone else comes out and says it, too.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Nolamike » 05 Sep 2010, 15:51

The Crompton Lug wrote:Pretty much everywhere outside BCB, it's acknowledged by critics that The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. It's very popular with, erm, real people too.


Really? Because lately, more critics that I've heard have said that about The Wire. Which also gets my vote.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 05 Sep 2010, 17:46

Nolamike wrote:
The Crompton Lug wrote:Pretty much everywhere outside BCB, it's acknowledged by critics that The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. It's very popular with, erm, real people too.


Really? Because lately, more critics that I've heard have said that about The Wire.


Aye, maybe.

What I was getting at is that the admiration that The Sopranos gets from critics and the public isn't reflected here. It's another of those BCB distortions of 'truth', like you get with McCartney.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Lemon Yoghourt » 06 Sep 2010, 10:41

I love both but definitely prefer The Wire.

Both have a scope greater than the basic remit of each show suggests. Each show is rich in well written characters, humour and long-term story arcs. Both have strong performances from their respective casts (although The Sopranos maybe edges The Wire on this one). I think of it as a major achievement of The Sopranos that I can't think of a more hateful character than Paulie (with Phil running him close). I think the focus of The Wire on social aspects edges it for me - I find it more interesting. Attending a Q + A with David Simon probably helped edge my vote to The Wire - it was good to hear his genuine anger and concern on the some of the issues and it was interesting hearing him trying to pass off Omar as almost a Shakespearian character.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Goat Boy » 06 Sep 2010, 12:02

The Crompton Lug wrote:Pretty much everywhere outside BCB, it's acknowledged by critics that The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. It's very popular with, erm, real people too.

As far as I've been able to gather, apart from myself there's only Johnny Slider here who's a really big fan. In a recent poll it was trounced by the fucking Simpsons, for fuck's sake. You do get the odd grudging praise from others, but this is usually followed by something snotty like 'but of course it doesn't have the sophistication of The Wire, which is of course the greatest blah blah blah'.

I haven't given The Wire that much time - the episodes from season one I've seen were good, but much of it was too complex for me to follow, if I'm honest. And it appears to lack humour, which is a major failing.



The Sopranos is the greatest TV drama of all time. I'll be watching this thread to see if anyone else comes out and says it, too.


This is not true. The Guardian and Word magazine are two publications who have bigged up the Wire relentlessly. If you could poll media types I suspect the Wire would win these days.

And what about me, huh? Am I not a big fan? :evil: It's hardly surprisng a sitcom would beat the Sopranos as best TV show ever as it's easy to digest and repays endless repeats. It takes far less effort so it figures higher in peoples affections. Regarding who's best, well, I guess it's a Beatles/Stones thing but both are actually the Beatles. The Wire has greater range and scope and is less showy imo...more subtle perhaps but the Sopranos has a warmth I think that maybe the Wire lacks.

You should really try the Wire again, Coan, it's a lot funnier than you realise. True, there's nobody as funny as Paulie but who the fuck is? :lol:



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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby PENK » 06 Sep 2010, 13:14

Yeah, I agree with that: The Wire doesn't lack humour as such, but The Sopranos definitely places more emphasis on the jokey side. It works both ways, I think: sometimes The Sopranos can feel a bit too throwaway in that department.
The Sopranos suffers from some clumsy writing overall, I think. I don't mean to overcriticise - it's a great show - but we're watching it now (I've seen it all before, my girlfriend's on her first time) and there are two or three recurring flaws: the psychology, a major aspect right from the beginning, is usually pretty shallow, and characters are introduced very haphazardly: sometimes we get overdone expositional dialogue, sometimes we get a fat guy in a bad shirt appearing on screen and hanging out for a few episodes without ever apparently getting a name or job. The same goes for the way they refer to offscreen characters a bit too much: it grows confusing and you constantly have to check back to figure out who's who. And incidentally, as we just finished season two, the David Scartino character is appallingly badly handled: we've never heard of the guy before, and suddenly not only is he best mates with Tony and Artie, his kid and Meadow are hanging out all the time too. Until what goes down goes down, that is, and his kid doesn't just fight with Meadow and storm off or anything, but waits until seconds before they are due to duet onstage together before doing it.
But yeah, what Dougie says about its virtues are true, too: it has a lot more warmth and better characterisation. These guys - and their women and friends - are deeply unpleasant, yet the writing and acting make us care for and about them (for the most part: Silvio never develops a third dimension, perhaps because Little Steven's acting never does either). The plotting is fizzier than The Wire's careful studies; but again, this can be a weakness, as there are times when they seem unsure where they're going: we see certain plots apparently repeat themselves (Richie, Ralphie and Tony 2 all have too much in common to really convince) and even for a show about mobsters it gets a bit overdramatic at times. Small quibbles, though: for the most part, it's an entertaining, intelligent and innovative drama. The Wire definitely beats it for the latter two qualities, however; the first is more even.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Geezee » 06 Sep 2010, 13:23

I haven't seen a single episode of either, but to me it *seems* like The Wire should be winning this really easily: Sopranos to me just seemed to be a series remake of Analyze This, which i hated, and brought no appeal to me...also it seems to attract alot of idiotic fans. I'm sure there's endless depth and meaning that I'm missing, but there's just so little in the set-up that attracts me.

Of course the Simpsons is the best TV series of all time - there's nothing that even comes close to it.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 06 Sep 2010, 23:11

G-Z wrote:Sopranos to me just seemed to be a series remake of Analyze This, which i hated, and brought no appeal to me...


Oh fuck, no, that's really wide of the mark.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby The Modernist » 07 Sep 2010, 11:03

The Crompton Lug wrote:
G-Z wrote:Sopranos to me just seemed to be a series remake of Analyze This, which i hated, and brought no appeal to me...


Oh fuck, no, that's really wide of the mark.


The early episodes were very much promoted as being about Tony's unlikely relationship with his psychiatrist. That was its big usp, that this big mafia boss was opening up like a stressed executive. It didn't seem to me a particularly original premise to me either, and the whole thing has always had a 'Goodfellas watered down and made into a soap' kind of feel about it for me.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Bungo the Mungo » 07 Sep 2010, 11:38

Aye, alright. Stick with yer film noir and yer Pasolini then :P

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Qube » 17 Sep 2010, 16:11

I love both but have no hesitation in saying The Wire is far superior.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Snarfyguy » 17 Sep 2010, 16:31

The Wire solved the problem inherent in these shows and that The Sopranos in particular suffered from, namely: how do you sustain a narrative arc over a multi-season drama when you never know if there's going to be another season? You can't. You can't have a big cliffhanger when your star wants a million dollars an episode.

What do you do with your characters? You can almost hear that question asked aloud and you can almost see the writers sitting around a table saying things like "well, we can send Meadow to college" and "such-and-such character can betray Tony," but there's actually no reason for any of that stuff to be happening. The writers are just making it up as they go along, and it shows.

One of the innovations of The Wire was for each season to be its own self-contained, fully realized set of narratives, with a clear resolution, or at least a clear ending. This allows the writers and viewers the satisfaction of enjoying a coherent storyline rather than just a sequence of events.

If only for this formal innovation, I hand it to The Wire, but it also pounds the The Sops on other fronts.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Leg of lamb » 17 Sep 2010, 18:58

Well I like The Sopranos, Coan :cry:

I'm on my first go-through and exactly where Penk and his girlfriend are - end of Season 2. And I just couldn't be happier with it.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby The Modernist » 17 Sep 2010, 19:49

I watched the first two episodes of the first season of The Wire at my cousin's the other day. I was pretty trashed which wasn't ideal viewing circumstances. At times I did feel I was watching something pretty routine as some of the characters seemed to verge on genre cliche (there was a hot headed cop in the one I watched who was obviously going to go a bit nutty at some point and he did -the way this was set up seemed a little laboured). However the attention to detail did start to pull me in. I'd like to watch them again (a little more sober this time), but I want to watch them from the beginning rather than jump in midway through.

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Nolamike » 17 Sep 2010, 20:17

The Modernist wrote:I watched the first two episodes of the first season of The Wire at my cousin's the other day. I was pretty trashed which wasn't ideal viewing circumstances. At times I did feel I was watching something pretty routine as some of the characters seemed to verge on genre cliche (there was a hot headed cop in the one I watched who was obviously going to go a bit nutty at some point and he did -the way this was set up seemed a little laboured). However the attention to detail did start to pull me in. I'd like to watch them again (a little more sober this time), but I want to watch them from the beginning rather than jump in midway through.


Oh yeah, give it a sober go from the beginning. The first episode, my reaction was "huh. This is supposed to be the best tv series ever?" I got around to watching the second episode, and started thinking "Oh, ok. This is getting good." By halfway into the first season, I became absolutely hooked, and never looked back.

Snarfy's comments above, regarding the radical changes in focus between seasons, will throw you for a loop at first - the changes can be very unexpected, and result in a lot of new characters being introduced. Stick with it, though - it really builds nicely.
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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby The Modernist » 17 Sep 2010, 21:45

Nolamike wrote:
Oh yeah, give it a sober go from the beginning. The first episode, my reaction was "huh. This is supposed to be the best tv series ever?" I got around to watching the second episode, and started thinking "Oh, ok. This is getting good." By halfway into the first season, I became absolutely hooked, and never looked back.

Snarfy's comments above, regarding the radical changes in focus between seasons, will throw you for a loop at first - the changes can be very unexpected, and result in a lot of new characters being introduced. Stick with it, though - it really builds nicely.


How easy is it to understand some of the slang do you think?
Often I read on imdb, Americans complaining they can't understand British films, particularly ones with cockneys. I've never had a problem with American films or programmes, until watching some of the black characters on The Wire. I had no idea what some of them were saying at times. I'm not knocking this by the way, I understand they're making it as authentic, in terms of the sppech patterns and slang, as possible, but I was curious whether this was a problem for white Americans as well?

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Re: The Sopranos vs. The Wire

Postby Nolamike » 17 Sep 2010, 21:53

The Modernist wrote:
Nolamike wrote:
Oh yeah, give it a sober go from the beginning. The first episode, my reaction was "huh. This is supposed to be the best tv series ever?" I got around to watching the second episode, and started thinking "Oh, ok. This is getting good." By halfway into the first season, I became absolutely hooked, and never looked back.

Snarfy's comments above, regarding the radical changes in focus between seasons, will throw you for a loop at first - the changes can be very unexpected, and result in a lot of new characters being introduced. Stick with it, though - it really builds nicely.


How easy is it to understand some of the slang do you think?
Often I read on imdb, Americans complaining they can't understand British films, particularly ones with cockneys. I've never had a problem with American films or programmes, until watching some of the black characters on The Wire. I had no idea what some of them were saying at times. I'm not knocking this by the way, I understand they're making it as authentic, in terms of the sppech patterns and slang, as possible, but I was curious whether this was a problem for white Americans as well?


I didn't really have a problem with it, but I live in a town that is majority African-American, and am used to talking to folks with similar accents many times each day. I guess it would be like me watching a Ken Loach film, like My Name is Joe - I can pick up a good bit of it, but at times I'm clueless. I think they do have subtitles available for the Wire, don't they?

Two nations, separated by a common language. :lol:
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