Tag Archives: The Wire

Peter Lenkov

As US drama MacGyver prepares for its UK debut, airing on Sky1 on February 8, the showrunner and executive producer of the CBS drama – who also takes charge of network sibling Hawaii Five-0 – finds room for a pair of Hawaii-set series and an ‘honest, raw portrayal of teenage life’ in his list.

Magnum PI
This was my jam growing up. It had everything a teenage boy could want – a strong hero, action, laughs, girls in bikinis and a super-cool car. It was fluff, popcorn entertainment, but it’s also the reason I wanted to be a TV writer. Well, it was one episode in particular – an early episode in season three entitled: Did You See the Sun Rise?. It was a mythology episode, chock full of backstory on my beloved characters – Thomas, Rick and TC.
The episode made sense of their bond, their dedication to one another and the reason these three mainlanders all ended up in Hawaii together. At the end of that particular episode, Magnum did something completely unexpected, something I had never seen a hero do before – he shot his nemesis in cold blood. Justified or not, the moment blew my mind. And I knew then and there I wanted to do just that – tell stories that would surprise people, and maybe even blow their minds.

The Wire
I’m certain this gem is on everyone’s shortlist – and I came to it a little later than most. In fact, it was the main topic of conversation in the CSI: NY writers’ room at the time (nearly a decade ago already – wow) and I felt left out (for good reason).
A friend, on her third viewing by then, lent me season one and I ended up watching it all in one weekend. By the following weekend, I had seen every episode. Sixty hours! And I still managed to find time to go to work. Not sure how I did it, but I did. I had to, I was addicted. In less than seven days I was a Wire junkie, hungry for more, looking for anything related to the series, any behind-the-scenes insights, anything that would somehow extend the rush.
It was craftsmanship at its best. It didn’t play by conventional TV rules. Every season was a new story. New characters. A new theme. I hadn’t seen this done before and I believe it’s influenced cable for the better. The Wire was also my introduction to binge-watching, and quite honestly everything else has paled in comparison since.

James at 16 (originally James at 15)
Sure, it only lasted one season. But at the time it aired, I was a few years younger than its lead (Lance Kerwin) and I was very eager to grow up as fast as I could. And this show was a very honest, very raw portrayal of teenage life.
James was my ‘older brother.’ He gave me a glimpse of what the upcoming years would be like. My parents had no interest in this show, which made it all the more compelling. It was like I had this secret, this friend who I’d meet once a week to instill life lessons. From navigating issues with his parents to his first sexual experience, I was along for the ride, the silent wingman soaking it all up. Despite being nominated for a bunch of awards, by the time James turned 17 the show was gone.

The Beachcombers
Over the years TV has moved me in many ways, from influencing my storytelling to helping shepherd me through tough times. It’s been the great escape many a night. The Beachcombers has been one of those welcome distractions. This north-of-the-border production featuring Canada’s multicultural heritage is one of the longest-running shows in CBC history.
Was it good? Honestly, I don’t remember. Almost 400 episodes and I can’t for the life of me recite a plot point. But what I do remember is how I felt watching it. It made me giddy. Re-runs helped put me to bed at night with a great big smile on my face. And no matter how tough the day was, Relic (Robert Clothier)’s crazy antics would wash it all away.

The only show I have to watch if I happen to catch a re-run on TV. It’s comedy-drama at its best. Its poignant storytelling and social commentary made war fun, and God knows there’s nothing to laugh at there.

Hawaii Five-0 (1968-1980)
Another show set in Hawaii. The OG series. The one that introduced Hawaii to the world. This Five-0 was my father’s favourite show. I have fond memories of sitting by his knee while he ate his dessert, usually a bowl of fruit, and got lost in the crime of the week.
But it was way more than a well-crafted police procedural with a cast of strong characters led by Jack Lord – this was my father’s weekly escape from our brutal Montreal winters. This was a destination on his bucket list. And this experience is a constant reminder of the power of a location; how a setting can be just as important as anything else.

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Marty Adelstein

Marty Adelstein is the CEO of Tomorrow Studios, producer of Aquarius, starring David Duchovny. The 1960s-set drama premiered on NBC earlier this month.

I was a child of the 1960s and 1970s when all the auteur directors were working in Hollywood. People like Francis Ford Coppola, Hal Ashby and William Friedkin have all influenced me – these were master storytellers on the big screen.

This followed through to television, where storytelling started to master the art of characterisation, constantly returning characters whom you wanted to live with. Television series have always been markers in my life. Different series reflect specific times in my life, which is why I have selected the following six.

SopranosThe Sopranos
With all the good shows I’ve been involved in over the course of my career, the ones that start with the most trepidation and doubt from the powers that be end up being the most successful.
This was also the case with The Sopranos. It changed everything by not having a traditional order and viewing pattern, in that people had to wait to see the next season not even knowing when the episodes would be ready for air.
It was also one of the shows that started the binge-viewing phenomenon of people watching several episodes in one go.

The Wire
The Wire is quite frankly the best writing ever in television. It was a compelling, complex drama – never easy to watch but impossible to turn off! Everything about it felt authentic – the characters, the setting, the dialogue and the drama. It was an incredibly smart, sophisticated piece and treated its viewers as intelligent, reasonable people. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and a great example of the value in taking creative risks.

The Twilight Zone
I watched The Twilight Zone as a child. It was revolutionary in its anthological nature, with unrelated stories covering a range of genres. The storytelling within the half-hour format was always compelling and thoughtful. It was, by turns, creepy, thrilling and frightening.
Although known mostly for its sci-fi feel and the fantastic twists in its tales, the series also often had strong moral and ethical dilemmas at its heart. It proved that a show with substance and pathos could garner a mass audience.

Miami-Vice-(edit)Miami Vice
Miami Vice reflected the decadence and over-the-top nature of the 1980s, and held a mirror up to society in terms of the drugs and corruption during that time. It looked new and had a different colour scheme than had been seen on television before. Episodes were even aired in stereo. It was one of the first shows where location, music and fashion all came together to play a part in the storyline.


Hill Street Blues
Hill Street Blues was a different kind of cop show. It changed the genre by mixing the professional and private lives of the characters, giving it a soap opera atmosphere that made us care about the characters just as much as the action. It was also one of the first to really employ a documentary feel with the drama, which back then was a groundbreaking way of pulling viewers closer.

Ally McBeal
Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal/Picket Fences
I’m picking two shows here because both of these David E. Kelley-created series demonstrated that you could do character and comedy within a one-hour format. Ally McBeal was the first show to win the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series as an hour-long format. It was representative of the 1990s and the rise of women in the workplace. Picket Fences was revolutionary in its use of a common small-town setting to showcase uncommon real-life topics.

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