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Child in Time

Avibrant, masterful work of art, HBO’s novelistic urban saga The Wire is the best show on television for multiple reasons. And in all the hype for season four — from reviews, radio interviews and advance stories — even a pop-culture-savvy Wire virgin would be able to tell you that this year’s sharp-eyed focus is the fecklessness of an educational system staggeringly unequipped to be a viable, invigorating choice for today’s economically challenged youth. And if you watched Sunday’s premiere episode, our introduction to the four corner kids whose lives we’ll be following was beautifully tough, from the trash-talk bonding to a hilariously ill-conceived pee-balloon retribution to one boy’s unwitting complicity in a murder that leaves him visibly shaken, and suddenly not so childlike anymore. That minidrama was powerful enough, but what floors me about the show’s creators is how they thread in other pungent corollary narratives as well. Because intercut with the story of kids forced to grow up way too fast are the lives of adults made into children. The crosscutting sequence between bored cops forced to endure a patronizing lecture on terrorism and bored teachers being prepped for the school year by chanting “I am lovable and capable” was priceless. But so was the satirically crafty episode trajectory of mayoral candidate Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen). At the beginning, he’s an energetic challenger boasting to a former mayor about his eagerness to win and reform the city. Then we see him stump at an old-age home in front of barely conscious retirees, bristle when he hears that the mayor is outspending him in ads, doodle on the floor of his campaign office rather than make demoralizing money calls to donors, and finally erupt into a bratty tantrum when the new polling data comes in. In a few artful strokes, the writers have shown the infantilizing, mentally debilitating nature of modern politics. This show is a godsend.