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PBS' Philly D.A. is The Wire in a docuseries form

  • "It’s a little surprising given the show’s acclaim and its TV-landscape-defining status, but prestige fictional TV never really figured out how to make copycats of The Wire," says Kathryn VanArendonk, in reviewing the eight-part PBS Independent Lens documentary series. "Oh sure, TV co-opted little bits and pieces here and there — the color palette, the commitment to big ensemble casts, the police drama turned serialized and grimy, the idea that Idris Elba and Michael B. Jordan should be huge stars. But the core of the thing has remained relatively alone, off on an island to itself. The Wire (along with some of David Simon’s other work) is still one of the very few TV series about the collaboration and tension between individuals and big systems, about the promise and limitation of one individual attempting to exert pressure on a huge network. Philly D.A., a new docuseries about progressive lawyer Larry Krasner in his role as the district attorney of Philadelphia, is the only TV series I’ve seen that actually feels like watching another season of The Wire. It’s not at all the same, of course — these are real people’s lives being filmed, so the outcomes are messier, the arcs are less fitted to ideal narrative shapes, and, most crucially, the filmmakers don’t get to decide how this story turns out and whether this experimental political project they’re following will fail. The central idea of it, though, and the way Philly D.A. follows the story across a citywide web of interlocking problems and attempted solutions, is like watching a real-life Philadelphia spinoff of a Simon show playing out across eight hours of TV....The element of Philly D.A. that most contributes to that feeling is Krasner himself and the role he chose to take on with his election as district attorney."


    TOPICS: Independent Lens, PBS, Philly D.A., Documentaries