I bring this up because of the final season of The Wire, a show which I admittedly don't watch, ended on Sunday. Earlier in the year, I tried watching The Wire and to put it bluntly, what I saw, sucked.
It really sucked.
Fake serial killers? Speeches upon speeches, none the least bit enlightening, about everything from the media to the way inner city African American's are treated? Hackneyed acting and network level cop show plotting? This is what everyone was gushing about? I made it through four episodes before I punched out.
After I wrote about how I disliked the show and didn't see what the fuss was about, you would think that I said the holocaust didn't happen. The vitriol towards me was certainly palpable. And while I'll readily admit that I can't say the entire series is terrible, since I have yet to watch it on DVD, I can say that it seems like I wasn't so crazy in saying that the episodes from the final season that I watched, were indeed, crappy. I know crappy television when I see it people. I watch Prison Break. I watch 24. I watch Grey's. These shows suck. And the episodes that I saw from the fifth season of The Wire, sucked.
Sure, Alan Sepiwall pulled a muscle praising the "most amazing show in TV history," but at least at both New York Magazine and The Baltimore Sun, they seem to agree with my assessment. And yes, I know, The Baltimore Sun probably didn't like the season because they spent the season watching themselves get eviscerated on it. But still, it's something.
So at least, a small part of me can say, I told you so.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'd like to bring up the most hilarious bit of information I've ever seen written about The Wire. Buried in a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the Mayor of Philadelphia having a screening of the series finale is this gem:
Wendell Pierce, known as the can't-hold-his-beer Detective Bunk Moreland, was in attendance, though not with his customary cigar. He was the first to sign on for the movie night, and the most interested in continuing the Wire tradition.Yes, you read that right. They want to make a Wire movie. This could be the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard in my life.
In response to Seay's question about a movie, Pierce said he and Sonja Sohn, who played Detective Kima Greggs, "had secured financing and are hoping [series executive producer] David Simon and others will get on board."
Seriously. The Wire movie?
Let me ask you a question: who the f*$# is going to see that movie?
Here, let's go on a little journey through the principles of mathematics so you can see my point.
1.8 million people watched the series finale of The Wire.
That's it. 1.8 million people.
To put in reference how bad that is, 3.9 million people watched quarterlife. Christ, 1.2 million people watched the final episode of John from Cincinnati and that wasn't on the air for five seasons.
Now, I know, what you're thinking: how many people watched it On Demand, or on DVR? How many just watch it on DVD? Well that's a good point. Tell you what, I'll be generous and say that we can add John from Cincinnati's audience to that 1.8.
I'm in a good mood, what can I say.
So let's say that 3 million people watched or will eventually watch The Wire finale. Now, going on the idea that the average movie ticket costs $10, that means that if every single person that watched The Wire, including the imaginary extra 1.2 million people that I just gave you, saw the movie version, it would make $30 million dollars.
And we know that's not going to happen. There is no way that every person who has ever watched the show would see the movie. And the other problem you face is how do you market The Wire: The Movie to people who haven't seen the show? Maybe you do a prequel, like David Simon has suggested. Okay, that will help. It will make those that are uninitiated to the plot feel like they can pick it up. That's actually a smart idea.
But you're still facing the uphill battle of the name. If The Wire has been on the air for all these years and it can still barely crack 2 million viewers, what makes you think John Q. Movie is going to shell out his money for it? Because they aren't. No one will see this movie, just like no one watched the show. And it doesn't even matter if the quality is top notch. People didn't even see No Country for Old Men and that had the Coen Brothers, Tommy Lee Jones and every critic in the world orgasming over it. Yet, The Wire, with Dominic West and a bunch of C-list names is going to make money? I just don't see it.
It's not just The Wire though. Honestly, I just don't see how any television show can crack into the land of the multiplex. It's just a huge leap of faith to think you'd get people to pay for something that they watch on TV. And I'm not talking retro crap like Starsky and Hutch or Bewitched. I'm talking about LOST. I'm talking about The Sopranos. I'm talking about 24. I'm talking about The Wire. These are shows that belong in the small world that is television.
Nothing about these shows screams "I need to see it on the big screen!!!"
Oh wow, I can hear cursing in LOST: The Movie? Guess what, I don't want to or care to. This idea that people want to see movies made from their favorite current television shows is just a total fools errand. It's a wives tale. It doesn't exist. People aren't clamoring for these movies. They just aren't.
In fact, I can only think of two television shows that could work on the big screen. Not just from a quality standpoint, but from a financial standpoint as well.
One is Sex and the City, which comes out this summer. It's a combination of the release date (May), the trailer (which plays like some weird combination of The Devil Wears Prada, every musical to come out in the last few years and a gay holiday) and the star power (yes, despite her horse face, Sarah Jessica Parker has proven that she can open a movie) that makes me think that a $80 million dollar haul is more than likely. Put together this looks like the female version of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: old has-been's going through the motions that everyone wants to see them go through.
Let's not forget that Sex and the City was a cultural phenomenon. Every woman in New York between the ages of 25 and 45 will see this movie at least once. And every woman across the country who fantasizes about living in Manhattan will see this movie at least twice. Hell, Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson says as much in the trailer. She's comes to New York to fall in love. Aww.
The other television show that would work as a movie hasn't even been officially greenlit yet. And me saying that it could make a lot of money is completely contradictory to everything I've just written about The Wire and it's lack of financial prospects. But I pretty much stake my reputation on the Arrested Development movie making total bank. Look, if Michael Cera can co-star in two movies that cracked $100 million dollars, then why can't he star in three? Between the cult following that Arrested Development has gotten since it's cancellation, to the fact that Cera, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are all borderline movie stars, to the idea that a comedy is easier to market than a Dickensian breakdown of the decaying inner city, Arrested Development has it all.
I can see the trailer now:
1.) Start with "The Final Countdown."
2.) Show some Bateman and Arnett.
3.) Have Ron Howard say a couple of things in voice over.
4.) Show Michael Cera doing something.
5.) Transition to the Arrested Development theme.
6.) Show Michael Cera doing something again. Maybe dancing.
7.) Quick cuts of David Cross, Tony Hale, Jeffrey Tambor and Jessica Walters, to show the esoteric members of the audience that other people besides Michael Cera are in this movie.
8.) Slap a release date of mid-August on it.
9.) Start counting your money.
People would see the movie I laid out before you just because there was nothing else out, and because the "kid from Juno and Superbad" was in it. I guarantee the trailer would make them laugh like idiots.
With that trailer and release date, Arrested Development: The Movie would clear $100 million. That's a television show worth making into a movie.
Even if you don't agree with what I've just said about Arrested Development, you have to see my point. Turning current television shows into movies is a bad idea. It's a risky proposition. If Arrested Development is in the "don't buy" category, then David Simon's opus has to fall into "sell." But deep down, you can imagine Arrested Development making money and being successful. You know you can. You can't seriously say the same things about The Wire.