'Luke Cage' Is Being Compared To 'The Wire' & That's A Little Unfair
At Tuesday night's premiere of Captain America: Civil War, the producer of the upcoming Marvel/Netflix collaboration called Luke Cage " The Wire of Marvel television." Executive producer Cheo Hodari Coker is certainly the right man to be making comments about the creative direction the show's going in: in addition to writing the first two episodes of the dark comic-book drama, he also acts as showrunner for the show. However, while I haven't yet seen Luke Cage, I would speculate that the parallel between Luke Cage and The Wire is kind of an unfair one to make.
For all the focus on social issues the show promises, Luke Cage is still a superhero show. And The Wire was all about naturalism, which makes the comparison a little jarring. But, more importantly, this just builds unrealistic expectations. I like to come to a new show totally fresh, without expecting anything. By comparing it to one of the most critically acclaimed pieces of television of the last fifteen years, Coker is setting the audience up for disappointment. Most shows take a few episodes to settle into their rhythm and to engage the audience. I'd hate for people to abandon Luke Cage straight off the bat simply because it wasn't The Wire from day one. Coker said:
“It’s very sophisticated. I mean, it’s got a ’90s hip-hop vibe, but it’s really forward-thinking. We have Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad doing the scoring for us. We have a lot of different musical appearances, but at the same time, we’ve got the Marvel action. We’ve got drama. I would like this to be, I mean, I know this is heavy but, The Wire of Marvel television, because we really deal with a lot of different issues.”
No, no, no. Let's discuss why this comparison is so problematic.
1. The Wire's Dialogue Was All About Realism
To praise The Wire's use of dialogue is to venture into heavy cliche. But let's do this. Yes, if you've seen it, you'll remember the dialogue, unlike most things on TV, actually sounded like how real people speak. It wasn't flowery, it wasn't necessarily witty or dramatic and it was so heavy on slang that British people had to watch it with subtitles on. This naturalistic style is in stark contrast to a superhero show, which involves in a pithy one-liner before every punch. Exhibit A: the Luke Cage trailer above.
2. Luke Cage Is A Superhero Series
OK, maybe this is a little obvious but the fact remains: Luke Cage is a superhero series, The Wire is the opposite: a show that has no time for the supernatural or the magical. A superhero version of The Wire would kind of defeat one of the purposes of The Wire.
3. Luke Cage Needs A Chance To Be Unique
Ultimately, the greatest strength that any show can bring to our screens is to do something no one's done before. Sure, that's tricky in The Golden Age of Television, but it's not impossible. Coker should give Luke Cage the gift of zero audience expectations. No comparisons, no referencing other shows or genres: let the work speak for itself.
I'm sure Luke Cage will be many things: witty and dark and dramatic and smart and completely worth watching. But Marvel's answer to The Wire? Forget drawing parallels to other shows, and let's see for ourselves.
Images: Sophie Atkinson/Bustle; ABC Studios (2); HBO Television