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HBO's 'The Wire' shines as road trip entertainment

The crime drama is one of the best shows to come along in a long time.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.--For more than two weeks now, I've been traveling throughout the Southwest on Road Trip 2007, producing stories and photo galleries on the most interesting science- and technology-related subjects I can find.

In that time, I've covered more than 2,700 miles and stayed in an absurd number of motels.

And since I often haven't finished writing and processing photos until 9 or 10 at night, I've definitely needed downtime, and a good way to entertain myself.

That's where HBO's much-heralded series, The Wire, a drama about crime in Baltimore, has come in.

HBO's 'The Wire' is one of the best television shows to come along in years. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Just before leaving on the trip, I called HBO Video and asked if they might consider providing me with a season or two of the show to watch on the road. The very next day, an express package hit my desk containing the first three seasons (four have been produced, but only the first three are available on DVD).

I had taken a bunch of movies out of my local library to bring with me on the road trip, but I have to be honest: I haven't touched them. I've been too wrapped up in The Wire.

To say the show is about crime in Baltimore, as I did above, is to be overly simplistic. I'm not a TV reviewer, so I'll probably muddle through this, but I have to say that the level of character development, writing, acting and directing is among the best I've ever seen.

Now, I'm not sure I'll ever see anything top shows like Hill Street Blues, Northern Exposure or The West Wing, but The Wire comes close.

The story revolves around two sides: the Baltimore police, and the city's drug dealers. And where the magic comes in is in how the two sides, and their stories, constantly weave in and out of each other.

You come away feeling wrapped up in the characters, and somehow even feeling for them all, despite their myriad personality defects--on both sides of the law.

The second season, in my opinion, is the show's weakness. The first season was stellar; the third--which I'm currently in the middle of--is a touch below the first's level and season four, which I watched on HBO, is the best yet.

So, the next time you're perusing Netflix or looking for a DVD to buy or rent, I suggest skipping the Hollywood blockbuster that you know in your heart will disappoint you and try this gem from HBO. I bet you won't regret it.