Television: Down To The Wire

From the perspective of HBO, it's hard to imagine there could be a downside to the endless stream of praise the cable network has received for its fabulous slate of original series. But once all of us in the media were done sucking up to "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Sex and the City," no one could stomach the idea of swooning over yet another HBO program--no matter how good it was. Enough was enough. Which might explain why "The Wire," creator David Simon's meticulously authentic cops-and-gangbangers saga set in Baltimore, flew under the radar during its spectacular first season last year. Worse, if you tried to join the show a few episodes late, "The Wire's" chief virtue--its microscopic focus on a single, sprawling case--became its biggest obstacle. You were lost. Now's your chance to get onboard. The second season of "The Wire," which shifts focus from Baltimore's projects to the city's struggling (and smuggling) blue-collar dockworkers, began on Sunday night, meaning you've got all week to catch a rebroadcast or join the show before it gets too deep into a new case. If you're already a fan of the show, you'll love how Simon's writers spend four weeks cleverly reuniting last season's team of disgraced detectives. (NBC would've had'em back together by the first commercial break.) If neat and tidy McMysteries are your bag, there'll be around-the-clock repeats of "Law & order" this summer. But if you're looking for new episodes of the best cop show on television, well, we won't say it. Enough is enough, right?