Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Wire Never Ends

Last night my wife and I finished HBO's Baltimore based television drama, The Wire. It is, without a doubt, the best show I have ever seen. Created by Baltimore native and former newspaper reporter, David Simon, the story unfolds in five different seasons, each with their own focus. Starting with the street drug trade, it moved into the city ports, then the Baltimore government, then into the school system, and ending with the local newspaper industry. I was simultaneously frustrated and charmed by a city I've never even visited. It made me wish David Simon would make a show about the city I grew up in.

The series ties the riveting plot, dynamic characters, and poignant themes together with a metaphorical "wire" constantly revealing truth through fiction. It shows the destruction of the drug war on American streets. It shows young street kids full of hope turned into dealers, users, and killers. The trade off borne after September 11th when the federal government began focusing more of its attention on terrorism. Without giving too much away, one of the few success stories doesn't come from one of the featured institutions, but instead when a struggling "corner kid" is adopted into a functional middle-class family. It shows the great ingenuity of humanity and how that can be used for corruption and destruction.

The show never feared taking risks. It used former drug dealers, addicts, and murders as actors. The drug dealing entrepreneur Stringer Bells takes economics classes in night school. And it uses a murdering, thieving, homosexual, stick-up man as the voice of morality. I don't mind revealing these small spoilers because it truly wasn't the destination, but the journey that makes this show. Not just a good televion show, but a visual novel. It impacted how I think about drug laws, political corruption, and my own role as a teacher in the classroom. Even the theme music, which uses the same lyrics reconstructed into different genres for every season, gives it a bookend feeling.

Finally, the series closing montage shows us that the The Wire, or the ideas presented in the show never end. "The game", legal and illegal, continues as new characters replace old, often dead, ones. Though the mini-series to which the show is based, The Corner (and the book before that), won an emmy, the show was never recognized with awards or overwhelming viewers. Journalist Joe Klein puts it best on the DVD extras: "The Wire never won an Emmy? The Wire should win the Nobel Prize for literature!” However, it did recently win a $500,000 "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. If you haven't yet had the privilege, take the time and enjoy the series. You will not be disappointed.


  1. Never agreed with one of your blog posts so much!

  2. Same here! I'm still only one episode into season 4, that they've headed into the education system!

  3. Something we can all agree on. I think season 4 is my favorite.


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