(copyright The New York Times, from 3/10/2008)

Mandel Maven's Nest on The Wire:
The Best Novel on Television

The Wire is the greatest original dramatic series ever produced for television. It has yet to get a best-series Emmy nomination, much less win, but it deserves that trophy, an Oscar, a National Book Award and a freakin' Nobel Peace Prize to boot. -- Noel Holston, Newsday, 12/17/2004 -- but virtually every critic in the world could be quoted here.


"My favorite character would be the city of Baltimore, god bless her." - David Simon, on HBO BB, 12/9/2004 -- recipient of the 2010 “Genius Award” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
"Our model when we started doing The Wire wasn't other television shows. The standard we were looking at was Balzac's Paris, or Dickens's London, or Tolstoy's Moscow. In TV, you can actually say that out loud, and then go do it." David Simon in Newsweek, “Why TV Is Better Than The Movies, by Devin Gordon, 11/5/2007

The Wire (Available on HBO On Demand and repeated on various HBO channels. All 5 seasons out on DVD. Bowdlerized version on BET: per Variety 12/31/2006 (“On Hot Streak, BET Places More Chips on Original Fare” by John Dempsey): BET's president of programming Reginald “Hudlin says he's carving out a 90-minute time period for each weekly episode so the program won't have to be edited to fill an arbitrary 60-minute slot. Broadcast standards will force some editing for content and language, adds Hudlin, ‘but we'll use a scalpel, not an axe.’”)
With Amazon touting the series’ availability through their Prime streaming service, there’s also rumors of HD rebroadcast and Blu-Ray DVD release.
David Simon blogs at The Audacity of Despair. He reflected on his career and The Wire in a 7/10/2013 interview with Alec Baldwin on the podcast Here’s The Thing.
The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez book with Simon intro and other vital background and essays on the actors, writers, real-life counterparts and non-music credits, though the episode summaries are simplistic.
Cast member Felicia Pearson, who startlingly plays "Snoop", has a memoir Grace After Midnight.
The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, a collection of 17 academic essays edited by Tiffany Potter and C.W. Marshall, published 2010 by Continuum.
Alan Sepinwall has a chapter on The Wire in The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever, self-published in paperback and e-book in 2012. In a 11/27/2012 interview with Pop Candy he noted: “The subtitle I had when I was first floating it was something like, ‘How Tony Soprano, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stringer Bell Made TV Matter More than Movies.’”
The Wire and the Blues” by Glenn Ligon is the chapter in Blues for Smoke, the hard-cover catalog, published by DelMonico Books/Pestel, of the exhibition organized by Bennett Simpson, that originated in 2012 at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles and traveled elsewhere, including to the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC (which I’m embarrassed to say I missed).
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin, published 2013 by Penguin Press.
The Wire and Philosophy: This America, Man - edited by David Bzdak, Joanna Crosby, and Seth Vannatta, published by Open Court, #73 in their “Popular Culture and Philosophy” series (2013) (Thanks to Arjan Beens.)
In Wendell Pierce’s memoir The Wind in the Reeds A Storm, a Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken, written with Rod Dreher (Riverhead Books, 2015, also available on Kindle), he links his work on The Wire, Hurricane Katrina, and Treme.

Background - How to Watch and Listen
Opening/Closing Music Themes


First Season - McNulty and Music
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13

Second Season- McNulty and Music

Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25

Third Season- McNulty and Music

Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37

Fourth Season- McNulty/Prez and Music

Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40 Chapter 41 Chapter 42 Chapter 43 Chapter 44 Chapter 45 Chapter 46 Chapter 47 Chapter 48 Chapter 49 Chapter 50

Fifth Season- McNulty-

Chapter 51 Chapter 52 Chapter 53 Chapter 54 Chapter 55 Chapter 56 Chapter 57 Chapter 58 Chapter 59 Chapter 60


Post Wire

Spring 2015: The Wire Reverberates through the Baltimore Insurrection

Treme

Show Me a Hero

References to The Wire in Pop Culture and Posthumous Appreciations
Generally Through 2008
Generally Through 2009
Generally Through 2010
Generally Through 2011
Generally Through 2012
Generally Through 2013
Generally Through 2014
Generally Through 2015
Generally Through 2016
Generally Through 2017





If You’re Jonesing for Something Similar to Watch

Peabody Award Winner 2004!: “Probing the full range of human behavior, The Wire has the depth and intensity of a complex novel. Both cops and criminals face dilemmas where boundaries of right and wrong, honesty and dishonesty are continually blurred." As to getting the other awards it should be getting, Simon Says: "I am of the opinion that this show will be recognized with an Emmy just after a dozen monkeys in Armani tuxedos fly out of my ass. Awards are nice and it's nice to be recognized with awards, but having said that, we wouldn't change what we are doing to win one." He went on to David Gordon in Newsweek “Good Mourning, Baltimore” 1/5/2008: "I don't give a f––– if we ever win one of their little trinkets. I don't care if they ever figure out we're here in Baltimore. Secretly, we all know we get more ink for being shut out. So at this point, we wanna be shut out. We wanna go down in flames together, holding hands all the way. It's fun. And it's a good way to go out—throwing them the finger from 3,000 miles away."

Why I keep updating this legacy web page: Because there are still people who haven’t yet watched or are still having difficulty watching, in whatever format, platform or timetable is available, more than a decade after I started this around June 2002, just a couple of weeks into the first showings, to encourage viewership.
Vulture’s Margaret Lyons, in “Stay Tuned”, on 8/6/2014: “How Do I Convince People to Watch Buffy? Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered”—“Q: Should I invest time in The Wire? I don't fully trust the people recommending it. —Huma A: Yeah, you should watch The Wire. But Huma . . ., why are you hanging out with people whose taste you don't trust, who don't trust your taste? What?! I get not trusting the General Masses or wondering if something is widely overrated or whatever, but if your friends don't believe you when you say something is great and you don't believe them when they tell you the same, how do you stay friends? I don't have the same taste as everyone I'm pals with, but when they recommend something for me, I take it seriously, and vice-versa. Learn to trust your friends, or maybe find new friends who trust you? I don't know, I am really at a loss.”
In “New Way to Deliver a Drama: All 13 Episodes in One Sitting” by Brian Stelter, The New York Times, 2/1/2013: “Binge-viewing, empowered by DVD box sets and Netflix subscriptions, has become such a popular way for Americans to watch TV that it is beginning to influence the ways the stories are told — particularly one-hour dramas — and how they are distributed. Some people, pressured by their peers to watch Mad Men or Game of Thrones, catch up on previous seasons to see what all the fuss is about before a new season begins. Others plan weekend marathons of classics like West Wing and The Wire.”
USA Today’s Pop Candy blogger Whitney Matheson, 2/1/2013, opening her mailbag: “Q: The Shield, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Friday Night Lights are shows I need to see but for one reason or another I've never been able to get around to them. I fear that they may eventually pass me by. What are some of your biggest TV regrets and why? — Mark L. A: THE WIRE, THE WIRE, THE WIRE. I'm so ashamed. (And really, you need to watch Buffy ASAP! Certainly one of the best series of all time.)” She followed up on 4/5/2013: “Q: What is your biggest goal in life? — andie A: Whoa, that's a heavy one! I'm going with the standard "to make good work and be a good parent," adding the additional goal to finish watching The Wire.”
There is apparently a backlash. In another such Q & A, in Vulture’s “Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered” column, March 2015, got a complaint: “My girlfriend and I keep a running list of older shows we've never seen so we have something to watch when we've caught up on what's currently airing or when there's just nothing on. However, most of the shows on our list are hour-long dramas: The Wire, The Sopranos, The Good Wife, etc. While these are all great shows and we are slowly but surely working our way through them, sometimes we just don't feel like watching something heavy. Could you recommend some comedies to add to our list? —Casey”.
Heard outside of a May 2015 press screening of Sean Baker’s Tangerine, a colleague was holding forth at length to others on James Ransone, not for his performance in the director’s earlier Starlet, but for his role in the 2nd season of The Wire, with which his companions were unfamiliar. A month later, a colleague was enthusing about the series – which he had just finished watching. Then in August 20, 2015, when I was recommending to an editor of Spirituality and Practice that as they were expanding to TV reviews they should include Rectify, he asked with curiosity “Have you ever heard of a series called Wire?”.




Background

Third in David Simon's brutal and gritty Baltimore version of the Law-and-Order franchise, after Homicide (all seasons out on DVD, though perhaps not with the NYC crossover episodes) and the drop-dead searing mini-series The Corner (available on DVD and HBO sometimes repeats it On Demand). Simon explains, in Q & As on the HBO Web site posted after Season #2, such quotes hereafter referred to as "Simon Says", that I'll re-post excerpts here as who knows how long HBO will retain the comments: "Ed Burns and I wrote The Corner together. That book is a subtle argument against the drug war. But we both felt that since the book was for the most part a microcosm of that war in the tale of a single open-air drug market, there was more to be said about the nature of the disconnect between law enforcement and the drug culture. And we felt that this could be accomplished through a narrative like The Wire. The show also owes a debt to Richard Price's magnificent Dempsey books, and Clockers in particular, which first demonstrated the narrative power of a split-POV between police and their targets."

Simon Says: "One of the show's creators was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun for thirteen years, covering the organized drug trade in that city. The other was a 20-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, a detective specializing in wiretap investigations of violent drug gangs. The series is predicated on their view of Baltimore and its attendant problems. . . The writers carefully research details necessary for each ensuing season before we begin to write. We spent time with the port unions and Maryland port officials before writing season two, just as we run most of our communications law/wiretap stuff by a prosecutor who has that expertise. Whenever the story goes in a direction where the writers are unfamiliar with the terrain, we go out and acquire more knowledge as well as we can."
Inspired by true events (Simon as quoted in Newark Star Ledger 8/6/2006: "God is not a second-rate novelist. God knows what he's doing, and if you just take what actually happened and marry it to where you want to go, it's better than if you thought of it yourself."), Baltimore is a major character, its architecture, ethnic and racial antagonisms, music, food, geography, and especially its politics, are particular, yet so resonant to Any American City (which is more effective than the anonymous city in the almost-as-good-and-classic cancelled EZ Streets (only 3 episodes available on DVD; sometimes showing on Sleuth TV). Simon Says: "I think The Wire is subtle but genuine of the real in this city. It is not the work of Hollywood types coming in from out of town and slumming, finding fault with a place they barely know. It is the work of East Coast rust-belt writers, most of them from Baltimore proper, speaking to the problems, failings, joys and humor of a city they love. I live here in the city. I am angry at much that has happened here and grateful for much that has survived and in some cases, continues to endure.

This is the Best Novel on Television Simon Says: "The show is crafted as a visual novel; most of episodic television, even when its very good, is crafted as a series of short stories. It was initially hard convincing HBO that we could do a "cop show" that would be distinctly different from network fare, cop shows being the storytelling backyard of the other networks. They needed to see several scripts and then they needed to get a sense that the show would build as the episodes progressed, which is kind of what happens when people pick up a book and read it, chapter by chapter. . . You have to consider that the nature of a novelistic television show is that each chapter builds on the previous, so that the pace accelerates. That means that the first episodes of any season are much like the early chapters of a long narrative. They set the stage, introduce characters and begin the plotting that will result, hopefully, in the payoff. Tellingly, the first episodes of first season were a revelation not only for viewers, but for HBO as well. [Simon added a year later: It took Ed Burns and myself more than a year to come up with the first three scripts and then rework them to the satisfaction of Carolyn Strauss and Chris Albrecht at HBO.] Trained to watch episodic television, many people were stunned to find that the show was deliberately pacing itself much more slowly and intricately. Some people were bored, but others were drawn in. The moment when I knew we'd be alright was when Chris Albrecht, then the head of programming for HBO, said he was glad that each episode was getting better. That was a good sign, he said. To me, they were all good episodes in that they were progressing the single story exactly in the manner intended, but Chris's impression was important. Many people pick up a book and read it to conclusion with the same sense that each successive chapter leaves the reader more involved and more committed to finishing."

From Rocky Mountain News July 20, 2006 by Dusty Saunders: Simon is upfront in exploring reasons why The Wire has failed to generate a large audience. "It's tough going out there on the Baltimore streets," he says. "For many it's not a pleasant viewing experience. and we faced another problem long ago: The cast is largely black. "There's a certain portion of the audience that will change the channel. Not necessarily in any grandly venal racist way, but there are a lot of people who look and see that many black faces are looking back at them. And they say 'This is not my story.' "

Years later, ex-HBO executives changed history to claim that there was no suspense in the show's renewal for each of the five seasons – HA!: From The HBO Auteur by Wyatt Mason, New York Times, posted online 3/15/2010: "Simon’s strategy for keeping his show going wasn’t to make [any] admissions. The show’s endurance ultimately had a very uncomplicated bottom line: . . . Chris Albrecht, the longtime chairman of HBO who stepped down in 2007, and Carolyn Strauss, president of HBO Entertainment at the time who now runs her own production company, greenlighted The Wire. (Simon calls them “my patrons at the network.”) . . .wanted to see the end of the story Simon was telling, in large measure because, according to Albrecht, he was uncommonly persuasive. 'He writes amazing letters when he’s trying to get you to come around to his point of view. . . Sometimes very angry, sometimes very cajoling, always brilliantly written and conceived.' When a big one arrived, Albrecht and Strauss knew to brace themselves. 'I remember one time when Carolyn came downstairs with one of David’s letters in hand. She asked, ‘Did you open it yet?’' Albrecht said, laughing. 'I said, ‘Nope.’' By the time Albrecht and Strauss left HBO, Simon had been given a chance to complete The Wire. Under the pair’s tenure but owing to Simon’s industry, the culture at HBO had come to see itself in Simon, this when The Sopranos was pulling in about five times as many viewers."


That it's a writer-driven show is what makes it feel like a novel. Simon Says: "It is a job and it is hard, but it is a good job. Plenty of people park cars, wait tables and sell shoes to make their pay every day, right? We get to pull our hair out making a 12-hour movie about stuff we care about. Not bad when you consider. . . Delivering twelve hours of a story this ornate and complex leaves us drained after six months of production. And we have, in Baltimore, the best and most devoted crew we could ask for." As Simon further Says: "Simply put, The Wire is more like a modern novel than a television drama. That doesn't men it isn't visual or doesn't rely on the basic elements of filmmaking. But in plotting and structure, it bears more of a resemblance to Clockers or Hard Revolution or, for that matter, works of narrative non-fiction like [his book that was the basis for Homicide] than to Hill Street Blues or CSI or The Shield. When this show folds, the writers will not move on to write police procedurals on network TV; they will start another book. Most of them, surely."

A retrospective perspective from the writers: In The HBO Auteur by Wyatt Mason, New York Times, posted online 3/15/2010: "Simon works on every script by every writer of every show he produces. . . What is less common is how little credit Simon takes for the rewriting he does. 'He would take a script into his room when the deadline was that night,' [George] Pelecanos told me, 'and he’d go in there and lock the door, and he’d redo the whole script.' The novelist Richard Price, who also wrote for The Wire, told me there’s nothing capricious about such thorough revision: 'You really need a single sensibility at the top, a writer-producer who’s a ruthless rewriter. It’s like an assembly line; Episode 3 has perfectly got to follow from Episode 2 and also perfectly set up Episode 4.' Typically, however, when show-runners polish scripts, they add their names as co-writers, an act which, according to the Writers Guild of America, cuts the original writer’s script fee — around $32,700 for an hour of episodic premium cable — in half, the other half going to the show-runner who typically has a seven-figure deal. Very literally, Simon doesn’t take credit. 'It’s almost like David feels guilty that he’s so successful,' Price told me. 'He’s more than decent. He’s like an old Democrat, an old lefty. . .I’ve seen shows that are on right now where the show-runner has their name on every script. And if any of those episodes are up for an Emmy Award, the show runner’s gonna get an Emmy Award. When I was nominated for an Emmy' — one of only two Emmy nominations that The Wire received during its five-season run — 'had I won, I would have gone up there and accepted that award; but David also wrote part of that script.'”

Simon is fond of comparing the series to Moby Dick, particularly in how it slowly unfolds to deal with larger themes, as he did when he participated with other writers, producers and members of the cast in a panel February 10, 2005 on "Unraveling The Wire" at The Museum of Television and Radio in NYC (taped for viewing at their facilities in NYC and L.A. and available on the Season 3 DVD). I didn't get to ask my question about why he as an artist chooses to work in the collaborative television medium, but I indirectly got an inkling from his other responses: "This is a very hard show. The hard portions are getting all in a room boiling it down to get what we want. Each weighing in on their experience. There’s a lot of pride in that. A lot to be argued. That’s what makes it good. The thing does not have the fragility of being one guy’s idea. It has to come out of this back and forth. . . I’m the court of last resort. I take the last pass over each script so that it all makes sense [and sticks to the overlying themes, according to Ed Burns]. . . I thought each season would focus on a separate case and targets. But I saw a wonderful dynamic between the actors playing "Avon Barksdale" and "Stringer Bell" and felt I could sustain that for three seasons, though we put it on the backburner for Season 2 in order to grow the city. For season 3 we had to add politicians because I wanted to add the political references to explain how the problems with drug legalization would be. I needed to show an infrastructure. But from the story comes the characters. . . This is a very tough show to be an actor on. You don’t know what’s coming. You have to trust the writers have a plan. Characters take one step forward, two steps back. When you have this many characters you’ve created what is a schematic of a city through the characters. We are blessed as we go deeper and deeper into the cast. . . Everything is strange. The fact that I’m doing TV is strange. I’m supposed to be on the obit desk bumming cigarettes."



Simon Says on who he is writing for:

"Actually, I am very much writing to please myself. And the other writers on this show are trying to please themselves above all. Our premise is that if we don't think what we are creating is the best possible story, then why are we doing it? Why publish or broadcast anything that you yourself don't believe is the best possible story you can tell? To attract viewers? To make money? To be popular? To win some awards?
I no more believe that the viewers of the show could construct a better story than a visual artist might believe the people walking through the art gallery could produce a better painting, or than a musician might believe the first couple of rows in a concert hall could compose and play a better piece of music.
That sounds arrogant. Perhaps it is. But it is also the imperative for anyone trying to write what they feel. If no one wants to watch what we write, then no one will. End of story. But the solution to that dilemma is not to dumb the show down, or play to the gallery by exploiting or exaggerating popular characters to the detriment of story or utilizing more sex or violence than is necessary to convey the story we want to tell. Those are the hallmarks of a television show, an entertainment. And while it is true that The Wire airs on a television network, I honestly feel that what makes it unique is the refusal of its writers, actors and crew to succumb to the clichés of the medium, to regard what we are doing as anything less than a narrative worthy of being told in the smartest and most careful way possible.
Of course we write for ourselves. If you write for anyone else, with one eye on the commercial imperative, you are, on some level, a hack. That doesn't mean that a lot of very commercial things aren't good, or that a lot of things that aren't commercial also don't happen to be weak -- but your first job is to respect your own work. And that means it has to satisfy the writer first and foremost. If no one else comes to the party, hey, at least you were honest."



See David Simon's interview with Nick Hornby in the August 2007 The Believer online magazine. See David Simon's fan interview with Jesse Pearson "The 2009 Fiction Issue" of Vice Magazine for insights on the making-of-this series and his oeuvre. For what may be the complete compendium of Simon interviews and series news.

How to Watch and Listen

The key to following the story is conceptualizing corrupt, warring bureaucracies, The Law and The Out-Laws, with the focus on the pressures on middle management on all sides; for the second season add the waterfront and the drug wholesalers, for the fifth add the newspapers. It is particularly trenchant about the blind eye of the FBI post 9/11. Simon Says: "But I can only add that we are not selling hope, or audience gratification, or cheap victories with this show. The Wire is making an argument about what institutions - bureaucracies, criminal enterprises, the cultures of addiction, raw capitalism even - do to individuals. It is not designed purely as an entertainment. It is, I'm afraid, a somewhat angry show." He reiterated a year later: "Since day one, this show has been about what institutions do to the individuals who serve them or are supposed to be served by them."

Each episode does take two+ screenings to understand, let alone trying to start watching not from the beginning of the series, such that Slate provided a weekly critical guide to help get you to watch, with commentary by TV writer David Mills, journalist/author Alex Kotlowitz and a filmmaker of Hoop Dreams, among other resources. The opening quotes, provided in the HBO online episode summaries so I haven't been always repeating them here, are pithily important guides to each episode's theme.

At the MTR seminar Simon drily noted that they had to "train viewers to watch us. . . There are rewards for people who don’t come to it casually." Simon Says: "We want the show to be entertaining. Any buncha storytellers would. But more than that, we want the show to be argued about and discussed and considered. A lot of what we feel about the drug war, about what has happened to the working class, about race and class and the dignity of individuals is there on the screen. If people are merely entertained, then we've failed what ambitions we had, I'm afraid."
It's especially challenging to understand what language comes between the frequent "fucks." As to the reality and the profanity, including a brilliant forensic scene in the first season whose dialogue consisted entirely of different ways to say the "F" word, here's an excerpt from an online interview with Simon and his riposte that he posted on the HBO BB in response to criticism of the first episodes: "So, for example, no one made any conscious effort to tone down the profanity, I'm afraid. Nor could we if we wanted to. Indeed, episode four contains a scene in which copshop profanity arrives at its natural apogee. If this is bad writing, so be it. Weak sisters like myself are unmasked and undone and perhaps it is only a matter of time before David Fucking Mamet is fucking told to give his fucking Pulitzer back to the fucking idiots that thought he knew what the fuck he was doing. I can only say in defense that a) veteran Baltimore cops are incredibly, relentlessly, profane and b) the show is making a particular point that both sides of bureaucracy have been equally coarsened and brutalized by the drug war, and that both are equally conversant in the same debased language. If we get a second season, all characters will speak the King's English in iambic pentameter. I promise..." Simon Says: "Omar never curses, alone among the characters. He is beholden to no institution other than himself and therefore he is not, in the logic of The Wire, debased. He therefore does not speak the debased language of those who are subject to the caprices and indifferences of the institutions they serve."



The actors say that their scripts came with a glossary of the Baltimore slang, so that is probably where The Wall Street Journal got this “Talk the Talk: A Wire insider's guide to the show's street slang.” 12/29/2007, so I don’t think I’m violating their copyright, and this doesn’t even have geographical abbreviations like “P.G.” for Prince George’s County and “S.A.” for State’s Attorney:
TO HAVE SUCTION: To have pull with your higher-ups at the Police Department or in City Hall.

EYEBALL WITNESS: Eyewitness. A witness claiming to be present for the overt criminal act. A rare thing.

TO RE-UP: To obtain more drugs to sell. To be resupplied with drugs for street sale.

THE HALL: The mayor's office. Short for City Hall.

A REDBALL: A high-profile case.

A CORNER BOY/YO/LITTLE HOPPER: A young kid on the street who's aware of the street (but not necessarily a dealer). A corner boy is one on a corner, working a package with a crew. A yo or yo boy is a derogative term for such, popularized by Baltimore cops. A corner boy would never refer to himself as a yo or yo boy.

PACKAGE: Several meanings, including a package of heroin or cocaine. Or AIDS. Sometimes, you hear street people say that someone got the package, meaning he caught The Bug, or HIV.

POLICE: Police officers are simply police, as in "he a police." Emphasis on first syllable: "POH-leece." Homicide detectives are murder police.

GOOD POLICE: A police officer who cares more about work than the chain of command.

STAND TALL: Not let the enemy have his way with you, maintain dignity. Common usage.

CARRYING WEIGHT: Doing jail time (and not cooperating with the police).

TO SHOVE OFF: To get high.

TESTERS: Free vials from a new street-ready package that go out to addicts to get them hooked/let them know there's a new package....They are simply advertising the quality of a new package. Testers can be heroin, which is sold under brand names: Death Row, Tec-Nine, WMD, etc., and usually come in Ziploc bags, or inside capsules, or in glassine envelopes; or cocaine, which is usually in vials of the kind used for perfume samples, with different colored tops. Red-tops, blue-tops, yellow-tops, etc.

BURNER: A disposable cellphone.

SLINGING: Selling drugs. Or twirling. Or clocking. Or working a package.

THE JECTS: The projects.

CHEESE: Money.

FIEND: Addict.
TITLE III: A wiretap. Cop usage.

A HUMBLE: A cheap, misdemeanor charge. Either an unwarranted charge in some definitions, or a charge required in order to humble an arrogant corner boy.

CREW UP: To form a team and sling drugs on a corner.

WALK-AROUND MONEY: Petty briberies and monetary grease on Election Day.

G-PACK: One hundred vials of coke, prepackaged for sale.


I decided to do a "McNulty"-centric and music-centric episode guide.(though with the Fourth Season I switched to "Prez"-centric as West eased out then). Most of the fans were otherwise crazy about "Stringer Bell" but, as Tim Goodman in The San Francisco Chronicle put it on June 22, 2005 three years later after I first thought so in "They steal, they cheat, they lie, and we wouldn't want it any other way -- the timeless appeal of the anti-hero: The Wire, which has logged three densely literate, brilliantly nuanced seasons, portrays the workaday lives of Baltimore police in the same ethically slacked, real-world gray zone that permeates McNulty's life. The drug war marches on, barely held back by understaffed, underfunded cops. The system is bankrupt of ideas, and Baltimore is losing the battle. But in McNulty, viewers get that one guy, that one flawed guy, trying to put the world to right."
Years later, in Newsweek 8/10-17/2009, Malcolm Jones in "Death Becomes Them" challenges Thomas Pynchon's rant in Inherent Vice against TV shows and movies that have cops as heroes: "Isn't Jimmy McNulty on The Wire really closer kin to Marlowe and Spade than Joe Friday?"
From the 12/7/2009 Adam Bryant interview in "The Reporter: David Simon Creates Commentary Disguised as a Cop Drama on The Wire: "TVGuide.com: How did you develop the character of Jimmy McNulty? Simon: [Executive producer] Ed Burns was a [cop] who was nominally assigned to homicide, but he would often pull himself out of the rotation and go to wiretap cases. He had a hard time convincing the department that the methodology was not only sound, but that it should be replicated. I watched him during the last half of his career hit his head against the wall trying to get the police brass to have a little bit of ambition. There's a lot of Burns in McNulty. Ed would laugh at that, because he thinks there's a lot of me in McNulty. We gave him an ex-wife and there were some personal things, but that's writing. You cannibalize everything you have in front of you. I grafted on a lot of stories from hard-drinking cops. There's a lot of oral history in the show. We got to write a lot stories down on cocktail napkins and put them in the show. I think that's what made the show idiosyncratic and, for lack of a better word, real."

From Will Harris’s Random Roles interview in A.V. Club, 11/26/2012: “Dominic West on The Hour, John Carter, and yes, The Wire:”DW: Yeah, that was a good job. [Laughs.] Not bad. Well, I mean, that’s the reason anyone knows me, isn’t it? And there are still people coming up who are just discovering The Wire. It’s amazing. It started back 10 years ago, and it’s got an amazing life after. I suppose it happily coincided with the start of box sets and binge viewing. That’s a great development, and The Wire was a perfect sort of thing for that. But Jimmy McNulty, I don’t know what to say about him. I’ve talked about him so much, I don’t know what to say now! AVC: Well, let’s talk about the American accent. How long did it take you to get it down? DW: Oh, I never found that very easy. I always found that difficult, and especially when we had English directors. We had quite a few English directors, and every time we had one, my accent went out the window. So, yeah, I found that really hard, because—well, in one way, even though I’m English, I’ve all my life been heavily exposed to American television and culture in general, so I knew the accent. We all do. But on the other hand, I’ve been watching American cop shows all my life and loving them, so I always had it in my head this sort of critic, this imposter syndrome, saying, “I used to run around pretending I was Starsky and Hutch or Kojak, and now I’m actually running around pretending to be an American cop!” I always felt like I was being a bit of an imposter and that nobody would believe me. But fortunately they did. AVC: Do you have a favorite of McNulty’s storylines? DW: Oh, fuck. Well, I really enjoyed the fifth season. I really enjoyed the fake serial killer. That was really a great storyline for McNulty. But I really liked the crashing the car and reversing, ’cause that actually happened. It was based on a cop who was called [Terrence] McLarney. So I was sort of in some ways based on him. And he actually did that. He used to drink and fight and crash his car, and he couldn’t work out how he crashed it, so he reversed and did it again to see what the trajectory was, and… I think he flipped the car. Which we didn’t write in the scene, but he flipped the car, the police came, and he wound down his window—he’s upside down—and he said, ‘Do we have a problem here?’ [Laughs.] He should’ve kept that bit in! AVC: Was it frustrating that The Wire didn’t get any Emmy love in its time? DW: Well, initially. And then it was like we were really just hoping that we would get absolutely none, because to have got one award, or to have gotten one just for sound or something… But we actually got nothing. [Laughs.] And that was quite gratifying, because then you can think, “Okay, well, the awards are stupid, then.” And I continued to think awards were stupid for a long time, until this year, when I won one. And now, of course, I think they’re absolutely marvelous!”
The Emmy snub was still being cited by Variety’s TV critic Brian Lowry in “Emmys Seldom Blaze Trails” in September 2013: “HBO’s other titan of that period, The Sopranos — perhaps one of the most influential programs in establishing cable’s growing influence — didn’t actually win the drama prize until its fifth season in 2004 (and again three years later). Then again, the show towered above a fellow HBO drama, The Wire, which earned a mere pair of nods (both for writing) and never won despite how widely it’s admired within the industry.”


It was very annoying that HBO didn't have a music guide on its Web site for the series for the first three seasons. (A Derrick Washington offered to SELL me a music listing he got from an insider. . .) Simon Says: "We work hard on making the music seem organic, rather than score. Credit especially our postproduction department with working hard on that." The Alvarez book includes an essay on the music and additional quotes from Simon about the choices, particularly about the theme. Except for notable montages in the closing episode of each season, the music is Dogme style in that it comes organically from the scene when a character is listening to the radio or stereo or a band, playing in a bar or a restaurant. The music really kicked in midway through the first season so I had to scramble a bit to ID it and I'm dependent on others posting online to ID the hip hop that the black dealers listen to. (According to the Alvarez book. the NYC band The Fleshtones are played somewhere in the first two seasons.) With HBO listing the songs from the 4th season on and the release of two soundtracks, I’ll only post additional useful information, as there’s so many new fans on line now who are more expert on the hip hop and local music, particularly after the DVD release. The soundtracks are: .. . And all the pieces matter - a deluxe complete edition CD with 35 tracks with 23 songs; 12 dialogue clips, a 64-page, 4-color booklet of photos and essays by David Simon, series writer George Pelecanos and hip-hop journalist Jeff Chang. A supplementary CD, Beyond Hamsterdam: Baltimore Tracks, is composed solely of hip hop and club tracks by Baltimore artists that haven’t gotten national release before. Nine songs are taken from the deluxe CD, plus two extra songs.

Opening/Closing Music Themes
The opening theme music is Way Down In The Hole performed in the first season by The Blind Boys Of Alabama, from Spirit Of The Century (with Charlie Musselwhite on that haunting harmonica, David Lindley on the electric slide-into-sin guitar, and Danny Thompson on that persistent double bass).
As to selecting a different interpreter for each season, Simon Says: "Yes, it was our way of saying: This is the same show (song) but this year, the tale itself (singer, tonality) will be different. As Little Big Roy says in the first episode of season two: 'Ain't never gonna be what it was.' No one writing this show has any intention of telling the same story twice. That's not the point of this show. Sometimes this can be hard on viewers who want to relieve things that they have enjoyed in the past." The song was written by Tom Waits, who originally recorded it (as used in the second season) on his album Frank's Wild Years, as well as on his best-of CD Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years.
The opening theme song is performed by the Neville Brothers in the third season (available on Walkin' in the Shadow of Life - Special Edition CD).
The fourth season opening version is sung, appropriately, by members of the Tony Small-directed Baltimore City Boy's Choir, DoMaJe made up of five Baltimore teenagers: Ivan Ashford, Markel Steele, Cameron Brown, Tariq Al-Sabir, and Avery Bargasse, and is produced and arranged by local gospel stars Doreen Vail and Maurette Brown-Clark, with J.B. Wilkins. According to his proud parent on the HBO BB, the first voice we hear is Avery Bargasse.
In the fifth season it is sung by Steve Earle (from his 2006 CD Washington Square Serenade), who also returns as ex-junkie "Waylon"; now “Bubbles”s sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous.
According to music director Blake Leyh: "But it wasn't really until this season, season four, that I did the thing that I should have done all along, which was to actually start using music from Baltimore," he says in a detailed interview about his music choices in City Paper 8/30/06. The closing theme from most episodes of each season was especially composed instrumental music by Leyh. A poster on the HBO BB reports on "a very nice e-mail from the music supervisor: 'It's called "The Fall", and if you listen carefully you will notice that there are three slightly different versions of the track, and we alternate between them - not strictly one after the other, but based on the mood of the end of the episode.'" Giving in to popular demand, HBO finally with Season 4 provided a music guide of the song selections, but because they did not identify them by scene or clearly by performer I'll try to watch each episode twice - once On Demand for the plot and then again to match the in-order list to the scenes where I hear music (and to transcribe lines) when it is posted.



Background on what else drove the music selections for Season 4 from: Bow Down to the Wire by Dave Walker, in Times Picayune, 12/9/2006 (this may be more than a fair use excerpt) : “Lucky New Orleans viewers who've found the show know they've seen -- and heard -- plenty of us in it. This season, the show's soundtrack was salted with New Orleans music, with snippets of songs by The Iguanas, The Wild Magnolias, Deacon John, Raymond Winnfield and The Meters slipping into, under and out of the action. And, as a bonus, [the] finale concludes with Paul Weller's version of Dr. John's "Walk on Gilded Splinters."
On a show in which the aural landscape is as carefully crafted as the visual, none of it is by accident. In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit town and the levees came down, Simon and music supervisor Blake Leyh decided to include as much residuals-paying New Orleans music as possible in The Wire, a small, subtle, almost subliminal measure of recovery aid.
Simon knows New Orleans well, spoke once on a panel at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary festival, has talked about setting a future series here, and visits regularly to hang with native Wendell Pierce, who plays cool Detective William "Bunk" Moreland on the series. Members of Leyh's family have lived here in the past, time Leyh spent discovering the brass-band scene.
"We have a certain amount of money budgeted for every episode for music," Simon said during a recent research visit to New Orleans. "There are places where we couldn't do it, but where we could, where it was credible, where you could argue that people in the scene would have access to some New Orleans music, we tried to put it in. "There is some music you don't hear outside of New Orleans, and wrongfully so. We would love to use some of the brass bands. The trouble is that stuff might be on the jukebox at Vaughan's or Tipitina's or Liuzza's," but not a West Baltimore drug den.
Now, a clock-repair shop run by an unlikely drug kingpin? Old-school Proposition Joe could be -- no, probably would be -- a Meters fan. "The most important thing is the verisimilitude," Leyh said in a separate interview. "It always has to have real justification for being in the scene. "The story always comes first. The reality of the situation always comes first. Once that's established, you actually have a lot of freedom to try different kinds of music. "Early in season one, we had the Rebirth Brass Band under a scene where Omar came to the projects. David said, 'It works great, but you would never hear Rebirth in a project in Baltimore. It would never happen. Take it out.' He's very religious about that.”

For The Wire Rap That’s Pure Baltimore By Jon Caramanica in The New York Times, September 10, 2006 (this may be more than a fair use):

. . .Amid the destruction [of the fictional Hamsterdam] Juan Donovan Bell saw an opportunity. One half of Darkroom Productions, a local Baltimore hip-hop production team, he had been avidly following The Wire since its first season. 'These communities they depict, I live there,' he recently said over the telephone from his West Baltimore studio. He said the show had done a good job of depicting the city’s drug gangs, police officers and politicos, but it had all but ignored the city’s music. So he began work on a mixtape album to showcase local rappers. 'I knew the mix tape would blow up if I called it ‘Hamsterdam,’ ' Mr. Bell said. 'I was like, ‘If you look at the show for entertainment, don’t forget about us.’' He shot the cover photograph around the corner from where the Hamsterdam episodes were filmed, as the original location was unavailable: 'When they tore the houses down, that was real.'
“Hamsterdam” became one of the more acclaimed hip-hop records to come from Baltimore last year, and one of the first to receive attention outside the city. It caught the ear of David Simon, the creator and an executive producer of the series. 'I put it in my car’s CD player and drove around with it for three days straight,' he said recently in a phone interview. 'I’d been so frustrated about not being able to be authentic in the past. The music they’re listening to, it should be hip-hop, and it should be the hip-hop they’re listening to in Baltimore.'
When the show’s fourth season begins tonight, Baltimore’s rap scene — by no definition a national powerhouse — will have its biggest showcase to date. Darkroom contributes several songs featuring several unsigned rappers, most notably Tyree Colion, Mullyman and Diablo. 'The amount of people in Baltimore in the last five years who’ve received record contracts,' Mr. Bell said, “you can count on one hand, with fingers left.”
No national rap star has emerged from Baltimore, despite all this grass-roots activity, largely because a distinctive local black sound — Baltimore club, or house, a thrusting, occasionally lewd form of dance music — already existed. (Last season The Wire used a few songs from DJ Technics, a local club-music figure. The context was 'quite tasteless, the way it was supposed to be,' DJ Technics said jokingly. He contributes more club tracks this season.)
The Wire has already invigorated the city’s musicians. 'Even though it’s fictional, the show has influenced rappers in Baltimore,' said Blake Leyh, the show’s music supervisor. 'And by using this music, there’s a sense in which these different worlds are feeding back on each other now.' Mr. Simon added: 'I think the show gave Baltimore a certain pride. It was coming out of their ghetto. Forget West Philly, forget East New York. When it comes to drug trafficking, we’re the first string. There’s perverse pride in that.'
In one scene this season two members of the show’s primary drug crew, trying to figure out whether the new corner boys are from a rival New York set, ask about a popular Baltimore song by Young Leek. The guy they are interrogating replies, in an unprintable fashion, that he has never heard of it, and he is thanked for his candor with a bullet in the head.
Unlike most television shows, on which pop music is used to provide broad emotional prompts, The Wire uses songs only as source music, as it would be heard by the characters themselves. 'We’re adding to the credibility of the moment,' Mr. Simon said. 'We’re not trying to cue people as to what to think. The perfect song that comments on the action, that’s never on the jukebox when the moment actually happens.'
And so the uses of Baltimore hip-hop this season helps firm The Wires grip on naturalist storytelling. 'The attempt,' Mr. Leyh said, 'is to make everything as real as possible. Our concern is verisimilitude. The cumulative effect of all of these choices adds up to something very powerful.'
Inspired by the attention now being paid to their city and their work, the Darkroom producers are at work on a second volume of “Hamsterdam,” as well as a documentary about the city’s rap scene. In a dark pun on Baltimore’s nickname of Charm City, they are calling it “Harm City Exposed.”
'The streets is a monster here,' Mr. Bell said. 'It can swallow up anyone. That’s why I want to get this door kicked down soon, because a lot of people don’t have any options.' (Mr. Colion, one of this season’s most prominently featured artists, won’t be able to see how his work is used on the show: he’s currently behind bars.)
Using this music, Mr. Leyh said, 'is one more way The Wire can give back to Baltimore.' Already, the artists attached to the “Hamsterdam” project are beginning to receive major-label interest. 'This is for us,' Diablo said, 'and we need to make sure that it counts. Our only problem has been getting heard, and now we getting heard.'
In the final scene of the final episode of this season, one of the show’s young characters drives down a quiet street, Mullyman’s song “The Life, the Hood, the Streetz” blasting from the window of his stolen car. From Mullyman’s “Still H.I.M.” mixtape, it was one of the bigger Baltimore rap records of the past year, but in this new context portends a whole new life and meaning for the song and its author. 'In Baltimore your hood is your whole world,' Mullyman said. 'The Wire inspired me, let me know we had a voice I didn’t know we had. It showed me I might be sitting on oil.'” Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Leyh and the producer of the “Hamsterdam” project were interviewed on NPR’s syndicated World Café on 2/7/2008, which also repeated the week of 3/1/2008 in the edited Conversations from the World Café one-hour summary version, but I can’t find their discussion of the show’s music selections archived online, and I neglected to old-fashioned tape it for transcription, when my tape deck was dying anyway. Leyh emphasized that the music is embedded in the action and the selected songs do not hammer home the themes or plot. Maybe the interview is included in this compilation list of NPR’s Wire-interviews, which includes at least one other with Leyh, on WNYC. He expands on these thoughts in his Ear to the Street feature on the HBO web site and in his blog.
He then did a beautiful Afrobeat score, with vocalizations by Angélique Kidjo, for the powerful, much more hopeful documentary about Liberian women peace activists, Pray The Devil Back To Hell.

Arjan Beens, a diligent fan in The Netherlands, continues to identify and compile the music tracks, as well as for other notable series.

First Season

I initially categorized it as a hunkfest (and funny connection between the resident hunks of The Wire and Deadwood) but that turned out to be just an added bonus. And there's a bunch of hunky formerly dead cons from Oz resurrected as complicated cops. But you have to try not to fall too much in love with any one character, as Simon Says: "On this show, the characters -- how they are presented, what they do, what becomes of them -- are there to serve the story we are trying to tell. The story does not serve the characters; if we are anything more than hacks making a TV show, it has to be the other way around." He continues: "But nothing lasts forever, and if it does, it usually lasts to diminishing results."

Bureaucratic wranglings were never so sexy because my eyes never leave "Detective Jimmy McNulty" (Dominic West) from Chapter 1 - The Target! So his Brit accent wanders in, which they try to cover by calling him various Irish epithets. (The Alvarez book includes a funny description of his amateur audition tape monologue for the show. I watched 28 Days just to see West and who cared about the rest of the movie? Who could tell that was him in Rock Star what with the wig etc.? Now I have to track down my taping of a recent version of Nicholas Nickleby to see what he's like when he's not playing an alcoholic. And really I was planning to watch Richard III anyway - turns out he gets a sexy, romantic scene that reinterprets Shakespeare, plus a final wicked grin. I would have loved to see his "Orlando" in As You Like It on the London boards in Spring 2005. Pay attention to the first few minutes of Chicago as, ironically, he's the deserving murder victim.) So Simon Says wouldn't approve that that's who first drew me into the series: "If that is the only reason you were watching, then yes, you should not watch further. And no hard feelings. It's entirely up to you what is worthwhile and what isn't."
Jeremiah let me know that at the first scene in "Orlando"s, Bill Wither's "Use Me" plays. Davis says: "The song playing when "Wee-Bay" and "D'Angelo" are having a conversation after "D'Angelo" gets out of jail is Jay-Z's "IZZO (H.O.V.A.)."
Even on 8/15/2011 West was answering New York Magazine Vulture’s Mike Flaherty: “How much of your current success do you attribute to The Wire? All of it! It’s entirely responsible for me having a profile or a following of any sort. Initially, very few people had watched it, and I think HBO was trying to cancel it after every season and David Simon had to fight really hard to get it renewed. [Now] thank God for DVD box sets. It’s ten years old and still hasn’t lost its appeal.”

By Chapter 2 - The Detail already got his shirt off. As Simon Said two years later: "As to love/sex scenes, they come when the story dictates and are not gratuitous, or at least we hope they aren't. And one thing that viewers never consider: Some actors/actresses are reluctant to work undressed. Won't say who, but it is something to consider above and beyond the intentions of the writers." Davis corrects that when "Prez", "Herc" and "Carver" are drinking beer and arguing about the case, "American Woman" is playing by the Guess Who (from their 1970 album of the same name). Jeremiah let me know that while "McNulty" is drinking in his car, "Love is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia plays.

Chapter 3 - The Buys "McNulty" was in bed with a woman -- yet another hard-driving, ambitious Jewish woman lawyer on TV "Rhonda Pearlman" (played by Deirdre Lovejoy) who I discuss elsewhere in the context of Critical Guide to Jewish Women on TV but, unusually, she's earthy and vulnerable below the rumpled toughness -- foreshadowed by her listening to Lucinda Williams sing "2-Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten" (from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road which was on my Best of '98).

But even as of 4/22/2011 a writer for the Jewish-oriented Tablet Magazine hadn't recognized this positive portrayal of a Jewish woman in the series, let alone on TV in general, while Simon testily points her out to him in this interview with Vince Beiser.

How can you not love a stubborn, complex rebel tryin' to do the right thing who responds to the state's attorney's post-coital plaint that he's an asshole with, what becomes a trademark response What the fuck did I do? (each chapter that's intonated with different emotion and meaning). Simon Says: "McNulty was the most difficult character for us to define initially. There is the complex mix of genuine talent and intellect and all those self-destructive impulses." Jeremiah let me know that in Orlando's, Ja Rule's "Down Ass Bitch" plays.

In Chapter 4 - Old Cases by Simon and Burns his supervisor agrees: It's not Jimmy's fault. Jimmy is addicted to himself. It's a fuckin' tragedy. He's come to believe he's always the smartest fuck in the room. It makes him an asshole but it's also what makes him good po-lice, while the lover of his lesbian partner's response to his attempts at off-hours camaraderie for doing genuine police work together amidst the corruption and apathy is That's one confused white man out there! (Terrific choice of Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl" leading into the scene.)

In Chapter 5 - The Pager, by Burns and Simon, his police skills are paying off and being resentfully recognized, while his negotiations with his ex-wife for child custody are a total failure. (And there was even relevance to my job at the time: the Judge gives the Deputy Commissioner helpful and accurate fundraising advice: Did you ever think of bringing in private resources to help you? I have a connection at the Abell Foundation.)

In Chapter 6 - The Wire by Simon and Burns, he finally gets his kids for a night --and brings them to the morgue with a drug-dealing CI, because as the Major's spy protests, He's got this fuckin' case in his gut like a cancer. "Wha?" retorts the revenge-seeking higher-up, He doesn't drink any more? A poster on the HBO BB says the jazz piece at the end is "Fleurette Africaine" off of Duke Ellington's Money Jungle. Another poster reports that "Wax Music Box" by Cytoplastik, a local experimental electronic composer, is playing when "Avon," "Stringer" and "Stinkum" walk into the projects.

Chapter 7 - One Arrest, story by Simon & Burns, teleplay by Alvarez, not only do we see him drunk with his partner (with a memorably metaphorically vulgar conversation about their relationship), but when he sobers up, he returns for sympathy to the arms of the attorney: I love this fuckin' job but they're gonna do me. On the HBO forums "MichaelLittle" says the song playing when Stinkum is in the car and the cops are on his trail is "Analyze" by Sharpshooters.

In Chapter 8 - Lessons written by Simon from a story by Simon and Burns, he uses his kids in a game of "I Spy" on the #2 drug dealer (to the tune playing in the market of The Tokens' popularized version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" according to the Alvarez book) then pushes his partner into a drunken accusation of You're no good for people, Jimmy. Damn, everyone around you, Christ. . . A line from “Omar” in this episode entered the popular culture lexicon: You come at the king, you best not miss. In 2012, my husband heard this quoted during a sports broadcast.

In Chapter 9 - Game Day by Simon and Burns, he's hectored his fellow cops into following the constitutional rules for the wire tap and caring about bringing down the elusive kingpin (Stupid criminals make stupid cops. I'm proud to follow this guy.) -- then resists running after an opportunity to see him at his sponsored basketball game - We get him by the voice alone or else we don't get him -- and cheats on the wire tap log. Thanks to fan Jeremiah who identified "Rock the Nation" by Michael Franti and Spearhead from Stay Human on "Avon"s car radio when the cops are tailing him after the game on a merry innocent chase.

In Chapter 10 - The Cost by Simon and Burns, his wife hauls him into court to keep him from endangering the kids, and he convinces her he still loves her-- and is only, No. Yes. A little continuing the affair with the attorney that she had a detective follow him to discover. HBO BB poster methvschef thinks that "Hater Players-Blackstar" by Talib Kwelli & Mos Def is playing when "Kima" approaches her doom.

In Chapter 11 - The Hunt, it's his bureaucratic enemy who gets him through a guilt-ridden Post-Traumatic Stress-- You are a gaping asshole, but believe it or not, not everything is about you. --and he lashes out at ambitious lawyers: Everybody's got a fuckin' future. -- except him.

In the penultimate of the season Chapter 12 - Cleaning Up, story by Simon & Burns, teleplay by George Pelecanos, he regrets pushing the case: It was just a way for me to show how smart I was. The Lt. that he sparked says into his face: You can stand there dripping with liquor smell and self-pity if you got a mind to, but this case, it means something. Now.

In April 2015, Entertainment Weekly rated this 2002 episode 23/35 of Stress to Impress: 35 TV Dramas' Most Anxiety-Inducing Hours, Ever: “How it begins: The episode starts off slow. The Barksdale operation knows the police are onto them, so Avon (Wood Harris) and Stringer (Idris Elba) are trying to tie off any loose ends that could potentially compromise them. The biggest one, of course, is the young boy Wallace (Michael B. Jordan)—but thankfully, the police have him safely stowed away in the countryside at his grandma’s house. There’s a whole different kind of stress, too, as political operatives start getting rattled by the cops’ investigation into political contributions, and threaten to shut them down. All this seems kind of boring, but there’s a current of stress bubbling underneath. And then the bodies start dropping. And then Wallace comes back. The climax: On the orders of Stringer Bell, Wallace’s friends Bodie (J.D. Williams) and Poot (Tray Chaney) corner him at gunpoint.Wallace pleads with his friends: ‘It’s us, man.’ But it’s lost on these boys, whose youth has been ground away by the drug trade’s meaningless brutality. Even as the scene is happening, and you know there’s only one way it can end, you’ll probably end up screaming at the TV for something, anything else to happen. How it ends: D’Angelo Barksdale (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), Wallace’s friend and supervisor who had tried to protect the boy from his more Machiavellian uncle, is arrested, and the cops reveal Wallace’s death. This leads to one of the more dramatic scenes of the series, between D’Angelo and Stringer: ‘Where’s the boy, String? Where the f--k is Wallace?’ By the end of the episode, Avon has been arrested, but even that feels like a hollow victory. The Wire is a show about futility, but of all the useless deaths to come in later seasons, none sting more than Wallace.—Christian Holub”

In the ironically titled season finale Chapter 13 - Sentencing by Simon and Burns, "McNulty" gets a "Nicely done" from the #2 drug dealer, the judge, the very excited state's attorney, and his boss (You do not make it easy, Jimmy, I got to admit you got some stones on you. But did you really . . .) -- before getting the fatal question: Where don't you want to go? Jeremiah let me know that while "Bodie," "Poot," and "Wallace" are having chili dogs in the restaurant, "Put Your Head on my Shoulder" by Paul Anka plays. The closing song on the first season finale was "Step by Step" from Jesse Winchester's Let the Rough Side Drag album on Stoney Plain Recordings.

Second Season

HBO slyly promoted the second season as: "A new case begins. . ." with an image of a body floating in the harbor. (USA pretty much stole most of the plot from for its Traffic mini-series, more than from the BBC series or Soderbergh movie, though with less cynicism.) Simon Says: "The waterfront is, to us, cinematically beautiful. Those cranes are gothic. And we were looking for a world that would represent for the working-class in Baltimore. We could have done the steel mills, but they are bankrupt, or the GM plant, or some other union-wage industry, but the port felt right." A year later he reflected on the second season: "When we did the port story, we used the actual CSX grain pier as a location and indeed, that facility has been idle since it was damaged several years ago. Traditionally, idle piers around the outer and inner harbors of Baltimore have been targeted for residential/commercial development for the last two decades. When we began filming the second season, the CSX pier was not so targeted, and our writing that the longshoremen were concerned that if it wasn't repaired, the developers would get to it -- that was fiction. Except that by the time we finished filming, a group of developers had proposed condos for the grain pier. Last time I went by there it was fenced off for the redevelopment and, alas, 'you'll never see another grain ship in Bawlmer, my friend.' Life imitating art, I suppose." (See how the shipping business has gone to China in the documentary Manufactured Landscapes). The Alvarez book identifies that in an episode where "Frank Sobotka" is worried about a lost container of contraband that's 1972's "Brandy (You're A Fine Girl) by Looking Glass "playing on a beat-up radio."

The mix of corruption, good intentions, class and ethnic and racial tensions are again intimately intertwined in Chapter 14 - Ebb Tide by Simon and Burns; "McNulty" takes a bribe, but is then irresistibly drawn into being a good cop on a homicide even when his bureaucrat-oozing cohort snorts that Fuckin' McNulty is the 'Prince of Tides' marooned out in waterfront patrol - It's all about self-preservation, Jimmy -- something you haven't learned, -- as he works meticulously for hours to plot jurisdictional "murder po-lice" revenge on the Colonel who demoted him. Director Ed Bianchi beautifully used sounds as sonic metaphors for how people living in the same city occupy different perceived spaces -- from the bluesy bar band (The Nighthawks doing the ironically significant "Sixteen Tons" in a longshoremen's hang-out to the Polish kid listening to the old punk of The Stooges' "Search and Destroy" (from Raw Power, according to folks on the HBO BB) to when a young punk Baltimore drug dealer is sent out-of-town for the first time and freaks because he can't understand why he can't get his usual radio stations and is completely alienated by listening to A Prairie Home Companion on Philly public radio.

The Alvarez book says the 'hawks are emblematic of the longshoremen. George Pelecanos in a July 19, 2006 interview with City Pages: "The Nighthawks was the blues band. We used them in The Wire, because they're heroes around here. The season we did with the dockworkers. There's a scene where they're all drunk and there's a band up onstage. Those are the Nighthawks." They were on a March 2004 episode of the blues performance radio show Beale Street Caravan, and, appropriately, recorded the series' theme song "Down in the Hole" on their 2008 American Landscape CD.

"McNulty" creates "Collateral Damage" even among his friends in Chapter 15 by Simon and Burns, as he sets different agencies at war with each other, all unaware of how the criminals (new ones and the ones from last season) are brutally dealing with the homicides themselves. The Deputy fumes: I happen to know my man in the marine unit intimately and I know he is the most swollen asshole in American law enforcement. Even his ex-partner says, You're not the run-of-the-mill asshole, Jimmy, you're a special asshole and fumes He's dead to us as his machinations saddle them with seemingly unsolvable homicides. As Lyle Lovett's "Goodbye to Carolina" (from I Love Everybody) plays in the background, his lawyer lover complains: Last night you were too drunk to fuck. Today you're too hung-over. What's the most useless thing on a woman? A drunken Irishman.; so he blithely notes we're good together then shrugs that he'd rather get back with his ex-wife. But the opening quote is his philosophy: They can chew you up, but they gotta spit you out. As to the stereotype of the drunken Irishman, Simon Says in reference to all the various ethnicities on the series: "If you watch this show, you know that every single ethnicity and religion that comprises a modern American city has been in some way insulted and abused by the behavior of one or more characters. The traffickers in the high-rises are black; the drug suppliers this year are Greek and Israeli and Russian/Ukrainian. "McNulty" drinks too much? An Irish-American stereotype perhaps. The malevolent major who misuses his power is Polish-American, and his worst excesses come because of a moment of ridiculous Roman Catholic pride. And "Morris Levy"? Uh oh, someone inform the Anti-Defamation League that the corrupt drug lawyer is decidedly Jewish." An HBO forum poster notes that's Aretha Franklin's "The House That Jack Built" playing in the longshoreman's truck when he's pulled over for a breath test. I wasn't able to catch the jazz that's playing in Avon's room, er, jail cell.

In Chapter 16 - Hot Shots by Simon and Burns, director Elodie Keene leisurely created elegiac images (with so much character-appropriate ambient radio-listening music that I couldn't ID it fast enough, including a lovely cover of "So Fine") as the seed is planted for the old investigative team to be gradually re-round up to facilitate a major's personal, implacable revenge. "McNulty" has been butting in some more - It's got me thinking is all. I worked some things out in my head -- while his ex-partners skewer him that it was that altar boy guilt talking, he mocks, But what do I have to be guilty about? HBO BB posters ID'd "Cisco Kid" by War playing as "Uncle Avon" proves he is in charge, even in jail.

In Chapter 17 - Hard Cases by Simon and Joy Lusco Kecken, Keene focused on the meanings in silent exchanges of looks, between spouses, between bosses and underlings. Most significantly, between the Colonel and "McNulty", such that as the old team is being reunited for internal political purposes - Except McNulty. No McNulty. Nothing that even resembles the son of a bitch. He quits or he drowns. That's the only thing that gets him off the fuckin' boat so help me God." "Gilligan" himself is being uncharacteristically introspective, as he hands over the divorce papers to his wife: Signed and notarized. I don't want to argue about the money. I want to get back together. Ambient music continues its thematic importance. "McNulty" is listening to classic soul music, with songs by the Velvelettes ("He Was Really Saying Something"), Frankie Lymon ("I Promise To Remember"), and Irma Thomas ("Ruler Of My Heart"), as he pursues his old and new case on his own time. His former partner invades the longshoremen's bar by controlling the jukebox, eschewing country music (identified in the Alvarez book as Gram Parsons's "Streets of Baltimore") for a Ray Charles oldie. The cops and the longshoremen are all listening back for the future. Also heard in this chapter: "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf and "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad" by Tammy Wynette.

In Chapter 18 - Undertow, by Simon and Burns, the criss-crossed relationships are being revealed -- from the docks to the drug dealers, the port to the prison, with many ironic chuckles on race and bureaucracies. But "McNulty"--My detecting days are over-- is out on his own, even up to NJ, trying to trace his floater-- I kinda feel it's on me to find her people. . . You seen what happens down at the morgue when they can't ID a body? I have. That's Maria Muldaur's "Midnight at the Oasis" on at the pizza parlor where the port policewoman plays her CI. Folks on the HBO BB report that the song playing during rooftop surveillance is "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" by Akrobatik from the album Balance.

The Chapter 19 - The Prologue, by Simon and Burns, is in effect the end of Season #1 as loose ends from the first case are literally tied up. "McNulty" delivers his star witness to court, gives up on finding his floater's family for a funeral (Fuck it. Let her go. Just a way to pretend I was still a murder po-lice.), reconciles himself to "retirement" out on the boat (On a good day I catch crabs and count seagulls.), and moderates his drinking to have a reconciliation date with his wife (And fucking the waitress? she cynically suggests. I don't do much of that anymore either, he claims). So, that's everything that pissed you off -- the drinking, the women, the work. I want another chance. -- earning him just a fuck for the road before she kicks him out of the house again. Is that it for him on the case now that his colleagues are just beginning to figure out how to untangle the criminal connections around the docks? This chapter has cameos that Simon Says: "Also Richard Price, who wrote Clockers, Samaritan, The Wanderers, and other notable novels and screenplays, was in the prison library when Gatsby was discussed. That was homage. For those of you who have read Clockers, it is clear that this show owes a debt to that remarkable book."

In Chapter 20 - Backwash, by Simon and Alvarez, director Thomas J. Wright (new to this series, but not to network dramas), plays on a continuing visual theme of characters sitting outside on the stoops of their different Baltimore houses, enjoying their very different views and neighborhood lives. There's "McNulty" still trying with his ex-wife and kids (he's just a stubborn kind of fella, after all), but she says definitively that she just wants to be friends: "I can care, but how the hell am I supposed to trust you?" We got country music-turned-gospel at his counterpart's funeral, and "Love Child" by the Supremes on the bar juke-box used as a very funny joke on "Ziggy," about whom Simon Says: "Accents are touch and go. It isn't possible to use an actor pool of Baltimore performers only, so the actors often have only a passing sense of the Bawlmer accent. When we can do it, we do. James Ransone who plays "Ziggy" is a Bawlmer boy and we encouraged him to use the accent. He has, delightfully. I've known twenty characters like him, and indeed his character is based very loosely on a legendary longshoreman named Pinkie Bannion, who used to take his duck to the bar and repeatedly expose 'pretty boy' and all else. As they said in Bawlmer about Pinkie: 'That boy ain't right.'"

In the pun-filled Chapter 21 - Duck and Cover, by Simon and Pelecanos, "McNulty" has returned to his roots, doing all the things his suspicious wife thought he wouldn't give up. Drunk, he crashes his car as he sings along to the Pogues' "Transmetropolitan" (as Andrew L. insisted correctly -- from their album Red Roses for Me): "This town has done us dirty/This town has bled us dry/We've been here for a long time/And we'll be here 'til we die/So we'll finish off the leavings/Of blood and glue and beer/And burn this bloody city down/In the summer of the year/Going transmetropolitan." He still manages to bed a waitress. His voice cracks as he confesses, Who am I? Captain Chesapeake? [a reference to a local "Captain Kangaroo" type TV show host] I need to get off that boat. I need a case. If I'm not good for . . . to his ex-partner, who pleads to his boss to get "McNulty" on the multi-tentacled detail. He's a picture postcard of a drunken fuck-up but when he's on a case. . . That's as close to the man comes to being right. You know that "McNulty"s back when he walks in, just as the team agrees that they need a whore to catch a whore, protesting What the fuck did I do? And he easily picks out the john who'll get him his "ticket to the dance": Lying to your wife is easy. It's looking your kid in the eyes that's the hard part. The grin is back! This episode was written by noted D.C. crime novelist George Pelecanos. See the Salon interview with him about his and Simon's novelistic approach to The Wire . And at a CNN interview with Simon that says the he is preparing the plots for a renewed third season.

Chapter 22 - Stray Rounds by Simon weaves all the story lines together in a complex corrupt pattern and "McNulty" is the comic relief. There's an inside joke that he has to trick the Madam that he's from way out of town to get into the brothel, so Dominic West gets to use an imitation of his native English accent and silly Brit slang "Spot on" as the code word for the bust (which he forgets). So Jimmy gets all spiffed up in a suit to pick a prostitute, "Decisions, decisions -- I'll take two," and when they strip him and quickly and efficiently get him off, he protests about his violations of regulations, "There were two of them. I was outnumbered." Mary Wells's classic Motown "You Beat Me To the Punch" was playing in the longshoremen's bar as a comment on "Ziggy's" argument with "Nick".

Chapter 23 - Storm Warnings, by Simon and Burns, opened fittingly with Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." McNulty, sober, is in his element in police work, bringing in FBI computer software gimmicks, using his experience out on the contraband-captured police boat to do surveillance, and figure out, innovatively, how to triangulate a text message source for tracing. Will he put other links together that some of his blundering cohorts are missing? That was Joan Jett's cover of Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner" wryly commenting from "Ziggy's" car radio.

Chapter 24 - Bad Dreams, the penultimate episode of the season (written by Pelecanos and the first one to be directed by noted Spike Lee cinematographer Ernest Dickerson-- with Simon doing a Hitchcockian cameo as a Member of the 4th Estate), had McNulty and his detail, thanks to a FBI mole and what, as the Lt. throws down, "even for a supremely fucked-up police department this takes the prize," just miss tagging the big guys, The Greeks -- though McNulty atypically puts in a PC protest, "Hey, lay-off those Greeks. They invented civilization." (And his partner retorts: "Yeah, and ass-fucking too.") "njmandal" on the HBO BB ID'd: "The two songs at the end of the episode were sung by the late Stelios Kazantzidis. At the restaurant, the song playing was 'To Psomi tis Xenethias (Bread in a Foreign Land).' The song played very loudly at the end is a less well known song from the same album, 'Ena sidero anameno;' it's actually a steamy love song. The artist was a favorite of lower class Greeks and immigrants most of his life although he became more trendy in the 90's. He died last year, unfortunately. A gritty singer who was not glamorous, he sang about workers, immigrants, and failed love. The music would almost certainly be played in a Greek restaurant in the U.S." "Suspire" adds: "Also there appears to be at least two different versions. . .one where the tone isn't quite so dark and he is singing the chorus duet with some chick. It's from his album Palia Laika." The Alvarez book says that one of the Greek songs is "She's Gone, She's Gone" by composer Vassilis Vassiliadis. Simon Says in reference to the Greek cultural references: "George Pelecanos is to be credited with the Greek phrasing. And if you are into it, you should check out some of his earlier D.C. novels which feature a Greek-American protagonist who has some McNulty-like characteristics as well. His later novels aren't as heavy on Greek culture, but they are excellent in their own right. Try The Big Blowdown to start." Considered by AV Club as one of the "essential episodes".

Chapter 25 - Port in a Storm, the Season #2 finale, finds the union reeling -- but all the criminals and the corruption just swirl and eddy on, from the opening and closing that are dialogue-less, finishing to the tune of Steve Earle's "I Feel Alright." (Earle was in Season One as ex-junkie "Waylon"; this is the title song of his album.) The East Side cats are laying down with the West Side dogs, "The Greek" isn't even Greek, and McNulty goes back to flirting with the prosecutor. Simon Says: "I will say that it might help if viewers thought of "The Greek" as more than a specific character. In the second season story, and in the world of The Wire, he represents an elemental force. He is pure capitalism, amoral, utterly rational, and unencumbered by ties to community, nation-state or humanity in general. Regardless of whether we see "The Greek" again or whether the detail catches up to him, can you ever really catch or contain such an elemental force?" Gregg provides that's Baltimore native Joan Jett and the Blackhearts covering Credence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" (from the album The Hit List) playing at the longshoremen's bar.

Third Season - The rules change. The game stays the same.

From an interview with The Man at HBO:
The draw for the high-wattage writing talent, Simon says, is ability to control the final product. "This is a writer's show," he says. "If you're already telling stories in the medium of a novel, the equivalent is a long form season on HBO. I think part of the appeal for someone like Richard [Price], who's had a very long and successful career as a screenwriter, is that here the writers are in control. It's not like in features, where once you turn in the script, it's the director and the studio and the stars who exert influence."

For season three, Simon will write three episodes, Pelecanos, Price and Ed Burns will write two episodes each, and [Dennis] Lehane, Joy Lusco Kecken and Rafael Alvarez will write one each. "The trick is finding a story that everyone wants to tell a piece of, and still feel connected to the whole," says Simon. "It's like we're building a building, You don't want anyone to feel like, 'Well, I can't control the other floors, but the third floor of this building is really beautiful." He continued later in the year: "We work out the storylines in detail before we begin filming every season. This happens by Ed Burns, George Pelecanos, myself, Bill Zorzi and at times, Dennis Lehane [podcast interview includes Wire insights] and Richard Price, getting into a small room and annoying each other for many, many hours. That's the heavy lifting of the show, plotwise." He noted: "This season, is, however, an allegory for the tragedy ongoing in Iraq, something that only a few people have picked up on."

Chapter 26 - Time After Time, the season premiere, by Simon and Burns, was filled with delicious ironies -- they have "the wire" all right, but it's not turning anything up, except one talkative drug dealer who "If that idiot worked for us, he'd be a deputy commissioner by now." "McNulty" is less central but he's still resentfully going out on his own sniffing for clues through old files, determined to get the top dealers ("You don't look at what you did before, you do the same shit all over.") When his annoyed colleague complains: "It's you against the world, is it?", he, as usual, protests: "What the fuck did I do?" Other of the cops are aggressively full of themselves, frustratingly chasing dealers in circles while blasting the updated theme from Shaft on their car radios. The notorious public housing towers are intentionally blown up as an impotent reminder of 9/11 -- that we're losing the domestic war on terrorism, against drug dealers who are destroying our cities, as well as recalling The Pruitt Igoe Myth in St. Louis. For my discussion of Rhonda Pearlman as an unstereotypical Jewish woman character on TV in this season. Davis says: The song playing during the opening wiretap sequence is 50 Cent's "In Da Club."

More music connections in an interview with Peter S. Scholtes in City 7/19/2006, third season producer and writer Pelecanos describes "the guy in The Wire who plays "Slim Charles"? A very tall young guy that's got braids, and shells in his braids, one of "Avon"s guys in the third season? He's the frontman for Backyard Band, which is our most popular [go-go] band now, and I've become kind of tight with him. He's a guy who's had a very rough upbringing. He's been under suspicion of a lot of things. Police say he was involved in a couple homicides and this and that. But he's moved out of the city. He lives in Arlington. He's got a kid. He's a doting father. We employ a lot of people on that show that have checkered pasts, and we're trying to help them find a way out.. . He's been shot twice onstage. It is sort of a concern after a while, to get away from that life." More background on the writing process and on George Pelecanos "Dreams of Literary and Commercial Success" by Motoko Rich from The New York Times on July 26, 2006: "With The Night Gardener, Mr. Pelecanos for the first time was allowed research access to a police homicide unit, mainly because of his part-time role as a writer on The Wire, the HBO crime drama. He spent time observing not only procedural details, but also the banter and attitudes of police officers. 'What I really wanted to do and what I think I have accomplished is, What are these people like as human beings? I was watching what forms they write on and what the programs were in the computers, but what I was really looking for was what photos were pinned up on their corkboards. There were people who had death photos up next to pictures of their kids.” (That detail shows up in the book.)" (And the series.)

In Chapter 27 - All Due Respect writers Simon and Richard Price (commentary on this episode by the latter on Season 3 DVD) were still ironically laying the groundwork web of relationships, while "McNulty" is doggedly following up on D'Angelo's death--the character who has been the Rosetta Stone throughout the series-- that everyone else wants to call a suicide. HBO BB posters are reporting "Stand Up" by Ludacris played when a rival dealer drives up on the corner and "Atomic Dog" by George Clinton played during the dogfights.

Chapter 28 - Dead Soldiers, teleplay by Dennis Lehane, story by Simon (commentary by the latter on Season 3 DVD) and Lehane, was full of gritty, ironic poetry and funny, brilliant lines from beginning to end. His fellow cops ask "McNulty" where he was: At the library. Yeah at the prison library where he vividly demonstrates that D's death was no suicide, to their protests that We're supposed to be finding less murders not more. But they grudgingly josh that he's "here in spirit" as they pick their next focus to fixate on, and his lesbian colleague moans that I'm turning into McNulty as she recounts her drinking and infidelity to avoid returning home to her partner and baby. That's the Pogues doing "The Body of an American" in tribute both to the dead cop and the late actor/executive producer of the series, Robert F. Colesberry. Simon Says: "If it is not a tradition for the detectives to lay one of their own on a pool table and sing "Body of an American," it should be." (Mikey1962 says we also hear them singing Shane McGowan's "Sally MacLalane".) JThornton 13 on the HBO Forum says that's "In My Life" by DJ Technics playing at the party Cutty went to with Bodie.

In Chapter 29 - Amsterdam, by Simon and Pelecanos perfectly crystallized "McNulty"s problems and brilliance, as both po-lice and a man. According to a fan post on the HBO BB: "The track playing in the background at the party was done by a local Baltimore club producer named DJ Technics". Posters say that another background song was Biggie Smalls doing "My Downfall" from Life After Death, which Jay Z has also sampled and that the song playing in the fancy wheels is "Splash Waterfalls" by Ludacris. Davis says: "In the background of the bar when "McNulty" and "Bunk" are drinking 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' is playing" (maybe by Marvin Gaye).

Chapter 30 - Straight and True, by Simon and Burns, is the out and out LOL funniest episode of the series. (Simon in an interview with Alan Sespinall in The Newark Star Ledger 8/6/2006: "You can't do a show this dark and not make it bearable (without) the humor.") "McNulty" scores points all around for his dogged po-lice work, then is roundly put down by the classy one-night stand he picks up in front of his ex at the school open house for his kids. An HBO BB poster reports: accompanied by "Stringer", "when "Avon" was throwing his prison clothes out of the window, War's 'Me and Baby Brother' was playing in the background." Davis says: "When "Avon" and "Stringer" are in the club, the song playing is Lloyd Banks' 'On Fire.'"

Chapter 31 - Homecoming, by Alvarez and Simon, had "McNulty" as the keystone in a very complex interplay among the machinations of law and outlaw. First he brags that he'll re-hook up with his one-night stand - What kind of detective would I be if I couldn't find a white woman in Baltimore? But his boss turns down his dogged following of the criminal mastermind - Fuck respect. He ain't right. His new partner wryly notes: With you on the other side of the argument, he'd rather be wrong. . . Not that you'd ever go in back of anyone's back on anything like that. Which of course he does, to his old friend, now a Major looking for innovative ways to deal with drug dealers, who accepts his inside info: You willing to backdoor on your lieutenant like this? You ain't changed Jimmy. It's always about your case. Ironically, "McNulty"s counterpoint has also lost in his efforts to turn the dealers into an organized cartel of businessmen - and the bodies are piling up in Baltimore again, forcing the higher-ups to reluctantly be open to "McNulty"s angle. The virtual lack of music was very significant in this episode- as any other series would have cheapened up the tension with unnecessarily dramatic counterpoint. Davis says: "In Hampsterdam, Jay-Z's 'Dirt Off Your Shoulder' is heard."

Chapter 32 - Backburners, by Simon & Joy Lusco Kecken has "McNulty" in vintage form, as he defends his backdealing against his boss who has gone to great lengths for him: I'd have gone to the devil himself. . .I did it because it had to be done.. His boss confronts him as you piece of shit and he tries ineffectually to justify his actions: I know you went out of your way to get me off that boat. As bosses go you're the best. But "Daniels" is implacable: When the cuffs go on Stringer you need to find a new home. You're done in this unit. Sheryl Crow's "Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man?" is ironically playing on the stereo as the crafty councilman plots his future with his wife and campaign advisor/"McNulty"s lover. He crashes her event in D.C., to the confusion of staffers as to what a Baltimore cop is doing there. He realizes he's out of his element when Jameson Irish whiskey isn't being served and is instead offered Bushmills: That's Protestant whiskey but laughs when the bartender notes the open bar makes the price right. He breezes late back to The Detail, Sorry, I woke up in the wrong town. His female partner wrinkles her nose - You smell like sex. Can't you even take a shower? I was late to work he leers in response. According to posters on the HBO BB, that was LL Cool J's "Head Sprung" playing on the radio of the two hit men. But even "McNulty" is set back on his haunches by "Hampsterdam" -- both for the audacity of creating it without the Bosses' knowledge and how it's turning into a circle of hell.

Chapter 33 - Moral Midgetry, by Simon and Price featured the Big Man - Clarence Clemmons of The E Street Band, perhaps as an HBO in-joke what with bandmate Little Steven being featured in The Sopranos. He played a similar role to Steve Earle's "Waylon" in the first season. "McNulty" was his usual obnoxious fulcrum - crucially moving the action forward for internecine warfare on both the Street and the po-lice, as he confronts "D'Angelo"s "Livia"-like mother about her son's death that only he investigated as a murder: Frankly, no one's gonna do shit about it anyway. I'm not supposed to give a fuck, but I kinda liked your son. All things considered, he was a pretty decent kid. He just got squeezed between the sides. But I was looking for someone who cared about the kid. Whew, he even drew tears out of her! But on a "road trip" with his lesbian partner the cad drolly describes how he arranged infidelities to his ex-wife as lotsa extraditions. I brought back something like 500 fugitives in a five year period and even puts the moves on her. That was Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldiers" ironically playing at the minimart. An HBO BB poster reports: "DC/Baltimore bluesman Daryl Davis was the first person "McNulty" and "Kima" interviewed on their burner quest. He was the store clerk behind the counter." That almost sounded like Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" playing in the country police station such that McNulty misreads the local cop as a cracker (he points out to "Kima" that her partner is a real asshole -- and she has to act surprised). An HBO BB poster thinks that "Everybody in the Club Gettin Tipsy?" by J-Kwon was playing in the club when Marlo picks up Avon's bait. Davis says: "While "Colvin" and the Deacon are in the billiards parlor, James Brown's 'The Payback' is heard."

Chapter 34 - Slapstick, by Simon and Pelecanos has "McNulty" with all his faults flying. He goes out on a booty call while he has overnight custody of his kids. He's in work on Sunday: No life, no marriage, no kids, no problem. What the fuck else am I going to do? . . .You know something Lester? I do believe that there aren't five swinging dicks in this department who can do what we do. I'm not saying that like all chest out and shit, it's just, you just think about it. There's maybe 3,000 sworn, right? 100 or so are bosses, so not a fucking clue there. A few more hundred are sergeants, lieutenants, most of them want to be bosses one day, so they're just as fucked. Then there's 6 - 700 house cats, you know desk men. In the patrol department there's probably a little bit of talent there, but the way the city is right now that's probably 100 or so guys chasing calls and clearing corners. I mean nobody's nobody's post [?], building nothing right. CID's the same. Catching calls, chasing quick clearances, keeping everything in the shallow end. Who else is there out there can do what we can do with a case? How many are there really?. . . Ed Burns. . . Oh they bring it in, but there's not many. There's not many. We're good at this, Lester. In this town we're as good as it gets. . Fuck, yes, natural po-lice. "Det. Freaman" puts him in his place with a pungent monologue back, including: The job won't make you whole. The job won't save you Jimmy until the next case. It won't fill your ass up. "McNulty" wavers: I don't know. A good case. . . "Freaman" shoots right back: Ends. They all end. . .The next morning it's just you in the room with yourself. "McNulty" ripostes, but stubbornly insists: . .until the next case. . "Freaman" won't let up: . . Hey, a life, Jimmy.. You know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you wait for the moments that never come. "McNulty" also overplays his hand with the lover, cutely asking for a dinner date to expand their relationship. While we learn more about "McNulty"s biography (that he spent a year at Loyola before he dropped out to marry his knocked up girlfriend), it's painfully obvious, with the U.S. Capitol in the background, even as he lamely tries to repeat his braggadocio monologue, that he's not in her class - heck he didn't even bother voting. She as a campaign manager is a CNN junkie; he falls asleep to the History Channel. An HBO BB poster reports that was OutKast playing in "Gerald's" car.

Chapter 35 - Reformation, by Simon and Ed Burns features McNulty in very uncharacteristic introspective mode. His boss is still burning against him - We're all pieces of shit when we're in your way. He ruminates to his partner on the latest relationship that's turned to shit via a special floor in her fancy hotel: Feel like I don't even belong to any world that even fucking matters. . . Some sneering fuck was calling upstairs to give me permission to go get laid. First time in my life I feel like a fucking doormat. Like anyone with any smarts would do something else with his life, like earn money, or get elected. Like I'm just a breathing machine for my fucking dick. I'm serious. I'm the smartest asshole in three districts and she looks at me like I'm some stupid fuck playing some stupid game for stupid penny ante stakes. She fucking looks through me. The episode has a theme of every character who feels like a big fish in one pond getting their comeuppance as a small fish in another pond. The Councilman's wife was reading a crime novel by Dennis Lehane, who has also been writing for the show this season.

Chapter 36 - Middle Ground, by Simon and Pelecanos, was positively Shakespearean - and finally earned the series its first Emmy nomination, for writing. (But Simon really is this pessimistic, Simon disdains the comparison: “It's funny you should say that, because the portrayals in Deadwood are in the Shakespearean model. On The Sopranos, there's an awful lot of Hamlet and Macbeth in “Tony”. But the guys we were stealing from in The Wire are the Greeks. In our heads we're writing a Greek tragedy, but instead of the gods being petulant and jealous Olympians hurling lightning bolts down at our protagonists, it's the Postmodern institutions that are the gods. And they are gods. And no one is bigger.” Amidst breathtaking confrontations among the druglords and political and legal machinations by the law--with a forgiving handshake between McNulty and his boss as they savor what will be a Pyrrhic victory on the wire tap after the judge warned him Jimmy, what's done is done. For your own fucking sake, just let it go., "McNulty" actually Does The Right Thing - his D.C. political operative ex-lover suddenly reappears in his life, but with a quid pro quo proposition as she suggestively fingers the hotel card key while plumping him for info on the Baltimore Police Department. He denies knowing his colleague who initiated Hampsterdam and then actually walks out on her! There was a lot of ambient music playing in backgrounds in many scenes that I couldn't catch or ID. HBO BB posters claim "White Tees" from 'Dem Franchise Boyz was playing when Bubbles was selling white tees. Another poster says that the background to a "McNulty" scene is "Little Bit of Soul" by Music Explosion. On the HBO BB JimKing says that "A Place Nobody Can Find" by Sam & Dave is playing inside the barbershop as "Brother Mouzone" confronts "Avon" about how "Stringer" tried to have him killed.

This episode long reverberates with fans, particularly for one of the most dramatic scenes in television history: Years later, Michael Kenneth Williams ("Omar") was still being asked about it, from Tough Guy (on TV) Gets Tough Part, by Danielle Mattoon in The New York Times, 7/5/2009: "Q. What was it like going from HBO to network television? [for the brief series The Philanthropist] A. HBO is like the jungle where you’re allowed to run and roam free. Network television is more like the zoo. . . Q. Is it true that Omar was originally only supposed to play a fleeting role on The Wire? A. He was only meant to be around for seven episodes, and then he was going to be dead. Q. And he outlasted most of the characters on the show, notably Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba. A. Oh, man. That was a hard day at the office. I was in L.A., and Andre Royo and Sonja Sohn, the actors who played Bubbles and Kima, called me screaming something. I couldn’t understand them. And they realized I didn’t know, and one of them was screaming, “He hasn’t seen the script yet!” And then they were all, “Omar kills Idris!” And I was like, ooohhhhhh, O.K. Q. You didn’t want to do it. A. No. Nobody wanted him to leave. And the whole black-on-black crime thing. I thought, am I perpetuating that? "
On 10/8/2009 I tried to work up the nerve to profess my admiration for his work before and after a preview and press conference of Life During Wartime at the 47th New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center, but my timing wasn't right, though he was very gracious to fans.
"After playing gangster Omar Little in HBO's The Wire, the actor takes a different approach to his ruthless businessman role in the new HBO series [Boardwalk Empire by Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times, 12/10/2010: "None of the diners at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood dove under the tables as Michael Kenneth Williams strode past late last month. But startled gazes from more than a few betrayed their recognition of the gravel-voiced actor who brought a sinister sparkle to his role as the lethal gangster 'Omar Little' in HBO's critically lauded The Wire. An upbeat Williams waved to a few of the diners, clearly still enjoying the spotlight that The Wire, which is near the top of many critics' lists as one of the best TV shows of all time, has brought him. . . Remembering . . . tough times has cemented his connection to his darker roles: 'I love my characters. I play them with 100% honesty; there's no holding back. I understand where they are coming from.' . . .'That show changed my life in so many ways. . .My career would have never been the same without it.' It also was a bit of a stretch: 'I was never a thug. I never even liked to fight.'. . ."I was in a lot of pain — drugs, alcohol, 9/11. I wound up working at my mother's day-care center in Brooklyn. I was coming from a dark place personally when I read for Omar. And when I read it, I knew I could put that part of myself into that part.'. . .He's also out to prove to audiences that all bad guys are not alike. "The most challenging thing right now for me is showing that there's a difference between Omar and Chalky [White]. There's no Omar in Chalky. They are driven by different things, different moral codes. Omar was driven by the hunt, while Chalky is a straight-up-and-down businessman."
The advent of the third season brought on more comparison discussions of his characters and the actor. On 9/1/2012, New York Magazine Vulture’s Hua Hsu interviewed him in “Magic Mike: Michael K. Williams’s Disappearing Act”: “The 45-year-old Brooklyn native is best known for his portrayal of ‘Omar Little’, on The Wire, a series that wasn’t so much adored as it was studied, memorized, and proselytized on behalf of. Over five seasons, ‘Omar’ became one of the most absorbing characters in TV history, a code-driven gang of one known for his novel income-redistribution schemes (he robbed drug dealers.) and unlikely affinities (he was gay.). So when you hear Williams assert ownership over a patch of the city, you believe him. You’re just surprised that ‘this area’ is Williamsburg. When I point out the seeming incongruity of seeing ‘Omar’ at East River State Park, with its luxury condos and weekend artisanal-food fair, he frowns. “Yeah. This is Mike. Mike livin’ his life.’ The Wire ended four years ago, but the series is more popular than ever thanks to a devout, DVD-lending fan base, college courses devoted to The Wire as sociology, and shout-outs from President Obama, whose favorite character happens to be ‘Omar’. Nobody has benefited from the series’ afterlife more than Williams, whose every move onscreen and in real life is suffused with a distinct ‘Omar’-ness. His fascinating post-Wire career has ranged. . . During his guest run last fall on the meta-mad sitcom Community, he played ‘Marshall Kane’, a humorless, prison-tested biology professor given to quoting … ‘Omar’ from The Wire. (A man’s gotta have a code.) Perhaps the least Omar-esque thing he’s done was this year’s The Wire: The Musical, a Funny or Die video in which he reprised his signature role — only a singing, dancing (but still shotgun-wielding) version of it. . . . A dry spell coincided with 9/11; he grew morbidly depressed. He would drive around ground zero, listening to Tupac, downing Paxil ‘like they was Skittles.’ Seeing himself on a late-night The Sopranos rerun pushed him to pursue acting one last time. The next part he auditioned for was ‘Omar’. Williams poured his own ‘brokenness’ into a character that could have easily seemed preposterous. ‘Hard-core, gangsta, he robs drug dealers … Robin Hood. By the way — he’s openly gay.’ While he didn’t initially understand how ‘Omar’’s sexuality would feature — ‘What, I just say ‘I’m gay!’ and bang out?’ — he guessed correctly that his willingness to embrace it would distinguish him. ‘People been making assumptions about me way before The Wire,’ he says, laughing. ‘I mean, I danced to house music.’ On a series that explored the similarities between the courthouse and the code of the streets, precinct tedium and gang bureaucracy, ‘Omar’ stood alone. He was entrepreneurial, deeply ethical. ‘He was a stand-up dude,’ Williams adds as we walk to Osteria Il Paiolo, one of his neighborhood favorites. ‘You could set your clock by what he would and would not do.’ ‘Omar’ had been a lifeline, but Williams continued to flounder. ‘Omar took me further away from who I was. I think I crossed a line with that character. I was pulling from a lot of personal experiences, a lot of pain. I was hoping I would leave it there with him, but I was using it constantly to breathe life into him.’ He ended up back in a Brooklyn housing project, only to get evicted during a hiatus after season two. It wasn’t until ‘Omar’’s demise in season five that he began reckoning with the self-destruction that had been required to sustain him. ‘When the character died, I didn’t know how to let it go. When people screamed ‘Omar’ in the street, it sounded better to me than when they were screaming ‘Mike.’ I think what people need to realize is that I had to mourn that character just like everybody else.’ On his last day as ‘Omar’, he sat alone in his trailer, staring at his gunshot wound in the mirror. ‘I couldn’t really see myself because I was so far in character. Who the hell am I gonna be after this? I didn’t see Mike. I didn’t know who Mike was.’ Had it not been for Boardwalk and his return to Brooklyn, Williams might never have discovered where ‘Omar’ ended and Mike began. He framed ‘Omar’’s trench coat; he no longer listens to ‘the Omar playlist’ on his iPod. Portraying ‘Chalky’ allowed him to seek inspiration beyond his own darkness. . . Williams’s willingness to reprise ‘Omar’, onetime muse for his own self-loathing, can seem superhuman. Unlike those in The Wire’s Baltimore, Williamsburg’s residents rarely cross the street to avoid him. As he stands on North 6th Street after lunch, a cross-section of fans file by. They only know him as ‘Omar’. A middle-aged man more old Williamsburg than new sidles up for a photo, shocked to learn that Williams lives around here. ‘You’re a bona fide hipster,’ he jokes. Williams smiles and shakes his head. He knows what he’s not.” Vulture continued the interview with “Omar’s Playlist: Michael K. Williams Reveals the Mix He Made for His Wire Character-- Music is always a part of my characters’ make-up,’ explains Michael K. Williams as he scrolls through his iPhone. ‘All my characters have playlists. . . . tell the story of Omar. . .I tend to stay away from the Omar playlist … I know where it’s gonna take me.” I don’t know how long Spotify will promotionally run links to his almost hour-long, two dozen songs.
In NPR’s My Big Break, “From Backup Dancer To The Wire: How A Scar Transformed A Career”, 6/21/2014: “Williams saw his acting career slipping away. "I was down in the dumps. I got really depressed. Like, really depressed." Then, months later, Williams received an unexpected fax outlining a character in a new show called The Wire. It was the part for Omar Little. "I got to grow with an amazing group of people that I consider my Wire family," Williams says. "That character changed my life. And that was my big break."
In April 2015 Entertainment Weekly listed “32 Most Shocking TV Deaths - 32. OMAR LITTLE (Michael K. Williams), The Wire (2008): There was a whole lot of bloody death on The Wire, but what makes this one so particularly shocking is its frightening randomness. For five seasons, Omar was the god of war on the mean streets of Baltimore, practically invincible (he jumped out of a building!). Given his career choice, Omar’s demise was just a matter of time, but it was still surprising, and heartbreaking, when he got shot in the back of the head not by a gangbanger or a policeman, but by the adolescent Kenard. —Darren Franich”

Simon Says: "Ed Burns and I wrote a book called The Corner which was published in 1997. It was an examination of one Baltimore drug corner, and by extension, the drug problem in microcosm. The book suggests that the drug war, which Ed himself fought as a 20-year detective in the BPD, has gone badly astray. "Hamsterdam" has been tried in a number of European cities with varying degrees of success. Drug decriminalization was suggested by Baltimore's mayor in 1988, though everyone beat him up for suggesting anything of the sort. It was not much of leap for Ed and myself to contemplate a fictional story based on our earlier reporting and the general notion of decriminalization. . . ."
"The [Amsterdam] experiment was up for a little over four weeks before The Sun got a tip on it. I would like to believe that the predominantly white Baltimore Sun, which actually saw its minority hiring regress over the past decade, would have its pulse on a handful of near-vacant streets in West Baltimore. But in truth, between the racial composition of the paper, hiring reductions due to out-of-town profit-mongering by the Chicago Tribune Co., which owns the Sun, and a general indifference to the ghetto as a whole would all conspire against that newspaper getting a quick handle on Colvin's experiment. Moreover, and here's the truth: Every day, between 40,000 and 50,000 drug users go down to the corners in Baltimore and cop heroin and cocaine. If the city police managed to arrest 300 a day, they would set records for drug arrests over the course of a year. That means that on any given day, 49,800 people are gonna get high without a problem.
Drugs ARE legal in West Baltimore. In the same way that driving 75 mph on I-95 is legal. Sure, every now and then you're gonna be the one pulled over. But when everyone is speeding, it is effectively the new legal limit. The Baltimore Sun has for years coexisted with a city that has more than 120 open air drug markets and nearly 300 murders a year. You think the appearance of a few Amsterdams -- and the disappearance of dozens of other open-air markets -- are gonna be noticed instantly.
Peter Moskos, Assistant Professor of Law & Political Science at CUNY’s John Jay College, comes to the same point-of-view in Cop in the Hood: “My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District” as a participant observer researcher/cop. (And makes The Wire sound even more realistic than non-fiction.)

Chapter 37 - Mission Accomplished, the season finale by Simon and Burns, had characters shaken to the core. (commentary on this episode by Simon and producer Karen L. Thorson on third season DVD) "McNulty" is practically in shock over "Stringer's" body: I caught him on the wire. And he doesn't fuckin' know it. He later admits to his old partner: I'm tired. The wheels are turning in his head as he re-evaluates his life --even though he covers up for his lesbian partner as she screws around like he always did. He looks up a Port Authority cop/single mother he had flirted with last season. I was in my old district tonight. Which is where I used to feel pretty good I think, when I wasn't so angry there anyway. . . I finished something today. (A case? she asks.) More that that. It's like everything I poured into a glass came out the bottom and I just kept pouring like the thing had a hole in it, y'know. Maybe things that make me right for this job made me wrong for everything else. (She invites him in for a drink.) Not tonight. But if it's not too late I wouldn't mind meeting your kids. "Daniels" offers him the possibility of continuing to work for him on The Detail if he can trust him. "McNulty" surprisingly demurs: It's better for me if I do something else. It's not you, it's me. The Western [District] feels like home. We last see him happily in uniform walking as a beat cop and joshing with the local residents -- exactly what the community had said in the previous episode they felt makes for good policing. Ironically, his boss's promotion is over that district. I've read mention that Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" is heard. The closing song is Solomon Burke doing Van Morrison's "Fast Train" from Don't Give Up on Me (which made my Best of 2002).

Simon is annoyed at fans and critics who weren't discussing the substance of the show, gee like this Web page:
"But it is disappointing to me that so many critics routinely express disappointment in a TV universe rife with derivative programming and clichés, yet when anyone undertakes something that is challenging, different and risky -- there are those who don't feel the obligation to address that work as part of their coverage. Again, maybe The Wire isn't all that. And maybe we're not everyone's cup of tea, regardless. But I do wish that more critics took the time to address the message of this show in a spirited, intelligent way.
This season a "cop show" on American television argued that the drug war is a sham and depicted an urban experiment, utterly viable, in which drugs were de facto legalized. Is that not worth some debate? At least a little discussion? Maybe not as much as the lives of those beautiful ladies on Wisteria Lane[Desperate Housewives], but a column at least, if only for the sake of appearances...
Don't get me wrong. The Wire is grateful for the critical attention we have received. I just have noticed that in many markets, those covering this medium are sometimes less than willing to address the notion that there might actually be ideas at stake behind some of the programming that is out there. For one thing, in the case of a show as complicated as The Wire, it would mean putting a dozen videocassettes into the machine, and in truth, there are many critics so overburdened by the workload that they can't get to every show. I know that to be true and understandable. I just wish more of them would get to this one, it being so obviously divergent from the six CSIs and Law & Orders that surround it.. ."
Simon further lashed out on 12/26/2004 at fans at online BBs who he felt had completely misunderstood the conclusion of Season 3:
"[I]t is just about killing me reading posts on this site and others where some viewers have genuinely taken a wrong turn.
"Carcetti"'s speech at the end of the finale. Here is the answer to some of the debate that has erupted.
Yes, it was off the cuff. How could it be otherwise when "Carcetti" came into that hearing expecting "Burrell" to go a different way entirely and blame the administration rather than take the hit himself?
Yes, there were elements that were genuine and sincere.
No, "Carcetti"'s words do not reflect the point of view of the writers. As a combination of personal ambition and sincerity, Carcetti culminates his remarks by urging a more aggressive and more determined war on drugs. I'm genuinely surprised that some viewers believe that Carcetti represented, in the writers' minds, any kind of solution to the tragedy of drug prohibition. I suppose we could have had "Colvin" watching on TV at home and muttering "Same ol' bullshit" as he watched the hearing. But that would have been lame to explain everything in the most obvious way. . . .
Like we spent twelve hours doing something thematically and with a great deal of detail -- and yet, in some viewers' minds -- the political hyperbole wins the day nonetheless. Come to think of it, I guess that's kind of realistic in way."
He cooled down a bit three days later, but continued:
"I do think it is fascinating that some viewers were drawn away by the power and authority inherent in "Carcetti"'s off-the-cuff oratory. There IS a push-pull thing going on and that is intentional: The push away from "Carcetti" ought to come from the false rhetoric of the drug war, of committing more fully to "using all the weapons" to "save" these neighborhoods. True, this stuff is want we WANT to hear from our political leaders -- declarations of will, and authority, and commitment to the ideal of victory. But then, in our story, we watched Hampsterdam and we saw "Colvin" think outside the box, and even tell Carver that the drug war and "soldiering" was not policing, that it was the opposite of protecting neighborhoods. "Carcetti" saw what "Colvin" offered, concluded that it had no political future, and then buried "Colvin" and exalted the idea of more war on behalf of a policy that has long failed in places like West Baltimore. That's the push.
The pull is more subtle and insidious and one of the responding viewers below refers to it. It is charisma, and political imagery, and the triumph of personality over substance in American political life.
The camera's push-in on "Carcetti"'s summation doesn't reflect, in the filmmaker's intention, a stamp of approval on the substance of Carcetti's comments, which amount to exactly nothing that hasn't been said already by the last four generations of drug-warring, shit-spinning politicians. The push-in does reflect the fact that for "Carcetti," in this moment, his oratory is working and working well. This is his character's moment and he is achieving the kind of citywide political status -- at the expense of "Colvin," "Burrell," the mayor -- that will allow him to personally challenge the mayor in the coming election. He is achieving politically, and doing so with great drama and eloquence -- and therefore the camera move. But the substance of his comments are in direct contradiction of what viewers saw work in West Baltimore -- work, at least, better than the previous three decades' drug prohibition.
So, yes, there is a push-pull thing going on. Noticing that was very apt. But indeed there is a push-pull at the core of this country's drug prohibition -- and further, at the core of our Iraq nightmare, for which this season was an allegory. We like the idea of moral righteousness, of prideful leadership, of sacrifice and commitment and will in the cause of victory. And as voters and viewers, we respond to such elemental offerings viscerally and emotionally, even if the underlying policies are dubious and can be called into question on the substance. It is a triumph of imagery over content, and it is, if not peculiarly American, then it is something that our political system has, at this point, certainly perfected. The duality of Carcetti's end moment reflected that -- perhaps too much so for many viewers. . .
I am sort of glad for the ambiguity. It seems reflective of exactly why the national drug policy will remain the disaster it is. Not to mention that quagmire on the other side of the world. . .
I was just initially surprised that there seemed to be much consideration given to the substance of what "Carcetti" was offering. He was sincere yes, triumphant politically -- of course. But as to content, I didn't think his political commentary could stand next to "Colvin"'s journey in viewer's minds. After twelve hours, they had seen an honest man parse through lies and equivocations to find a new, practical truth to the drug problem. That in the end, "Carcetti" seemed a solution for some very careful and discerning viewers is, perhaps, more telling about political discourse in this country than anything else we wrote or filmed this season.
[W]hile I was initially dismayed that "Carcetti" proved persuasive with discerning viewers, I am also delighted that the major themes of the season were subject to discussion, rather than the sexual appeal of characters [gee, is that directed at fans like me?] or the decision to kill this one or that. It was because this part matters to the writers that I decided, however ham-fistedly, to step into the mix in the first place."

Fourth Season The streets are talking. . . No Corner Left Behind
While I'll have to get around to posting the text of interviews that are no longer up on the HBO site, see this insight into the work of Ed Burns on the series.

Simon Says: "The writers have planned two additional seasons because with a show like this, you must plan several seasons in advance. . . I think the writers have enough steam for a couple more seasons after this one, maybe a few sidetrips included. More than that and we will begin to hate each other, this Wire universe and all it represents. Dramas need to have a beginning and an end, and I have never been comfortable with the idea of trying to sustain a story past its appropriate and most meaningful end. . .I would very much prefer to leave The Wire at its ultimate end, which would involve another two seasons, give or take a sidetrip or two. But if it ends here, there are 37 hours of drama that are, I believe, as smart and resonant as anything written about the American city at the millennium. And I would include not just television in that assessment, but film and literature as well. Boy that sounds smarmy and arrogant. But you asked how I would feel if it ends here, and so..."

Simon said. . ."This is basically going to be the beginning of a new arc. The thing that we tried to convince HBO was that there was more to be said about the American city. It's gratifying to have the opportunity to continue to explore this urban universe that we created. While we only got the order for one season, the feeling is that if we execute well on season four, we'll be back for another." From an interview with Ed Burns in the 11/20/2006 TV Guide: “You’ll never look at Baltimore—or any city—the same way again. . .It sounds brutal and depressing, yet we try to keep the show very human and very intimate so that people care about the characters.” Oy, care is putting it mildly as each kid’s arc is unpredictable and you’ll cry and scream.
Excellent real life background for this season's focus on education problems in Baltimore are the award-winning documentary The Boys Of Baraka with actual middle-school kids and parents so desperate to get their kids away from the dealers on the corners that they send them to school in Africa, and Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond‘s year-in-the-life documentary of Hard Times At Douglass High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card that shows just how realistic this season was. (The latter premiered on HBO and seemed like a DVD “On the Set” extra for Season 4.)
In July 2012, PBS’s Frontline broadcast Middle School Moment that came to same conclusion about reaching kids (i.e. like “the hoppers”) younger than high school.
While it was a fictional professor at the University of Maryland who came in for a rude awakening in the Baltimore schools, the Chicago-set documentary The Interrupters (with my additional notes) shows that at least one academic learned from watching The Wire, and even exported practical techniques for stopping the violence to Charm City.
From the blog of Newsday's Diane Werts on the summer TV Critics Press Tour: "Wire writer-producer Ed Burns used to be a police detective and became a social studies teacher. Wonder which task he found tougher? "When you step into that classroom after being 20 years in the street,' he says, 'you think you are pretty tough. And you find out real quickly that you are not. It tested things that nothing else in my life tested.'"
My Younger attended a Q & A with Simon on 10/12/2006 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art with other Northwestern students and faculty. An audience member asked Simon how he felt about having the child actors say and do such awful things: "ashamed", but he was very up front with all the parents in advance about what the kids would have to do.

Chance Encounter with Jim True-Frost
In the midst of the Monsoon Graduation at Harvard for the Scion in June 2006, we were at a crowded, leaky tent reception for law grads, when the Younger nudged me - "Isn't that the guy who plays "Prez" on The Wire and importuned me as to what should we do. I of course instantly confirmed that was indeed Jim True-Frost. As a true New Yorker I never bother actors, etc. amidst their personal lives, heck I hate getting autographs at record store events as too intrusive. But the only time I did stand on line for autographs was for The Wire book (as a present for my son).
I said we had to wait until he finished getting his tea on the beverage line, then I led them to him and said we were huge fans of the show and his work and what's going on with the series? He was a bit surprised (no one else there seemed to have recognized him) but very pleased, as after all it's a huge ensemble and he's not the "star" and he spent a good 10 minutes or so talking to us. I managed to ask some intelligent questions before babbling, so here's some news:
I didn't want too many spoilers about the 13 episodes of Season 4 he'd already completed filming, but I asked if his character survives. He was quite pleased that we cared and he said his character takes on a new career -- the strong implication, as this season will focus on education, is that he'll become a school teacher. He added that after shooting a few episodes he realized that Ed Burns was using his character as an alter-ego for his experiences so he was thrilled that his part gradually expanded. He said that while the producers did have an arc for the characters mapped out they didn't tell the actors, who only got the scripts just before filming, but unlike a movie the scenes are shot in order.
Ironically, his wife is a former Baltimore school teacher and taught near where they filmed. The reason he was at the graduation was that his wife was getting her Masters in Law (she has his last name-- or it's a PC combination of their names we didn't ask). She specializes in international human rights and they're staying in Cambridge as she got a fellowship (he shot The Wire in Baltimore a couple of days a week). But he's also a member of the Steppenwolf Theater Company and will be doing The Pillowman in Chicago. I did get to tell him how much I enjoyed him in The Rivals at Lincoln Center at a raucous high school performance where they particularly rooted for his character (I'd happen to get a ticket thanks to the Younger's girlfriend), though barely got to mention Off the Map.
He added that Simon does have a plan for Season 5 but they expected HBO to again keep them hanging as to renewal.
It didn't occur to me to ask the Grouch to take his picture, as we were a bit weighted down with rain ponchos. But I think we made his day as much as he made ours. We did cheer his wife the next day in the rain when she got her diploma.
In honor of how very nice True-Frost was to us, I'll now focus on "Roland 'Prez' Pryzbylewski" as well as the music episode guide for Season 4. With this season generating more online fan interest than ever before, I think I only need to provide here information that has been difficult to otherwise collate from elsewhere.

But how is it, once again, that The Wire didn’t make EVERY critic’s Best of 2006 list? Here’s one at least: TV Guide 12/18/2006 – Matt Roush: “HBO’s devastating urban epic of Baltimore is the opposite of a standard TV crime drama (of which there are too many). More like literature in its realism depth and honesty, The Wire reveals breathtaking flaws in city politics, law enforcement, and, this year, the school system, where four eighth-grade boys face a violent, uncertain future.”

Chapter 38 - Boys of Summer - "McNulty" is sobered up on the beat, happy living with "Bedie" and her "ankle-biters", even as his colleagues keep trying to tempt him with booze and work You're too damn good to be humpin' calls. They complain He's in the wrong fucking place. . . For us yeah, for him? He is still just as cynical as he dumps the anti-terrorist training manual and saves the binders: Back to school for the kids. "Det. Freaman" is now key as he's mystified by this phase of the drug war, How do you hold that much real estate without making bodies? and the less technically adept detectives up on the wire and the computers mourn I miss Prez man I do. . . I hear you.. But "Prez" is getting his first taste of a parallel bureaucracy- the school system. He's hired even before he's certified just on the basis of his credential: I was police. In the city. He's brought right to a messy classroom: So this is me. Watch for the camera angles as the silences in the visuals are even more telling then the spot-on dialog and you'll feel a bit queasy the next time you go by nail guns in Home Depot. Much of the episode and the season, recalls the Oscar-nommed doc about the tough tactics in the Newark mayoral race Street Fight even as it remembers another former Maryland corrupt politician: One man's shithead is another man's Vice President. . . Truer now than it ever was.

Matching the official music list to the scenes: As the car is going by "Bodie" supervising his corner, that's Dead Meadow playing; according to HBO BB poster Keelhaul they are a DC band. Another car going by in the next scene on the corner blares "Handle the Vibe". "Something Wrong" is ominously playing as "Lex" approaches the club with revenge on his mind and Elephant Man's "Drazy" just before he kills "Fruit". With the delicious irony of the song selections, the Chi-Lites ""Give More Power to the People" is playing on the car radio as the exhausted mayoral candidate "Carcetti" is being driven home by black campaign aides. I assume that the listed "Patriot Act" is playing while "Carcetti" tours the garbage-strewn alley as that's the only place in the order I heard music. Similarly to "Back Home" while "Randy" is entrepreneurially selling candy and then innocently a deadly message. Mobb Deep's "Survival of the Fittest" is heard as "Lester" is eye for an eye killed by "Chris". Old school song for old school craps game, as George Clinton's Parliament's "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker" is playing - and "Randy" realizes what he's really done for a few dollars more.
Chapter 39 - Soft Eyes, teleplay by David Mills. For my discussion of Rhonda Pearlman as an unstereotypical Jewish woman character on TV in this season. There's a reference to boxing coach Angelo Dundee - he also coached Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man. What a wonderful closing montage of every character watching and reacting individually to the mayoral debate!
Of course that's Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" playing while "Prez" is cleaning up his classroom (though ID'd in the official HBO listing as sung by its co-author June Carter Cash), including scraping gum off the bottom of the chairs - there is a tendency to play country music when white guys are on the screen. "Prez" gets minutely practical advice from the experienced women teachers. They laugh when he plaintively asks Can we have them not chew gum? They give somewhat conflicting advice about keeping the kids drowsy and busy and sticking to team rules they can all enforce. The oldest teacher is sleepy and sage: You need soft eyes. Amusingly, "Bubbles"s annoyance at his "intern"s lack of math skills matched the complaints of the criminals in France's action flick District B13 which also included gibes at the educational system amidst the mayhem. That was a funny exchange of looks between "Prez" and the cleaned-up "Bubbles" as he incongruously attempts to enroll the kid at his school.
I presumed these connections between the official song list and scenes: "Ur Uh Freak" is playing as "Bodie" argues with "Nat" and the cops show up on the corner; MichaelSTL on the HBO BB says that’s Chingy, featuring Mr. Collipark. The Big Bopper's "White Lightning" plays in the bar while "Carcetti" negotiates with the police union. "Spread the Word" is on in the background when the boys are on the stoop talking trash about girls. "Marlo" is confrontational while "Spanish Fly" blares from his car. "Randy" blasts "Salt Shaker" on the stolen car. The bad influence Mom is talking on the phone while the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" plays on her stereo.

Chapter 40 - Home Room, teleplay by novelist Richard Price, story by Burns and Simon. "Omar"s boyfriend "Rinaldo" is a bit incongruously reading a hard copy of Drama City by George Pelecanos, part of the show's writing team. "McNulty" is a domesticated motherfucker as his guest, ex-partner "Bunk" describes his cooking for him and admires that "Bedie" let him go out for a drink: She trust you. He admires the kids' school binders as they very seriously tell him what they call the cook: McNulty - repeated in tiny imitation of the cop. "McNulty" insists that this new life is for real for him: Sometimes it is what it is. "Prez" gets completely overwhelmed his first day of school, as the kids ignore his seating chart, leading to wrong bus pass distribution. He several times gets bailed out by a teacher who miraculously appears at his door and restores order, including the next day when bloody violence erupts between girls. He tries to get through a math word problem and the kids jive talk the local particulars in a delay until the bell goes off just as he says: My question to you is. . until he whispers to himself alone Who gives a rat's ass? So he's quite surprised when he picks up a scrap of paper to find the math problem neatly written out with its correct solution -- possibly underneath the same chair where "Fuck Prezbo" has been carved, along with the return of gum.
It was tough to match the official song list to what I heard in two watchings so these are somewhat guesses: "Second Winter" is playing in the market as "Omar" buys cereal. (One poster on the HBO BB claims it’s always the 3rd episode of each season where “Omar” shows up but I’m not sure if that’s accurate). "Drop from Below" is on in "Marlo"s car. "Crunk Music" is playing behind "Dukie" as he's negotiating with buyers and dealers. "Brinquen Mi Raza" is playing in "Omar"s car with "Rinaldo". "Can't You See" is playing in the market "Detective Kima" goes into. I love Dave Alvin, own the CD Ashgrove and played it again just before re-watching the episode and I'll have to take it on faith that's playing while "Bedie" and "McNulty" are making and eating dinner. I lose track here if both "Arrimate" and "Cool Stepper" are playing in the motel or if one is from a passing car somewhere. Macy Gray's "Why Didn't You Call Me" is on in the market as "Omar" holds up the stash. "Bullet to the Brain" must be ironically playing on a car radio as "Carcetti" is walking to the funeral, where Billy Sherwood's "Organic" is playing.

Chapter 41 - Refugees continued the series' tradition of leisurely waiting until the fourth episode of each season to get everyone in place (symbolized by "Bunk"s drunken plaint in the cop bar: Where's McNulty?) and set up the basic confrontations. It was in the 4th episode of the 1st season that the titular mechanism got set up - and now the 4th of this season when it was disconnected. "McNulty" in effect passes his stubborn wise-ass baton to "Det. Freaman" as he grins: Guys like you never learn. In my first watching, I couldn't understand most of what the dealers said in the teleplay written by Dennis Lehane, with a story by Burns and Lehane. But it didn't matter because Jim McKay's direction was so superb that I'm going to pull out my tapes of his previous TV and other films and I immediately nom him for an Emmy for Best Directing, as if the Academy notices this show. The camera was brilliantly restless, roving like a drive-by observer around all those reflecting tables of very different meetings - from poker games to ministers to teachers to barflies to campaign strategists of very different campaigns, all woven together with very complex editing. Unlike virtually all TV directing there was a minimum of close-ups. Instead, the camera moved along in long shots on ensembles of reaction to speakers and empty corridors of streets and hallways. Black and white faces and body language passed by in what could have been pantomime, if the story wasn't also so compelling, though one must have watched this series from the beginning to pick up all the subtle issues - otherwise you wouldn't GASP when "Omar" takes on "Marlo".

"Prez"'s quote was in the opening credits: No one wins. One side just loses more slowly. He's ruefully talking to his wife about the football game on the TV as he struggles to figure out how to help the kids deal with the violent episode they witnessed in his classroom. But his wife wants him to take a break outside: See, somebody's winning. The kids are more interested in confirming the rumor that he used to be "po-lice" and acting out if he ever shot anyone or been shot -- distracting him enough so that two kids can sneak out (and the principal later assures him that the injured girl wasn't HIV-positive). The older teacher's advice to have "soft eyes" is somewhat facetiously explained later by "Detective Bunk" to the rookie homicide po-licewoman in a satire of CSI: What you need at a crime scene is soft eyes. If you have hard eyes you can't see a thing.
Based on the official song list: "Smoke My Peace Pipe" is playing while "Marlo" is playing cards. I'll have to accept that's "Oh Nuel Man Eum" playing in the market when “Marlo” is shoplifting. "Ridin'" is on in the hub store. "Jumpin' Like Rope" is on in the car when the backpack is dropped off. (The music director posted on the HBO BB more explanation: "The song 'Jumpin' Like Rope' is performed by Diablo and produced by Darkroom Productions. It should be coming out on Darkroom's new CD Hamsterdam 2 in the coming months.") "Pumpkin" is playing in the car behind the confrontation with "Bodie". "La Marelle" is on at the buffet while the Mayor is playing cards. The Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine" is playing in the cop bar while "Bunk" is hopelessly waiting for "McNulty", who is true to his word: I throw myself out after one. ("McNulty" teases "Det. Freadman" like people used to tease him: Guys like you never learn.) The blues playing in the bar when the Fat Man meets with "Omar" is "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out". That's the Meters' classic "Cissy's Strut" playing when "Omar" interrupts "Marlo"s card game. "Michael" walks off into the night to "This Is War."

In Chapter 42 - Alliances by Burns and Simon, "Prez" is trying to get control of his class with incentives, but the kids are full of back talk, and virtually the whole class ends up in detention -- until they talk him out of that too. And then easily help him break into his car where he's left his keys. "Marlo" is recruiting the kids just like the military: We always in the market for a good soldier. But no wonder one of the students is freaked out - he has personal knowledge that there's no zombies: No special dead. Just dead.

Even if I'm approximating the songs as listed with their scenes, they are still ironic commentary on the action: "Another One Bites the Dust" is playing at the “Carcetti” campaign stop - but, huh, that's Clint Eastwood's cover of it? Chris Brown's "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" is playing in the school lunch room. "Walkin' the Wild" is on the delivery truck radio. Alicia Keys's "A Woman's Worth" is on in the market as the delivery woman gets shot. The O'Jays' classic "Back Stabbers" is playing while "Det. Freadman" is searching for bodies. "New Millennium" is heard as "Marlo" approaches the playground.

Chapter 43 - Margin of Error, teleplay by Eric Overmyer, story by Burns and Overmyer. The minister is quoting from Exodus Chapter 18, verses 13-23, about the advice of Moses's father-in-law. The official song list now includes scene identifiers, so I won't duplicate that info here anymore (unless HBO takes the info down), so I'll only add additional music insights.
"McNulty" is just a beat cop, but he still has his suspicious instincts as they're all alerted to look for "Omar" in the shooting of the store manager: You ever know Omar to do a citizen? "Prez" is learning to be more pro-active about the kids' lives outside school as he offers "Dukie" access to a shower and clean clothes, even as another teacher protests that the experimental program is limited in creaming off the corner kidz for special attention: They're only taking three of my knuckleheads! He becomes a liaison to the BPD in helping find a sympathetic ear for "Randy" coming forward about witnessing the set-up to a murder, though the recently promoted "Major Cedric Daniels" is surprised: Why do you care? What's this kid to you? "Prez" is starting to feel a change in his allegiances: I don't know. He's one of my students. "Carcetti"s campaign manager "Norman Wilson" is wonderfully cynical even as he refuses to reveal his own vote: Ah, American democracy. Let's show those third-world fucks how it's done!, even as "Namond"s mom is oblivious to Election Day as to why he has a day off from school: Is it one of them Jew holidays? OMG - "Carcetti" hesitates about his surprise victory (Are we happy about that? I think so. I think we are. Yeah.-- and resists adultery! Maybe this is a real change.

Chapter 44 - Unto Others, teleplay by story editor William F. Zorzi, story by Zorzi and Burns. (Official song with scene list) "Prez" is now letting kids eat lunch in his class room. He watched them play poker and is surprised how poorly they do it, realizing they don't understand there's 13 cards in each suit and what the odds are. As he tries to explain, they protest: Yeah, but can you show us the odds on dice? He asks the suspicious principal for board games: You're still teaching 8th grade math, right? and warns him to stay on the curriculum. He's directed to a basement room -- filled with games, new text books and even computers. He divides the class into groups on the floor with Monopoly money and teaches them about probability as they have to figure out how to make the different combinations as they bet. He explains to the surprised teacher who had been helping him discipline: Trick them into thinking they aren't learning and they do. Former CI "Bubbles", trying unsuccessfully to keep a protégé in school, bumps into "Prez" in the office and assures him he'll keep quiet about his undercover operation. But the lame duck mayor opened the episode with an earthy metaphor about governing the city with all the various interest groups wanting their cut: You're still eating shit all day long. Wonderful ironic turn of events as the witness murder that turned around the election was really caused from misaimed potato target practice, and of course that it took a rookie detective bothering to investigate to figure it out. (A similar irony as in the film Babel).

Chapter 45 - Corner Boys, teleplay by novelist Richard Price, story by Burns and Price, with Agnieszka Holland returning to direct again, as she did in the 2nd season. The parallels between learning in school and from the street were made as explicit here as the first season paralleled organized law and outlaw. "Prez" is trying to proctor a test, but the kids don't understand the word problems, while young thugs are successfully teaching even younger thugs how to effectively carry out assassinations. Meanwhile, the ex-Major can't get the hoppers in the special class to communicate to say where they'll be in 10 years except dead, but gets them to articulately, cooperatively and eager to put in writing something that interests them: explaining how they manage their drug business (so they are the next generation of "Stringer Bell" from earlier seasons, and even more painfully we see one of the kids from the class instruct a tiny child in his corner rules, just as, also painfully for the viewer, his mother is instructing him). The slippery slope comes together as "Prez"s protégé is happily ensconced at computer games and he is impressed by how high a level the kid has gotten to: But want me to show you how to get to 40? and shows him a URL to a guide. "Prez" protests: That's cheating! The kid grins: Yeah, but you want me to show you? Hmm, will Simon next stick in complaints about illegal downloading of TV episodes, just as My Younger is watching online without HBO from someone who put advance press copies on the Web? He continues to try and reach out to the kid, who is now masterfully teaching other kids how to use the computer, but even as he suggests visiting the school's social worker he doesn't know the half of the tragedy of this kid's life -- I dare you to watch without weeping -- a druggie mom who sells the groceries he buys with control of her SSI card, an ex-con dad possibly molesting him and his brother who he is trying to protect, oy! He says mournfully to a kid complaining about how tightly his foster mother is keeping control of him: Shit, at least you have a leash. The kids may not have school smarts, but they sure have street smarts (they showed "Prez" that he has a tell when he asks for answers to math problems). "Prez" vents in the teachers’ room about his frustration that the kids couldn't do fractions on the test. The other teachers quickly advise him that the test is his job, so teach to the No Child Left Behind tests. An older teacher warns him: The first year isn't about the kids. It's about you surviving. Hmm, pretty much the same advice the newly transferred detective is getting about surviving the homicide unit and producing numbers. The music selections are commented on ironically as the tiny drug thugs discuss how to tell the NYC interlopers they've been instructed to roust from local Baltimore competitors, as one explains that different cities have different radio stations and New Yorkers don't know from club music. OMG - "Herc" had the tell-tale nail gun in his hands! Did you not want to scream at the screen? "McNulty" shows up at an Irish wake (with a repeat of the Pogues in the official song with scene list) for a dead colleague -- drinking club soda, to "Bunk"s disgust.
Going on to direct the Czech TV mini-series Burning Bush (Hořicí Keř) (previewed at 2013 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center), Holland later described this directing experience to Director Talk, 6/11/2014: “I’ve done so many movies from different realities, not only period movies. . .but also important TV series like The Wire, or Treme, which was for me like going to a world that is completely not mine.”

Chapter 46 - Know Your Place, with the teleplay by new writer Kia Corthron, story by Burns and Corthron. In a Simon described Corthron’s involvement in an interview: “. . ., the show is very conscious of trying to bring in African-American writers. I tell agents in Hollywood, don't send me scripts unless they're by African-American writers. From the moment the show was conceived, I asked David Mills to produce it with me. I would have loved to have his voice in the show—not just because he's African-American but because he can write the hell out of it. A young writer named Joy Lusco did a few episodes. Kia Corthron, the African-American playwright (Breath, Boom), penned a fine episode for us this year. We've been trying to leaven the writers' room in that way. But it's a very hard show to write, as you can imagine. It's not as if all these scripts came in from agents, and we read them and think, "Based on this spec script from NYPD Blue, I'm confident I'll get what we need." You're looking for people who've worked on this level before, and when you find them, you beg them to help out.” "Prez" is seeing more parallels between the Education and Police Departments - I've seen this before - it's juking the stats-- as he keeps objecting to teaching to the tests while the administration just cares about getting their numbers up: The hell with my evaluation. The hell with the state-wide test scores. I came here to teach. He rearranges the desks and has the kids learn fractions by measuring their body parts. And entrepreneurial "Randy" uses his new understanding of probability to advise on the corner craps games -- earning enough cash to provide a down payment for "Prez" to order on the computer with his credit card cheaper candy to profitably re-sell. Oy, but “Michael” resists "Prez"s advice for help with his family crisis to make a deal with the devil out of his hole. (Official song with scene list)

Chapter 47 - Misgivings, with teleplay by producer Eric Overmyer, story by Burns and Overmeyer, again with the gorgeously dark directing of Ernest Dickerson that adds to the bleakness. One of the most startling lines in the episode - and the season - is "Bodie"s casual admission, in addition to his very creative interpretation of global warming, that he's still haunted about "doing Wallace" --which was one of the most wrenching murders ever shown on a TV series, the one that warned us not to fall in love with any character because this series will go to any lengths to break your heart in being realistic and reminding us to be in dire fear for the four kids at the center of this season's plot – and here is looming foreshadowing. But we also very visually get a hint into how the assassin "Chris" got to be the way he is in his silent sympathy for "Michael"s loathing of his returned step-father and the violence their implied shared experiences unleashes, such that even his partner in murder "Snoop" is startled. "Omar" is doing a better surveillance job on "Marlo", and putting together the pieces of his empire, than the BPD as "McNulty" is disgusted by the useless, political corner sweeps: The patrolling guy on his beat is the one true dictatorship in America. No one, but no one tells us how to waste time on our shift. But of course amidst the circus he's the only one who picks up that there's a pattern to a rash of church burglaries and brings in the perpetrators - to the admiration of his ex-partner: No shit. I thought there were still some real criminals left in Baltimore. "McNulty" takes his sons out to dinner with "Bunk"s kids, who really can't believe this domesticity. So it's true? You quit drinking? "McNulty" explains: I have a beer now and again. No big deal. as his ex comes to pick up their kids: If I'd known you were going to grow up to be a grown-up. . . "Prez" is up against teaching to the tests, from boring content that puts the kids to sleep in 90 minute periods even though he's warned After 30 minutes they're climbing the walls. As soon as his supervisor leaves the classroom, though, he offers the kids to go back to practicing probabilities, even as it's not clear that they're learning what James Bond needed in Casino Royale: We're not just playing games here. We're doing math. We are. But even the experimental class is under the gun, as role-playing practical bureaucratic situations with these kids do seem to be more lessons in civilized anger management, but also demonstrating how useful it is to have them out of the other classes so those kids can learn: You're not educating them. You're socializing them.), though the academics are learning to appreciate the survival adaptation intelligence of the corner kids (even as in the next episode "Namond" will use prison terms to refer to the regular classes as "gen pop"). (Official song with scene list)

Chapter 48 - A New Day, with teleplay by Burns, story by Burns and Simon, directed by indie filmster Brad Anderson. "Prez" breaks up an attack on "Randy" who has been labeled as a snitch and is furious that "Carver" didn't protect him: I shouldn't have trusted you!, even as his father-in-law “Valchek” is up to his old cynical tricks in fostering the racial divide in the BPD as he laughs at white “Rawls”s ambitions:: Jesus, Bill, it's Baltimore. You ain't one of the natives, are ya? “Prez” is equally furious at "Det. Bunk" and refuses to encourage "Randy" to talk to him further: I'm siding with my kids. but he's figured out what's behind what the kid dangerously witnessed about a murder so explains the significance to him. While "McNulty" is suspicious that the new regime is really committed to stop juking the stats, what a relief that "Det. Freaman" has finally heard all of us shouting at the TV set to figure out the significance of the nail gun that "Sgt. Herc" ignored to see what's in "the vacants": This is a tomb! (Official song with scene list)

Chapter 49 - That's Got His Own, with teleplay by George Pelecanos, story by Burns and Pelecanos, official song with scene list, though “God Bless the Child” that’s referenced in the title is not played. I screamed at least twice, cried through much of it and gripped my chair through the rest as all the plot points and characters are coming together for the climax. It is shockingly unpredictable which of the kids could be saved from the corner life, and their families, and which couldn't and how many more there are coming up in the same horrifically unpredictable way from a young age. The Assistant Principal has a kindly but firm warning to "Prez" to go have his own kids and not to "adopt" his students: The kids in this school aren't yours, as "Dukie" who has flourished under his physical protection and nurturing tutelage is being peremptorily bumped up to high school. "Dukie" is in anguish at the social promotion he didn't seek and thinks "Prez" initiated: Did I do something wrong? "Prez" offers him the showers, laundry and computer and the kid in exchange says he'll show him how he set up his files on the hard drive. Similarly, "Prez"s students laugh at him as he feebly tries to explain the advantages of marriage and intimacy before they have to go back to test studying. "Bunk" is still trying to get "McNulty" to Take that skirt off and have a drink. But at least he's the only one most qualified to drive sober when "Bunk" and "Freaman" drunkenly violate protocol in frustration (like "McNulty" used to do) and follow those particular nails at "the vacants": You ladies want to call this a crime scene?. . .The white shirts will fuck it up some how. It’s delicious irony to the political expedience of putting the possible bodies on the outgoing mayor's stats works to the real po-lice's advantage.

Chapter 50 – Final Grades (if you’re timing it, it’s 1 hour, 18 minutes long), with teleplay by Simon, story by Burns and Simon, again directed by Dickerson, because his bleak style matches the bleak conclusion, recalling how the finale of Season 2 gave me the same physical heart ache, plus Steve Earle returning as the drug counselor, this time trying to help desolate “Bubbles”– with the visual reminder of the “The Greek”’s deputy showing up again as “Prop Joe”s supplier, and undoubtedly setting up the next season with “Marlo”s connection and suspicion, as he blithely thinks the discovery of his ever increasing number of bodies in “the vacants” will blow over. Will it? “McNulty” is more in this episode than we’ve seen him all season, finding both the huge homicide case and the change in administration both irresistible. He can’t help asking his former detective colleagues a drumbeat of forensic questions as they just laugh at him and shuffle: If I was real po-lice I don’ think I could lean back on it. amidst a school gym full of bodies, ironically “Cedric”s old school back in the day. But he thinks he can outsmart their technical approach with street smarts when he observes “Bodie” lose it as the cops pull out the body of his friend “Little Kevin” from “the vacants” and explode his anger on a police car. He picks him up from central booking and takes him for a peaceful lunch at the arboretum and lets “Bodie” rant against being a snitch despite the lack of loyalty anymore in the drug trade in which he has worked so diligently (the same argument that “Colvin” will use in pleading with “Weebay” in prison to let him try to save his son “Namond”): This game is rigged. . .We be like the little bitches on a chess board. “McNulty” helpfully supplies the word: Pawns. . . Somebody’s got to step up. . . You’re a soldier Bodie. But oh, no, karma’s the bitch as they are spotted together by a “Marlo” informant, and on these corners all eyes are informants. He is defiant in facing an assassination that serves as a merciless initiation for another young ‘un. “McNulty” is shook by the news and immediately goes to that corner to question his friend: Sorry about Bodie. I’m not tryin’ to jack you up. I’m trying to help your boy. His friend throws him off: He got it for talking to your white ass. So cuff me now or let me go before you do me the same. “McNulty” has a heart to heart with “Bedie” in bed (I’ll transcribe his long monologue when I get a chance.) She understands: You want in. He: I owe him now. That’s some foreplay pillow talk. He goes to his recently promoted ex-boss: I think I can do this and keep myself away from myself. He grins as “Cedric” explains his plans for the reconstituted major crimes squad to once again try to develop the case against “Marlo”: Chain of command, Colonel. And the squad members give him hugs all around as he returns and they start all over again – the only joy in the closing montage. “Prez” admits he’s still learning but the senior teacher thinks he now understands how to be as cynical as the system. He welcomes back the kids from the disbanded experimental class, who find that their classmates are not happy to see these disruptive kids return and settle back into boredom. While he thanks “Dukie” for a Christmas present of a pen set and suggests he come back any time, the reality of what the kid is up against hits him – just as it does for every single well-meaning adult who tried to help the four kids and failed, what with the educational, police, social services, correctional and academic bureaucracies lined up to defeat these kids and just about any adult who tries to help. Simon really is this pessimistic. Official song with scene list, with the customary montage and the use of a concluding song superimposed (Paul Weller's version of Dr. John's "Walk on Gilded Splinters." is on his Stanley Road CD), though atypically the final, devastating irony is silent, as even the last scrap of hope you can cling to in the series is pulled out from under you and the Baltimore streetscape looms. (The Younger had a different interpretation of “Namond”s wave to an old friend, but at least “Michael” didn’t commit that gut wrenching murder – until the next time.) Sardonic shout-out to Deadwood when a hospital patient with insurance can afford to get HBO and thinks “MacShane” saying “cocksucker” is noteworthy. Considered by AV Club as one of the "essential episodes".

Fifth Season -Read Between the Lines.

Renewed after just one episode of the 4th Season to universal ecstatic acclaim and even editorials in newspapers around the country! Per HBO Co-president Richard Plepler at the summer Television Critics Association presentation, The Wire will come back for its final season in first-quarter 2008. "The fifth season, says Simon, will focus on America's 'culture of violence,' which encourages people at all levels of society to solve their problems with aggression instead of diplomacy." (from "Down to The Wire: Why television's best crime show ever may not be coming back" by Matt Zoller Seitz, 12/19/2004, Newark Star-Ledger)

From Rocky Mountain News July 20, 2006 by Dusty Saunders: [HBO's CEO Chris] Albrecht says the response to season four will determine if creator David Simon's five-season arc of stories will be completed. . . The fifth, if one is produced, will concentrate on the media. 'We'd ruffle some feathers on that one,' says Simon, a former print journalist."
An additional Simon quote in USA Today, 7/13/2006 by Robert Bianco, from the same session: "'In our own heads, we have a five-season arc. ... They all connect in a way that explains why we are what we are and why we can't get out of our own boxes.' The goal is to pose a question he's unable to answer: 'Why is it the richest, most powerful country in the world can't solve its fundamental problems when it comes to places like Baltimore? And there are a lot of places like Baltimore.'" TV Guide's Matt Roush blog posted different quotes from the same session between HBO and TV critics in July 2006: "Albrecht isn't yet willing to commit, taking a wait-and-see approach to episodes he describes as, what else, brilliant. 'There's definitely a sense that life goes on after this particular season, and you could certainly tell more Wire stories.... There is also a thought that you don't necessarily have to wrap everything up.'. . . Simon reiterated that he had mapped out a five-year arc after finishing the show's third season. If the show were to go forward, the fifth season's theme would focus on the media. 'I want to take a very careful look at how all of what we've been portraying on The Wire has been perceived, and how it is that it never quite gets back in any honest fashion to the people. . . Quips Simon: 'Would that we be grit-less and simple, we'd be fine.' But, he insists, "I don't think the show is any more complex than any modern novel with multiple POV.... It is complex by the standards of television." He's also added his thoughts about a potential Season 5: "I'd be a lot more confident if the messy situation with Deadwood hadn't happened. But that's a different story, and let's hope HBO takes the high road and gives this most excellent series a fifth and final year. Having seen all 13 episodes -check out my review - I can tell you that while this particular season's story has a satisfying arc, the elements are in place for one more dynamite season, and fans will not be happy if it's canceled. The best we can hope for is that critical acclaim will help drive more viewers to the show this year, and maybe HBO's strategy of moving its movie night to Sundays as a lead-in will also do the trick. And if not, HBO needs to live up to its "not TV" motto and disregard ratings where a show this uncompromising, this powerful, is concerned."

My Younger reports that Simon at the Block Museum Q & A vented ire at the Tribune Company that he felt had decimated The Baltimore Sun, so the role of 50% cutbacks in reporting staff on the press's ability to cover hard news will definitely be included in Season 5. In Simon really is this pessimistic, Simon says he hopes Spike Lee will direct an episode, but he’ll probably be busy with his Katrina-inspired NBC series.

On NPR's Morning Edition on 12/28/2007, Simon practically cackled that this season is his revenge on The Baltimore Sun, complete with a staff of production designers. The press is clearly roused up that this season is all reporters' revenge on their cost-conscious editors and publishers, garnering the series the most media attention it's ever had. Plus with the writers' strike there was a paucity of new shows on TV in January 2008. But just as they all went on and on about how Simon went over the top (such as David Carr in The New York Times on 1/21/2008) came the noisy resignation of yet another L. A. Times editor citing the exact same problems from the same owner that Simon was saying about The Sun in the series, practically word for word. And that The Times did the same to its employees! Simon testified at a Senate hearing on the “Future of Journalism” in May 2009, and Carr conceded in his May 11th column that he was right.

HBO posted three short prequels, “Bunk and McNulty 2000”, showing their drunken first day as partners, “Proposition Joe 1962” showing how he got his name as a kid, and “Omar 1985”, showing that he early challenged how things are done in his neighborhood. Two backgrounds on the series, “The Last Word” and “The Odyssey”, with too much critics’ superlatives and too few plot summaries, were to try and help newbies and remind loyal fans. I know from friends who I importuned to watch that they still didn’t get it after the first episode: “So where’s the great acting?” I begged them to stick with it. After all, this is the show that has featured more great African-American actors than in the history of television combined. But someone new to the series wouldn’t be crying like I am at what’s happened to the four boys from Season 4 each time we see them now. According to Diane Werts in Newsday 8/12/2008, the DVD of “Season 5 Final season extras include snazzy half-hour documentaries on urban disintegration and the role of the media; six cast/crew commentaries”.

Chapter 51 – More With Less, teleplay by Simon, story by Burns and Simon, directed by Joe Chappelle: The bigger the lie, the more they believe. -- “Bunk”. official song with scene list. The special unit is decimated, again, McNulty is drinking, again, “Bedie” gives up waiting for him to come home late at night, as he tells his fellow cops at the bar he’s being threatened with jail for late child support payments: I wonder what it’s like to work in a real fuckin’ police department. (Which is what new frustrated Baltimore Sun reporter said about that newspaper.) He stares down the new guy as he’s back to Homicide That’s my desk., and “Bunk” chuckles, The prodigal returns. Elsewhere I discuss State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman who is also back - as an unstereotypical Jewish woman character on TV in this season.

Chapter 52 – Unconfirmed Reports, teleplay by William F. Zorzi, story by Zorzi and Simon (sticking it to all of us who have called the series “Dickensian” by having the clueless white top editor fawningly say that about cliché writing about Baltimore and characters have used "Charles Dickens" as a more scatological reference), directed by Ernest Dickerson: This ain’t Aruba, bitch. -- “Bunk”. official song with scene list. “Det. Freadman” is doing an Old School po-lice stakeout so he’s listening to Old School R & B by soulful women singers. But “McNulty” listens to classic rock in the broken-down police car and is inspired to do something more typical of “Det. Mackie” in The Shield. While this is a shocker from a guy whose dogged investigation instincts have up to now spurred the series, his isn’t classic police corruption, but an ends-justifies-the-means Hail Mary desperation play borne from the depths of his frustration. He complains to the State’s Attorney There are no fuckin’ rules. The game is rigged. First he shocks a beat cop by taking a bus to a crime scene because none of the city police cars work: There’s days I wake up with a pillow on my face just to keep the light out and the pain down. As he waits for “a cutter” (a coroner), he chats up a woman County detective who cheerfully explains to him how a junkie’s bizarre O.D. position looks like strangulation to a newbie. He tries to tempt his FBI contact to take on the cancelled investigation of 22 homicides: You Federal fucks like headlines. But the new City Hall administration has burned that bridge: There’s got to be some way to get them to turn on the faucet. Even as “Bunk” shakes his head at his approach to two women in the bar, Isn’t he supposed to be married or something now?, he has a huge hangover the next morning and “Kima” mocks that he never made it home, but he still takes a drink before facing another crime scene. “Bunk” is already warning “Ain’t it a little early for that shit?, but “McNulty” is just getting started, even as “Bunk” protests more and more and more at his actions: Have you lost your fuckin’ mind? You sick fuck! He crosses himself before he horrifically tampers with the crime scene and the body to look like the other case, and cynically announces: There’s a serial killer in Baltimore. He needs to be caught. “Bunk” is as disgusted as the audience: I don’t want any part of this. Simon explained to David Gordon in Newsweek “Good Mourning, Baltimore” 1/5/2008, that the impact of “McNulty”s calculating choice is "very much a critique [of] the fixation that Americans have with the pornography of violence, as opposed to the root causes of violence. We have zero interest in why the vast majority of violence actually happens and what might be done to address the issue.” In parallel, the hot shot newspaper reporter’s seemingly poignant story about a wheelchaired young Orioles fan seems to have gone done a similar slippery slope of truth, going further than the reporters did in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities in painting a victim as “an honor student”.

Chapter 53 – Not For Attribution, teleplay by Chris Collins, story by Collins and Simon. They're dead where it doesn't count. — Fletcher. I love how the music distinctively reflects the cultural milieu of each guy’s hang out – whether it’s Old School R & B, blues, classic rock, hip hop or Greek (yes, all the story lines are getting tied together as “Marlo” is getting as civilized as it suits him to be): Official song with scene list. My Younger pointed out that when “McNulty” first went into the homeless encampment, one of the homeless men was Season 2’s dock worker “Johnny Fifty”, Ziggy's accomplice on the car theft.

Chapter 54 – Transitions, teleplay by Ed Burns, story by Burns and Simon, directed by Daniel Attias (winner of the 2008 Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement Award for Dramatic Series) -Buyer's market out there. — Templeton. Official song with scene list.

Chapter 55 – React Quotes, teleplay by David Mills, story by Mills and Simon. "Just 'cause they're in the street don't mean they lack for opinion.". — Haynes. Official song with scene list.

Chapter 56 – The Dickensian Aspect, teleplay by Ed Burns, story by Burns and Simon. If you have a problem with this, I understand. - Freaman.
All right Mr. Simon, make more fun of us fans who have used this literary reference to describe your show! A scholarly satire by Joy DeLyria and Sean Michael Robinson, published 3/23/2011, considered The Wire as a Victorian novel, and they expanded their analysis of the ‘neglected masterpiece’ as if it were written by 'Horatio Bucklesby Ogden'. Their satire was so popular that excerpts and illustrations were published for The Wire’s 10th anniversary as Down in the Hole: the unWired World of H.B. Ogden by Powerhouse Books.
Official song with scene list. More links with past seasons – from the Judge in Season 1 who with McNulty got the whole ball of was rolling and watching the Mayor’s press conference was Season 2’s angry ex-dockworker “Nicky” (the estimable Pablo Schreiber who so deserved his Tony nom for his Broadway acting I saw in the revival of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing).

Chapter 57 - Took - "They don't teach it in law school." – Pearlman. story by Simon and Richard Price, teleplay by Price. Official song with scene list. Directed by Dominic West.

Chapter 58 - Clarifications - "A lie ain't a side of a story. It's just a lie." - Terry Hanning. teleplay by Dennis Lehane, story by Simon and Lehane. Official song with scene list

Chapter 59 – Late Editions - "Deserve got nuthin' to do with it." — Snoop - teleplay by: George Pelecanos, story by Simon & Pelecanos. Official song with scene list

Chapter 60 –30-- - “'... the life of kings.' — H.L. Mencken” - teleplay by Simon, story by Burns and Simon – Emmy nominated for writing.Official song with scene list. Quoted with her permission, our cousin Danielle (who also takes yoga/dance lessons with Maria Broom, who played "Marla Daniel"): “was in the final montage sequence -- the beautiful ending showing Baltimore scenes, specifically the second scene where the newspaper editors get an undeserved Pulitzer. I am sitting in the audience. It took 8 hours to do it - 7 1/2 hours waiting and another 1/2 shooting us clapping and them smiling. . . I was an extra for fun mostly, I found the listing on Craigslist and sent in a "headshot". The best part was being in the costume van fitted for my role as an "audience member" I was surrounded by plastic canisters with labels like "doo rags" and "homeless" filled with articles of clothing. You can see the back of my head for a micro second as the camera pans across the crowd and the corrupt editors win their award. . . I am glad I did it!” Considered by AV Club as one of the "essential episodes".
TV Guide, 4/7/2008, featured a "Cheers & Jeers Poll": "Cheers to The Wire for its the series finale? 98% Agree; 1% Disagree; 1% Jump the Shark".

Variety’s TV critic Brian Lowry cited the series in “The Most Memorable TV Finales of All-Time” on 9/27/2013, “The Wire (2008) - The final season wasn't the strongest in the show's five-season run, but the finale perfectly captured the tone of hopelessness, the vicious cycles, inherent throughout David Simon's for-my-money-best-ever series.”
Same theme by The Playlist Staff in “The 16 Best And Worst TV Series Finales”, posted October 1, 2013: “The Wire ("-30-," original airdate: March 9, 2008), Despite the widespread acknowledgement that it came at the end of weakest of the show's five seasons, The Wire finale still earns its stripes for how it gracefully rounded off the epic Baltimore procedural that even now remains an unassailable touchpoint for many of us here. After all, even Peter Griffin's hypnotically induced mantra ” ‘Breaking Bad is the best TV show I’ve ever seen,” has to be qualified with “except maybe ‘The Wire. ” Of course a great series doesn’t necessarily mean a great finale—in fact, where a film derives a lot of its shape and its purpose from the fact that it ends, a TV show is kind of defined by having to carry on; one of the obvious reasons why so many finales disappoint the loyal fan base is that they feel artificial to the format. But The Wire, which had time called on it by its creator David Simon (who’s become somewhat crotchety at all the adulation after the fact), performed its dismount well because quite aside from the practical business of tying up the season’s plot points, it revisited everything that had made the show what it was and never fell into the trap of trying to dazzle us with last-minute pyrotechnics. Instead in the feature-length final episode we got an intelligent, understated ending, one that played to the great strength of episodic TV and to the great, great strength of this particular show: the sense that the situations and characters were real and alive outside those 60-minute glimpses that we all devoured so avidly. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that after a less-than-convincing fifth season (boo to McNulty’s fake serial killer, among other issues), the finale in many ways gave us our show back. A great deal of that happened during the elegiac grace note montage, as McNulty (Dominic West) looks out over Baltimore, that touches briefly on so many of those unforgettably real characters, some of whom we hadn’t seen for seasons (even the dockland mafiosi from the almost self-contained Season 2 get their moment). In some cases they’re seen in a moment of change or achievement, but mostly it’s just a sliver of their lives, lives that we can somehow believe go on, through more ups and downs and bits in between, even though we’re not watching them anymore. Anyway, we see enough to know what probably happens next: the new generation will play out a lot like the last one, because the more the game done changed, the more the game done stayed the same.”




Post Wire

From the AP: “Fans Await Closure Of HBO's `The Wire'” By Jake Coyle, 11/5/2007: “HBO has kept firm ties with Simon . . . He and writing partner Ed Burns . . . are now producing a miniseries for HBO titled Generation Kill, based on Evan Wright's 2004 book about Marines in Iraq. Simon hopes then to do a series about musicians in New Orleans.” (out on DVD) (Nominated for 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries and David Simon for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for the "Bomb in the Garden" episode, as well as for Outstanding Art Direction For A Miniseries Or Movie, Outstanding Cinematography For A Miniseries Or Movie, Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special, Outstanding Sound Editing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special, Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Miniseries Or A Movie, Outstanding Special Visual Effects For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special, and Outstanding Casting For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special) (updated 12/18/2010)

Treme



Next up is Treme in N’Orlins: Says Dave Walker in The Times-Picayune, July 10, 2008: “To research the script for the pilot, a prospective first episode of a drama based in the New Orleans music community, Simon consulted with Donald Harrison Jr., Kermit Ruffins and Davis Rogan. Eric Overmyer, a sometimes New Orleans resident with writing and production credits including . . . Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, collaborated with Simon on the Treme pilot script and is expected to write and executive produce for the series. . .Location scouting has already begun in New Orleans. Casting will begin soon, but production issues surrounding the practicality of shooting during hurricane season could affect the show's time line. "If it were up to me, I'd shoot it in the fall," Simon said in a recent interview. If the pilot pleases HBO, shooting on regular-season episodes could begin as early as late winter or early spring provided subsequent episodes could be written in time. Simon said he expects the casting mix of imported actors and locals to match the cast mixture of the Baltimore-set The Wire, which used non-Baltimore actors for most of its lead roles. "We're looking to use local people when we can," he said. Though the show's main storylines will focus on musicians, other elements of the city's unique culture will be spotlighted. One of the pilot script's principal characters, Simon said, runs a restaurant. The pilot story begins two or three months after Hurricane Katrina, Simon said. If Treme goes to series, each season would advance New Orleans recovery story by one year.

From New York Magazine 8/7/2008: Simon Goes to the Treme: “David Simon has begun casting his HBO pilot, Treme, and he's recruited The Wire veterans Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters to play New Orleans residents struggling to rebuild after Katrina.” Pierce was featured in Spike Lee’s tremendous, Emmy-winning documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts talking about his experiences in the city when the storm struck and the destruction of his family’s home, adding poignancy to his acclaimed performance in Spring 2006 in a Katrina-set Waiting for Godot at The Classical Theatre of Harlem that was also re-staged in New Orleans.
From The Wall Street Journal, "Speakeasy", 5/22/2010: Is It Okay Not to Love ‘Treme’?: "As of early May, Treme has been attracting a weekly average of 868,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen Co. During its last season, The Wire garnered 903,000 viewers per episode."
In this interview on WNYC's Studio 360 with David Simon and Eric Overmyer, (evidently originally taped around 4/2/2011, just after the death of David Mills, as the 2nd season was starting) Kurt Andersen, keeps asking about The Wire, reiterating versions of "But what do you do after you've made the best show ever on TV?"
4 seasons of Treme are out on DVD.
As Treme Refrain Ends, Creator David Simon Sings TV Blues by Cynthia Littleton in Variety, 11/5/2013: “He doesn’t argue that smallscreen drama at its best can be very good, but that doesn’t mean the medium has turned into a storyteller’s paradise. It’s still a business of selling soap, or a monthly subscription fee in the case of HBO, where Simon has toiled for the past 13 years. The creator of the much-revered The Wire is at something of a crossroads as 2013 draws to a close and Treme, his elegiac story of life in post-Katrina New Orleans, begins its final five-episode run on Dec. 1. . .The Wire had more traditional TV urgency built in with its focus on Baltimore’s drug trade. Dramatic tales of guns, money, dope and murder were organic to the larger theme of urban decay and its effect on the social compact. But for all the superlatives that have been heaped on The Wire, Simon sees Treme as deeper and richer storytelling. ‘Treme is a better executed, more careful project than The Wire,’ Simon says. He’s well aware that this view is not widely shared even among his biggest fans. ‘It was very hard following The Wire with anything. . .I love these [Treme] characters. They’re the most complex human beings I’ve been able to write. To me, they are absolutely recognizable as people you’d see walking down the street in New Orleans.’ . . . Simon is quick to add that he’s grateful for the creative leeway he’s received at HBO, and appreciative that the cabler listened when he begged for two more years of The Wire and five more hours to do right by Treme. . . ‘The question is whether anyone is interested in the kind of storytelling I want to do’, Simon says, ‘I know I could construct something that would sell. But can I sell a story that I want to stay with for four or five years?’”


From Is It Okay Not to Love ‘Treme’? in The Wall Street Journal, "Speakeasy", 5/22/2010: "Some fans of The Wire are giving the new series time, hoping that Simon will be able to pull off another addictive show. 'To some degree, his track record means that people are more than likely to give him the benefit of the doubt,' says Ben Greenman, a novelist, and an editor at the New Yorker. Greenman began watching The Wire a few seasons into the show’s run on DVD in hours-long chunks. He is hoarding episodes of Treme on his DVR to try to replicate the experience. So far, he isn’t captivated."

From an interview with Ed Burns in The New York Times, After ‘The Wire,’ Moving On to Battles Beyond the Streets by Michael Wilson, 7/6/2008: "His next projects include a feature film about a true but unlikely romance between Donnie Andrews, a Baltimore holdup artist who robbed drug dealers (and inspired the character Omar Little on The Wire), and Fran Boyd, a crack addict who recovered with his help and married him last year (and was also a character in The Corner). [Featured in From Two Broken Lives to One New Beginning by Ian Urbina, in The Times, 8/9/2007, that backgrounds Burns' and Simon's involvement in their lives.] . . .After that Mr. Burns hopes to make, with Mr. Simon, a period mini-series about the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1886. . .“We’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a working man,” he said. “There was a flush of money, and we’ve forgotten our roots. These stories have a power because it’s when men stood up.” . . .“I’m not a fatalist,” he said. “I’m very optimistic. In America, before we notice things, things have to become bad.”"

Show Me a Hero

“David Simon’s Show Me a Hero Trailer: You Should Start Boning Up on Affordable-Housing Law” had Nate Jones in Vulture asking on 7/13/2015: “Will this show do for affordable housing what The Wire did for crime, drugs, policing, manufacturing, politics, education, and journalism?” Luckily, I have an friend:

Joseph Shuldiner, Executive Director, The Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers (MHACY), shared a local panel with David Simon and at The Urban Institute and interviewed -- albeit before he watched all the episodes. Simon was also at The Urban Institute discussing housing policy with the Secretary of HUD, and in The New York Times, 8/12/2015, with Senator Cory Booker, albeit with The Wire mentioned only in passing.
”A New Chapter to the Story of our Time: David Simon wants to make public housing must see TV” by Carlo Rotella, director of American studies at Boston College (who misunderstands why we watched The Wire) in The Washington Post, 7/24/2015: “There are no chases, no gunfights, no Game of Thrones-style ‘sexposition’, and no characters like Omar Little, a refugee from the western genre who robbed drug dealers and lived by a lone-wolf code that made him everybody’s favorite on The Wire — while he lasted, anyway. Simon said that he would have dispensed entirely with actors if he had access to found footage of everything that happens in Show Me a Hero. The most conventionally exciting scenes of that documentary would have been contentious public hearings that would look right at home on community-access cable. . . Simon thinks of “Show Me a Hero” as the latest installment in the larger project he has pursued over the course of his career, in partnership with Ed Burns, Bill Zorzi, Eric Overmyer and other collaborators. He said, ‘My idea is if you went back when I’m done and looked at all these pieces’ — so far, Homicide: Life on the Street, The Corner,The Wire, Generation Kill and Treme” — ‘you’d have a really good sense of what this society was about, what the stakes were and what the processes were that worked and didn’t. This is how we waged war. This is why our cities were violent. This is what we were capable of at the turn of the century — which is why Treme is a really important piece of this. Katrina showed us what we were and weren’t capable of.’. . His characters live within the structural limits of their world, so that their stories become an examination, often a critique, of that world. When they test the limits, they find themselves outmatched — like Sgt. Ellis Carver in season four of The Wire, who pounds the steering wheel of his car in a frustrated rage after delivering a smart, appealing street kid named Randy to a group home that can only harden or destroy him. It’s Carver’s fault that Randy has been outed as a snitch, leading to the firebombing of his foster mother’s home while it was under police protection, but there’s no heroic way for the sergeant to put it right; the group home is the best he can offer. [Lisa] Belkin took her book’s title from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line, ‘Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.’ It could serve as Simon’s dramatic credo.
Bill Zorzi, Simon’s co-writer on Show Me a Hero, who also worked on The Wire and at the [Baltimore]Sun. . . can make things up — he cobbled together Mayor Tommy Carcetti on The Wire from elements of various Maryland politicians — but he prefers to rely as much as possible on verifiable facts.. . . (Both men curse with gusto. A lecture Zorzi received from an editor at the Sun provided the basis for a scene in The Wire in which an officious boss asks a disbelieving newspaperman to curb his tongue to help establish ‘a collegial atmosphere.’). . . when Simon grouses that ‘nobody watched The Wire, as he frequently does, he’s really staking a claim for his work as having both popular and elite appeal — popular enough, but not too popular. The Wire averaged more than 4 million viewers in its final season; he points out that these numbers, though modest for TV, would produce runaway bestsellers if translated into book sales. . .
’I really believe David Simon has a comprehensive understanding of the way the world works,’ says the distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson, who has taught a course on The Wire at Harvard University. ‘The Wire is a brilliant depiction of systemic urban inequality that makes these complex processes accessible to a broader audience without sacrificing nuance, and it’s far more riveting than sociological depictions.’ Wilson is just one of many academics drawn by Simon’s sophisticated merger of story and critique, and by the ideas animating his body of work. Each show takes a fresh angle in examining the decline and fall of the welfare state built by New Deal liberals: the economic desolation and political abandonment of inner cities in a suburbanized and globalizing age, divisively unpopular military adventures abroad, the discrediting of the principle that government can solve problems, the fracturing of the uneasy Democratic alliance between white ethnics and African Americans. . .
’I lived on the metro desk as a reporter, not at the White House on page A1. If you want to be on A1, you don’t hang around with Bubbles,’ the heroin addict who is one of the moral centers of The Wire. ‘TV never had the mid-list’ until HBO and its competitors came along. ‘I just happened to come in at a time when the TV audience fractured and the window opened.’ . . For now, though, Show Me a Hero adds another chapter to the story of our time that Simon wants to tell. ‘However long this run lasts, I can stand back at the end and say: ‘These were our problems. This is how we lived.’”


For his “What’s Alan Watching: Inside Television”, Alan Sepinwall’s interview posted on HitFlix, 8/11/2015: “Show Me a Hero director Paul Haggis on Oscars, TV, and his love of The Wire: . .My agents called me with a list of projects that people wanted me to consider. Most of them were films to direct this or direct that. And they got to number three and they said, ‘You know, David Simon has a miniseries. I said, Say yes.’ He said, ‘Okay, well we’ll send you the script and you can read it and we’ll discuss it.’ I said, ‘Say yes and then send me the script.’. . . Because I was such an admirer of his work with The Wire. Oh my God, please. It’s one of the greatest series of all times. And certainly my favorite. And Generation Kill, wonderful. And Tremé, great, great work. So no, I think I admire him so much that I guess I was happy to listen to his point of view and to look at things from his perspective and learn from them. And he was very open with me. . .You look at The Wire. The Wire was really unpopular when it was first out. Nobody watched it. Only later on did people come to it. I was there. I think it was genius. Sometimes people come to the thing and sometimes they don’t. I like writing for smart people. I like challenging folks, and I don’t think that’s arrogant. I just like to see things that I would want to watch. And it comes back to the British miniseries that I used to watch when I was growing up. They were so subtle in so many of those. And so nuanced. I loved them.”

Interview in The New York Times, 8/12/2015, with Michael Kimmelman, “David Simon and Cory Booker on Show Me a Hero and the Future of Cities”: “Q: Show Me a Hero continues a story you’ve been telling about American cities since The Corner. Do you see it as one grand project? David Simon ‘Listen, it’s a big enough elephant that you can grab it at any narrative point and come up with something new. But The Corner began the conversation as a case study in addiction and a street-level schematic of the largest single industry and employer in many American inner cities. It was, I hope, an introduction to the other America, the one that our politics and our economy left behind. And The Wire was a pointed critique of the drug prohibition as well as a depiction of unaccountable institutions in American civic life. Treme is the most patriotic thing I think I’ll ever be able to write in that New Orleans and its recovery afford a filmmaker the opportunity to use sound and image to argue for the American city. I believe in the city. I have to. I live on a planet where the rise in urbanity requires all of us to master the multicultural beast that is the city. We figure out the city or we fail. “Treme” was an argument for the American city. And now, Show Me a Hero, because of all of our pretense of being a post-racial society, is just that. For every city to thrive, burying the American pathology of race has to be this next century’s first order of business.’”

Brian Lowery in Variety, 8/14/2015: “David Simon Brings Hero-ic Nuance to HBO Dramas. . .David Simon produces spare, sophisticated unflinching dramas. Which is notable, given his journalistic training, and the fact that his former profession – in its quest for what’s next – often finds scant time for the sort of nuanced look at what ails big cities that Simon has delivered in his dramas. The Wire, of course, stands at the heart of that filmography, representing a modern classic devoted to the fruitless nature of the drug war and its toxic effect on both the police and the inner-city residents who have found it to be a lucrative if dangerous source of employment. Yet he has taken other deep dives into urban dysfunction, from The Corner to Treme, the latter chronicling post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, to his most recent effort, Show Me a Hero . . .Simon’s work, steeped as it is in exploring race and class divisions, has come to mind often in recent months, given the civil unrest unleashed by the deaths of young African-American men in cities like his native Baltimore as well as Ferguson, Mo. Time and again, the media look flat-footed in response to such events, seeking answers before quickly moving on to the next story of the moment. During an interview on his recent swing through Los Angeles to promote Show Me a Hero, Simon downplayed the notion that his fictional examination of Baltimore captured the city’s turmoil better than, say, cable news ever could. ‘No fictional narrative is a surrogate for actually discussing it,’ he said. That said, Simon, once a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, remains an astute observer and acerbic critic of media, citing the failure of mainstream media to identify those voices that would provide genuine insight into these stories, and the willingness of cable pundits to weigh in on issues about which they are at best ill informed. ‘The 24-hour cable cycle is full of people who act as if they’re experts on everything. …I wish people who’d never actually covered a city would shut the f–k up sometimes. Everyone’s seen enough cop shows that they think they know what policing is.’ Simon is particularly pointed, not surprisingly, in his critique of media in relation to the drug war, adding that, as a society, ‘We’ve used drug prohibition to stomp on our underclass.’ As for a frank discussion of whether the cost of those efforts outweigh the benefits, because of the dearth of diversity at major media outlets, he said, ‘You couldn’t get a good argument going for 20, 30 years in these newsrooms because nobody was arguing from the point of view of what it actually was like on the street.’ When it was suggested Simon’s productions have brought more nuance to some of these complicated matters than most news coverage, he said wryly, ‘I can bring a nuance to it. Regrettably, not an audience. . .HBO has given me this much (latitude), and I’m grateful for it. These guys are like the Medicis, from my point of view.’” In Lowery’s formal review, on 8/12/2015, of the mini-series “feeling very much of a piece with the third season of The Wire in capturing the dysfunction of municipal politics. . . there’s an overarching theme to Simon’s work, and if this doesn’t represent the peak of his glory days, it’s praise enough to say it certainly belongs in that neighborhood.”



Reunions:
Night Catches Us -- Nice to see together again Jamie Hector (playing an ex-Black Panther as charismatic as "Marlo") and Wendell Pierce (even though he was again playing a cop, albeit not just like "Bunk", in a thoughtful return to a pre-drug black community in Philly. (previewed at 2010 New Directors/New Films of Film Society of Lincoln Center/MoMA)
Fringe - Jim True-Frost and Lance Reddick reunited in an alternate universe of the "Jacksonsville" episode.
Red Hook Summer (2012) - Spike Lee winked references about Clarke Peters, James Ransone, and Isiah “Shi-i-i-i-i-t” Whitlock Jr. together again. In promoting the On Demand rental of his film, Lee cited Peters’ performance in The Wire for casting him in the film. In his Chi-Raq (2015), Lee again used Whitlock for his now signature drawn-out profanity, but his presence also fits into his approach of seeming to throw in every reference possible to African-American cultural pride and perceptions about crime.
Oprah’s Next Chapter (first shown on OWN on 12/8/2013) featured “The Oprah Interview” with three black performers who “gave what could be the performance of their lives”. Clips from The Wire were shown for Idris Elba (as a precursor to his starring role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Michael B. Jackson (as a precursor to his starring role in Fruitvale Station) as each separately discussed the series’ importance to their career.
Bosch - The Wire alum Eric Overmyer-produced Amazon Instant Video pilot of a policier based on Michael Connelly’s novels featured several actor alums, including Jamie Hector, Lance Reddick, and Delaney Williams. The series got picked up – so do I subscribe to Amazon Prime or hope for a DVD or what?
Hollywood Reporter headlined: “The Walking Dead Adds Another Wire Alum for Season 5” by Lesley Goldberg, 5/5/2014: “Seth Gilliam has boarded the zombie drama as a series regular for its upcoming fifth season. . .The actor, who played Ellis Carver on The Wire for its entire five-season run, becomes the third alum from the acclaimed HBO drama to join the AMC series based on Robert Kirkman's best-selling graphic novels. Chad Coleman (Tyreese) and Larry Gilliard Jr. (Bob) also count The Wire among their credits, and Kirkman is a big fan of the series.”
Following up on EW headlined: “Finding Dorymeets The Wire? It could happen”, Pixar’s animated Finding Dory does feature a comic voice-over Wire reunion of Idris Elba and Dominic West, in what rumors say were originally to be villainous roles, but there aren’t really any villains.

The Affair - where Dominic West is again a cheating husband, as “Noah Solloway”, but his father-in-law “Bruce Butler” is played by John Doman, now an arrogant, upper class, best-selling author, who never fails to intimidate and belittle him.


Spring 2015: The Wire Reverberates through the Baltimore Insurrection

Real met reel on 4/27/2015 in Baltimore, when protests against police brutality erupted into violence:

David Simon blogged. Hunter Schwarz commented in The Washington Post on 4/29/2015 “Why David Simon Matters in Baltimore. . .Simon has become a sort of unofficial (some would say self-appointed) conscience of Charm City. In fact, he has been mentioned more on Twitter in the past few days than Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D), and at time more than Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), according to Topsy. . .He has credibility on the issue of police reform, too. He was a Baltimore reporter before writing The Wire”.

President Obama inferred his insights from the series: “’Frankly it didn't get that much attention,’ Obama said of the peaceful movement sparked by the death of black man Freddie Gray, who died in police custody. ‘One burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again. The thousands of demonstrators who did it the right way, I think, have been lost in the discussion.’ The President added that unrest in cities like Baltimore will not go away until solutions are found beyond law enforcement. ‘This is not new, and we shouldn't pretend that it's new. If we think we're going to send police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there — without as a nation and society saying what can we do to change those communities, to help lift up communities, and give those kids opportunity — then we're not going to solve this problem. We'll go through the same cycles of periodic conflicts between the police and communities, and occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away. Then we'll go about our business as usual.’ The President said that he sensed a lot of police forces have realized ‘they’ve gotta get their arms around this thing and work with the community to solve the problem.’”

The next day, while The New York Times put his comments in the context of President Obama’s discussion at the White House with David Simon about his favorite series and the issues it raised, posted just weeks before the riot on 3/26/2015, the TV critic for The Washington Post Hank Stuever, was more sarcastic about the media coverage in “Is CNN as bad as everyone thinks it is? Yes ... and no.. . . “(you knew it would come and late Monday night it did — someone alluded to The Wire)”. But political satirist Jon Stewart the night before on The Daily Show made the connection: “You know your city is f–ked up when the most successful employment program was casting extras for HBO’s The Wire”, under a graphic of the show.

A detailed David Simon interview, 4/29/2015, with Bill Keller of The Marshall Project on the police, the media, and what’s behind the Baltimore riots, including: “My own crew members [on The Wire] used to get picked up trying to come from the set at night. We’d wrap at like one in the morning, and we’d be in the middle of East Baltimore and they’d start to drive home, they’d get pulled over. My first assistant director — Anthony Hemingway — ended up at city jail. No charge. Driving while black, and then trying to explain that he had every right to be where he was, and he ended up on Eager Street. Charges were non-existent, or were dismissed en masse. Martin O’Malley’s [mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007] logic was pretty basic: If we clear the streets, they’ll stop shooting at each other. We’ll lower the murder rate because there will be no one on the corners. . . Everyone thinks I’ve got a hard-on for Marty because we battled over The Wire, whether it was bad for the city, whether we’d be filming it in Baltimore. But it’s been years, and I mean, that’s over. I shook hands with him on the train last year and we buried it. And, hey, if he's the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing.”

”Baltimore Riots Rekindle Feud Between David Simon, Martin O’Malley: Creator of The Wire and the former mayor are clashing again over the city’s problems”, in The Wall Street Journal, by Laura Meckler, 5/1/2015: “Mr. Simon has made a career of dramatizing the dark side of Baltimore, most famously in The Wire, which painted the city’s leaders and institutions as unable, or unwilling, to confront the city’s problems. It didn’t help that the show’s fictional and manipulative mayor, Thomas Carcetti, bore some resemblance to Mr. O’Malley, and that Mr. Simon said the character was based in part on him. . . Former O’Malley aides say the mayor grew tired of people asking him about the show and the negative picture it painted of his city. University and business leaders were also complaining, they said. . . Asked about Mr. Simon’s most recent charges by Yahoo! News, Mr. O’Malley said he hadn’t read them. ‘Some people see Baltimore as a hopeless place,” he said. “Some have even made a lot of money on it.””

Wendell Pierce (“Bunk”) tweeted – “Baltimore. These are not protestors. These are criminals disrespectful of the wishes of the family and people of good will. . .A display of rage would be demanding the Dept of Justice to take over Baltimore police with a Consent Decree with our demands defining it”. “Wendell Pierce of The Wire Reflects on Baltimore's Real-Life Struggle” on NPR’s The Takeaway: “As William "Bunk" Moreland on The Wire Wendell Pierce lived and worked in Baltimore for years. . .Pierce reflect[ed] on the fictionalized world of The Wire, and the real-life problems facing the city today.” He expanded in a Washington Post op-ed on 4/30/2015: “Artists can’t just be outraged about Baltimore. We have to help find solutions. First, The Wire actor says, police brutality has to end. . . I’m not a native son of Baltimore, but the city welcomed me and became a second home during the seven years I lived there part-time filming The Wire. I know the neighborhood where Freddie Gray’s tragic death took place. . . Almost a decade ago, we held a mirror up to Baltimore and with our art, helped show the humanity of a community now responding to injustice with protest and frustration. We answered those questioning ‘Why?’ with complex examinations of the pathologies destroying our communities — pathologies that include the failure of the system to serve the people who are its constituents. At this point, it is willful apathy for anyone to pretend they don’t know the source of this rage and the spark that lit the explosion. We all know ‘why’— now solutions must be brought to the table. . . It’s why I feel fortunate to have been associated with projects like The Wire and Treme that don’t just entertain, but also tell stories that have previously gone untold and try to reflect, for our audiences, the very real struggles that many of their fellow Americans face every day.”

Reports of “tweets went out from actors Andre Royo (“Bubble”) – “To my Beloved city Baltimore … I feel your pain. Stand up … rise UP without breaking down! Discipline not Destruction”.

“Baltimore native Felicia Pearson, who played drug dealer Felicia “Snoop” Pearson on the series wrote on her Instagram page: ‘Please pray for my city please.’”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Per posting from Tavares M. Evans with photographs post-looting on 4/28/2015: "He came... Everyone, this is Larry Gilliard. Many of you may recognize him. He is a Baltimore native, and he portrayed D'Angelo Barksdale on HBO's The Wire. He flew in this morning, and arrived at CVS with his broom in hand. He didn't know what to expect when he arrived.... but he JUST CAME.” (Thanks to cousin Danielle Schwartz Shapiro)

”Why ‘The Wire’ Should Be Must-See TV for Baltimore Pundits” commentary by Variety’s TV Columnist Brian Lowry , 4/30/2015: “The Wire is currently available via HBO’s demand platforms, but as a public service, the pay channel should repeat the acclaimed drama before the city of Baltimore fades from the headlines. Indeed, one would hope some of the politicians and pundits weighing in on the rioting there would take a long, sober look.

N. D. B. Connolly’s New York Times op-ed reference in “Black Culture Is Not the Problem”, 5/1/2015, was different than others: “In The Wire, Lester Freamon understood that following the money took our eyes off the street and up the chain of real political power.”

In “The Hollywood Race, Part VI: The Baltimore Uprising and How TV Dramas Can Make A "Race" Episode That Works” by Shannon M. Houston, 5/5/2015: “Here at Paste Magazine we recently published a fantastic list of five TV shows that provide great insight into another culture. . . .But there was one entry that initially struck me as odd—The Wire, set in Baltimore, Maryland. While the show could certainly play as a foreign series to a UK writer, I had to consider that I was editing the article for an American audience. But as I read the entry, and thought about the series and Baltimore itself I realized that part of the obsession with the show was that sensation of the other. For many American viewers, Baltimore might as well have been in another country—that’s how foreign the narrative seemed, and for that reason, the show fit in perfectly with the list. But, perhaps unintentionally, our writer also sent a powerful message about huge divides in America and the American experience, divides which are being further highlighted and exposed by the Baltimore Uprising. Since The Wire, there haven’t been many shows that have existed in such an atmosphere of racial and economic difference. . . In a recent episode of his nightly show, Jon Stewart summed it up like this: ‘There appear to be only two points on the scale: normal and on fire.’ In other words, if you’re a Baltimore government official, maybe don’t wait to declare a State of Emergency when everything is literally on fire. I offer the same advice to TV dramas—the “race” episode doesn’t have to be synonymous with the “urban riot” episode. So-called everyday racism is just as compelling, and offers just as much drama as martial law. And maybe if we had more of those, we wouldn’t need the “race/riot/oh yeah, racism is a big issue in America” episode.”

In “Breaking Baltimore’s Blue Wall of Silence”, Albert Samaha, for Buzz Feed, posted 5/14/2015, interviewed ex-detective: “Joe Crystal hadn’t been back to Baltimore since he left the city in November, weeks after he had resigned from the police department. Leaving Baltimore hurt so much he tried to forget. He gathered his business cards, old files, and photos of drugs and guns seized from busts and lit them on fire in his backyard. He gave away his box set of The Wire. He threw his BPD shirts in the garbage.”
Essay by Sonja Sohn in The New York Times, 5/3/2015: (excerpts) opens with a memory of filming: “[I]n this sequence of events his character, a low-level drug dealer named Bodie, has just hit a cop. I’m playing a cop who’s supposed to rough him up — do anything it takes to defend my brethren. But something about this scene turns my stomach. Really?? I gotta defend a cop — and like it? If this were just acting, it would be a piece of cake. But the weight of it feels too heavy. I’m caught in some netherworld between my past and my present as I try to talk myself into this bit as quickly as I can. We are on set in West Baltimore in 2001, shooting the first season of HBO’s The Wire where I am working on my first big television job, playing the role of Detective Kima Greggs. I drop my arm from the brick wall and fix my costume. I take a step back and realize I’ve been standing right in front of the wide open door of someone’s apartment. We are shooting here because it conjures just what we need for the show: an inner city that has been abandoned and neglected for too long. But it’s not a set. I’m uncomfortably close to the insides of somebody’s life. . . I’ve got some HBO butt to kick. And then it hits me. Try to remember something — just one little thing — redeeming about a cop. C’mon now, I used to call them whenever I thought Mama’s life was in danger. There must’ve been something about them that made me keep calling. All I can remember is a sweaty officer in a short-sleeve uniform, standing in the door of my childhood apartment, refusing to look at me. ‘ROLLING!!!’ I first came to Baltimore 14 years ago for the job on The Wire, a cable drama about cops and crime. I lived and worked in the city for almost a decade. It is where I became a first-time home buyer, where I sent my daughter to public school, where I discovered that I had the soul of an activist. It’s the place where I drained my bank account to the tune of almost $200,000 to start a nonprofit organization that served formerly incarcerated youth from 2009-2014. We called it ReWired for Change and the goal was simple: We wanted to give young people who had been incarcerated a realistic chance of getting their lives back on track. . . It took five years of working in those communities for me to learn what I had sensed to be true — what working on The Wire should have taught me — that there was a hopelessness on the streets of Baltimore that ran so deep that it seemed to have killed the spirit of the people. . . On Friday, one city official seemed to finally answer the desperate pleas of poor Baltimore residents. With the chief prosecutor’s announcement that she was charging six police officers in the death of Mr. Gray, I sensed something lift. It is a break from the defeat I felt when I had to take a breather from my nonprofit. It’s a reprieve from the despair that I felt all those years ago, struggling to act in the reality of the Baltimore poor. And now, I know that when I return to hit the city streets I love, finally, I will be able to breathe.”
Her follow-up effort was reported by Rebecca Ritzel in The Washington Post: “This weekend, Sohn and many of her fellow cast members from HBO’s Baltimore-set show The Wire are reuniting. Plans have been in the works for months for a get-together — but in the islands, not onstage at the Lyric Opera House. ‘We needed to go somewhere where we wouldn’t have too many distractions. We thought we’d just be there to just have a break and a breather and just be together, to say to each other, ‘How’s your family? How’s your career?’ Then April 27 happened, and we were like, ‘Baltimore. We have to be in Baltimore.’ But they also knew that they couldn’t just ‘come to Baltimore and have a party under the dark of night.’ They had to give something back. From there, things snowballed, and Sohn found herself playing producer instead of packing sunscreen. . . The goal of Saturday’s theatrical event at the Lyric, called “Wired Up,” is to help the people of Baltimore express what they experienced this spring. . . ‘Art gives voice to the people, to people of all kinds. In this case, we thought we could best serve Baltimore by creating a way to get their voices onstage.’ Sohn’s co-writer and creator is Maria Broom, a theater faculty member at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Broom was one of many Washington/Baltimore stage actors who had recurring roles on The Wire. (She played Marla Daniels, the police lieutenant’s wife who ends up running for office.) . . . Originally, their plan was to have “Wire” actors read the monologues, but Sohn also wanted the residents onstage. She and director Leah C. Gardiner decided to have the writer begin each story and then segue to an actor, who would finish the monologue. Other Wire cast members who have committed to performing include Andre Royo, Wendell Pierce, Michael Kenneth Williams and Dominic West.” Part of Baltimore’s Artscape festival, a $25 donation to community groups was suggested. A follow-up in The New York Times, posted 7/19/2015, clarified: “Dominic West and Wendell Pierce, two of the show’s stars, and the director David Simon were not present, but sent video messages.”
Sohn went further, producing and directing the documentary Baltimore Rising, that premiered on HBO November 20, 2017. Synopsis from the press release: “In the wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Baltimore was a city on the edge. Peaceful protests and destructive riots erupted in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s death, while the city waited to hear the fate of the six police officers involved in the incident, reflecting the deep divisions between authorities and the community – and underscoring the urgent need for reconciliation. Directed by Sonja Sohn (one of the stars of the HBO series The Wire), BALTIMORE RISING follows activists, police officers, community leaders and gang affiliates, who struggle to hold Baltimore together, even as the homicide rate hits record levels. Exploring how to make change when change is hard, the thought-provoking, timely documentary debuts in November, exclusively on HBO. The strife that grips Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray exposes longstanding fault lines in a distraught and damaged community. BALTIMORE RISING chronicles the determined efforts of people on all sides who fight for justice and work to make their city better, sometimes coming together in unexpected ways, discovering a common humanity where before they often saw each other only as adversaries.


Though directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady filmed their short doc A Dream Preferred in 2013, the “Black Lives Matter” triggers were starting, so Matt Barone references: “The media’s representation of Baltimore in 2015 hasn’t been the kindest—well, aside from that time President Obama praised HBO's The Wire.” in “New Doc Looks At A Group Of Young Men Who Are Uplifting Baltimore With Ice Cream Business”.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, in The New York Times, 10/20/2015, “A Fragile Baltimore Struggles to Heal Itself. . . Baltimore has long been a city of extremes. There is the glittering Baltimore of the Inner Harbor, of tourist treks to the aquarium and twilight Orioles games at Camden Yards. And there is the Baltimore of boarded-up rowhouses, furtive alleyway heroin deals and cut-rate corner stores where cheap booze is sold from behind bulletproof glass, the jagged Baltimore of HBO’s The Wire.”

References to The Wire in Pop Culture and Posthumous Appreciations



In politics, and as the series came out on DVD, it gained more and more fans, famous fans discovered it, and posthumous references pop up:

This may have been enough of a reason to vote for Barack Obama – from TV Guide 11/29/2007: “M*A*S*H and The Wire are my favorites." He reaffirmed with Bill Simmons’ The B. S. Report 3/1/2012 podcast for Grantland,in bouncing away from basketball, he was asked about the best Wire character: “It's got to be Omar, right? I mean, that guy is unbelievable. . .I mean, what a combination. . . .He's not my favorite person, but he's a fascinating character. . .And that was one of the best shows of all-time."
And in "How Obama keeps busy on Air Force One" by Michael D. Shear, 4/20/2010, The Washington Post reported that Deputy Press Secretary Bill "Burton says the president has been known to switch on Treme, a new HBO show about the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.)" via satellite dish.
Many media outlets carried variations of the Reuters headline from 5/31/2011: "Attorney General Orders More Seasons of The Wire, Or A Movie". When actors Wendell Pierce ("Bunk"), Sonja Sohn ("Kima") and Jim True-Frost ("Prez") attended a Justice Department promotion for its Drug-Endangered Children Task Force's public awareness campaign, show excerpts illustrated how children are exploited by the drug trade and inspired Attorney General Eric Holder's comments, to laughter and applause: "Having looked at those clips, I'm reminded how great that series was. . .I want to speak directly to Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon: Do another season of The Wire. That’s actually at a minimum. … If you don’t do a season, do a movie. We’ve done HBO movies, this is a series that deserves a movie. I want another season or I want a movie. I have a lot of power Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon.”
In “Obama’s TV Picks: Anything Edgy, With Hints of Reality”, New York Times, 12/29/2013, by Michael D. Shear: “Then there is HBO’s The Wire, which Mr. Obama has repeatedly called one of the “greatest shows of all time.” The drama depicted the poverty-stricken projects in Baltimore and documented the drug war between worn-out cops and the city’s African-American residents. (The president’s favorite character: Omar Little, the stickup man who robs the drug dealers.) David Simon, the show’s creator, said in an interview that he wonders whether Mr. Obama was drawn to the show because it dealt so directly with the issues of social and economic strife. ‘ The Wire was one of the few shows that was about the other America,’ . . .It was set in the inner city. The characters were of a class that has been left behind economically and politically.” That sounds, Mr. Simon noted, a lot like the America that Mr. Obama is keen to transcend. In a speech earlier this month, Mr. Obama pledged the remainder of his presidency to the fight against the kinds of persistent poverty that were depicted in The Wire. ‘The idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or health care, or a community that views her future as their own,’ Mr. Obama said, ‘that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this.’ Mr. Simon says he made his show ‘from some of the same perspectives’ that the president expressed in that speech. But he conceded that ‘it’s all speculation, and it’s not entirely fair’ to guess what the president is thinking. ‘One person’s escape or distraction is another person’s burden,’ Mr. Simon said of Mr. Obama’s TV habits.”
And now that he’s president, he has a special in with HBO: “Obama’s Weekend in Sunnylands, With Lots of TV”, by Michael D. Shear, The New York Times, 2/12/2014: “The leader of the free world is looking forward to binge-watching DVDs of his latest favorite television show: HBO’s edgy new True Detective series starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Mr. Obama made a point of approaching HBO’s chief executive, Richard Plepler, at the state dinner for France on Tuesday night. ‘Where is my True Detective and Game of Thrones?’ Mr. Obama asked Mr. Plepler as he told him that the coming [President’s Day] weekend would be a good time to have the DVDs. That Mr. Obama is a fan of True Detective should come as no surprise. He is known to favor dark dramas like AMC’s Breaking Bad and HBO’s The Wire. Those are now off the air, and the president evidently needed to find a replacement.


Generally Through 2008

I’m sure there are many hip hop songs that reference/incorporate The Wire. Here’s Dickie Man’s video from 2007.

“Come New Year's, wine guru Robert Parker, rapper Mims and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner all expect to be in the same place: curled up on their couches at home, watching the premiere of the final season of The Wire. Says Mr. Kushner: ‘It's my favorite TV show -- and I watch TV a lot.’, per Lauren Mechling, in The Wall Street Journal, 1/2/2008 in "The Wire" Central To HBO's Post-"Sopranos" Strategy.

From “A Very Busy Mama” Q & A with Amy Poehler in Newsweek 4/21/2008: “Q: What cereal are you going to have? A: Right now I’m down with Honey Nut Cheerios because that’s what Omar eats on The Wire.”
By 2011, "Omar" had become such a cultural icon that he was referenced satirically in the comedy Cedar Rapids by Phil Johnston. A mild-mannered African-American insurance salesman, "Ronald Wilkes" (played by the tubby Isiah Whitlock Jr., who was "State Sen. R. Clayton 'Clay' Davis" in The Wire) rescues a drunken colleague from a wild Iowa party by reciting "Omar"s threatening dialogue, and credits the series.


PAJIBA picks the 100 Greatest Quotes from The Wire.

In “A Festival Not to Be Taken Seriously, Unless It Is” by Melena Ryzik, The New York Times, 9/27/2008, described “the inaugural Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival began with the awards ceremony. . .On opening night. . .Patrick Borelli, a comedian and friend of Mr. Mirman’s, . . .won an award for Best One-Man Show, which he performed only at the ceremony, not solo but with audience members using paper puppets on sticks: an imagined sixth season of The Wire revealing rampant corruption in the Baltimore zoo. He plans to display his award prominently in his office.”

From “The Joy of the Ensemble” by Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal, 10/17/2008: “As every devotee of The Wire knows, the most fertile soil for ensemble acting these days is TV.”

The Onion zinged an appropriate satire at some of such encomiums: "NEWS IN BRIEF: TV Critics Admit To Never Having Watched The Wire, January 25, 2008 | ISSUE 44•04, New York—Despite heaping lavish praise on the HBO crime drama The Wire , television critics across the country admitted Monday that not one of them has ever sat down to watch an entire episode of the show. 'The Wire has done what no other television program has come close to achieving—namely, presenting the life of a decaying American city and doing so with the scope and moral vision of great literature,' said New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan, who was surprised to hear that the groundbreaking series had already started its fifth and final season in early January. 'It sounds fantastic. I really wish I had HBO.' Many reviewers from top media outlets assured reporters that they would start watching the Peabody Award–winning show just as soon as the first season reaches the top of their Netflix queues."

Dominic West answering New York Magazine Vulture’s Mike Flaherty on 8/15/2011: “Last year you made an appearance on “Dr. West,” the opening track of Eminem’s album Rehab. How did that come about? I adore him; I think he’s brilliant. He’s watched The Wire four times through and I said to him, ‘You know, you should get out more.’ But, amazingly, he just rang me up one day and asked. He said he was in rehab and he had an English doctor who was helping him, and that he’d heard I was English and thought I’d be a perfect type of a guy to play his doctor on the album.”

Generally Through 2009

The New York Times "Modern Love" column featured a poignant essay Down to ‘The Wire’ on 4/19/2009 by Natasha Sajé. Here's excerpts: "Tyrone and I never watched TV together -- at least we didn’t until last fall, when his lymphoma came back. We knew then what we were in for, months of waiting for the injections of Campath to knock down the cancer, and fear that it wouldn’t. We knew there would be many homebound evenings, so I put all five seasons of The Wire on my online DVD list. Sitting together on our couch in Salt Lake City during those months, Tyrone and I couldn’t help reveling in The Wire. There was so much that we recognized as true. . .[W]e married at City Hall, without ceremony or family. By then we had settled in Baltimore, the city of The Wire, where we stayed for 18 years. . .We watched our sick city as it declined and rebounded, then declined and declined, mired in a cycle of drugs and crime, as ever-present as the boy rolling a tire down an alley in the opening sequence of The Wire. . .Every morning and every night -- up until the last 36 hours, when he couldn’t speak — Tyrone would say to me: 'Another day. I’m glad to see it.' We celebrated his ability to read the newspaper, to eat the flan I made, to sit with me in the den and watch yet another episode of The Wire. . .Tyrone and I sat on our couch in Salt Lake City and said, “I feel you” to the memory of Baltimore, to illness, to realism. When he became so weak he couldn’t leave the house or even make it up the stairs, he could still rally for an evening of watching people kill one another and toss the bodies into boarded-up houses. "

When I was researching to review A French Village (Un Village Français) for its 2015 DVD release in the U.S., the background references were not in English, so I found this French blogger on 8/22/2009 comparing the World War II series about the German occupation in rural France to The Wire - twice. While this made me realize how many other non-English commentaries I have left out, Arjan Beens roughly translated the points for me – that this ambitious French TV series is similar in tone to The Wire in terms of quality and the way that it does not try to please the public and public opinion.

Even years later, on 10/24/2009, The New York Times was still referencing the series in the "Travel Section": "36 Hours in Baltimore" by Joshua Kurlantzick: "If you watch HBO’s police drama The Wire you might think that Baltimore is filled with drug dealers and crime ringleaders. But in truth, the city has attracted a different breed of misfits: artists. Lured by cheap rents and warehouse spaces, artists and photographers have flocked there to claim the city as their own. Once rough neighborhoods like Hampden and Highlandtown have been taken over in recent years by studios, galleries and performance spaces. Crab joints and sports bars now share the cobblestone streets with fancy cafes and tapas restaurants. But against this backdrop, there are still the beehive hairdos and wacky museums that give so-called Charm City its nickname." And revisited in the same column again 9/19/2012 by Charly Wilder re: the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum (203 Amity Street): “There may be no better place to stand witness to the outsider’s Baltimore, past and the present, than that stretch of Amity Street where Poe meets The Wire.” By the same column on 4/16/2017, there was no mention of The Wire!

TV Guide 12/7/2009 cited The Wire in its Best of the Decade perspective (also in AV Club, and there are probably a lot more out there if I looked for them): "David Simon: Creator/executive producer of The Corner, The Wire and Treme: His unflinching, exposition-free and often bleak portrayal of the city of Baltimore and the war on drugs is one of the most entertaining pieces of social commentary ever on television." Asking him to look back and forwards, Adam Bryant interviewed the ever trenchant and eloquent Simon in "The Reporter: David Simon Creates Commentary Disguised as a Cop Drama on The Wire" for a lot of insights on the making-of-the series.
In the same issue: "The Perfectionist: Matthew Weiner Turns the World Mad: TVGuide.com : "Where do you hope [TV] goes in the next 10 years? Weiner: I would like to see there stop being a hierarchy in the arts. I don't know what's at the top of it, but certainly film is above television. I can't compare watching The Wire or The Sopranos to anything I've seen [at the movies] in a long time. I wish that TV would get a little bit more respect. And I also hope there are people out there who are inspired to tell personal and artistic stories and not assume that because they might have a mass audience that the audience is stupid."


Generally Through 2010



Given how few critics, let alone viewers, joined me in appreciating the show from the beginning, I find these retrospective accolades from Johnny-come-latelies amusing if welcome: From The HBO Auteur by Wyatt Mason, New York Times, posted online 3/15/2010: "Given the role in which Simon himself has lately been cast by critics and viewers, expectations for Treme couldn’t be higher. By the time The Wire reached the end of its run, commentators went from posing the coy question, 'Is The Wire the best show on television?' to making the bold statement, 'The Wire is the best show on television'— boldness that soon seemed spineless once seemingly everyone defaulted to calling it simply, 'The best show in television history.' In the two years since The Wire concluded, a pitched battle of ongoing praise has upped the comparative ante. If likening Simon repeatedly to Dickens and Dreiser, Balzac and Tolstoy and Shakespeare hasn’t proved adequately exalting, Bill Moyers lately freshened things up by calling Simon 'our Edward Gibbon,' while the literary critic Walter Benn Michaels went so far as to suggest that the beauty and difficulty of watching The Wire in English — the multifarious 21st-century English of Baltimore detectives and drug dealers — compares with that of reading Dante in 14th-century Italian. It should go without saying that Duke; the University of California, Berkeley; and, next term, Harvard, are offering courses on the series, seminars focused not merely on the sophistication of its storytelling but also on its sociological and political perspicacity."

The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired: DVD that "chronicles the meeting between the real Barksdale and Wood Harris" who played him. "The two tour the actual locations depicted in the program, while Barksdale's mother sheds lights on her son's upbringing and her own struggles. 72 min." (3/14/2010)

College courses use The Wire

Maybe because he's British is why this sounds like an odd comparison, but the new "Doctor" Matt Smith was quoted in TV Guide 4/5/2010: "Watching Dr. Who is as addictive as The Wire or The Sopranos."

"New David Simon Project To Investigate Happy, Upper-Middle-Class Streets Of Wilmette, IL"-- satire in The Onion, May 15, 2010

British satirists got in the 2012 Christmas spirit with The Wire Monopoly game, albeit with a few inaccuracies due to misunderstanding Baltimore and the U.S.

Twice in one week The New York Times used The Wire for ironic comparison (more than it did while it was first screening): In the Business section, 6/4/2010, Stephanie Clifford wrote about Bravo's fan-driven reality TV series in "We’ll Make You a Star (if the Web Agrees)": "It’s hard to imagine, say, David Simon, creator of The Wire, replacing drug-selling plots with romantic ones because HBO, its network, conducted research showing that was what audiences wanted. But some analysts say Bravo’s rather superficial programs are just as innovative as HBO’s esteemed lineup." Then Randy Kennedy in a 6/6/2010 story about the FBI's retired stolen art investigator's book, "His Heart Is in the Art of Sleuthing": “Priceless can read at times, not unpleasantly, as if an art history textbook got mixed up at the printer with a screenplay for The Wire.”

The New York Review of Books only discovered the series, via DVD, in the issue dated October 14, 2010, In the Life of The Wire by Lorrie Moore, combined with consideration of books about the series.
She expanded on her Johnny-come-lately appreciation of the series in an October 25, 2013 lecture on “Watching Television” at the New York Public Library: “When Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale meet for that final time in a great scene from season three of The Wire, reminiscing of their childhood, looking out from a balcony to the neighborhood below, what do we have but Othello or Iago or Iago and Judas, suspicion and trust doled out unevenly between two men who imagine they are close and soon know, as the audience already does, that they are not."
The series previously had a Wire reference in the first season’s “English as a Second Language”, written by Tim Hobert (first broadcast 5/13/2010), about a difficult Spanish test: “Troy” (played by Donald Glover): I think I got half of it, which got me through the half I didn't. Abed (played by Danny Pudi): Like the first season of “The Wire”.
Glover continued the satire in 2012 in a side project rap group Childish Gambino’s track ”Hold You Down” with the lyric: Dude you're not not racist cause “The Wire”'s in your Netflix queue. (Thanks to Arjan Beens.)


Not just in the U.S.: "Iceland’s Best Party, founded in December by a comedian, Jon Gnarr, to satirize his country’s political system, ran a campaign that was one big joke. Or was it? . . .With his party having won 6 of the [Reykjavik] City Council’s 15 seats, Mr. Gnarr needed a coalition partner, but ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of The Wire.. . .[He] is now the fourth mayor in four years of a city that is home to more than a third of the island’s 320,000 people. . .The Best Party, whose members include a who’s who of Iceland’s punk rock scene, formed a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (despite Mr. Gnarr’s suspicion that party leaders had assigned an underling to watch The Wire and take notes)." From "Icelander’s Campaign Is a Joke, Until He’s Elected" by Sally McGrane, The New York Times, 6/26/2010
Notes: His improbable campaign was followed in an eponymous, entertaining documentary (briefly reviewed at 2011 Tribeca Film Festival). He expands on his admiration for The Wire, citing "Omar" as his favorite character and delight that Michael Kenneth Williams has friended him on FaceBook after his Wire appreciation requirement was publicized. The press notes claim: "After Jon's campaign, Icelandic shopping malls started running big ad's saying they had for sale all of the 5 seasons of The Wire." It was obvious from the press screening I was at that only half of that audience would qualify for his administration.
(updated 5/5/2011)

Originally in The Washington Post, 9/12/2010, William Julius Wilson, director of the Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and Anmol Chaddha, a doctoral student of sociology and social policy at Harvard University, explained: “Why We're Teaching The Wire' at Harvard, in a course on urban inequality: “Of course, our undergraduate students will read rigorous academic studies of the urban job market, education and the drug war. But the HBO series does what these texts can't. More than simply telling a gripping story, The Wire shows how the deep inequality in inner-city America results from the web of lost jobs, bad schools, drugs, imprisonment, and how the situation feeds on itself. Those kinds of connections are very difficult to illustrate in academic works. Though scholars know that deindustrialization, crime and prison, and the education system are deeply intertwined, they must often give focused attention to just one subject in relative isolation, at the expense of others. With the freedom of artistic expression, The Wire can be more creative. It can weave together the range of forces that shape the lives of the urban poor.. . .These story lines draw students into important academic research, such as sociologist Bruce Western's book Punishment and Inequality in America."

Nicolas Rapold in The Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2010, compared watching the re-release of Shoah to: "single-day showings of all portions of long films, which taps an urge for immersion familiar to anyone who's sat down on a Saturday with a DVD set of The Wire and barely made it to work on Monday."

Generally Through 2011



The Wire Alumni Watch 2010 and into early 2011 and late 2011.
In EW's TV recaps, Ken Tucker noted in "The Good Wife recap [of "Ham Sandwich”]: Kalinda's bombshell: Who saw THAT coming?" on 3/23/2011: "Not one, but three, former cast members of The Wire appeared: JD Williams (Bodie!) re-occurred as a bookkeeper in Bishop’s drug organization, and Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris!) as Pastor Isaiah, while Pablo Schreiber (Nick Sobotka!) was the lawyer representing Bishop’s alienated wife, Katrina."
In “Michael K. Williams Talks Boardwalk Empire Season 2, Community & Loving Twitter”, 9/24/2011, Maggie Furlong, in New York Magazine’s Culture Vulture related his current sitcom role to his role on The Wire: “[Q] I mean the biggest reaction when people heard the casting news was OMAR IS COMING TO GREENDALE! Does it make you laugh that you'll never be mentioned without a shout-out to Omar or The Wire? [A] It makes me happy -- I'm very grateful that my work was so well-received, and the show as a whole. I'm very grateful to be a part of that family, looking back now. It'll never get old for me. I'm still riding the wave, I'm still getting mileage on The Wire. I'm far from tired of it. Most people don't get a character like Omar, and then to go from Omar to Chalky? I think it's safe to say that lightning has struck twice in the same place. [Q] Do you all ever talk about reuniting for something more? A movie, a prequel, anything? [A] No, David [Simon] has no desire to turn it into a movie -- I think it did what it was supposed to do. We just want to let it be in the atmosphere the way it is. To try to go back now and rebuild those character[s], I think it would do it a terrible injustice.” His guest star role did have more than an implicit reference to The Wire, Michael Kenneth Williams as biology professor “Marshall Kane” on Community. First in “Biology 101”, written by Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman (on NBC, first broadcast 9/22/2011), the back story of the lavender sweater wearing professor is that he’s an ex-con who got his PhD in jail. A drug dealing student asks him in on his business via a burner phone invite -- but his context is Breaking Bad. He returned for the, um, dead-on satire of Law & Order, “Basic Lupine Urology”, written by Megan Ganz (on NBC, first broadcast 4/26/2012) to say he’s learned from his years in prison: A man’s got to have a code. Advice that gets interpreted by “Jeff Winger” (played by Joel McHale) to ”Annie Edison” as: A man's got to have a code. I can only assume there is a female equivalent to that. A "codette" or something.




In Wire and Fringe star makes music, too" by John Carucci, Associated Press, 1/10/2011: "How did you end up doing so many groundbreaking television series? [Lance] Reddick [who was promoting his first, jazz album, Contemplations and Remembrances] : I was never interested in television. I always saw it as a means to an end. Like so many actors, I was only interested in doing theater and film. But Oz changed television. It was the beginning of HBO's reign on quality, edgy, artistic stuff. Stuff that harkens back to great cinema of the '60s and '70s. When the opportunity for Oz came up, I jumped. And when I read the pilot for The Wire, as a guy that never wanted to be on television, I realized I had to be on this show."

Look how many times Alessandra Stanley references The Wire in her review of a new FX series in The New York Times, 1/10/2011, "With a Life on the Ropes, Seeking Redemption in the Ring": "But circling around the ring are characters who once would be called Dickensian and nowadays are likened to people in The Sopranos or The Wire. . . Pablo Schreiber (The Wire) is Johnny, Patrick’s younger brother and business manager, or mismanager. . .And the secondary characters who cajole and provoke him are superb, including Reg E. Cathey (The Wire) as Barry Word, a witty but ruthless boxing promoter who wants to own the sport — and Patrick’s comeback fight. . . The pedigrees behind the camera may be a greater selling point, assurance that Lights Out won’t become a rejiggering of hoary clichés. . .Clark Johnson, an actor who played an idealistic newspaper editor in The Wire and who directed the final episode, is one of the directors." She did it again in “Killers Who Just Won’t Lighten Up” in a 8/8/2013 review of an AMC series that includes James Ransone and other actors from The Wire: Low Winter Sun “presents a dystopian view of urban decay that makes the Baltimore of The Wire look almost like Monte Carlo. This Detroit is a fetid no man’s land that law-abiding citizens fled long ago, leaving whole blocks abandoned, houses boarded over and feral dogs roaming empty streets. . . It’s inevitable for viewers to yearn for the kind of odyssey that series like The Wire and Breaking Bad provided. Low Winter Sun isn’t that, but it’s an entertaining way station.”

The debut of Fox's The Chicago Code, 2/7/2011, set off similar comparisons: "Stirring Chicago’s Corruption Stockpot" by Ginia Bellafante, in The New York Times, – "Natives must have hungered for a more expansive evocation of their hometown, one that explored the dirty genetics of a place that gave rise to both Al Capone and Rod Blagojevich. Citizens were possibly even irritated when Baltimore received rich dramatic excavation in The Wire before their own city had even been skimmed. Chicago taught Baltimore everything it knows." And "This Time The Good Cops Get A Shot" by David Bianculli on NPR's Fresh Air: "The Chicago Code quickly finds its way. It borrows a little from The Wire, HBO's landmark series about entrenched, corrupted city institutions, and a little from EZ Streets, the vintage Paul Haggis cop series that gave equal weight to its good guys and its bad guys. But those are great places to start."

Even a reference on PBS, in April 2011 – In Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton director/producer Michael Pack and writer/host Richard Brookhiser use a (bleeped) scene from The Wire of the drug dealers discussing with incredulity how it could be that there is one dead white man on a greenback who wasn't a president to demonstrate the lack of knowledge about the guy on the ten dollar bill.

Heather Hendershot in "Losers Take All: On the New American Cinema", The Nation, 5/30/2011 edition: "If the ethos of the New American Cinema has endured, it is not on the big screen but the little one, TV, where today’s multi-channel, niche-audience environment allows for long-term character development, genre innovation and aesthetic risk-taking. Rather than bemoaning the tragic loss of [the production company] BBS, and assuming that the black hole of the superhero franchise has swallowed up any remains of innovation not devoured by Jaws, we might point to programs like The Wire as signs that complex, character-driven American drama did not perish in the late 1970s. Yet what has regrettably also lingered is the snobbism of much of the New American Cinema—hence, the ridiculous idea that TV can be good only if it transcends TV, as in the slogan 'It’s not TV. It’s HBO.'. . .Embracing a complicated seriality, sometimes in terms of plot but even more important in terms of character development, the best of contemporary television is simply more compelling than most contemporary American cinema. So enough with the hand-wringing about the decline of directorial autonomy, and the grumbling about the mind-numbing sameness of the franchises that crushed the New American Cinema more than thirty years ago. The New American Cinema is dead. Long live the New American TV."

The Wire as 1970s Hanna-Barbera Cartoon in a "Why Don't You Caption It Contest". (6/7/2011)

USA Today's Pop Candy Blog: "Metal Monday: A novice begins her journey" by Whitney Matheson, 6/27/2011: "Some people decide to spend a summer reading War and Peace. Others declare this is the season they'll finally watch The Wire." (She's listening to metal music for the first time instead.)

In Newsweek, 7/4/2011, "The Most Dangerous Show on Television" by Andrew Romano: "When Breaking Bad returns, it should have the sort of momentum that helped convert cult favorite The Wire into a canonical drama at the same stage in its run; years of 'you have to watch this' buzz, both in the press and around the water cooler, seem poised to pay off." Presumably this description of its Season 4 also parallels The Wire: "That’s the addiction: getting to know a person so well, through television, that when he goes bad, we can begin to comprehend something that real life simply doesn’t allow us to comprehend—how people become dangerous."

Even a reference on tween’s cable channel Nickelodeon, but as Rick Porter pointed out in a Zap2It Blog on 7/18/2011: “We're guessing that the crossover audience between iCarly and The Wire is, give or take a few parents who watch the former with their kids, pretty much nonexistent. Which could explain how a clip from iCarly that spoofs/pays homage to The Wire and which aired in January 2010, is just now being discovered online.” The episode “iSaved Your Life” by Peter Tibbals and Eric Goldberg originally aired January 18, 2010.

I’m not going to even go into the much coverage of the sad news that Felicia Pearson, who portrayed "Snoop", who is satirized in this exchange, was jailed in 2011.

In the “Respect” episode of the American adaptation of the dark comedy Wilfred (aired 7/21/2011 on FX), written by Michael Glouberman, the titular Australian-talking-dog-as-human reassures his nerdy, woebegone minder’s moan: What am I doing with my life? Nothing. with the compliment: How many people can watch a whole season of “The Wire” in one sitting? Not many I wager. That shit is dense!

In the “Object Impermanence” episode of the 7th season of the marijuana comedy Weeds (aired on 8/1/2011 on Showtime), written by Stephen Falk, an annoying student in a college criminology class pesters the New York police detective: How accurate is “The Wire?. . .Have you ever seen “The Wire”?

Surprisingly few analysts have seen The Wire as a key predecessor for a significant trend, as revealed by British critics, as “Is Slow TV Taking Over The Airways?”, 11/17/2011, by Jon Kelly in BBC News Magazine: “The widely hailed novelistic style of HBO's The Wire saw story arcs rise and fall across series. Though the Baltimore-set crime drama may have had its fair share of action, eventually, writer David Simon's follow-up, Treme, about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was profoundly slow-paced. . . . Certainly, fans of such shows frequently compare the viewing experience to that of reading a book, with The Wire's creators in particular claiming to have consciously framed their stories using literary rather than televisual plot structures. . . .Boyd Hilton, TV editor with Heat magazine . . .‘It doesn't always work. I found the second series of The Wire, the one set in the docks, quite boring, because I wasn't really interested in that world’."



Comic References on Comedy Central’s Daily Show:
Aasif Mandvi in a comic report on the 11/3/2011 episode, used The Wire for a comparative measure of addiction on a sliding scale between cigarettes and hot dogs, as in: “I’d rather die than give up watching The Wire?”
Another comparison followed in Jon Stewart’s opening monologue on 12/14/2011 about the U.S. spy drone captured by Iran. President Obama is seen declaring at a press conference: “We have asked for it back.” Stewart’s incredulous analysis: “You’re acting like we lent them Season 1 of The Wire. ‘Hey I’m gonna want that back’.”


Generally Through 2012



Open Culture noted: “Slavoj Žižek, your favorite Slovenian philosopher/cultural critic, presented a talk at The University of London (2/24/2012) called “The Wire or The Clash of Civilisations in One Country”. And it takes the show seriously as a work of tragic, realist art.”

In June 2012, Williams starred in another terrific satire, for Funny Or Die The Wire: The Musical, with additional scenes, along with other original cast members Andre Royo, Sonya Sohn, Larry Galliard, Jr., and Felicia Pearson. David Simon’s real reaction: “Hilarious. Just great.”
The satire continued from the College Humor staff posting 9/6/2012 The Wire RPG: “The consoles change but the game remains the same.” (Thanks to Arjan Beens.)
Tumbler continued the satire in September 2012 with A Song of Ice and the Wire that mashed up Game of Thrones and The Wire.


USA Today’s “Pop Candy” blogger Whitney Matheson on 6/8/2012 saw the Canadian bully mockumentary The Yard (streaming on Hulu) as: “[W]hat The Wire would look like . . . if someone did the show with only child actors”. Mike Hale in The New York Times on 6/13/2012 agreed in “Tough Times at the Playground and the Church”:“The first episode, in which the advent of a new brand of trading card hits the school like the introduction of a potent new form of cocaine, is also reminiscent of The Wire and the claustrophobic playground setting evokes yet another grim HBO drama,Oz”.

There was another sit com reference, in the “Out in the Burbs” episode of Suburbatory (broadcast on 1/11/2012 on ABC), written by Bob Kushell & Corinne Marshall. An undercover cop comes to the high school investigating steroids dealers prompts the Asian-American guidance counselor to trill: This is very exciting! It’s just like “The Wire”! A week later (on 1/19/2012 on NBC) in the “Rivals” episode of Up All Night, written by Caroline Williams, the parents plan on watching The Wire once they finish Friday Night Lights. Similarly, in Jane by Design (on ABC Family, 3/6/2012), set in a suburban high school, “The End of the Line” season finale, written by series creator April Blair and Paul Haapaniemi, had a white bimbo gossiping about a student who spent a night in jail: He got shanked. His friend rolls his eyes: Do you even know what that means? The mean girl gives an answer that makes little sense or accuracy: Of course I do. I watch ‘The Wire.’. (3/7/2012)

David Simon and Michael Kenneth Williams were interviewed in the The Crusader episode of PBS’s America in Prime Time survey of television archetypes (first broadcast 11/20/2011). They discussed “Omar” within The Wire. Simon was emphatic in negatively comparing and contrasting the murders in Dexter.

In an interview with Kate Murphy in The New York Times 2/12/2012, Jimmy Wales, “founder and the public face of Wikipedia”: “I’m always looking for something to watch on iTunes because I travel on planes all the time, and I like to have a nice long list. I like the modern genre of really complicated TV shows — something like Lost or The Wire, with many characters, very interesting story lines and so on.” Murphy got a similar quote on 8/5/2012 from: “Wouter De Backer, known as Gotye, is a Flemish-Australian singer and songwriter whose quirky breakup anthem, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” has been inescapable this summer. . . WATCHING: Favela on Blast, Leandro HBL and Diplo’s film on the Brazilian baile funk scene. It’s an interesting little window onto street party dance culture. Also the fourth season of The Wire. It’s really dark and gripping. I wonder how accurate the police and the people in the drug scene in Baltimore would say it is.”

David Simon and The Wire were commented on in the same first week of April 2012. Sarcastically lionized by Ben Kessler in “Mad Mania: ‘Smart’ TV and the Gray Flannel Ego”, in City Arts, 4/3/2012: “Mad Men, like The Sopranos and The Wire before it, now enjoys a singular cultural status. Neither pop nor art, it is smart TV. And smart TV, we’re told, is not for analysis or even entertainment; it is to be dutifully let into our lives, much as we’re meant to bring in the newspaper every morning. Smart TV is a unique kind of aesthetic nonentity, but even nonentities have to come from somewhere. Mad Men’s creator Matthew Weiner, like HBO’s three Davids (Chase, Simon and Milch, of The Sopranos, The Wire and Deadwood respectively), has a media profile that mixes elements of many leadership archetypes—he’s part film director, part producer, part CEO. Because they preside over a vast creative apparatus rather than yoking themselves to any particular aspect of production, Weiner and his fellow smart showrunners are presumed by journalists to be above the unfortunate susceptibilities that plague the individual artist.”
In an online New York Times Q & A with Jeremy Egner, posted April 5, 2012, ”The Game Never Ends: David Simon on Wearying Wire Love and the Surprising Usefulness of Twitter”: “I do have a certain amused contempt for the number of people who walk sideways into the thing and act like they were there all along. It’s selling more DVDs now than when it was on the air. . It was conceived of as a whole, and we did it as a whole. For people to be picking it apart now like it’s a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time — it’s wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end. Our numbers continued to decline from Season 2 on. . . “ such that he hastened to post a clarification on the same site, and requested a further explanatory interview with Alan Sepinwall on Hitflix the same day as: “David Simon doesn't want to tell you how to watch The Wire: Though he'd probably still prefer you get to the end of a season before passing judgment”. with even more: follow-up discussion: “What IS the Correct Way to Watch The Wire?” by Alison Willmore, on April 6, 2012, and admiration from The Vulture as to Why David Simon Is the Ultimate Hipster, by Jessica Grose.
In addition to generally being infuriated by blogging analysts who dissect shows based on early episodes and not as a complete work (the Dickens’ parallels are, of course, ironic), what Simon objects to is how this series has a second life in popular culture: “That this stuff singularly crowds out any continued discussion of our real problems and the show's interest in arguing those problems is the disappointing part." He’s referring to such misappropriations as: ESPN’s Grantland Smacketology: “A tournament to determine The Wire's greatest character” by Alex Pappademas on March 5, 2012. He wasn’t the only one: Inaugurating Indiewire’s TV coverage: “March Madness and The Wire: Why 'Smacketology' Completely Misses the Point”, by Peter Labuza on 3/14/2012.


Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker, 5/21/2012, “Primary Colors: Shonda Rimes’s Scandal and the Diversity Debate” compared that network (on ABC) series with a black female lead to: “And surely one reason that viewers took so long to catch on to HBO’s The Wire was all those black male faces.”

A comparison among HBO series by Matt Zoller Seitz in “How Game of Thrones slew all comers”, 6/17/2011, in Salon : “Has there ever been a cable drama as meticulous and confident as Game of Thrones”? Not since the first season of Deadwood, or perhaps The Wire.”

Reviewing the next season finale of the fantasy swords epic Game of Thrones, which would presumably be far from the streets of Baltimore, Maureen Ryan in Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire, 6/4/2012, incongruously compared a giant female warrior: “Brienne: Presented for your approval, this is my theory about Brienne -- She's the Omar of Westeros. I'm serious about this. Almost everyone who's seen The Wire designates Omar their favorite character, or he's at least in their top three. Why? Because he asked nothing of anyone else, he was a ferocious warrior, and most importantly, he had a code. So does Brienne, and we love her for that. She's not blindly pledged to some vague concept of ‘honor’ (how could she be, given how many men of "honor" have mocked and abused her over the years?). Also important: She's loyal to an individual . . ., not a region or a city or a class. She's basically boiled down the code of chivalry into goals we can all get behind: Serve someone who at least tries to be good; be strong but fair; defend the weak, treat smallfolk with kindness and the dead with respect; and be able to take on three guys at once and make it look easy.”

In June 2012, Maxim “Interrogates the Makers and Stars of The Wire: We speak with the men and women who made one of the best TV shows of all time.” Marc Spitz conducted the oral history: “Ten years ago this month, The Wire premiered on HBO and… almost nobody cared. The Baltimore saga of cops and dealers, junkies and politicians, poverty and hope, polarized critics, was ignored by the Emmys, constantly struggled for ratings and faced cancellation more than once. But it also inspired a future President, created a bona fide American folk hero, and helped launch the current ‘Golden Age’ of television. Now for the first time ever, the creators, writers, cast and crew recall the making of an American classic.”

MTV added a hip hop perspective by Philip Mlynar, posted 9/6/2012, in “The Wire Turns 10: Pusha T, Sean Price, Bun B and Big K.R.I.T. Remember Their Favorite Moments”. Their discussion centered more on its gritty reality, slang, and distinctive characters than the soundtrack: “First Impressions”, “Barksdale and Bell: The Rise and Downfall of an Empire”, “Everybody Loves Omar”, “The New Generation: Marlo, Snoop and Chris”, and “Favorite Characters, Favorite Seasons, and Pet Peeves”.

Yahoo Trending 6/30/2012: Fast and Furious meets The Wire by Vera H-C Chan: “The federal investigation into Mexican gun-trafficking was dubbed Operation Fast and Furious, because the suspects involved liked a little auto-sideshow action. The better analogy might be The Wire—to cover a roiling case of vindictive office politics, cowboy agents, sensationalized reporting, the clash of Second Amendment rights and gun crimes, and election-year bickering that has resulted in the first-ever contempt charge against a sitting Cabinet officer.”

A satirical mash-up of The Wire with Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin dodging questions in July 2012 about receiver Mike Wallace not showing up for June training camp due to a contract dispute. (Thanks to Arjan Beens.)

In “Binge Viewing: TV's Lost Weekends: Bet You Can’t Watch Just One” by John Jurgensen, in The Wall Street Journal, 7/13/2012: “The Wire (HBO): 5 seasons, 60 episodes, 2 days, 11 hours, 58 minutes* As anyone who has been harangued at a party for missing this series well knows, there’s consensus on this epic about decay and corruption in Baltimore: It’s required viewing, and a regular object of binges.* Total time to watch every episode nonstop.” That figure is a minimum – anyone with the DVDs will watch all the extras as well, but does the Netflix stream include them?
USA Today’s guest “Pop Candy blogger” Jennifer Keishin Armstrong noted, on 10/19/2012, in “Which TV shows have you mainlined?. . . Usually these are shows you know are great, as many people whose taste you trust have been threatening to stop talking to you if you don't watch them soon (The Wire,. . .I don't even understand how people watched The Wire in real time; I needed the episodes closer together to follow everything. . . Not only does mainlining these shows help you understand them better, it also integrates them into your thinking in a way once-a-week viewing doesn't.”


“Snapshot | Clarke Peters: A New Character Turn, but Still a Familiar Face” by Jeremy Egner (The New York Times, 7/26/2012): “Mr. Peters, 60, has spent most of the past four decades as a stage actor in Britain. But it was his turn as the cagey, dollhouse-furniture-building detective Lester Freamon in the HBO crime drama The Wire that made him, if not a household name, then a face of the ‘How do I know you?’ variety. . . Mr. Peters grew up in Englewood, N.J., and now splits his time between Baltimore, where he bought a home during filming of The Wire, and London. . . Q. What changed for you after The Wire? A. I didn’t expect to be experiencing what I’m experiencing now at this age, the celebrity. Of course it feels good for the ego, but you’re thinking, ‘Wait a second, I’ve done other things in my life.’ You want be nice to everybody, but then it gets to the point when someone asks you for the fourth time, ‘What did I see you in?’ I just tell them I don’t know. . . They look at me like: ‘Well what is wrong with you? You know what you’ve been in.’ No, man, I’m sorry. I can’t roll like that.”

There were, in effect, two obituaries in The New York Times for DeAndre McCullough, who died 8/1/2012, the first by Daniel E. Slotnik, noted that since he was in The Wire, he had worked in set design and security there, as well for Treme: “but his addictions became unmanageable. ‘He went to work for the television shows, time and again lasting only as long as a paycheck or two,’ Mr. Simon wrote in an online tribute.” In a follow-up obit in The New York Times “A Better Life Eternally Eluded the Boy From The Corner, by Rachel L. Swarns, 8/29/2012, expanded: “In good times, DeAndre McCullough inspired nearly everyone he touched. He was a small-time drug dealer made good, a recovering addict who had a fledgling career counseling troubled teenagers. He played bit roles on HBO in The Wire and in The Corner, which chronicled his life in the drug trade at the age of 15. . . Michael Potts, the actor who played ‘Brother Mouzone’ on The Wire, heard the news just as he was about to perform in The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Mr. McCullough had played Mr. Mouzone’s sidekick, ‘Lamar’. ‘I was devastated,’ said Mr. Potts, who said he had to steady himself for his performance. ‘As an African-American man, I thought: ‘Oh my God, I’m losing another one, not another one.’. . . ‘Once The Wire and everything hit, I thought life was going to be good for DeAndre,’ said Kevin Thomas, the only one of Mr. McCullough’s close male friends to graduate from college. . . .‘To see him go down that road of self-destruction was heartbreaking,’ he said. . . Ed Burns, who with Mr. Simon wrote the book The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, which inspired the HBO mini-series, said Mr. McCullough stood apart. ‘He seemed to know a lot of what the world was about,’ he said. ‘He could articulate the injustice, which was all around him. The other kids couldn’t. They suffered it, but they weren’t conscious of it. He was conscious of it.’ . . . He got his G.E.D. and went to community college for a semester with help from Mr. Simon and Mr. Burns. . . . In The Corner, he played the policeman who arrests the character based on his life. In The Wire, he took on the role of the assistant to ‘Brother Mouzone’, a hit man [“dapper”, the first described him]. . . . Last fall, he turned to Mr. Simon again, pleading for work on the set of Treme in New Orleans. ‘He said, ‘I’ll get clean. I’ll do whatever I have to do,’ Mr. Simon recalled. ‘There was a weariness and a fear in his voice that convinced me that we had to try.’ Mr. Simon offered him a position on the set’s security team. Mr. McCullough started in October. By January, he was out of a job. ‘There are corners here, too,’ he told Mr. Simon. ‘What was the trigger that sent him back to addiction?’ Mr. Simon asked. ‘It’s the biggest question in the world. But the journey from one America to the other is epic, Once you’ve become a citizen of one, it’s really hard to find citizenship in the other’.”

The debut in the U.S. of new cop shows set off another slew of comparisons: From Mike Hale, in The New York Times, 8/20/2012, “Endless Gray Zones for Thin Blue Line: Hulu Offers Line of Duty From BBC: Line of Duty is slightly reminiscent of The Wire in the way it presents police work as a miasma of compromise, careerism and endless gray zones. . . All of the plot complications and conspiratorial film-noir ambience, however, don’t make us care all that much about the characters, who are mostly made of cop-show clichés — idealistic and headstrong here, gnarled and cynical there.” And to BBCAmerica’s Copper, in Entertainment Weekly’s Popwatch in “Copper series premiere: A big-city Deadwood? Or Masterpiece Theater sans the masterpiece?” by Darren Franich, 8/19/2012: “And there are just as many shows that have tried to be the next Wire— or anyhow, they’ve tried to be a version of Wire that could actually attract a healthy amount of viewers, mixing the show’s specific strengths (twisty serialized narrative, massive cast, end-of-empire themes) with eyeball-grabbing affectations (sex, violence, sexy violence.) . . . If The Sopranos was TV-as-cinema, and The Wire was TV-as-great-American-novel, then Deadwood was TV-as-Broadway-play, creating a universe that felt at once overtly stagey and remarkably intimate. . . Copper is co-created by Tom Fontana, who created the great HBO series Oz, and Will Rokos, who worked on a season of Southland. Oz was a great melodrama; Southland- an exceptional cop show.”

In Rolling Stone, 8/30/2012, Brian Hiatt interviews “Chemical Brothers: Breaking Bad Stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul”, and makes the usual comparison: “Breaking Bad is . . . a desert fever dream about a doomed America – though few nightmares have such clockworklike plot construction. Its tone is distinctly less naturalistic and its situations less plausible than other greatest-show-ever contenders (The Sopranos, Mad Men, The Wire)."

In WNYC’s On the Media “All About the Elections” episode the 2nd week of October 2012, the segment Your Brain on Politics, Sasha Issenberg, the author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (2012), noted that Mitt Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign in Massachusetts targeted premium cable channel subscribers as persuadable to a Republican. He noted that journalists theorized that watching The Wire made them want to be tough on crime, though the host drily protested “That’s a stretch!”

In Eugene Jarecki’s anti-drug war documentary The House I Live In (in film festivals and theaters in 2012; broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens 2013), David Simon is a prominent “talking head” against the drug laws, because of The Wire, arguing in straight-forward non-fiction what he fictionalized more powerfully, and in the long term, with more impact.
Another expert interviewed is Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, originally published in 2010, updated paperback & Kindle editions 2012 – though I don’t see The Wire in the index. (Thanks to Elliot Ratzman, Assistant Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies at Temple University, for this connection reference, my fellow panelist at the 2015 Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival) (updated 11/15/2015)

The New York Times Magazine cover essay “Empire of the In-Between” by Adam Davidson, 11/2/2012, on “the Acela strategy: what happens when there’s an unhealthy mix of government and private interest” opened with: “As anyone who rides Amtrak between New York and Washington knows, the trip can be a dissonant experience. Inside the train, it’s all tidy and digital, everybody absorbed in laptops and iPhones, while outside the windows an entirely different world glides by. Traveling south is like moving through a curated exhibit of urban and industrial decay. There’s Newark and Trenton and the heroic wreckage in parts of Philadelphia, block after block of hulking edifices covered in graffiti, the boarded-up ghost neighborhoods of Baltimore made familiar by The Wire — all on the line that connects America’s financial center and its booming capital city.”

In How I Met Your Mother, “Twelve Horny Women” episode (11/26/2012) written by Eric Falconer and Chris Romanski, kindergarten teacher “Lily Aldrin” (played by Alyson Hannigan) proved in adolescent flashback that she had been a bad-ass bully in her NYC neighborhood by whistling “The Farmer in the Dell”, just like “Omar”, but stalking with a baseball bat instead of a shotgun. At the sight of her, kids ran away yelling Lily comin'! (Thanks to Arjan Beens.)

In “The Rise of the New Gay Villains” by Tim Molloy, in The Wrap, 11/27/2012: “The model for the modern-day gay villains may be Omar, the brilliant stickup man from the beloved HBO series The Wire. Not every writer in Hollywood takes cues from The Wire, but plenty do. . . As played by Michael K. Williams, Omar holds up drug dealers for a living, sometimes with a pretty younger man by his side. Like [Isaak] Sirko [of Dexter] and perhaps [Gus] Fring [of Breaking Bad], he longs to avenge a lover's death, which makes him more sympathetic than the usual bad guy motivated by greed. Omar's homosexuality, in other words, brings out the best in him. And it does nothing to make him less of a man. Even as his enemies denounce him as a ‘cocksucker,’ they fear him as much as they fear anyone.” Molloy continued referencing the series on 12/4/2012 in Game of Thrones: 4 Things Networks Can Learn From the Cable Show That's Beating Them. . .Networks are wary of serialized dramas like Lost, The Wire, and Breaking Bad, which are most rewarding to those who watch every episode. It's incredibly satisfying to watch stories unspool over weeks or years. But it's harder for heavily serialized shows to draw in new viewers, or to play in syndication.”

A surprise admission from “David Chase “On Not Fade Away, Avoiding Thrillers, and His TV Diet” to Jennifer Vineyard in Vulture on 12/20/2012: “Q: What do you watch these days? A: On TV? Only Boardwalk [Empire] and Mad Men. I like them both. The Wire was on during the time I was making The Sopranos, and I never had the time for it. I just never had the time to watch it. And now, it's like, How many seasons do I need to catch up on? You know? I also need to read and eat and take a walk. So I watched part of season four, and I liked it, but I haven't gone further.”

“Donnie Andrews, the Real-Life Omar Little, Dies at 58” by Daniel E. Slotnik, The New York Times, 12/15/2012. “. . .a reformed stickup man whose story inspired the character Omar Little on the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire, died late Thursday or early Friday in Manhattan. He was 58. . . Drawn from Mr. Andrews’s life, the character Omar Little was a thief who terrorized drug dealers. Mr. Andrews also wrote for the show and appeared as one of Omar’s allies. Omar died without remorse, but Mr. Andrews sought redemption.

Generally Through 2013

Another obit headlined an actor’s most well-known role: In, The New York Tims, 1/19/2013, “Robert F. Chew, Actor on The Wire, Dies at 52” by Daniel E. Slotnik, quoted David Simon: “’We were looking for somebody that was sensible and even paternal, as almost a foil to the rest of the brutality and ambition that you were seeing in that underground economy. . .So you needed him to be incredibly human, funny, connected to whoever’s in the room, and yet he’s a gangster. . . . He recalled one scene in which Mr. Chew [playing “Proposition Joe”] used four different voices while calling a telephone number that turns out to be that of Baltimore’s homicide unit. ‘He becomes four different characters before your eyes. . .It was a soliloquy of pure acting.’”

Michael Kenneth Williams concluded his 2012 Human Rights Campaign PSA testimonial for gay marriage equality with a grinning threat referring to his gay character on The Wire: “Let’s keep it real y’all – or Omar gonna come after you.” On the PC sketch comedy satire Portlandia in the “Missionaries” episode, (1st shown on IFC Channel 1/4/2013) written by Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Jonathan Krisel and Bill Oakley, opened with a parody of a warning: “The following scene contains spoilers. VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.” Two characters who in the previous season watched a marathon of Battlestar Galactica, “Doug” (Armisen) and “Claire” (Brownstein), invite another couple for dinner, at their house on NorthWest Thurman Street in Northwest Portland, and they talk plot twists on essential TV series. They start with Breaking Bad, move on to Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Sopranos, True Blood, Downton Abbey, Homeland, while trying to avoid spoilers, so try going back to Six Feet Under, and the first Star Wars movies. But “Doug” goes further: You’ve seen “The Wire” right? “Claire”: I’ve only watched three episodes. “Doug” can’t hold back: Omar?! He gets killed by a little kid?! Did you see that coming? If you haven’t gotten to it, Omar getting killed by a little kid on “The Wire”, it’s not even a spoiler because the way they do it – the best! They shoot him! While the other couple keeps groaning for him to stop, “Claire”: You want to know what’s next, right? Don’t you want to know how this ends? The guests shout and make honking sounds: No! . . Don’t spoil it! “Doug”: It’s really cool! And it turns out the whole scene was another guy’s dream.

Comic animated references: on Bob’s Burgers, “Nude Beach” episode, written by Scott Jacobson (1st broadcast on Fox 1/13/2013), health inspectors visit the family restaurant and give the owner an instructional DVD on the proper way to wash hands: Hi, I'm Andre Royo. I played Bubbles on the critically acclaimed series The Wire. Today I'm here to talk about a different kind of bubbles, soap bubbles. Remember when washing your hands, do it for the time it takes to count to a thousand. 1...2...3...4. . . On the “Space Cadet” episode, written by Alex Carter, first shown 1/6/2013: "Family Guy" Perfectly Sums Up People Who Watch The Wire And Breaking Bad”. (Thanks to Arjan Beens for the citations.)

From op-ed columnist Bill Keller’s “Invasion of the Data Snatchers”, in The New York Times, 1/15/2013, “When our privacy is invaded in the name of national security, we — and our elected representatives, afraid to be thought soft — generally go along quietly. Our complacency is reinforced by a popular culture that has forsaken Orwell’s nightmares for a benign view of authority. In many of my own guilty-pleasure television favorites — The Wire, the British thriller series MI-5, the Danish original of The Killing, the addictive Homeland — surveillance is what the good guys do, and it saves the day.”

Strange, The Wire was NOT cited in this piece: “Kill These Characters at Your Own Risk”, by Bill Carter, in The New York Times, 2/18/2013

Indiewire had a Wire-fan headline writer: “Stringer Bell The Oscar Contender? The Weinstein Company Pick Up Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Starring Idris Elba” for Kevin Jagernauth’s blog post on 2/22/2013, and most subsequent articles and interviews with him, such as “Idris Elba’s transformation from drug dealer to ‘Mandela’” by Reed Tucker in the New York Post on 11/23/2013: “Scoring the role of Baltimore drug dealer Stringer Bell on HBO’s “Wire turned Elba’s life around. ‘I don’t get tired of being associated with The Wire. I love when people call me ‘Stringer!’ Well, I won’t say I love it, but . . .it’s part of my history.’ The series, which ran from 2002 to 2008, became one of the most acclaimed American television shows ever and led to a string of films for Elba. . . We always knew [former Oasis frontman Liam] Gallager was crazy, but messing with Stringer/Luther? Now that’s certifiable.” On NPR’s Morning Edition in “Idris Elba Portrays Mandela In Long Walk To Freedom, 11/29/2013, interviewer Renee Montagne “That's Idris Elba, best known to American audiences for the acclaimed HBO series The Wire. So effortlessly did Elba slip into the role of Stringer Bell, a Baltimore drug dealer's second in command, most fans had no idea the actor playing him was actually British. . .[T]he story of Nelson Mandela's life includes several scenes where you are delivering rousing speeches before thousands of South Africans, these extras, who seem to be responding to you emotionally as Nelson Mandela. . .Elba: [M]y films have been playing in South Africa. They're aware of The Wire. So I'd come out and what would happen is - there would be two things that happen. One - oh! It's Idris Elba. I didn't know he was playing Mandela. And there was that reaction. And then it was - oh! He can do the voice. I didn't know he could do the voice. And then what I'm saying began to evoke emotion for them as countrymen. So all of this was just this weird magic happening all at the same time. If I messed up a line or forgot a line: Boo! Come on, Idris! One more!”

Not the usual comparisons, by Mike Hale, “In Pursuit, on Wheels and on Foot”, in The New York Times, 2/26/2013: “Most of us have no way of judging how realistically television shows portray the lives of police officers. If you scan Web sites where law enforcement professionals gather to chat, however, you can assemble a list of series that get some grudging praise for being slightly more authentic than the norm: Adam-12, High Incident, Hill Street Blues, Homicide, The Wire and — many a deskbound cop’s favorite — Barney Miller.” He then lauds Southland and Third Watch.

On Talking Dead, the talk show follow-up to AMC’s The Walking Dead, guest comedian Kumail Nanjiani on 3/17/2013 noted that he was still seeing the character “Tyreese” as played by the actor Chad Coleman: “In my head, he was “Cutty” on The Wire, he’s the same character. So now his boxing gym shut down and he’s in the zombie apocalypse trying to work the straight and narrow.” On the season finale, on 3/31/2013, host Christ Hardwick, of The Nerdist, reported to guest Coleman that executive producer Gale Anne “Hurd is a huge fan of The Wire -- as are we all—and Chad Coleman was always the choice for ‘Tyreese’. She told casting not to bother to audition anyone else.” Coleman said he saw the talk online: “I was really flattered.” As to working with this cast: “Some of them were fans of The Wire. . .Like The Wire, they are passionate and committed people.”

Kate Murphy in The New York Times again got a quote, on 7/6/2013 from Susan Kare: “an independent digital designer whose ubiquitous on-screen icons are clicked by countless users every day. Known for her minimalist, intuitive and often witty designs, she started her career at Apple when Steve Jobs selected her to create the graphics and fonts for the original Macintosh computer. . . WATCHING: In stolen moments while I’m working, or waiting, I catch up on my phone with a lot of TV series that I missed the first time around. I loved The Wire. There’s a great speech by the character Omar, who robs drug dealers, in a courtroom engaging in repartee with a lawyer: I got the shotgun and you got the briefcase.” In June 2013, The Writer’s Guild of America named The Wire the 9th Best Written TV Series, crediting all its writers: “No series, arguably, is more responsible for the novelistic ambitions possible for television writers now. The Wire was creator David Simon’s Baltimore-set follow-up to his HBO miniseries The Corner, but this time he expanded his gaze to the multi-pronged bureaucracies and civic institutions that fed into and mirrored the ghetto drug trade. The Wirehad a Dickensian sense of breadth and social relevance; its stories were told as microcosms of larger ills. In 2010, when Simon won a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant, he told The Los Angeles Times: ‘One thing we were explicit about with The Wirewas that the drug war needed to end. Now, the drug war is no closer to ending than it was when we started the series. And I don't expect that we're ever going to get there. But you can't go into it thinking you're going to change anything; you have to go into it based on the story itself.’"

In July 2013, Entertainment Weekly named The Wire “The #1 Greatest TV Show of All Time”, HBO, 2002-08, The most sustained narrative in television history, The Wire used the drug trade in Baltimore, heavily researched by creator David Simon, to tell tales of race and class with unprecedented complexity. (Perhaps that's why the show never won a much-deserved Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series and earned only two nominations for writing.) Politics, the war on drugs, labor unions, public education, the media — these were among the big themes, all examined through exquisitely drawn characters, such as the brilliant yet broken detective Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) and the great avenging thug Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), who will live on in legend.” Dalton Ross then got “Former cast members react to The Wire being named the greatest TV show ever by EW”: “I happened to be on the set of The Walking Dead right as the news broke and was able to get reactions from two former Wire —and current Walking Dead — cast members: Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., who played doomed dealer D’Angelo Barksdale, and Chad Coleman, who was reformed killer Cutty. . . it seems Gilliard is something of a seer. ‘I remember the first season we actually did an interview and they asked me — I think it was for the DVDs or something like that — and they were asking me questions and I said, ‘In 20 years from now, The Wire is going to be the show that they will say was the best show on television that nobody watched.’ I was prophetic! I knew it was a big deal when we were doing it, and it was just a shame that people didn’t watch it when it was on. But everyone is catching up now, and it’s a big hit. I really loved being on that show. It was just a magical show — the cast, the crew, the writing, everything. That’s why it’s number one at EW.””
But in the 3/17/2014 issue, Entertainment Weekly, “26 Best Cult TV Shows of All Time”: “6. The Wire, 2002-08, HBO -- What It's About: The show followed the inner workings of Baltimore, with a different setting for each of its five seasons: the inner-city drug trade; the seaport; city hall; the school system; and the journalism world of The Baltimore Sun, from which creator/exec producer/writer David Simon came. Why It's Cult: Dense in the number of its characters, its dialogue, and its interconnected story lines, The Wire was one of the most highly praised series in HBO history, but never one of its hits. The stellar ensemble yielded several cult-favorite characters, most notably the eerily omnipresent Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), a Robin Hood-like figure who robbed drug dealers but never harmed an ordinary citizen. The show's vaunted reportorial critiques of various Baltimore institutions occasionally gave it a near-documentary feel. Secret Handshake: Sheeeeeeeit.” —Ken Tucker


“‘Breaking Bad’: 7 Lessons Showbiz Can Learn From the Gamechanging Series” by AJ Marechal, in Variety, on 9/27/2013, “Breaking Bad now ranks among the great dramas of television, surrounded by the likes of The Sopranos, NYPD Blue and The Wire. Showbiz could learn a few lessons from the series, especially given its prominence in the digital space.” However, he doesn’t draw the lesson that most current appreciators of The Wire discovered it on DVDs and through Netflix, both DVD and digital.

How To Make Money Selling Drugs includes instructive clips from The Wire and interview clips with David Simon. (My additional note.) (previewed at 2013 Tribeca Film Festival)

In Suits, the ethically-challenged private lawyers’ series on USA, the 3rd Season episode “Conflict of Interest”, first shown 8/6/2013, written by Daniel Arkin, included an off-hand reference, enjoying being a bit more adventurous in its use of profanity. As pretend lawyer “Mike Ross” (played by Patrick J. Adams) makes a realization about a case, he exchanges a series of Shits with a competitive associate “Katrina Bennett” (played by Amanda Schull), until he draws one out long, like the distinctive Sh-ee-i-i-t. catch phrase of a fictional Baltimore politician. She’s surprised: You’re into ‘The Wire’? And then she repeats the drawn-out word. (As it is, their repetition of the word was in itself an homage to the classic repetition of Fuck that The Wire did.) He later mocks her for making another reference: All right, you watch The Sopranos too? She chuckles: Nobody watches “The Wire” without starting with “The Sopranos”. They shake on an agreement with another Shee-i-t. Not leaving well-enough alone, “The Other Time”, written by Rick Muirragui, includes another reference. In a flashback to college, “Mike” BFF introduces him to a secretive white computer geek who goes by the name “Omar” with the explanation: He’s obsessed with ‘The Wire’. And the guy proceeds to talk, ridiculously, with “Omar” grammar and phrases.

Michael B. Jordan’s outstanding lead performance in the searing based-on-a-true-story film led to many interviews that cited his early role in The Wire, such as “Michael B. Jordan of Fruitvale Station, Hollywood’s New Leading Man in The Daily Beast, 7/11/2013: “After roles on The Wire and Friday Night Lights, Michael B. Jordan delivers an award-worthy turn as real-life shooting victim Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station. The actor opens up to Marlow Stern about the role, his journey, and race. Back in January 2008, HBO held a premiere party for the fifth and final season of its critically acclaimed series The Wire. The show, created by David Simon, was set in Baltimore and examined every facet of the city’s war on drugs, from inner city dealers and the cops on their tail to politicians and members of the press. At one point during the fête, Simon took over the microphone. He proceeded to rattle off the names of dozens of notable cast members, urging them to stand for an ovation. ‘The loudest cheers came for Michael B. Jordan, reported New York magazine [1/7/08]. In The Wire’s first season, Jordan played Wallace, a sympathetic teen drug dealer for the Barksdale Organization who wants out of ‘the game.’ The 16-year-old’s demise is arguably the most devastating moment in the series. More than a decade after that fateful scene aired, Jordan is back as another tragic hero. . .”
Ramin Setoodeh in Variety reported, 1/8/2014, on his acceptance of the National Board of Review’s “Breakthrough Performance” award: ”Jordan remembered getting cast on HBO’s The Wire at 16. ‘Life was amazing,’ he said until episode 12 when he learned that his character would be killed on-screen. ’No actor on that show wanted that visit from [creator] David Simon,’ he mused. ‘Actors were dropping left and right.’”


Luther postmortem: Idris Elba and Neil Cross talk episode 3 shocker” made comparisons to his other great role he’s known for, as quoted to Mandi Bierly in EW, on 9/5/2013: “Having played Stringer Bell [on The Wire] and been shot in the third season, there were some similarities there. Taking one to the chest as well. We laughed about that a little bit. But the point is, I remember telling him how [that] was a tough moment for me having to know this is going to be my last scene in a show that I was part of.”

Referenced in Anna Sale’s report on the 2013 NYC Mayoral primary on WNYC, posted on 8/25/2013, “De Blasio, a Practiced Critic, Confronts New Role of Frontrunner”: Public Advocate Bill deBlasio says: "’The personal is political.’ That's also the case when we talk about his home life and how he relaxes. He likes baseball, and The Good Wife, the television show about the life of a politician's wife after her husband's sex scandal. He's also a fan of The Wire, the HBO show about crime, corruption and government in Baltimore. I asked his favorite character. ‘I love the aide to Carcetti. That’s a brilliant and very realistic character,’ he said. Not the mayor himself. Or the crusading police commissioner. De Blasio picks the mayor’s aide, a character whose name he can't remember. It's fitting, because before de Blasio was ever a candidate for city office, he was that guy. As Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign manager, under Andrew Cuomo when he was Clinton’s Housing Secretary, and with David Dinkins, the last Democrat to run the city.” The transcript doesn’t get across just how enthusiastic he sounded about the series, which may be enough to get my vote after the primary.

Another politician was also inspired, but in a surprising place—in Russia, reported Steven Lee Myers in “Mayoral Run by Putin Critic Vexes Kremlin”, in The New York Times, 9/6/2013: “The improbable campaign of Aleksei A. Navalny, the corruption-fighting activist, has exposed disarray in the political system [President Vladimir V.] Putin has constructed. Beginning with Mr. Navalny’s conviction for embezzlement and prompt release on appeal in July, the Kremlin’s response to his campaign has been contradictory and at times confused. . .Mr. Navalny has openly campaigned before larger and larger crowds. He modeled his efforts, he said, on those he learned watching the HBO series The Wire, speaking to voters in a way that has not been seen since the early years of democracy after the Soviet Union’s collapse. That has tested the limits of the authorities’ tolerance, provoking responses that seem tentative and uncertain. When a recent rally drew thousands of supporters, the police promptly detained Mr. Navalny, only to release him, he said, because they had no orders telling them what do next.”

10 reasons why today's TV is better than movies by Stuart Heritage in the British The Guardian, 10/23/2013: “5. Actors do their best work on TV: Because television is increasingly becoming a writer's medium, it is attracting the best acting talent. Actors who would have run from television a decade ago are now embracing it precisely because the quality is so high. Now the letdown comes when actors move from TV to film. . . . Idris Elba followed The Wire by making a ropey thriller with Beyoncé. . . 7. British actors have ruled US TV for years: [Y]ou barely watch any American TV show at all without seeing a homegrown actor elongating their vowels. . . .The Wire had Idris Elba and Dominic West. . . .This could be because they're brilliant actors, or it could be because they're cheaper than hiring real Americans. Either way, it still counts.”

The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott in “The Big Picture Strikes Back” on 11/25/2013: “the notion that television is better, a provocative claim just a few years ago, when the memory of The Sopranos was still fresh and The Wire was winding down, is now conventional wisdom in the era of Mad Men,Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Girls. The case for the supremacy of television is hard to refute: such an abundance of fine acting, complex storytelling and, increasingly, visual polish, available whenever you want it, in single-episode or binge doses, on the screen of your choosing, without overpriced concessions and rude strangers texting or talking in the next row; a thriving critical bazaar of online recapping and water-cooler plot-spoiling; a business model, free of reliance on first-weekend grosses, that encourages risk-taking and the patient cultivation of a devoted audience.”
But then he has a comparison to film that is incorrect: “And even though television currently lionizes its show runners . . . TV criticism has not yet erected a cult of the individual artist, whose intentions are legible in the images on screen.” He cites another comparison, then admits there’s exceptions, though he doesn’t cite The Wire: “Television, well established as a writer’s medium, depends on talk, and also on the interweaving of multiple plot lines over the span of weeks and seasons. Every now and then, a series will change up the rhythm with, for example, what is called a “bottle episode,” focusing on a single series of actions in a confined space. . . But movies are freer to stay in one place, to narrow their focus and also to stray from the imperatives of linear narration.”


The references extended into movies in 2013, in writer/director Todd Berger’s satire It’s A Disaster. As the apparent end of the world disrupts their couples’ brunch, “Tracy” (played by Julia Stiles) tearfully bemoans a list of things she now won’t get to do, concluding: I never even watched “The Wire”! Her date “Glen” (played by David Cross) fails at comforting her: All those things you mentioned don’t matter. Except “The Wire” – that was really good.

On Aspen Institute Presents (PBS, 1st broadcast 7/1/2013) “Reinventing Television”, The Wire came up twice as a model for the future. SONY Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton: “A new technology has come along that dramatically affects the economics of our business, whether it’s pay TV or DVDs or something else. In the case of the internet. . . as it relates to things like Netflix, for the first time we have a platform that allows people to catch up with television that they hadn’t done in the past. And I think what has resulted is an enormous improvement in the quality of TV. Why? Because you can have these open-ended dramas which you couldn’t have in the past. Because before, you missed one episode of The Wire and that was it. You’re out of it. Now all of a sudden you find these writers who would like to create these 13 episode character arcs, better than creating a 2-hour arc. For television, you have a huge boom in dramatic TV. . . Good writing brings good directors. . that gets good actors. That reinventing the technology has improved the quality of television.” Noted TV director James L. Brooks, who I usually think of in terms of his comedy work, in an interview with Kurt Andersen, revealed he, too, is a fan. He first responded about the impact of violence on TV: “Entertainment Weekly just did “Best TV Shows of All Time” and no one can argue with their choice of The Wire, and that was one of the most violent shows in history. Arguably, the best TV show ever made was the most violent, so the conversation ends. . Are you bad or good?. . .The Wire enfranchised characters who were real. . who lived in violence, as many people do in this country.” Anderson: “But that’s using the perfect and the best to potentially. . .that poorly done. . .have to cop to effect.” Brooks: “The issue is whether you’re good or bad. . . I did The Wire on a binge. Something like 60 shows, so it was a real binge, and it’s a different experience, and it’s a richer experience, when you’re surrounded by it, you go to sleep and wake up and do it again. You can immerse yourself in it, you can become part of it. It’s like great literature for a reader.” (That may be an unintentional Dickensian reference.)

On Charlie Rose (PBS), 11/13/2013, he asked Claire Danes how her Showtime series Homeland fits into “the third Golden Age of Television” for her as an actor. She credited “cable television and the number of liberties it affords creative people. I started really getting excited with the show The Wire, which is quite awhile ago now. I was just so profoundly kind of impressed by that show. It got me eager to participate again in that medium and break through the screen to go from audience to participant. People watch television now like they read novels. They can really burrow into a series and they don’t have to wait for the commercial break. . .They can binge. The quality of the material just keeps escalating.”

Generally Through 2014

The 2014 documentary 12 O’Clock Boys, directed by Lofty Nathan, is promoted as: “The most thrilling trip into Baltimore since The Wire the film is a stirring, up-close ride with a notorious urban dirt bike crew, poetically seen through the eyes of a young boy determined to join their ranks.” Producer Eric Blair has worked in the crew of Homicide and The Corner. In “Shooting a Two-Hour Wheelie”, by Steve Dollar, in The Wall Street Journal, 2/3/2014, Blair described the documentary as “another chapter in Baltimore’s vibrant history and complex future”.

In Broad City (on Comedy Central, originally shown 2/26/2014), “Stolen Phone” episode written by Chris Kelly, show creators/comediennes Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer play versions of themselves in hipster Brooklyn. “Abbi”: Why would you have a burner phone?. . .Why would you need a phone like from The Wire? Why do you have that? “Ilana”: For dick picks, and sex media in general. . .I’m still on my family plan and I don’t fully understand the cloud and I don’t trust it. And I can’t risk just having dicks floating around. I feel like they’re going to pop up on my parents’ phone. “Abbi”: How many dicks are floating around? “Ilana” counting: Like the late 20’s? In “Destination: Wedding” (originally shown 3/26/2014), by the creators, ”Dr. Lincoln Rice” (played by stand-up comic Hannibal Buress) is pleading for a rental car. The nasty clerk “Mary” (played by Michelle Hurst): You think because you come in here lookin’ all Idris Elba I’m supposed to give everything up? Oh don’t act like you don’t know you look like him. He: Wait – are we talkin’ Luther or “The Wire”?

On Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jessica Williams in a comic “senior correspondent” response on 2/18/2014 to another Florida jury acquitting another white guy of killing a black teen, in Unjustified – Michael Dunn & Jordan Davis, used The Wire for another comparison: “Four black kids could be taking a calculus test together then to jumpy white folks it would still look like a scene from The Wire.” In a “Critic’s Notebook” piece by The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, on 3/18/2014: “A new public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in East Baltimore wants to challenge the blueprint. Designed by Rob Rogers, of Rogers Partners in New York, Henderson-Hopkins, as it’s called, aspires to be a campus for the whole area — with a community center, library, auditorium and gym — as well as a hub for economic renewal. This is the neighborhood where parts of The Wire were filmed. In 2000, when the city’s mayor convened local business leaders, the vacancy rate was 70 percent. Poverty was twice the city average. Crime, infant mortality and unemployment were all through the roof. The idea that emerged — of making the school the centerpiece of a major redevelopment project — is a grand urban experiment. Operated by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Morgan State University, the school, which opened in January, belongs to a $1.8 billion plan that also includes new science and technology buildings, a park, retail development and mixed-income housing. While gentrification might threaten to displace the poor, the school is to be the glue that helps bind the district together.”

If I went back through Maureen Dowd’s columns in The New York Times wouldn’t I have found references that she’d seen the series? But on 4/4/2014 in “Bring Me My Dragons!” she claimed: “I’d been hoping to get the flu. I hadn’t had it in years, and there were so many TV series I’d never seen — The Wire, Breaking Bad, House of Cards [mea culpa, too], True Detective, — that required an extended convalescence. When I finally succumbed to a fever and crumpled in bed a couple of weeks ago with saltines and Gatorade, I grabbed the clicker, murmuring, ‘Alright, alright, alright.’ The only celebrated series I had no interest in was Game of Thrones. . . But after I finished tromping around the bayou with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, I decided to watch one Game of Thrones to see what the fuss was about. It is not only the most pirated show on the Internet, but one of President Obama’s favorites — although he hasn’t picked up any good tips about ruthlessly wielding power, either from Game or from Maggie Smith’s Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey another show he raves about. After a marathon of three seasons of Game and the beginning of the fourth, starting this Sunday, I’m ready to forgo reality for fantasy.”

For once a comparison with Game of Thrones seems legit, as noted by Katie Walsh in her Indiewire recap on 4/6/2014 of the Season 5 opener Two Swords, written by the series’ creators D.B. Weiss (who also directed) and David Benioff: “Arya [Maisie Williams] wants a horse, as she's clearly outgrowing riding with The Hound (Rory McCann). They’re also hungry and have no money, because The Hound takes the stance that he’s not a thief. Arya rightly points out that he has no problem murdering little boys, to which he replies, “a man’s got to have a code” (to which I say: OMAR COMIN’!).”
Yet another Indiewire reviewer, Danny Bowes, made a similar comparison about another episode The Laws of God and Men on 5/12/2014: “The young queen [“Danaerys” played by Emilia Clarke] folds under the impossible choice (which reminded me quite vividly of the scene on The Wire where the elder statesman enlightens newly elected Mayor Carcetti about the true nature of the job: sitting around eating shit all day) and allows the young former aristocrat to take his father down [from his crucifixion], a decision that has ‘troublesome repercussions’ written all over it.”


The New Yorker 4/14/2014 cover promotion for Jeffrey Toobin’s “Letter from Baltimore - This Is My Jail: Where gang members and their female guards set the rules” was Post-The Wire. He also discussed his investigation on WNYC’s The Takeaway on 4/11/2014, “How One Gang Took Control of a Baltimore Jail”. [Forthcoming – I’ll read through the article for specific references.]

In “Amazon to Stream Original HBO Content”, 4/23/2014, Ravi Somaiya noted: “Beginning May 21, Amazon Prime members will have access to older HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, and mini-series. . . Terms of the agreement, described as ‘multiyear,’ were not disclosed, but a person briefed on the deal said it was worth at least $300 million. That kind of price tag underscores the enormous value attached to the kinds of popular, high-quality movies and TV shows that can reliably draw audiences. The Sopranos and The Wire in particular, are considered pioneers of novelistic, highbrow TV as a genre and are rewatched like classic movies.Slate’s headline on a 4/23/2014 piece by Aisha Harris was: “Omar Coming to Amazon Prime: HBO and Amazon Strike A Deal. . .if you’re an HBO-less viewer who has longed to catch up with Tony Soprano and Omar Little and hated waiting for the next disc in your queue to arrive in the mail, this deal is great news.”

At 2014 Tribeca Film Festival panel “Pen to Paper: Adaptation to Creation” at Barnes & Noble, Amy Berg, director of Every Secret Thing, Nicole’s Holofcener’s adaptation of Laura Lippmann’s novel, said the locale was switched from Baltimore to New York City because of the lack of tax incentives that had been available to The Wire. (The high profile House of Cards series negotiated a deal with the state of Maryland.)

At the Tribeca Film Festival, David Simon was on the 4/23/2014 panel “Stories by Numbers” at the School of Visual Arts. While House of Cards show runner/writer Beau Willimon admitted to only giving in to friends’ insistent recommendations to watch The Wire in the 3rd season after the first 2 seasons had come out on DVD for binge-watching, Simon noted he “failed HBO. . . to sustain the audience Sunday night. . .I can’t get you to watch the show on the air instead of streaming, box sets, and word of mouth.” His comments included: “I have absolutely no interest in what the audience thinks...I feel responsible to the story, not that the audience wants more Omar or more Stringer...I only care about what is actually happening in a city...We are still haunted by the ghosts of Thomas Harris and Silence of the Lambs. We want it to be really evil, but it's systemic and it's us." Excerpts from the discussion are on WNYC’s The Takeaway on 4/24/2014 and by the Festival. [Forthcoming – I’ll transcribe more of Simon’s comments on The Wire.] In my photo: (l to r) moderator NPR’s John Hockenberry, indiewire’s Anne Thompson, 538’s Nate Silver, Simon gesturing animatedly, and Willimon – and no, I didn’t go up to Simon afterwards to tell him about this page like the fangal I am.


Wendell Pierce joked he was at “the Oscars of housing in New York” at the annual luncheon, in May 2014, of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. Margaret Anadu of Goldman Sachs in her introduction to him mentioned his role with The Wire, before detailing “It’s his commitment to rebuilding his hometown of New Orleans following the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina that really won our hearts.” He gave a heart-felt introduction to Housing Impact Award-winners BRP Development: “I have synergy with CHPC and for 20 years to BRP Development. . . My passion is Pontchartrain Park where I grew up.” Afterwards, he posed with the CHPC staff, including Senior Fellow Harold Shultz, on the far left.
His interview in Indiewire, 12/30/2014, with Jason Gorber: “The Wire Changed His Life and Treme Defined An Era: Wendell Pierce on Creating Great Art on TV”.


On Inside Amy Schumer “Down for Whatever” episode, 1st shown 5/6/2014, she’s interviewing a centenarian fellow alumna of Towson University. Amy asks: “Baltimore is wonderful, but it also has its dangerous parts. Did you ever watch the show The Wire?” The elderly woman, who still lives near the college in suburban Baltimore: “I don’t know enough about it, darling.” Amy: “You are a Baltimore girl!”

NBC News broadcast Brian Williams’ interview with NSA leaker Edward Snowden, on 5/28/2014: Q: “This is a big cultural change. You in effect moved to Russia from Hawaii – food, language, TV shows, what do you watch?” A: “It is a major cultural gap and it requires adjustment. Even though I didn’t choose to be here. Circumstances really trapped me here. I can adapt and live life as in America, more or less. That’s the beauty of the internet, is that we are no longer tied to our communities merely by physical location. You mentioned TV. Right now I’m watching a show The Wire about surveillance, which is, I’m really enjoying it. The second season is not so great. It’s nice.”

On Orange is the New Black (on Netflix, released 6/6/2014), “Hugs Can Be Deceiving” episode, written by Lauren Morelli, set in a women’s prison: The white “Piper Chapman” (played by Taylor Schilling) bangs the table in frustration. Guard: Watch yourself Chapman! “Sophia Burset” (played by Laverne Cox): They got your number now, honey., and grabs her chin and looks at her. “Chapman”: What you're looking at? “Sophia”: I knew them bitches was lying when they said you left here looking like Omar from “The Wire”. “Chapman”: See I told you everyone was looking at me. “Nicky Nichols” (played by Natasha Lyonne): Relax Omar. (Thanks to Arjan Beens for the citation.)

Here’s an indirect reference to The Wire influencing the next generation in Variety’s “Top 10 TV Scribes to Watch”, 6/10/2014: 30-year-old Chris Rogers, co-creator of Halt and Catch Fire, told Andrew Barker his inspirations are: “Robert Penn Warren, David Foster Wallace, David Simon”. Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert grudgingly acknowledged The Wire in 6/15/2014 American Interest, while insisting “Reviews Gilding the Small Screen” only in passing: “Even long-gone shows like The Wire, Deadwood), and The Sopranos still claim passionate proselytizers among cinephiles, whereas movies seem to increasingly have sell-by dates of interest.”

Clarke Peters’ serious image as “Lester Freaman” was satirized in his lip synching of Wiley’s “You Know the Words” music video in a Summer 2014 pool party. (Thanks to Arjan Beens for the citation.)

Chuck Klosterman’s collection of essays I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) (Scribner, 2013) only has one citation in the index for The Wire (incorrectly identified as a film), on page 48, but guest host Kurt Andersen, on Charlie Rose 7/9/2014, cited “the guys on The Wire” among villains we love in popular culture when he introduced the author. And then they mostly went on to talk about “Walter White” in Breaking Bad.

In the U.K., The Guardian, “British TV drama – can it compete with the US?” by Mark Lawson, 7/25/2014: “It is now routine, in surveys of best-ever TV fictions, for US series screened during the last decade – including The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Wire – to slug it out for gold, silver and bronze, while Britain's main hope of making the podium comes from productions that date from far back into the last century. . . If we are to achieve absolute equality with America, drama departments here may need to hang up a sign that reads: ‘No cops, no spies.’”

The old “Stinger Belles” fans must have been delighted that when Details Magazine Magazine put “The Undeniable, Indescribable Appeal of Idris Elba” on its 9/1/2014 style cover, Adam Sachs remembered: “Having achieved cult status as the drug kingpin Stringer Bell in a career-making run on HBO's The Wire, he's gone on to. . . ‘That he isn't James Bond yet is a complete failure of imagination on somebody's part,’ says David Simon, creator of The Wire. ‘I don't know who bollixed-up that obvious triumph.’. . . Music, spinning records and making them, has been a part of his life from his early career in London through his New York City years and his big break in Baltimore—where he'd record with his Wire costars. ‘Me and Wood Harris, who played Avon, and Hassan Johnson, who played Wee Bey, we'd book out a studio and make records of us rapping. I'd make the beats and chords—just fun, freestyle stuff.’. . .
By the time Elba read for what would be his breakout role as the enlightened drug dealer Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell a year later, he'd nailed more than the accent. ‘I didn't realize he was English’, says Simon, recalling Elba's audition. ‘I figured he was a New York actor I hadn't met yet. The casting director was rooting for him, which I didn't know at the time. She'd advised him not to break his accent even outside the role.’ But it was the nuance of the reading, more than the linguistic sleight of hand that won over Simon and his colleagues. ‘To be able to play a cold and calculating character and then be able to let air into the room with humor, that's a huge range,’ Simon says. . .’If he can't hold a movie the fault is probably on the page or behind the camera. He doesn't do bad work. From a very early moment, we all thought, Okay, let's enjoy this while it lasts, because he's going to be a movie star, without a doubt. Pay attention, because we're gonna be sitting at a bar some night telling everyone we worked with Idris Elba. . . Everyone knew he's going to be a movie star, no question. The last person to realize it was him, which made it even funnier.’"
In “The Showrunner Must Go On as Their Roles Continue to Evolve”, Brian Lowry, Variety, 8/12/2014: “What’s changed, mostly for the better, is the more intricate nature of TV storytelling, and the recognition that keeping a show on track creatively often required placing the whole enterprise in the hands of the people guiding its vision. Under that scenario, such producers as Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) or David Simon (Treme,” The Wire) hold the reins to not just writing, but visual and production flourishes, casting, even decisions about minutia like promotion and publicity.” Simon and The Wire are glaringly absent from Showrunners: A Documentary Film and its companion book by Tara Bennett Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (2014) because they only focused on hit shows.

Vanity Fair’s alert, by Joanna Robinson on 9/2/2014, to watch just a rumored remastered into HD HBO Wire showing and possible Blu-Ray release: “The Wire was killing off your favorite characters before Game of Thrones was even a glimmer in HBO's eye. . . The Wire is often called the greatest TV show of all time, so we’re going to assume you’ve probably seen it. But just in case you never quite got around to watching and have been faking it for years at cocktail and dinner parties, now’s your chance. . . I do look forward to ‘you come at the king, you best not miss’ making its way back into every day conversation. . . .There are pleasures to be had in a marathon of The Wire, whether this is your first time or your fiftieth. Beyond the superficial joys of seeing actors like Michael B. Jordan and Idris Elba at the beginning of their careers, there’s the deeper realization that the passionate appeals for social justice in David Simon’s show are as applicable today as it ever was.” (Thanks to Danielle Shapiro) EW confirming the rumor, Esther Zuckerman commented on the series that was: “under-appreciated by viewers when it was on the air, but has now been deemed by many the best television show ever. Surely, someone has told you that you have to watch The Wire. EW has.” Paste Magazine chimed in, by John Riti, 9/3/2014, “Viewers can now see one of the best TV series of all time in a different light. . . is regarded by many as one of the greatest and simultaneously most underappreciated shows of all time.”
The rumors led to complaints in Gizmodo by Mario Aquilar on 9/2/2014, “Report: HBO Is Going to ruin The Wire With The Wrong Aspect Ratio”: “HBO is about to ruin a classic. . .unfortunately, broadcasting the show in HD requires cropping the original picture to make it fit the wider HD dimensions. Since the show was shot on film, the first four seasons were actually edited for the older 4:3 broadcast standard. You cannot make a 16:9 HD frame out of a 4:3 picture without cutting some of the original goodness out. We haven't been able to confirm that the show is being destroyed for HD. . . We'll take the little black bars on the side over losing any inch of Snoop.”
In Badass Digest “Is HBO Remastering And Re-Airing The Wire Good Or Bad News?”, Devin Faraci, on 9/2/2014, had qualms about: “finally giving the last few remaining white people who haven't gotten into it a chance. But what will the image look like?” Nick Griffin, on Creative Communities of the World in 2007 explained the technical aspects with the series’ directors of photography.
The debate continued, as in “For good and ill, The Wire is coming to Blu-ray” in The AV Club, 3/6/2015, with Alex McCown calling it a “mixed bag”: “The Complete Series Blu-ray collection is priced at $199.99, because HBO charges through the roof for its stuff. It will include all the previous extras, as well as a new Q&A from the Paley Center For Media’s The Wire reunion.”


In Daily Beast interview 9/16/2014 with Marlow Stern: “Inevitably, The Wire came up. [Dominic] West spoke fondly of the ‘astonishing afterlife’ of what many consider the greatest television series of all time and said he is still taken aback by the absurdity of strangers confronting him on the street and saying, quite apologetically, ‘I haven’t yet watched The Wire…I’m so sorry! But I mean to.” Asked whether the cast and crew were ever planning on making a feature-length film of the show, West offered an interesting response: ‘Constantly, There was constant talk of The Wire movie in the bar for five years, but nothing seemed to come about. I was talking to Wendell Pierce about it more recently because he was the driving force behind the movie idea, and we wanted David Simon to write it, obviously. But David Simon said, ‘It can’t be a sequel, it has to be a prequel. And that’s going to be all right for the black actors, but for the white ones, they don’t look younger than they did 10 years ago.’ West laughed, before adding in jest, ‘Whitey doesn’t look so good.’”

On the musical sitcom Garfunkel and Oates (on IFC), in the season finale “Maturity”, shown 9/25/2014, thirty-something “Kate Oates” (played by Kate Micucci) is trying online dating to prove she’s grown out of Peter Pan Syndrome by being ready for a boyfriend: I said I wanted a 33-year-old who liked frogs, closns, puppets, trains, kazoo parades, hacky sacks, and "The Wire". But she only gets a response when she changes her criteria to “all ages”—from a high school boy, who decides she’s too immature and inexperienced.

I don’t agree with Mark Harris’s comparisons in Grantland, 10/16/2014: “Should we see (or hear) [Shonda] Rhimes when we look at her characters? I’m sensitive to the glib offense of assuming that, as NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote dryly, ‘everything women write is really journaling.’ But male show creators transmute their best and worst qualities into their protagonists all the time. Josh Lyman, swinging through the West Wing and charming the ladies with banter, always felt like Aaron Sorkin’s self-idealizing surrogate, just as Toby Ziegler was his leave-me-alone-I’ll-do-it-myself dark mirror. The Don Draper [of Mad Men] who thinks his subordinates can’t ever quite nail it the way he can surely possesses some of Matt Weiner’s DNA. And there’s a lot of David Simon in Jimmy McNulty and every other know-it-all bastard on The Wire who is better and wiser than the morally stunted bosses who get in his way. It’s no insult to suggest that Rhimes’s many years as one of the only women of color in her field, rising to the top by learning to handle dolts who thought they knew better without alienating them, feels like it informs her characters (especially Miranda [Bailey of Grey's Anatomy] and Olivia [Pope of Scandal], who must manage both up and down).”

The Paley Center for Media cast and creator reunion at Paley Fest NY on 10/16/2014 got a lot of coverage, with photographs, commentary, and linkages to the hour-long panel discussion: at moderator Alan Sepinwall’s HitFlix, AV Club, EW, IndieWire, Rolling Stone, Variety, Vulture, and probably more, each emphasizing different angles. There wasn’t this much attention at the similar session I attended while the series was airing first-run.

Actress is an unusual follow-up to “the whatever happened to. . .” of a cast member of The Wire. The 2014 documentary follows Brandy Burre after playing tough political consultant “Theresa D'Agostino” over 15 episodes. (And the film certainly doesn’t make clear hers was a quite minor role.) At one point when she brings her mother in from Ohio to babysit her kids in Beacon, NY so she can go out on auditions to re-start her career, she shows her mom her scenes, evidently for the first time, skipping over the sex scene, but pointing out she was five months pregnant by the time by late-scheduled episode was filmed. Some might find the intimate close-up exhibitionist self-indulgence, but the insights of how difficult it is for women to balance work and family are not limited to the problems of self-presentation role-playing for an actress.
In the press notes, director Robert Greene explains: “When I originally came up with the idea to start filming my next door neighbor Brandy Burre, it wasn’t to document the dissolution of a marriage or to create the nonfiction/melodrama hybrid that we ended up with. I was a huge fan of The Wire, so it was very cool for me to put the camera on my friend who had been on that show. . . .Our houses are 20 feet apart.”
There are a lot of references to The Wire in many interviews with Burre and the director in many outlets – but this documentary may have led to the first discussion of the series in Cosmopolitan, 11/7/2014: “The New Documentary Actress Reveals the Painful Truth About Being a Woman in the Industry: The Wire's Brandy Burre let cameras follow her as she tried to restart her career. Here, she explains why” by Bilge Ebiri.


Alan Sepinwall (among others) positively compared the documentary podcast “Serial”, on 11/13/2014: “Similarly, Simon's The Wire (also set in Baltimore) was often at its most powerful when its stories ended in ways we didn't want them to. (Though that show never really trafficked in ambiguity about who did what, plenty of its characters got fates — good or bad — they didn't deserve.)”

HBO’s December 2014 marathon showing of the re-mastered episodes is renewing interest in The Wire, as noted by Audra Schroeder, on 12/27/2014, in The Daily Dot: “If you're a fan of the HBO series The Wire, and come across someone who's never seen it, there's inevitably a pained silence in which you try to not be That Guy and blurt out, ‘You've never seen The Wire???’ The show has a devoted fandom.” Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton was inspired to photograph “then and now” settings from the series. E. Alex Jung in Vulture, 12/28/2014, had a different perception: “It looks like time may have passed, but some things don't really change.” (I’m not on Twitter to follow his postings.)

The upcoming Netflix action series Marvel’s Daredevil was described by showrunner Steven S. DeKnight to EW, 12/29/2014, evidently without irony about what David Simon had to go through to make his series: “We really wanted to take our cue from [films like] The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, and make it very, very grounded, very gritty, very real. We always say we would rather lean toward The Wire than what’s considered a classic superhero television show.” With reports that now Netflix has linked the two shows in their algorithm for subscriber preferences.

In 2014, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. was teaching a class of his students how to properly hold out “Sheeeeeeeeeit”.
He expanded to Aisha Harris in Slate, 3/20/2015: “[I]t really started back around last summer in July. I kinda realized this whole thing with me saying ‘sheee-it’ in the Spike Lee films and in the show The Wire and stuff like that—everywhere I went I would run into people, sometimes two, three, four times a day, wanting me to say this catchphrase. So it kind of dawned on me, I said to myself, ‘I don’t think this is ever going away.’ Which, I have to admit, David Simon told me when we finished The Wire, he said: ‘You know you’re going to have to live with that.’ And I didn’t quite understand what he was talking about at the time. But I do now. … And it took me a little while to kind of embrace it. But once I did embrace it, I thought well, I can have a little fun with it. . . But it did start to work very, very well in The Wire. And I think that’s when it became really popular”
Todd Van Luling, in Huffington Post, 3/24/2015, turned the interview into “5 Behind-The-Scenes Stories About The Wire, As Told By Sen. Clay Davis. . . 1. The origins of "sheeeeeeeeeit" can be partly credited to Spike Lee. . . 2. Sen. Clay Davis is loosely based on a real person who was given a small part on the show. . . 3. Since the show was based in reality, viewers could guess storylines by particular casting of real people. . . 4. In the beginning of The Wire, many actors almost dropped out amid trepidation about the show's direction. . . 5. Major character deaths were bonding moments for the cast. Sometimes mock funerals were held. . . Bonus: According to Whitlock, there is a right and wrong way to say ‘sheeeeeeeeeit’."
TV Club was following his Kickstarter campaign, too.


Generally Through 2015

The complete series in HD availability for purchase at iTunes, Google Play, X-Box Video and Vudu on 1/5/2015, led Yahoo TV’s Kimberly Potts to link to David Simon’s reaction and to interview: “The Wire in HD: Stars On the Series Finale, Unhappy Endings, and Why a Reunion is Unlikely”.

NPR’s Eric Deggans, on 1/6/2015, “Rewatching The Wire: Classic Crime Drama Seems Written For Today: HBO's The Wire Now Looks As Modern As It Feels”.

Comics Kenan Thompson, Kevin Hart, and Jay Pharoah satirized The Wire’s corner boys as if they were gentrified in Saturday Night Live Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015 (on NBC, 1/19/2015)

Chad Coleman, in an interview with Variety, posted 2/9/2015, compared his characters’ sensitivity and being “soft” in The Wire and The Walking Dead: “I’m such a seasoned vet at this, I’m never not in a place of ‘It’s gonna come one day.’ The thing I always carry with me is when Stringer Bell got killed off on The Wire it was like, ‘OK, all bets are off, anybody can go.’ He was the most popular character on the show. . .I’m a big black man [laughs] and I still have to cross the street. I don’t mean no harm. There’s still that stigma. Whenever you can step inside a stereotype and blast it out of the water you want to do that. I won’t just take it to color, every man at his best must show vulnerability. You can’t be a father and not show vulnerability, you’ll be doing a disservice to your child. I’m grateful to carry that.”
Recappers made similar comparisons, such as Jeremy Egner in The New York Times, 2/8/2015: “Mr. Coleman, who brought a similarly soulful nuance to The Wire, wearing the weight of each loss like an existential millstone. . . Bob was played, by the way, by another African-American Wire alumnus, Lawrence Gilliard Jr. In other words, Seth Gilliam‘s Father Gabriel better watch his back.”, wryly noting that African-American characters are dying off.

On 2/11/2015, cited for setting a standard of comparison on the announcement of Jon Stewart’s retirement by Jason Zinoman in The New York Times: “[A]t Comedy Central. The Daily Show’ss impact on late night was arguably as great as that of prestige HBO shows like The Sopranos and The Wire on television drama.”

Spike Lee “spoke with Vulture about the movies, books, and people that have influenced his latest joint, as well as his career as a whole: “The Wire: I'm a big fan of The Wire; it's epic, you know. Five years, great storytelling, the whole package was very complex.” (posted 2/12/2015)

The AV Club cited in “Stream once and destroy: 20 great TV episodes too painful to watch twice”, 3/2/2015, with William Hughes listing at #2 “The Wire “-30-“: “His storyline in the show’s final episode earns its place on this list, as Dukie returns to Edward Tilghman Middle School to ask Prez for some money. He tells his former teacher that it’s for his GED, but Prez suspects the truth. We last see Dukie in the show’s final montage—and while there’s no lack of moments in that sequence to prove the show’s thesis that the system is designed to reward the bastards and punish the weak and the kind—the sight of a young man left with no option for happiness but to give himself over to heroin, as so many of the show’s wounded characters have before, makes it impossible to watch again.”

Vulture bothered to debate in a podcast, on 3/23/2015: “What show is more well written, The Wire or The Sopranos?”

In “This is Television’s Silver Age”, in The Washington Post, 4/4/2015, Hank Stuever, “Remember when people at parties started talking about television the way they once talked about movies? It was the late 1990’s, early ‘00s and we were enjoying what came to be known as ‘Golden Age of Television,’ a term repeated so frequently that critics began to shun it as cliché. . .The The Sopranos was on. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on. Later on it was The Wire, Six Feet Under, Mad Men. . .Hyperbole took over; every show became the bet show ever. In other words, viewers certainly know what a Golden Age of TV is supposed to feel like. The question now is whether or not we’re still in it. Probably not. . It’s time to admit that we’ve now deeply settled into a Silver Age of TV that might last a long while.” Surprise: front page article in The New York Times “Business Section “At the Head of the Pack, HBO Shows the Way Forward” by John Koblin and Emily Steel, on 4/13/2015, did not mention The Wire!

“2010-2015: A eulogy for Justified, the most underappreciated drama of our time” by Adam Epstein in Quartz, 4/14/2015: “The Sopranos. Breaking Bad. The Wire. Mad Men. These are the prestige television dramas that most say form the foundation of the 21st century’s ‘Golden Age of Television.’ But those four shows don’t tell the whole story. Justified might not be one of the pillars of TV’s Golden Age, but it too, was great—at times, transcendent, even. But it often feels like no one watched the show, placing it squarely in the realm of great TV shows like The Wire that somehow flew under the radar when first on the air, and relied instead on its few loyal fans proselytizing to their friends to convert them into fans. A victim of the Golden Age that spawned it, Justified was routinely overshadowed by other cable dramas, in both the ratings and awards departments. . . . The show was not part of the television zeitgeist. Actually, it wasn’t very popular by any standard. But it was so very good, and so very fun, and it didn’t really care about being anything besides those two things. I can only hope, that in a few years, more people will come around to it, and then we’ll become collectively annoyed when people act as though they’ve “discovered” it, just as they do with The Wire. I long for that annoyance. So long, Justified.
In Hollywood Reporter, by Tim Goodman on 4/14/2015: “Justified: A Look at Its Finale and Legacy. . .So, in the end, Justified won’t sit in the pantheon of shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but somewhere high on the tier below. However, Raylan and Boyd will certainly take their place with the best of any of the characters from those other shows. And that’s a mighty accomplishment.”

In Collider: “The Leftovers Season 2: Damon Lindelof Teases New Direction, The Wire’s Influence”, 5/12/2015. In an interview with Chris Cabin: “We got a chance to sit down with Lindelof recently to talk about how the writer-producer decided to approach the second season of The Leftovers, and Lindelof was quick to point to the narrative trajectory and storytelling of another HBO series, namely The Wire: ‘Although some people think the second season for The Wire is its least successful, I was just completely and totally captivated by the audacity and boldness of just shifting the storytelling down to the docks, and taking the characters who I had become deeply enamored of and sidelining them in favor of entirely new characters. In my mind, it paid off huge because it set up the paradigm for what the third season and the fourth season of The Wire could be, not to mention the fifth season. So, I’ve always felt that the next logical season of The Leftovers would just be the continuing adventures of these people in this place. Let’s not do that. Let’s try something different.’” [Now I’ll need to catch up on Season 1!]

Unexpected context reference on the PBS News Hour, 5/29/2015, amidst a discussion of the U.S. indictments of FIFA executives by Roger Bennett, Liverpool-born soccer analyst of Men in Blazers: “The FBI case revolves around hundreds of millions of dollars of money, wire fraud, racketeering, bribery taking place on American soil. The lead protagonist is a whistle-blower, Chuck Blazer, who lived in the Trump Tower, and had creamed off enough money to have a huge floor for his own use and a $6,000-a-month apartment just for his own cats. He’s turned evidence. They’re now trying to roll up with his evidence, and try and roll it up like Avon Barksdale in The Wire and land [FIFA President] Sepp Blatter. But this is an American story that’s taken place in America, the crimes have taken place here. And if America cracks FIFA, it will be their greatest gift to the world since the Marshall Plan.”

That wasn’t the only reference in discussions of the FIFA scandal. Tony Maglio in The Wrap, 6/3/2015, reported ESPN’s top journalist Bob Ley: “apparently has an encyclopedic memory of HBO’s The Wire. Ley’s name became a trending Twitter topic on Tuesday when he dropped the following quote from Wire character Omar Little during his ongoing and highly-praised “SportsCenter” coverage of the FIFA scandal. Come at the king, you best not miss, he offered. The one-liner was in reference to FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s announcement that he will step down amid a massive bribery scandal, just four days after being re-elected atop the all-powerful soccer organization. As one of his favorite series of all-time, Ley has been drawing similarities between Little’s fictional Baltimore gang and Blatter’s very real international one. “I devoured The Wire. I watched it four-five times just to study it. I love it,” Ley told TheWrap on Tuesday, laughing off the Internet Vine that has exposed him to a whole new legion of fans. “It’s so well-crafted, anybody who enjoys reading books, I think would enjoy watching The Wire.” Ley was just as passionate about the FIFA situation as he is about Michael Kenneth Williams‘ character on the pay-TV drama — it’s just that his emotions lie in the opposite direction.“What has long been suspected of being a near-criminal enterprise in terms of lax business standards, kickbacks and bribes.”



Vulture reported 6/1/2015 that Elba rapped about “Stringer Bell” on Sketpa's remix of "Shutdown". As quoted in The Hollywood Reporter by Abid Rahman on 6/3/2015: "See that Wire? Shut it down/Ain't nobody else selling brown/Ain't nobody else Stringer Bell/Boy from the East End did well."

In Thrill List, on 6/14/2015 [timed with the S5 finale of Game of Thrones], Kevin Alexander did “Every HBO Show Ranked” – and The Wire was only #2, even with criteria of “The shows were ranked on overall quality, dialogue, originality, influence on culture, and my subjective preferences.” At least he explained why, and atypically it wasn’t because of S2: “Best character: Omar Little. Come at the king, you best not miss. I’ve seen this show all the way through more times than any other HBO show. . .In fact, because of this piece, I started over again, and every time I do, I find something else fascinating that I never saw before. Simon stacks layer after layer, like some complicated and beautiful brickwork, and when you’re finished and you step back, all you can do is shake your head and marvel at what he’s accomplished, how he’s managed to paint a portrait of a city more accurately than even a book or film. The reason such passionate, creative work isn’t in the top spot is because of the fifth season -- the journalism arc, closest to his heart, seemed to play out with an agenda and didn’t bother fully developing the new characters caught within it. But that’s a minor squabble in what is otherwise the seminal profile of a small, struggling city and its inhabitants.”

The Mets, on 6/22/2015, posted an interview from Atlanta’s Turner Field stands on Facebook: “Seth Gilliam, star of The Walking Dead and The Wire, is a huge Mets fan. He came to the game yesterday while filming in Atlanta. He talks about spending Father's Day with his son watching his team.” He was surprised how many of the team members came up to him as fans of the show, calling him “Sgt. Carver”.

Among Vulture’s end of the 2014/2015 TV season lists was: “The Cast of The Wire Was Everywhere This TV Season”, by Ivan Cohen, 6/18/2015 – and even I haven’t had a chance to watch them all. He included: Aiden Gillen in Game of Thrones; Pablo Schreiber in Orange Is the New Black; Amy Ryan in Broad City; Wendell Pierce in The Odd Couple (but left out his corrupt, gambling parole officer in Ray Donovan and recurring role ni Suits); Dominic West in The Affair (but he missed John Doman’s co-starring role in the series); Isiah Whitlock Jr. in Veep; Domenick Lombardozzi in Boardwalk Empire and Daredevil; Glynn Turman in House of Lies; Reg E. Cathey in House of Cards and Grimm; Michael K. Williams in Boardwalk Empire and the upcoming The Spoils Before Dying; and, multiple actors together in The Walking Dead and The Good Wife. (He missed several others, including Jim True-Frost in American Odyssey).

Even in June 2015, Danielle Schwartz Shapiro could report finding “Map of D.C. from the set of The Wire at Second Chance, a salvage store in Baltimore.”:
In “My Own Private Baltimore”, by Tim Kreider, The New York Times, 7/4/2015, I was surprised there was only one reference: “Ever since I left more than a decade ago, I’ve followed my home city’s decline from afar . . .I still get nostalgic watching episodes of The Wire when I see real locations that look like sets from a postapocalyptic movie, scenes of off-duty cops vomiting on the sidewalks outside bars at 2 a.m., totally unremarked upon by passers-by, or hear the shrill nasal twang of an authentic Baltimore accent, apparently irreproducible by actors from anywhere else.”

Josef Adelian in “How 50 Cent and a Feminist Action Hero Are Finally Putting Starz on the Map, in Vulture, 7/9/2015, describe how premium channel Starz learned from The Wire: “Strong social-media support for Power has certainly helped, but just as with Fox’s megahit Empire— which the Starz drama predates — it’s a big spike in one audience segment (African-Americans) that has fueled ratings growth. Even though Starz is available in only about a quarter of all TV homes, Power this summer regularly lands on Nielsen’s list of the top 20 TV shows among black viewers. And according to Starz research, the show has the biggest concentration of black viewers of any premium-cable drama since The Wire. [Ex-HBO programming chief/Starz CEO Chris Albrecht] notes that African-American audiences subscribe to premium networks at a higher rate than many other demographic groups — and yet despite this, pay-cable networks have historically served up few shows directly targeted toward them. Power took advantage of that untapped potential. ‘From a business point of view, it makes a lot of sense,’ Albrecht says.”
I haven’t recommended Power not only because it is the soap opera version of drug dealers, but because the government lawyers are uncredibly stupid, nothing like my family and friends. But I’m intrigued how they use the White Best Friend From the Hood (“Tommy Egan” played by Joseph Sikora), who The Law assumed has the moniker “Ghost”, and I get a kick out of how it uses its NYC filming sites, including here in Forest Hills.


There’s been many appreciations of the 20th anniversary of the film Kids, generated by a panel discussion and screening at Part of BAMcinématek’s BAMcinemaFest 2015 on June 26, 2015, but until “Kids, Then and Now” by Ben Detrick in The New York Times, posted 7/21/2015, I had forgotten about The Wire connection: “After Kids [Leo] Fitzpatrick exiled himself to London after the film’s release, but he returned to New York and acting several years later. After appearing in Mr. Clark’s Bully in 2001, he spent three seasons on The Wire on HBO and had a role on Sons of Anarchy. More recently, Mr. Fitzpatrick appeared in an episode of Broad City and he has a part in Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, scheduled for release in 2016. Mr. Fitzpatrick is also a D.J. and art gallerist. Along with the artists Nate Lowman and Hanna Liden, he founded a pop-up gallery, Home Alone, that produces art shows in TriBeCa storefronts and other tiny spaces. He recently joined the Marlborough Chelsea gallery as a creative consultant.”

On the Huffington Post Black Voices blog, on 7/21/2015, Paul Achter, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Richmond, wrote: “Have You Seen The Wire?” about a course he annually teaches with political scientist Dr. Andrea Simpson, and talking about the series he loves outside the classroom: “When we say we have watched The Wire and then distance ourselves from its criticism of us, we exempt ourselves from an ongoing crisis in America.”

Uproxx, on 7/22/2015, by Jason Tabrys started in on “Stringer Bell’s Guide To Running A Business On The Wire”’, which was mostly a list of quotes on his economics. Uproxx then posted, on 11/24/2015, Christian Long’s list “Cedric Daniels Lines From The Wire For When You Mean Business”, with clips of Lance Reddick. For no obvious reason, Christian Long in Uproxx continued on 12/15/2015 with “Let Bunk From The Wire Help You Channel Your Inner Swagger”, with more quotes. This seems to be a continuing obsession of having just discovered the series in binge-watching on DVD, as in “What’s Stopping The Wire From An Epic Return To HBO?”, by Beware, posted 12/8/2015.

An ironic reference in “Cheap Fix: Heroin’s Resurgence -- ‘And then he decided not to be’”, in The Washington Post, 7/26/2015, by Marc Fisher. In a sad portrait of a young man who overdosed in Falmouth, Maine: “Everything finally seemed back on track. David was home for a short visit and looked happy, calm. He had a job, a girlfriend, a plan. His father, Kevin McCarthy, came home from work that Thursday and smiled to see his son take his dog, Kima, named for the drug-fighting detective on The Wire, out for a long walk.” Spoiler alert: it ends badly for him, and his brother.

“If The Wire Were Israeli, It Would Be This Show”, according to Jacob Kaplan in Jewniverse, 7/31/2015, also quoting interviews in a May 6 article in The Times of Israel by Jessica Steinberg: “Created by Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff and writer, actor, and former undercover counter-terrorist Lior Raaz, the show follows an Israeli army unit and the Hamas militants the unit is tracking down. Fauda is Arabic for ‘chaos’, and the show more than lives up to its title—it’s an honest portrayal of the complexity and disorder at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict. There’s no clear ‘good guy’; often, characters in the Hamas camp are portrayed with remarkable sympathy.” Otherwise the reporter misinterprets The Wire for comparisons. But here’s the English subtitled trailer.

Gothamist, on 8/16/2015, reached too far for a Wire reference that made no sense in describing what The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd got of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, followed by a long quote that doesn’t support this comparison: “There's also this gem about his warped, um, code. Trump is basically the Omar of the 2016 election.”

Matt Zoller Seitz, in “The Radical Humanism of David Simon”, Vulture, 8/12/2015, finally “apologizes” to Simon for not getting The Wire, in an essay on his oeuvre.
A similar comparison is made by Brogan Morris in “Seven Years after The Wire, Why David Simon is Still Making the Same Show”, in Paste Magazine, 9/8/2015, subheaded: “Simon’s view on things hasn’t changed, because American society hasn't changed much either.”


I agree with Christian Long, but why did he not realize this until 8/21/2015 in Uproxx? “Why McNulty and Bunk’s Relationship Was Vital To The Success Of The Wire’” But cool that people are still interested. (Thanks to Tom Ucko for the citation.)

Yet another young and/or amnesiac critic scorning True Detective Season 2 while not knowing The Wire was underappreciated in its time: Brogan Morris in “Golden Age Problems: Have We Come to Expect Too Much from TV?” , Paste Magazine, 8/20/2015: “Rather than viewing cinema as television’s better, it would appear we’ve come to expect more from the small screen than we do from its bigger, older brother. And as the so-called ‘golden age’ of television stretches on, every year looking more and more like it’s set to stay, it seems as though our tolerance for anything but the best has weakened. It’s somewhat understandable: The Wire, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and the like forced other showrunners to up their game, so now we’re living in a time where it seems there’s always at least one great, unmissable show on at any one time.”

Another comedy reference: on Playing House, “Knotty Pine” episode, written by Vera Santamaria (1st shown 8/18/2015), “Emma Crawford” (played by Jessica St. Clair) interrupts her old high school boyfriend “Offficer Mark Rodriguez” (played by Keegan-Michael Key) in his suburban police station: Emma! I was in the midst of solving a crime right here!. . .Someone wrote the word“turd” on every single vending machine in town. “Emma”: Just like “The Wire”, huh. Where is McNulty when you need him?

Idris Elba has become such a big star that his “Stinger Bell” is less remembered – except the week of 9/1/2015, Washington Post pieces: TV critic Alyssa Rosenberg in “What we talk about when we debate who should play James Bond . . .Anthony Horowitz, who has written an authorized Bond novel, mentioned in an interview that he didn’t think that perpetual candidate Idris Elba was right for the role. . .Do we want a sexier Bond? Anyone who looks at Elba and sees only size and physical force, doubting Elba’s abilities as a seducer, might do well to revisit The Wire” Style writer Soraya Nadia McDonald weighed in on “Here’s what we’re missing when we discuss Idris Elba and James Bond . . .Of course, as an actor, Elba is capable of stepping outside of himself to play Bond. He mastered an American accent to play Stringer Bell on The Wire, so much so that he fooled creator David Simon into thinking he was American when he auditioned for the part.”

Stay Tuned, Vulture's TV advice column was dated 9/2/2015, but was the familiar “The 100 TV Dramas Everyone Should Watch” by Margaret Lyons was in categories and alpha order under: “THE OBVIOUS MEGAPRESTIGE ONES: When people try to make claims about a ‘golden age’ of TV, this is what they're talking about, usually. These are the straight-up masterpieces. . .The Wire is, somehow, as good as everyone says it is.”

The Hollywood Reporter compiled “Hollywood's 100 Favorite TV Shows”, 9/16/2015, but The Wire only rated #30 out of 100, with no new commentary on why.

In The Atlantic, 10/5/2015, “A Black Boy in Baltimore” by Melinda B. Anderson: “Mired in unemployment, poverty, and crime, West Baltimore is a community made famous as the setting for HBO’s The Wire, a drama series that centered on the city’s drug trade.”

On Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, the 10/8/2015 panel of comics discussed media mogul Rupert Mudoch’s tweet in praise of Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson: “What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide?” Contributor Jordan Carlos retorted that the tycoon would only consider “Omar” in The Wire a real black.

Just about every review of Beasts of No Nation, adapted by Cary Joji Fukunaga from Uzodinma Iweala’s novel set in a fictional, nameless African country of a civil war “manned” by abused child soldiers, made the same comparison that A.O. Scott did in The New York Times, 10/15/2015: “The Commandant is a demonic father figure, a seducer and a predator who rules his young charges less through fear than through the motivational grandiosity of a football coach. That [Idris] Elba can be scary and charismatic at the same time will not be news to anyone who saw him in The Wire, but the Commandant lacks the ambition and the entrepreneurial savvy of Stringer Bell.” [An odd claim, because the character is ambitious and sets off internecine warfare when he’s passed over for a promotion.]
The comparisons kept coming up as Elba did promotion. On Times Talks, 11/16/2015, Cara Buckley noted that the first role he was known for was “Stringer Bell” on. . .”- but the audience interrupted with cheers. Elba interrupted jokingly: Law and Order. Director Fukunaga interjected with feigned innocence: “I thought it was The Office.” Elba went on to earnestly explain he researched for his African-American roles, and he “wanted to bring my audience along with me. They stick with me. If I have an audience, it was important to bring them to this subject matter.”
On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on 12/3/2015 to promote the film and an upcoming TV return of Luther , the host joked in welcoming Elba: “I don't know whether to expect the dude from The Wire or the Commandante or the cop."


Saturday Night Live “cold” opening on 10/17/2015 was a parody of the first Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate that was held by CNN earlier in the week. Making fun of how poorly the non-leading candidates sold themselves, Taran Killam as former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said: “When I was mayor of Baltimore, I did such a good job, they made two TV shows about my city, Homicide and The Wire.”
Gail Collins, a political humor columnist for The New York Times, continued in the same vein re: the debate on 11/14/2015: “Date Night With The Candidates. . . There’s been a lot of debate on vetting stories candidates tell about their personal history. This kind of reporting is absolutely essential if the person in question has nothing but a personal history. . .You could still ask O’Malley if he was the inspiration for the crafty mayor in The Wire, if only to introduce a discussion of popular TV shows that are not The Celebrity Apprentice.” (a comparison to Republican candidate Donald Trump.)


On Supernatural, “Thin Lizzie” episode, 11/4/2015, written by Nancy Won, the Winchester Brothers set off to hunt suspicious happenings in Fall River, MA. “Dean” (played by Jensen Ackles) asks what to do with former angel “Castiel”, who as part of adjusting to life on earth now had recently discovered Netflix. “Sam” (played by Jarad Padalecki) assures him: Oh, he's knee-deep in binge-watching “The Wire”. Just started Season 2. “Dean”: Oh yeah. He's not coming out any time soon. In the next episode, “Our Little World”, written by Robert Berens, “Castiel” looks haggard watching reruns of Jenny Jones talk show. “Dean” calls: I thought you were going with socially acceptable binge-watching, you know, like “The Wire” or Game of Thrones. “Castiel”: Well, you know, Dean, man cannot live on caviar alone. “Dean”: I’ve been there before. I’ve heard the siren song of the idiot box. Go outside and get some air.

Many entertainment outlets picked up The Baltimore Sun’s 12/3/2015 obituary by Jacques Kelly: “Melvin Williams, whose life as a West Baltimore drug kingpin in the 1960s and post-prison redemption earned him a place in HBO's The Wire, died Thursday at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Friends said Mr. Williams, 73, told them he had cancer. . . David Simon, who co-created The Wire, covered Mr. Williams as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. ‘Melvin did a lot of damage — and he'd be the first to admit it,’ Mr. Simon said Thursday. ‘He was a fascinating man in terms of Baltimore and what the drug war was going to do to this country.’. .. Mr. Simon recalled a meal with Mr. Williams at Moe's Seafood in the Inner Harbor. They met with Edward Burns, a former homicide detective who had built a successful case against Mr. Williams — and was collaborating at the time with Mr. Simon on The Wire. ‘Melvin was polite to Ed, if not cordial. They shared some very funny moments.’ He said they came away from the meeting and offered Mr. Williams the role of the deacon on The Wire. Fans of The Wire have long speculated that Mr. Williams was the inspiration for the drug dealer character Avon Barksdale. Mr. Simon addressed the question in 2004: ‘Avon Barksdale? He is not Melvin Williams, or Warren Boardley, or Linwood Williams, or Peanut King. He is in a sense, all of those kingpins from Baltimore's criminal past — and therefore none of them.’ He offered a slightly different answer on Thursday. ‘There's a piece of Melvin in The Wire. We used a lot of different people. There's the DNA of a half-dozen people we used.’"

One of the best films of 2015 Spotlight, about The Boston Globe’s series on pedophile priests, was inspired by The Wire: Jada Yuan’s interview with David Simon in Vulture, posted 12/4/2015, followed up his 11/3/2015 interview with writer/director Tom McCarthy that revealed he was influenced by his acting the role of the fabricating – “bad guy for most journalists” and fan despised-- “Scott Templeton” that he wanted to salute investigative journalism by newspaper reporters. Simon: “We’ve joked about Spotlight being his penance. . . .I think there’s a great deal of forgiveness for the streetwise badass in this world. I mean, there’s a peculiar way in which the gangster chic tends to overwhelm some viewers’ sense of morality. . . if you do your dirt with paper or with a briefcase, it’s somehow less forgivable. That’s just people enjoying the gangster-movie part of that. . .[He’s] based on a lot of fabricators. It’s a repetitive theme. . . I said, ‘Your character’s going to do some things that are increasingly less ethical ... The secret to your performance, and I know you’ll get it, is that your character thinks that he’s the good guy. He thinks he’s right, and that what he values is best — at least until the confrontation with McNulty at the end — and you’re able to compartmentalize very carefully what your sins are and the reasons you’re doing them.’. . . And to be fair, I think everyone was paying attention to the fabulist that gets away in the last season of The Wire, but that season we bookended with two very good pieces of journalism. In the first, the city editor discovers something in a City Council agenda that is a real conflict of interest, and they report the hell out of it, and he writes that to the front page. That’s the first thing you see happen. And the last thing is a very honest piece of narrative journalism about Bubbles. . . So we were critiquing a newspaper that was no longer really attentive to the problems of its city. In contrast, Spotlight harkens back to a moment where a newspaper sat up, took notice of a problem in its city, and surrounded it with real conviction and ethical fervor. They’re both the same argument, in some ways; one’s just being made in the best-possible example, and the other using the worst. In the Hollywood Reporter “Writers’ Roundtable”, Amy Schumer teased him that he had used a line from The Wire in his script: “You look good girl!”

On Chicago Fire (on NBC) episode “2112”, written by Ian McCulloch, 1st shown 11/17/2012, “Joe Cruz” (played by Joe Minoso) is visited by a gang member from his old neighborhood. “Brian "Otis" Zvonecek” (played by Yuri Sardarov) offers to help, but is rebuffed: What do you know about gangs? “Otis”: I watched “The Wire”.

Sisters, the December 2015 re-teaming comic vehicle for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler written by co-star/comic actress Paula Pell, sticks in a lot of references to their glory days and looking to past, so that’s probably why “Maura Ellis” (Poehler) references that she’s always meant to watch The Wire, especially to binge watch since it came out on DVD, while she’s miserably failing at flirting with her neighbor “James” (played by Ike Barinholtz). [Atypically, I wasn’t taking notes at the press screening so didn’t note the exact quotes, but hope to remember to get it eventually.] In contrast, her sister’s unhappy alpha nemesis, “Brinda” (played by Maya Rudolph) is up-to-date with Game of Thrones.

When The Queen’s New Year’s Honors List was announced, The Hollywood Reporter headlined on Facebook: “Stringer aka Idris Elba gets another honor!” Abid Rahman continued on 12/30/2015: “Elba. . .received an OBE for services to drama, capping off a fine year for the former star of The Wire.”

Generally Through 2016


Especially noteworthy after being passed over for an Academy Award, Idris Elba himself cited the importance of The Wire to his career in a speech to Members of Parliament , on 1/18/2016, demanding more diversity in British TV (though that is also an issue in the U.S.): “I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role. I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead. In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther then I’d have to go to a country like America. And the other thing was, because I never saw myself on TV, I stopped watching TV. Instead I decided to just go out and become TV.”

During SuperBowl 50 on 2/7/2016, Toyota Prius commercials were considered by David Simon and fans a comic “Sobotkas” reunion, featuring The Wire actors Chris Bauer, Pablo Schreiber, and James Ransone together: “The Longest Chase” and “Hunters”. I think this series is continuing.

Reviews of the PBS Frontline episode “Chasing Heroin”, first broadcast 2/23/2016, included comparisons to The Wire’s “Hampsterdam” in the discussion of Seattle’s LEAD - Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to decriminalize heroin use downtown. Similar comparisons were made when Mayor Svante L. Myrick of Ithaca, NY, proposed the next day a legal site for using heroin. All commentators cynically noted that the proposals came from areas where the heroin addicts are now primarily white.

NPR’s television commentator Linda Holmes, on 3/16/2016, compared the FX mini-series “The People Vs. O.J. Simpson Gets To The Gloves. . . It's always more complicated and daunting to attribute horrors of any kind to systemic problems and widely shared human frailties rather than the malice or incompetence of aberrant individuals, and it's particularly hard on television, which so favors stories about people over stories about institutions. (This is also what made The Wire so unusual.) It's easier to believe that the trial turned into a circus because it fell into the hands of the wrong people, but more interesting to consider whether it turned into a circus in spite of the best intentions of the right ones.”

Odd comparison reference by Donnell Alexander, on 3/22/2016, in “I Love My Children and I Owe Them So Much Money”, in Jezebel: “Let’s get real: Some fathers who don’t pay child support are indeed mustache-twirling deadbeats committed to shortchanging their children. (Perhaps you’ve read about them on Facebook.) Some are elusive junkies, switching up their cell phone numbers like burners on The Wire. (Perhaps you’ve read about them on Facebook, too.) Some are straight junkies. The majority are, for any number of reasons, just regular old broke.”

The New York Times expanded its usual description of the network in “With a Stand-Alone App, Starz Looks Beyond the Cable Bundle” by Emily Steel, 4/5/2016: “Previously, [Chris] Albrecht was the chief executive of HBO, where he helped assemble a slate of signature series like The Sopranos, The Wire and Sex and the City.”

I found out about this free public event too late via Twitter:
The Wire Conference, at Teachers College, Columbia University (Sponsored by the Heyman Center for the Humanities; School of the Arts; Center for Justice; School of Journalism; Institute for Research in African-American Studies) on 4/8-9/2016: “A consideration of the achievement, the afterlife, and the legacies of the HBO series The Wire—by some of the actors, writers, and musicians who created it, the academics who teach and study it, and those who in their communities continue to engage the issues it raises.” The panels included: “Teaching The Wire”; “Seriality and Narrative Experience”; “Baltimore Stories in the ‘Public Square’”; “Music from The Wire”, organized by Blake Leyh, Musical Supervisor on The Wire; “Actors and Activism: a roundtable featuring actors from The Wire, organized by Jamie Hector Jamie Hector, and also with Felicia Pearson, Wendell Pierce, and Sonja Sohn”.
The conference was covered on PBS Newshour, 4/20/2016, by Hari Sreenivasan, on “How The Wire is inspiring new classroom curricla”, and by Michael D. Regan on “What The Wire can teach us about storytelling”, which reported on the panels, including journalists who cover the issues and the participating actors “on how the series changed their own lives.”


Even in the Marvel Universe, re-reported Kevin Anderson in The Nerdist, 4/13/2016: “Luke Cage Will Be Like The Wire, Producer Says. . . For what seemed like 62 years, people told me I needed to watch HBO’s beloved but canceled crime series The Wire, and for a good long time I resisted. Then, finally, my ability to flatly refuse awesomeness withered and I watched the five seasons of gritty Baltimore cops-versus-drug-dealers-and-also-other-things shenanigans and it was amazing. Obviously. A billion people can’t be wrong. But now that it’s over, what do we have to take its place? Apparently, Marvel and Netflix‘s Luke Cage series will fit that bill. At the premiere of Captain America: Civil War Tuesday night in Los Angeles, all of the Marvel who’s who were traipsing the red carpet and Cage‘s executive producer, Cheo Hodari Coker, teased the new series’ musical roots to [Joey Nolfi for] Entertainment Weekly, saying it has a ’90s hip-hop vibe, but also a gritty, urban tone. ‘We have a lot of different musical appearances,’ said Coker, who also wrote the show’s first two episodes. ‘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’.” Luke Cage premieres September 30 on Netflix streaming – so let’s see how many more such comparisons there will be.

Another series compared to The Wire: By Maureen Ryan, now Chief TV Critic of Variety, 4/11/2016: The Last Panthers (Import on Sundance Channel): “Much of what transpires comes off as an homage to complex dramas like The Wire and The Shield and though The Last Panthers isn’t in the league of those American classics, it’s a credible and illuminating look at the movement of cash, guns and lucrative contracts in the interconnected Europe of today. . . And though it’s a sad fact of life that not all cops can be as charismatic and memorable as The Wires Jimmy McNulty or Bunk Moreland, the very slow reveal of backstories in The Last Panthers can leave the main characters feeling a little thin and underdeveloped. . . ‘Sometimes things are too rotten to change’, a character says at one point, sounding, as it happens, just like someone from The Wire. Brandon Nowack in The A.V. Club went further, 4/20/2016: The Last Panthers should have watched The Wire. . . Khalil [played by TR] has personally grown up in that environment, and he’s watched his brother fall into crime. That’s why he’s so intent on cleaning it up, on playing white knight. Unfortunately, as he learns from two The Wire plots stitched together and moved to Marseilles, that’s easier said than done.” The New York Times, too, Neil Genzlinger on 4/12/2016: “There are flashbacks galore, and the series owes quite a debt to the oblique storytelling of The Wire. This would be a better, easier-to-follow series if it allowed itself to be direct from time to time, but it will reward those who like their television dense and brooding.” Brian Grubb in Uproxx, 4/13/2016: The Last Panthers is a dark and gritty crime drama highlighted by strong performances. If you like shows like that —The Wire, Luther, other shows starring Idris Elba — there’s a solid chance you’ll like this, too.” Though the intellectual comparisons started when it was first shown in the U.K. on SkyAtlantic, David Stubbs in The Guardian, 12/10/2015: “Among The Last Panther’s many strengths is not just its fascinating and multiple shades of moral grey, but its strong political sense. . .showing that the rise of postwar Serbia has been hampered by corruption. It has been compared to The French Connection, but The Wire is a more apposite comparison. Although scripted byJack Thorne, who previously worked on This Is England, it was co-created by Jérôme Pierrat, a journalist specialising in organised crime.”

In “Why everyone is freaking out over Emily Nussbaum’s Pulitzer Prize for criticism” by Alyssa Rosenberg, in The Washington Post, 4/28/2016: “But even as the canon of television’s Golden Age was falling into place, television critics were absent from the roster of Pulitzer Prize winners during the crucial years when The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire and Deadwood were on the air. . . Nussbaum aims an even sharper pin at the Golden Age canard, most famously with an essay arguing that Sex and the City was just as important as “The Sopranos” in expanding the idea of what was possible on television. . . Nussbaum’s win [is] a reminder that it’s one thing to fight for a medium to get recognized as art, and another to win that fight and start pushing the medium to get bigger, more expansive, more eccentric and more specific.”

David Simon received a career achievement award and taught a master class in a “packed” Blanquerna University Auditorium at the third annual Serielizado, the International Television Show Festival in Barcelona “a festival about everything that is generated around television fiction and exclusively thought for the TV-Series fanatic”, where Variety’s Emilio Mayorga interviewed him, 4/26/2016: Q: “Years ago, audiences saw a chapter of one show once a week, now there’s many different ways to see a whole series. Do you have the feeling that this is affecting storytelling strategies?” A: “It only works I think as premium. I think I’ve proved it doesn’t quite work for episodic. I[’ve] never been able to glean an audience for these things while they’ve been on the air. Once they are all done, people start looking at them and then they notice that you may have built something and the word-of-mouth goes around. Nobody learned a lesson from The Wire. Nobody said: ‘While we were watching it, it didn’t seem like it had a plan, it didn’t seem like it was much and it built and built. and finally it was about something. So I’m going to watch the next show he’s doing. So people watched two episodes of Treme and they said: ‘It’s not going anywhere?’ If you got to the end and you saw what we built, there’s a different dynamic. So now you start hearing people saying: ‘I actually watched and it was O.K. They knew where they were going’, but you did not hear that while The Wire was happening. So I think in some ways, Netflix and Amazon , the idea of just dumping the season and saying ‘here it is’. Watch it at your own pace.’ That may be the future: TV could be the lending library rather than the broadcast, the medium that it is now. . . But television seems to have part of that place where it is starting to, just starting to, engage in dramatic planned argument and I think that’s interesting.”

Data-cruncher Walt Hickey, Chief Culture Writer at 538, figured on 4/28/2016, that he could evaluate HBO’s prestige by the numbers using the extremely inadequate data base of “the IMDb user rating for every television episode” (which I have never bothered to participate in for TV) and includes: “The Wire was launched in 2002, bolstering HBO’s offerings, but in 2003, there was a pretty heavy dip in the overall quality compared with the average. . . By 2004, with the debut of Deadwood and strong seasons for The Wire and The Sopranos, the ratings go back to above-average. The level remained consistently above-average through 2008 . . . The network’s best calendar year was 2001. Its best consecutive 365 days was from June 17, 2006, to June 17, 2007, when we saw the third seasons of Deadwood and Entourage, the fourth and final good season of The Wire, the second season of Rome and the final episodes of The Sopranos. That’s certainly a hard tear to match! But still, we’re getting the chance to check out offerings among HBO’s best since the renaissance began.”

In Variety’s Jenette Riley 4/29/2016 interview with director Ben Wheatley about casting an American actress in his High-Rise: “[I]t’s ballsy for [Elisabeth Moss] to sit in the middle of a massive U.K. cast and pull off this great British accent. But she did it. When you get an accent right, it’s impressive. I remember seeing The Wire and looking up Idris Elba and learning he wasn’t American and just going “What the f—!”

On 4/28/2016, President Obama posted: “strong intellectual property protections make sure no one can undercut our economy or take advantage of America's great creators . . .With these protections in place, American innovators are free to create that unique brand of American culture that has shaped the heart and soul of this imaginative country for centuries. . .When I got back from Hannover Messe [global trade fair in Germany this week], I took some time to jot down a few of my favorite works - proud examples of what Americans can create, and what we have to protect:


Some actors seem always to be associated with The Wire, when there’s bad news, such as Wendell Pierce’s arrest in Atlanta reported all over the news on 5/16/2016, and when they are in movies, such as in A.O. Scott’s review: in The New York Times 5/12/2016: “What’s equally striking about Money Monster is the presence, in supporting roles, of excellent actors best known for their small-screen work. One of the film’s incidental pleasures is the game of cable-drama trainspotting it invites. Fans of Outlander will be happy to see [Caitriona] Balfe. [Dominic] West will stir up memories of The Wire and The Affair. And look! There’s Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Chris Bauer (also The Wire), John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos).”

I’m sure any review of D. Watkins’ The Cook-up: A Crack Rock Memoir is going to mention The Wire. Here’s The New York Times, 5/13/2016, by Jason Parham: “Baltimore is perhaps best known for its tangled politics and its ever-swelling ¬congregation of illegal drug outfits, thanks to David Simon’s mid-aughts HBO show The Wire, the haunting urban panorama that lodged itself into the American pop consciousness. This time, though, the city’s wickedness — brought on by a trickling stream of bureaucratic failure through the years, from the early days of the 1960s segregationist police force to the more recent accusations of predatory practices among Housing Authority workers — finds a suitable host in Watkins’s self-labeled ‘crack rock memoir’.”

Jada Yuan at Cannes Film Festival for Vulture, 5/15/2016: “Dominic West’s Big Regret From The Wire: "Obama's met everyone on The Wire except for me. Because I’m white! And English! He did invite everyone else who’s American to the White House."

I don’t agree, but Matthew F. Delmont, a professor of history at Arizona State University, is the author of the forthcoming Making Roots: A Nation Captivated, in The New York Times, 5/27/2015, “How Roots Changed America” claims: “Why America Forgot About Roots. . .Roots has not been completely forgotten; artists like Kara Walker and Edgar Arceneaux have made reference to it, as have rappers like Missy Elliott and Kendrick Lamar. It inspired Henry Louis Gates’s PBS genealogy shows [including: Finding Your Roots in 2016; Finding Your Roots in 2015; Finding Your Roots in 2012; African American Lives/Faces of America]. And yet today there are more books on recent critically lauded television shows like The Sopranos The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men than on Roots.”

Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post, 5/31/2016, on “What HBO needs to do when Game of Thrones is over. . . 3. Break with the white-dude brand: It’s not entirely fair to HBO that the network has a reputation for difficult white men as both subjects and showrunners. Series like Deadwood and Game of Thrones have fantastic female characters, and The Wire remains one of the richest displays of the talents of African American acting talent ever to appear on television.”

I’m sure any review of Del Quentin Wilber’s A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, which follows detectives from Prince George’s County in Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., which was inspired by David Simon’s Homicide, is also going to mention The Wire. (Well, The Washington Post didn’t.) Here’s Jennifer Senior in The New York Times, 6/2/2016: “Mr. Simon’s worldview, spelled out with rueful, crystalline precision in everything he’s ever done (particularly The Wire) is simple:The game is rigged. Young black men in poor neighborhoods are outrageously impeded by diminished economic horizons, the unforgiving rules of the street, centuries of institutional racism. The best-intentioned and brightest detectives are working on a shoestring in communities that have zero reason to trust them. And everyone’s getting the shaft from elected officials, who generally care more about poll numbers than the lives they’ve sworn to improve and protect. Mr. Wilber makes no such points.”

Michael Ausiello at TV Line on 6/30/2016, who only writes breathlessly about spoilers for upcoming TV episodes: Arrow's Season 5 Big Bad an Homage to Idris Elba's Wire Villain Stringer Bell?. . . TVLine has learned exclusively that the CW drama’s upcoming fifth season will introduce a new villain loosely inspired by Idris Elba’s Stringer Bell. The character, tentatively named ‘Anton Church,’ is a ruthless crime lord who sets out to fill the sizable void left by Damen Darhk and H.I.V.E. The initial casting notice describes him as an ‘apex predator’ who ‘cuts his way through the shadows’ by taking down ‘the biggest threat first.’ (Um, he’s looking at you, Ollie Q[ueen].) While the role is being likened to Elba’s classic Wire baddie [sic], the breakdown also references ex-Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa as a physical prototype.” Which is casting-speak for a male actor of color.

Joe Nocera asks in the 6/18/2016 “Can Netflix Survive in the New World It Created?. . . The company shifted [from movies] to television. Cable networks like FX and AMC were developing expensive, talked-about dramas, the kind HBO pioneered with The Sopranos and The Wire. But these series, with their complex, season-long story arcs and hourlong format, seemed to be poor candidates for syndication, unlike self-contained, half-hour sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” which can be watched out of order.”

British actor Damien Lewis in New York Times Talk, taped June 23 2016, in explaining why he moved from films to TV series like Homeland and Billions (which I still have to catch up with on Showtime On Demand) credited David Simon and The Wire for starting "the novelization of TV" worth watching over hours in DVD box sets, or binge on any platform.

A July 1 promotion for a Brooklyn-based web series on my FaceBook feed: “It's being called The Wire for the new generation. Don't miss ‪#‎MoneyandViolence‬. Seasons 1 & 2 on Digital HD.” So I went back for other commentary. Evette Dionne, who identifies herself as a Black feminist culture and fashion writer, on 1/31/2016, in Complex: “It's full of violence, grittiness, and the twists-and-turns that made HBO's The Wire a sleeper hit.” Season 1 was on CloudTV; Season 2 streaming on Tidal. While the YouTube subscription series is promoting that both seasons can be purchased as of 8/16/2016, I’ll only catch up if I don’t have to shell out for another subscription service.

In New York Magazines “Case Against the Media By the Media” issue, 7/24/2016, David Simon is quoted several times with the identifier as “Creator of The Wire”. His full interview, in “The Transcripts: A Master Class in What’s Wrong (and Right) With the Media by Those In the Know” asked more specifically how he chose to portray the media in the series and the difference between journalistic and dramatic storytelling.

A 7/25/2016 promotion for WNYC’s Studio 360“My Fair Radio Host: If Hugh Laurie and Carey Mulligan and half the cast of The Wire can nail an American accent, can Nebraska-born Kurt Andersen learn a convincing English accent? He teamed up with a professional voice coach to see if he can pronounce "horse" and "daughter" like someone who’s been received into British society.”

If I had known that Michael K. Williams was in HBO’s The Night Of, I would have attended that preview and panel at 2016 the Tribeca Film Festival. He was also promoting the Viceland channel docu-series he hosts and executive produces Black Market, which explores and provides his insights on underground economies in America and around the world [His episodes’ introduction: “Why people do the things they do? Desperation drives them to it. When the system fails you make your own system.”], when he was interviewed on NPR, July 25, 2016.
But he still could provide insights for fans on his portrayal of “Omar”: “Williams tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that playing such intense characters sometimes takes a psychic toll. ‘When I wear these characters to the extent that I wear them to, that [energy's] gotta go somewhere,’ he says. The dark energy of Omar Little, for example,’was a little too close to home.’ Williams struggled with addiction while he worked on The Wire and eventually sought help at a church in New Jersey. . . Now the actor practices prayer and meditation, which help him separate from his work. ‘One of the main things that's changed from when I was first on The Wire and to now — in, particularly, The Night Of — is I know how to differentiate myself from the character. ... I still go in just as deep, but now I have the tools ... to pull myself out of that. . .I didn't feel worthy of opportunity like [the role on The Wire], and when I was given this character, Omar, I could've used it as a tool, as a nurturing tool for myself. It could've been cathartic for me, [but] I decided to wear it as a Spider-Man suit and just fly around and go, ‘Whee! Look at me! I got web in my hands!’ Instead of actually doing the work and finding out how I could use this character to make myself feel better about me, I used it instead of me. It was like my crutch. . . . So [when] The Wire and the character of Omar ended, I had zero tools, personally speaking, in how to deal with letting that go. I wasn't going around robbing people or anything stupid like that, but I definitely wore that dark energy that Omar was — he was a dark soul, a tortured soul — and I just ... lived in that and that's what people was attracted to. ... The lines got blurred. . . . When I came through those doors [of the NJ church] I was broken. ... This was, I would say, around the ... third season of The Wire. I was on drugs. ... I was in jeopardy of destroying everything I had worked so hard for, and I came in those doors and I met a man who had never even heard of The Wire much less watched it. ... I wrote my full name down — Michael Kenneth Williams — and in the office [the late Rev. Ronald Christian] turns around and he says, ‘So what do you want to be called, man?’ I said, ‘Well, you know, my name is Michael, but I could do Mike.’ He says, ‘Why does everybody say, Omar, Omar's in trouble? And I was like, Oh, this dude is clueless [about The Wire]!”
Boston Globe critic Matthew Gilbert provided conventional praise and comparisons before the finale on 8/28/2016: “While the first episode of the series moved slowly, as we collected minute-by-minute information about The Night Of, all the subsequent episodes have moved at a faster pace, allowing us to see Naz’s change in a kind of time-lapse fashion. We’ve watched him get sucked into the vacuum of adjudication and corrections. In that way, The Night Of recalls The Wire, the David Simon show for which Price wrote a number of episodes. Both dramas give us specific characters on all sides of the action. On The Night Of, we’re closely following Naz, his family, and the lawyers, with John Turturro (who replaced the late James Gandolfini) putting in a particularly humane turn as an eczema-afflicted attorney hoping to turn his luck around. We’ve seen the torment of Naz’s parents, with his mother losing faith in her son’s innocence, and we’ve studied the steely face of the prosecutor played by Jeannie Berlin. But at the same time, both The Night Of and The Wire take a step back from these details to show how our institutions are rigged, how they can trip up ordinary people, how they can protect the guilty. We always understand that the characters — particularly those of color and those without money — live on a very uneven playing field.”
But The Night of also came in for negative comparison to The Wire by Hari Ziyad in Paste Magazine, 8/10/2016, particularly for the episode “Season of the Witch”: “Co-writer Richard Price also worked on The Wire, which I believe attempted to engage anti-Blackness at a far deeper level, so one is forced to wonder whether these storylines will play out in more appropriate (and less anti-Black) ways before the end of the season.”
Ishmael Reed posted on Facebook, 8/27/2016: “two the wire actors agreed with me about the show. one said that the show presents Blacks as people who don't care about their neighborhoods. the other said that sometimes he didn't even want to show up for work. i confronted [Richard] price about his stereotypes of Blacks at a conference in southern france. the new york delegation, his buddies, criticized me for bringing "a local" issue to the conference. there was a full page ad for the wire in the international herald tribune on sale at the conference. one of price's supporters, novelist russell banks price's friend criticized me. i asked him to watch the wire. he said that it was a bunch of white guys - script writers- putting "amos and andy” lines into the mouths of Black actors." but that price was in debt and had to pay bills. in this hack piece the night of - i watched the first episode in which Blacks were anti-intellectual and indian subcontinent americans were"the model minority." price has recycled some of the characters from the wire and made them anti-muslim. there's no difference between the way price, pelecanos, and david simon and the way that Jews were portrayed by the Nazi media: criminals, bums, hoodlums, rapists, degenerates and even called "negroes". check out the book julius streicher' nazi editor of the notorious anti-semitic newspaper der sturmer [by Randall Bytwerk] available at amazon. why isn't there more outrage?"


Late Night with John Oliver, first shown on HBO 8/7/2016, identified David Simon as “Before he was the creator of The Wire he was a reporter at the Baltimore Sun”, and played a clip of his despairing testimony on The Future of Journalism, in a larger piece decrying the dying of local newspapers.

In “Donald Trump’s Description of Black America Is Offending Those Living in It”, by Richard Fausset, Alan Blinder and John Eligon, 8/24/2016: “as [Alexis] Scott, [a former publisher of The Atlanta Daily World, a black-owned newspaper] put it: ‘He is giving voice to every stereotype he’s ever heard. I heard someone say, ‘It’s like he only watches The Wire, and that’s what he knows about black people.’”
Trump was quoted in speeches to white audiences referencing African-Americans: “You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed” and in another article: “At a rally in Akron, Ohio, this week, Trump described the lives of American minorities this way: ‘Poverty. Rejection. Horrible education. No housing, no homes, no ownership. Crime at levels that nobody has seen. You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it’s safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats...Now, you walk down the street, you get shot. . .Look, it is a disaster the way African-Americans are living.’” In a Milwaukee suburb speech: “Law and order must be restored. . .Every time we rush to judgment with false facts and narratives, whether in Ferguson or in Baltimore, and foment further unrest, we do a direct disservice to poor African-American residents who are hurt by the high crime in their community — a big, big, unfair problem. . . On crime, I am going to support more police in our communities, appoint the best prosecutors and judges in the country, pursue strong enforcement of federal laws, and I am going to break up the gangs, the cartels and criminal syndicates terrorizing our neighborhoods. To every lawbreaker hurting innocent people in this country, I say: your free reign will soon come crashing to an end.” He continued this rhetoric throught the campaign.

During the 3rd debate on October 19 , Secretary Hillary Clinton: “You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him. The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case. He said that the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus, he lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program [The Apprentice] three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.” Donald Trump interrupted: “Should have gotten it.” Seth Meyers‏@sethmeyers , of Late Night With. . immediately tweeted: “Now if he was taking a stand on THE WIRE never winning an emmy....”, liked by some 2.6K and ret-tweeted by over 700, when I checked a few days later.

“Sundance’s Rectify could be The Wire for small-town America”, said Todd VanDerWerff in Vox, 10/26/2016: “an executive for AMC Networks (the studio that produces the show [for Sundance Channel]) had recently shared his hope that Rectify will ultimately have a similar life cycle to The Wire. . . Yes, The Wire was little watched while on the air, but after it ended, more and more people watched it, became obsessed with it, and turned it into the enduring TV classic it was always meant to be. . . Like The Wire, which dug into the systemic failures of the American city, Rectify travels to a place TV rarely travels to, to examine people in crisis. Only in this case, that place is a small town in the South, and many of its residents would likely turn up on other TV shows as goofy rednecks — as stereotypes, more or less. . .”

Indiewire’s headline "The Wire star finally gets his very own leading role with Josh Locy's festival favorite” to Kate Erbland’s introduction on 10/31/2016 to the trailer of Hunter Gatherer led me to his interview with Eric Kohn, 4/1/2016, Indiewire : “Andre Royo on Life After ‘The Wire and Finally Getting a Lead Role . . .“The Wire is one of the best things ever done and it certainly changed me.But I wasn’t getting offers after The Wire. It was pretty much an East Coast show that ended in 2005 without that many people seeing it. Idris [Elba] and Dominic West had the normal leading man stature. They were big overseas and they had a certain weight to them as far as their size and energy. If you play a cop, there is a lot of work for you as cops. If you are the leader of a drug cartel, then you can lead an army or you can lead so and so. So that archetype is easy to insert places. And they’re fucking talented. But for a hapless defeated human tragedy like Bubbles, that doesn’t really go into a Disney film. That doesn’t go into a romcom. So nobody was like, ‘Let’s get Bubbles to play a Lieutenant’. . .Josh really enjoyed my Bubbles portrayal on The Wire, but he was also scared, like any artist, that that was going to overshadow his own creation. He didn’t want anyone going ‘Oh, look, it’s Bubbles!’ He wanted his shit defined. So we talked about it and I was like look, ‘No one is going to stop calling me Bubbles.’ And I don’t want them to, because that was a really defining character in my career. It changed me as a human being and an artist. It gave me confidence and it gave me such a connection for what I bring to the table. But I try to find the humanity in every character. I try to make that the foreground to anything else and I don’t want that to ever go away. . . What made The Wire really successful is that we all sat in a hotel room and decided that story comes first. No one cares about ego. No one cares about screen time. It’s about the city of Baltimore, it’s about the story. Let’s get it right and we held everyone accountable. That doesn’t happen throughout Hollywood filmmaking.”

Festival Albertine, curated by Ta-Nehisi Coates at the French/English book store in Manhattan, included this panel session on 11/3/2016: “From the Margins to the Mainstream: Producer David Simon (The Wire); graphic novelists Kelly Sue Deconnick (Captain Marvel) and Catherine Meurisse (La Légèreté); and spoken word artist D’de Kabal (Chants Barbares) will examine how, and why, certain art forms (from television to comic books and slam poetry) move from low art to high art, and how those same art forms are considered within the realm of French and American culture. Moderated by Ta-Nehisi Coates.”

In the “Who’s the Cool Girl Josh Is Dating?” (Season 2, Episode 7, first broadcast 12/9/2016) of the musical comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (on CW), written by Michael Hitchcock, “Paula Proctor” (played by Donna Lynne Champlin) is studying constitutional law wth her law school study partner: I’m telling you I haven’t been this obsessed with something since the first season of “The Wire”! You don’t watch “The Wire”? What! I’m so jealous of you that you get to watch it for the first time. Rebecca and I binged that in like two days –we loved it! She is so Avon and I’m so Stringer Bell! Why am I talking about Rebecca?, her estranged best friend. Meanwhile, “Rebecca Bunch” (played by creator star Rachel Bloom) is with her clueless new best friend, watching a security tape: I'm gonna fast-forward through this to see if she is a hopper movin' g-packs. She's no corner boy, she's pushin' real weight. It's “The Wire”. Have you never seen “The Wire”? “Gabrielle Ruiz” (played by Valencia Perez): Am I supposed to? “Rebecca”: Oh, my God. I am so jealous of you right now. You get to watch it from the beginning. Paula and I binged the whole thing in two days, and we were obsessed. We talked like Avon and Stringer Bell - for a solid month. Wait. Why am I talking about Paula? I hate her right now. Okay, fast-forward, let's see….Have you seen Breaking Bad? How do you live your life? “Gabby” (Valencia Perez): I go outside.

In Amazon’s Kindle “Daily Deal” on 12/23/2016, TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz is promoted in the first sentence with: “Is The Wire better than Breaking Bad?. . .For twenty years – since they shared at TV column at Tony Soprano’s hometown newspaper—critics Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz have been debating these questions and many more, but it all ultimate boils down to this: What’s the greatest TV show ever?”

Generally Through 2017


(Photo credit: Laure Joliet)
In The New York Times 1/9/2017 in the “My Space” feature in the “Men’s Style Section” by Steven Kurutz: “A Tour of Andre Royo’s Los Angeles Home…Far From the Bronx. ..One of Mr. Royo’s most treasured possessions is a tiny doll of Bubbles, the character he made famous on the HBO series The Wire. . .Dolls are usually for the Marvel Universe, the pop-culture phenomenon movies. I was on Twitter and saw this guy made a Bubbles doll. A Bubbles doll? I got to have it. I contacted the guy. I was like, ‘This is Bubbles.’ The Wire was one of those shows that was overlooked by the masses. We may have never gotten an Emmy or a Golden Globe. But I got a doll.”

The Atlantic on 2/15/2017 launched a campaign of questioning “conventional wisdom”, created with Wieden+Kennedy New York. From the press release: “In Typecast, we see Michael K. Williams, known for such roles as ‘Omar Little ‘in The Wire and ‘Chalky White’ in Boardwalk Empire, wondering aloud if he’s being typecast. But we soon discover that he’s not alone: He’s debating this complicated question with four versions of himself, all representing different aspects of who he’s been and who he is today. …[With the] two-and-a-half-minute film directed by David Shane of O Positive Films: ‘We tried to create the vibe of four dudes, four friends just hanging out and having this kind of thoughtful discussion. The degree of difficulty of this performance is actually hard to fully understand. He was playing, in effect, four characters, and trying to keep track of them.’”

In The Los Angeles Times 3/9/2017: “Joe Spano plays an FBI special agent on NCIS and was a cop on Hill Street Blues, but every Friday he lays down the law on where to find wildflowers in Southern California. He’s the voice of The Wildflower Hotline hosted by the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley. ‘I love it, it’s such an adorable thing to do. It’s not like being on The Wire or NCIS. We’re not dealing with global catastrophes.’”

Sonia Saraiya in Variety, on 3/10/2017, “American Crime Season 3, With Its Focus on the Collapse of Rural America, Becomes Heir to The Wire…[I]n creating a kind of socio-journalistic fictional document, American Crime is aiming, consciously or otherwise, to do what The Wire did for the drug trade in Baltimore in the mid-‘00s. . . Of course, The Wire is still going to have quite a leg up on American Crime. By virtue of that show’s place on HBO, it could curse, f-ck, and also be very funny; American Crime has found a creative way of both emphasizing and bleeping out its swear words, but still, this is a show trying to tell a story about sex work without being able to depict sex. At the same time, though, I wonder if one of the reasons we haven’t seen an heir to The Wire on cable is because the premium elements — the sex, drugs, and cursing — too easily erred towards titillation instead of investigation.”

Late Night with John Oliver, first shown on HBO 3/19/2017, used The Wire to make a satiric comparison: that a legal commentator on Fox News had any credibility to allege British intelligence services were involved in wiretapping President-elect Trump on behalf of President Obama, was like a parrot, then like an elderly relative says inappropriate comments, so the family makes the excuse: “We were only watching The Wire”.

Uproxx found another odd pop culture list to promote: “Ranking The Happiest Endings On The Wire by Christian Long on 3/28/2017: “Widely lauded? Yes, but The Wire wasn’t generally thought of as a happy show. Over its five seasons (available to stream anytime on HBO Now) it depicted life in Baltimore, MD: from the cops to the criminals, to the elite ruling class and those lost souls that were struggling to get by. The show wasn’t all bleak all the time, but violence and despair seemed to always be around the corner. Even characters that meant well had to confront a sense of disparity and the feeling of being trapped in a city that was slowly killing itself through greed, poverty, and addiction. Perhaps that’s why we still get an extra bit of satisfaction out of those few endings that pass for happy. And so, with that in mind, here’s a countdown to the happiest of those endings.”

The AV Club noted: “HBO cuts new trailers to finally get you to try Six Feet Under and The Wire”. William Hughes, on 4/19/2017: “Apparently HBO Now subscribers aren’t taking sufficient advantage of their access to the network’s impressive—if incomplete—library of TV lately…The Wire’s is wide-ranging in its scope, starting with Baltimore’s schools, before showing how the drug trade colors and taints every part of its world. (It also totally skips over the show’s second season, which seems depressingly apt.) …both trailers pull off their jobs without giving up much of the way in spoilers. If you’ve never seen the shows, they’ll be a good tease, and if you have, they’ll serve as yet another arsenal in your efforts to just get your damn friends to try The Wire, already.”

Marking the 15th Anniversary, HBO promoted bingeing the whole series on HBO Now and HBO Go:
Sonia Saraiya in Variety, on 6/1/2017 : “15 Years Later, 2017 Needs Its Own The Wire. simply put, is one of the best shows ever made. But 15 years ago, when it debuted, most of us didn’t appreciate it [sic]: In what remains one of the most perplexing oversights in the Television Academy’s history, it never won an Emmy, and was nominated just twice for writing awards. Now, though, it’s near-universally held up as one of the most brilliant dramas of the contemporary era — and one of the foundational shows in TV’s new golden age. The Wire took one of the most basic forms of television drama — the cop show — and turned that lens into an atmospheric, broad-ranging examination of how institutional bias and systemic power structures affect the individuals within them. Because of creator David Simon’s background in journalism, The Wire’s details and complexity carried with it the ring of tough-minded truth — one that offered a completely different lens on inner city life than what you might catch on the evening news. Considering that the show managed to balance all of this with a wicked sense of humor and dozens of heartfelt performances, it is no wonder that the show became a modern masterpiece. At times, though, The Wire’s immense reputation gets in the way of its own themes. Looking back over the last 15 years, it’s intriguing to chart how dialogue around the show has evolved and expanded. The Wire transformed from a niche show that few were watching to a symbol of intellectual superiority. The fact that the show was only available on HBO — without the options of HBO Go and HBO Now— necessarily limited its audience, as did the time required to invest in such a Dickensian construction of city life. And the people who were likely to learn the most from The Wire were viewers with enough privilege to have avoided the pitfalls of endemic crime, inner city life, and/or addiction. . . The Wire was—is!—uniquely brilliant. It handled underreported issues in a sensitive way and made the mundane into fascinating television. But it was not the end-all, be-all, final word on American public institutions. And yet for some reason, it has stood alone in the pantheon of brilliant television about American institutions. Most other shows don’t even try to put in the work to get even close to The Wire, let alone surpass it. It’s not about content — after all, drugs and crime and cops are all over TV — it’s about scope and context. The Wire is a show about intersecting structures of power, told in a rigorously researched story about one specific place. It’s hard to locate that wide-ranging sense of mission in most television dramas today. There are more television shows than ever before, but none are as wide-ranging, honest, revolutionary, and educational as The Wire.” Variety supplemented with a gallery of “The Cast Then and Now”.
In TV Guide, 3/8/2017, by Liam Matthews: “The Wire's Michael Kenneth Williams Reveals How to Honor the Show's Anniversary”: “Go to your local hood and grab a kid and get a mentorship going, so that we can stop putting our kids in the prison pipeline. That's how you show your love for The Wire, because those stories are based on real people. A lot of kids are not given the proper tools to survive in society. We gotta get back into the community aspect of the community healing itself."
In Refinery 29, Sesali Brown on 6/2/2017: “The Cast Of The Wire, 15 Years Later”.
In Complex: “The Best Crime TV Shows Since The Wire…On June 2, 2002, HBO revolutionized the crime TV genre forever when The Wire premiered in their infamous Sunday night 10 p.m. slot. With Snot Boogie’s dead body lying in the middle of a West Baltimore street, we immediately became captivated by the stories surrounded by the drug trade, seaport system, city government corruption, school system, and the printed media. Over the course of five seasons and 60 episodes, we took sides in the Barksdale-Standfield drug war, practiced saying "sheeeeeiiittt" like Clay Davis, wondered how McNulty kept his job, and were in total disbelief by the way Omar went out. In an era where reality TV rules all, crime dramas have not lost their step since The Wire signed off the air in 2008. We had the difficult task of delving into the best crime TV shows since then. Covering it all from attractive serial killers to desegregation, these shows have kept us on our toes episode after episode with intense, thought-provoking writing and top-tier acting. After some intense, healthy debating, the Complex family has decided that these shows have properly carried the torch left by The Wire.” [A quick look and I don’t agree with them!]
HBO combined the 15th anniversary with promoting David Simon’s upcoming series The Deuce by looking back through interviews with Simon and George Pelencanos.
Humor: Coed: “The Wire 15th Anniversary Memes: Funny Photos, Best Jokes & Pictures” and Where’s Wallace - a la Where’s Waldo.


“Steve Earle: My Wife Left Me For A Younger, Skinnier, Less Talented Songwriter” in The Guardian, written by Simon Hattenstone, 6/14/2017: “Earle might be better known to some these days through his acting than his music. I tell him I loved him as “Walon” in The Wire. He smiles. ‘Thanks. It was a great thing to be part of. That didn’t require any acting: I was playing a redneck recovering addict.’”

In the metro section of The New York Times on 6/30/2017, by Noah Remnick: “Michael K. Williams Is More Than Omar From The Wire, Mr. Williams has made a career of bringing nuance and contrast to his roles, inspired by the swaggering characters he grew up with in East Flatbush. The Wire, HBO’s five-season epic of Baltimore life, is a perennial contender for the greatest television series ever, and Michael K. Williams, in his role as the stickup man Omar Little, its most memorable actor. But on the show’s first day of filming, when a prop person handed him his character’s signature shotgun, Mr. Williams clutched it with a look of sheer bewilderment. ‘He didn’t know which end was which’, said David Simon, the creator and showrunner of The Wire. ‘Mike is a beautiful man, but a gangster he is not.’ Mr. Williams would not be deterred. Later that week, he left the set in Baltimore and returned home to East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and enlisted a local drug dealer to help hone his craft. Standing on the roof of the Vanderveer Estates, the man walked him through the particulars of firearms by spraying a hail of pellets into a steel door. ‘Best acting lesson I ever had,’ Mr. Williams said. In the years since then, Mr. Williams, 50, has continued to draw inspiration for his characters from the world of Vanderveer, a housing complex now known as Flatbush Gardens, where he lived for much of his life. Time and again, his work has returned to the complicated intersection of race, masculinity, crime and institutional failure… Mr. Williams, as Omar, will forever be remembered for his scowl, his scar, his mordant wit and the sawed-off shotgun he held at the ready, but he has always wanted more… Mr. Williams has made a mission of depicting his community in all of its nuance and variety… Capitalizing on the continued relevance of The Wire and the rest of his catalog, Mr. Williams is now delving into film and television production, and deepening his activist role with the American Civil Liberties Union… It was a warm Friday afternoon in June, the 15th anniversary of the premiere of The Wire, and Mr. Williams was back in East Flatbush to celebrate with some friends… Some of them were strangers familiar with his work, but many more were friends and longtime neighbors who knew him not as Omar from The Wire but Mike from Tower 3301. At one point, a young mother sheepishly stopped him to say she had named her child Omar in his honor… In Omar Little, Mr. Williams saw versions of himself and many of his friends, in all their complexities and inner conflicts. The character was at once menacing and jocular, openly gay and privately tortured, a lawless vigilante and regular churchgoer. ‘Omar is this dark-skinned outspoken man in the hood who didn’t care what anyone thought of him. He is everything I wished I could be… When it came to technique, Mr. Williams relied on his own emotional acuity. Building off his experience in dance, he often made detailed musical playlists that corresponded with the mood of each episode. Before filming the scene when Omar was killed, for example, he listened to “Let There Be Light,” by the rapper Nas. To this day, he finds the song so affecting that the mere mention of it brings him to tears…The show’s writers grew so enamored of Mr. Williams’s mastery of his character that they began to challenge him for sport. ‘We started writing these Britishisms for him just to see if he could pull it off,’ Mr. Simon said. Once, they included the word “constabulating” in the script as an inside joke they planned to cut. ‘That’s a word that hasn’t been said in the history of Baltimore, but he somehow made it work,’ he said. Even as The Wire staggered in the ratings — it was initially more admired than watched — Omar became its icon, the subject of tribute art and academic dissertations. Nowhere was the performance more beloved than in East Flatbush. When Mr. Williams moved back into his apartment in Vanderveer after the first season, in 2002, the neighborhood men who had harassed him for years were suddenly currying his favor. The attention was intoxicating, but he couldn’t help feeling unnerved. ‘There was just one small thing,’ he said. ‘No one was calling me Mike. They were calling me Omar. That’s when the lines got blurred.’ What followed was something of an existential crisis. Months removed from filming, Mr. Williams struggled to shake the grave psyche of his character. He was racked by doubts both personal and political: Had he lost hold of his identity? Was he glorifying the ills of his community, or exposing their roots? He couldn’t divine the answers, so he turned to cocaine. Even weighed down by addiction, Mr. Williams’s acting was sharp — perhaps even more naturalistic — but off camera, his life was deteriorating. He blew most of his money on drugs and stopped paying rent until he was kicked out of Vanderveer. When he wasn’t staying in a hotel during filming, he lived out of a single suitcase, often spending nights on a drug house floor in Newark. There were days he showed up to set visibly high, but the show’s producers didn’t dare let him go. ‘We worried that if he lost the work he’d become truly untethered,’ Mr. Simon said… During one particularly rough stretch in spring 2008, just after The Wire ended, he was on a three-day-long bender when his mother brought him to a rally for Barack Obama in Harrisburg, Pa. Earlier during his campaign, Mr. Obama had declared The Wire the best show on television and Omar his favorite character. When the two men met privately after the event, Mr. Williams, lock-jawed and high on cocaine, could barely speak. ‘Hearing my name come out of his mouth woke me up,’ he said. ‘I realized that my work could actually make a difference.’ Mr. Williams resolved to continue pursuing similarly powerful roles, no matter how agonizing the demons they unleashed…’Addiction doesn’t go away,” he said. “It’s an everyday struggle for me, but I’m fighting.’…, he is completing a documentary to be released this fall through Vice on HBO. The project intends to detail the dangers and inequities of the American criminal justice system, particularly the juvenile justice system, largely focusing on the stories of three people close to Mr. Williams: his cousin Niven, who is trying to reintegrate into society after more than a decade in prison; his nephew Dominic; and his friend and Wire co-star Felicia Pearson, who has cycled in and out of prison.”

Indiewire posted “The 20 Best HBO Series of All Time, Ranked” by Steve Greene and Michael Schneider, on 7/25/2017: #1 was The Wire: “David Simon’s magnum opus is one of the most thoroughly constructed and physically detailed looks at American life that American TV has ever put forth. But The Wire also helped teach generations of TV viewers how to approach televised storytelling of that caliber. The season-as-chapter approach was a fresh concept, and it showed that a TV series was more than just a handful of sets and some series regulars locked into a single viewpoint. As a result, HBO proved that gambling on shows that don’t have an established star at the head or that take place outside of the familiar New York and LA environs could be an artistic boon, something that would have a lasting legacy beyond its airdate. With the eye of a journalist, the ear of a novelist, and the heart of a city, The Wire shepherded Baltimore’s identity and established a blueprint for all the shows that came in its wake.”

Peter Preston in “The Americans are coming for British English – but we’re like, whatever” in The Guardian, on 7/30/2017, was probably referring to The Affair on Showtime: “English actors, from Dominic West to Ruth Wilson, learn to master an American drawl and star in hit series to the manner born”, but the photograph accompanying the article was captioned: “Learning to speak American: Dominic West in hit US drama The Wire”-- which was never a hit.

In anticipation of David Simon’s new series The Deuce, premiering 9/27/2017, preview articles are full of references to The Wire, like Indiewire on 9/3/2017 “HBO’s Outstanding Porn Drama Is David Simon’s Most Absorbing Series Since The Wire”, Associated Press’s Frazier Moore, 9/7/2017: “For devotees of The Wire and Treme, nothing more need be said about The Deuce than it was co-created by David Simon and George Pelecanos, who can lay claim to those extraordinary dramas.”; The New York Times’ James Poniewozik, 9/8/2017: The Deuce, beginning Sunday, is about the sex trade in the same way that Mr. Simon’s The Wire was about drugs, his Treme was about jazz and his Show Me A Hero was about zoning. Each of Mr. Simon’s works is ultimately about systems: people of different classes, races and levels of power, whose choices (or lack thereof) define an economy and a society.” Leading up to the premiere, HBO marathoned the series for binge-watching.

Huh? “How 2008 Changed Television” by Davis Richardson, 9/19/2017, in Paste Magazine: “Although Tony Soprano and The Wire sparked the ‘Golden Age of Television,’ the renaissance truly began during 2008.” Not convincing.

On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on 9/21/2017, Noah joked that he had to reference The Wire in commenting on President Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer (with his face superimposed on a clip) and the investigation of collusion with Russia by Special Counsel Mueller: “Trump needs a Stringer Bell saying —‘You don't take notes on a criminal conspiracy!’”

On This Is Us, “The Most Disappointed Man” episode written by Kay Oyegun, first broadcast on NBC, 11/9/2017,“Randall Pearson” (played by Sterling K. Brown) is preparing to take his foster daughter to visit her mother: I have to go to the clink. His wife “Beth” (played by Susan Kelechi Watson) ripostes: Why do you sound like a characer from “The Wire”?

How could a piece in The New York Times on this topic NOT include a reference to The Wire?: “Rap Disrupted Music First. Now It’s TV and Film” by Questlove, Salamishah Tillet And Jon Caramanica, 11/9/2017



If You’re Jonesing for Something Similar to Watch

Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

Since August 2006, edited versions of most of my reviews of documentaries/indie/foreign films are at Film-Forward; since 2012, festival overviews at FilmFestivalTraveler; and, since 2016, coverage of women-made films at FF2 Media. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.


Snowfall (on FX, Summer 2017) John Singleton somewhat tries to do for the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s what Simon did for heroin, though it’s more about conspiracy theories. Well-acted by a mostly lesser-known cast (Brit Damon Idris is particularly outstanding as kid drawn into the drug trade, and Carter Hudson as the CIA agent fueling the epidemic in order to support guerrillas in South America) and filmed by diverse directors, it is more step-by-step to disaster than sociological, with more sociopaths than criminal bureaucrats.

13th (previewed at 2016 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center) Essential documentary background for soberly seeing the overall societal impact on African-Americans, especially males, participating in the criminalized drug trade, inspired by Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crowe: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Chapter & Verse (previewed at Human Rights Watch Film Fest 2016 at Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center) Set in Harlem, a beautifully realistic view of just how difficult it is to not get drawn back into the drug-selling life, and to prevent boys from succumbing. [Theatrical release by Paladin began February 2017.]

Live Cargo: Robert Ray Wisdom has his best dramatic, let alone leading, role since he was “Major ‘Bunny’ Colvin” playing an old-school, paternal community leader of a Bahamas island facing up to changes (including drugs and human smuggling), in beautiful old-school noir black & white. (world premier previewed at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival)
Theatrical distribution begins 3/31/2017 via Gunpowder & Sky Distribution (updated 3/9/2017)


Prince - Though the distributor Film Buff is oddly describing this Dutch film directed by debut director Sam de Jong “like if Wes Anderson directed Drive”, I saw it more as The Wire with optimistic dreams. Set in an Amsterdam housing development full of immigrants and minorities (where the non-professional cast lives), with families wracked by drug addiction (the city even provided some production support), the flashy drug dealers provide the only summer employment opportunities for 17-year-old Ayoub (an even younger-looking Ayoub Elasri), son of a depressed white mother and junkie Moroccan father, and his three friends. His white friend Franky (Jorik Scholten) is protected by his tough (well, except for the silly ATW’s he revs up around the neighborhood) tattooed skinhead older brother, but the others have little to distract them from the flashy sports car, new clothes, and easy cash offered by a stoned dealer – if he’ll just do some pick-ups, deliveries, and beatings – much like the choices the corner boys in Baltimore face – even as he feels the macho pressure to protect his older, sexy half-sister from the bad boys. His saving love for the neighborhood’s impossibly sexy blonde temptress makes this ultimately feel more French than American gritty, let alone the popular soundtrack of electronica (the score is by Palmbomen) rather than hip hop. (8/7/2015)

A surprising connection: In Omer M. Mozaffar’s obituary of Indian-American writer/director Prashant Bhargava, in RogerEbert.com on 5/6/2015, noted his career path: “He was a commercial director, with experience promoting HBO’s The Wire, Def Poetry Jam, and Oz.” In his memory, see his beautiful, very urban film The Kite (Patang) that I briefly reviewed at 2011 Tribeca Film Festival.

The Brazilian TV series about Rio's favelas City of Men (completed in the film City Of Men (Cidade Dos Homens) ) eerily, sadly, and equally as strikingly shows how it's the same the whole world over for inner cities wracked by drugs and corruption. (More comparisons forthcoming.)
Trash (2015), based on the novel by Andy Mulligan (that I haven’t yet read), is directed by the mainstream Brit Stephen Daldry, but as a co-production with the Brazilian O2 Films and cinematographer Adriano Goldman and scorer Antonio Pinto, this feels like the earlier films of kids growing up in the favelas. Here the bright boys are even poorer than those slum-dwellers, eking out an orphaned existence on a trash mountain, so they can’t afford drugs. But similarly, their enemies are corrupt police and politicians, with well-meaning white volunteers providing some help bridging to the larger society, particularly to new social media that the film is more optimistic about than Simon is about dying old media, so imagines a more cutely positive future for these particular kids.
New perspectives on drug dealers’ impact on Rio’s favelas were shown in NY’s Museum of Modern Art) 2012 Premiere Brazil! series: 5 x Favela: Now By Ourselves (5 x Favela – Agora por nós Mesmos (2010): Rice and Beans, directed by Cacau Amaral and Rodrigo Felha; Concert for Violin, directed by Luciano Vidigal; Let It Fly, directed by Cadu Barcellos; Let There Be Light, directed by Luciana Bezerra; Source of Income, directed by Manaíra Carneiro and Wagner Novais. I didn’t go out in a heat wave to see it, so here’s the press release description: “This five-episode film was created and developed entirely by young Rio de Janeiro favela residents who took part in introductory workshops and attended master classes with some of Brazil’s most experienced directors. The result is an omnibus film comprising five independent narratives, both comic and tragic, which reflect the multifarious facets of daily life in the favela.” But I did see their documentary look at Rio’s alternative to the Hampsterdam solution, as introduced by the directors: Peace in Rio (5 x Pacificação) (2012), directed by Wagner Novais, Rodrigo Felha, Luciano Vidigal, and Cadu Barcellos. They examine the “pacification” of the favelas by the Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP) of chasing the dealers out with military-style security by talking to the new community policing administrators and trainers; cynical yet hopeful favela residents (including those who decry that the police automatically associate their culture of “funk parties” with drug gangs, much as hip hop was in The Wire); “asphalt dwellers” (those who live down below, and, with the program’s goal of “integration” now feel adventurously safe enough to come hike up as tourists to appreciate the hilltop views); ex-drug dealers (like in one director’s family) and their mothers (who credit God, not the police for saving their sons); as well as academics and journalists.
Community reporting on the favelas is at Rio On Watch.
HBO’s Witness four-part documentary series on photo-journalists included the episode “Rio” focusing on the work of photographer Eros Hoagland documenting the military and police vs. the drug gangs and their impact on the residents.


In Sin Nombre, cinematographer, Adriano Goldman, follows another sadly similar fate for boys in a gang in Mexico. The nonfiction version is Which Way Home (I briefly reviewed it in Part 2: The Kids Are Alright at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival).

Similarly, Matteo Garrone’s Gomorra (2008) shows how young children are brutally initiated into lives of criminality in Naples.
(Photo credit Nick Hannes/Hollandse Hoogte/Redux)
GomorrahTV series: Per a Reuters report by James Mackenzie, “Gritty Naples Mafia Series Aims to Join International TV Boom”, as printed in The New York Times, 6/11/2014: “Crime dramas often strive for gritty realism but few have had as timely an echo in the real world as the Italian TV series Gomorra, inspired by Roberto Saviano's bestselling 2006 account of the Naples underworld. The show, which ended its first run on Tuesday night, recalls U.S. series like The Wire or The Sopranos in its unrelenting portrait of violence, corruption and drugs in the crumbling high-rise tenements around Naples.” In The New York Times, 6/13/2015, the caption for the defense of Vele Di Scampia by architect Ada Tolla, co-founder of Lot-EK: “Built between 1962 and 1975 as a self-sufficient “megastructure,” Franz di Salvo’s Vele di Scampia in Naples, Italy, was doomed almost from the beginning. The Modernist housing complex fell to squatters following the 1980 Irpinia earthquake, and in 2014 achieved new notoriety as the backdrop for the Italian television crime drama Gomorrah, a sort of Neapolitan version of The Wire.” Tolla’s criticism also applies to scenes in the Baltimore setting: “The Camorra installed gates and blocked the police from entering. For me it is important to recognize that the Vele is not a failure of the architecture, but rather a failure in execution and management. Demolition is often an attempt to sweep things under the carpet, and that doesn’t seem like the right way to learn from the past.”
When Sundance Channel started showing the series in the US on 8/24/2016, the comparisons multiplied: such as Mike Hale’s review in The New York Times, 8/23/2016, headlined: “The Mafia in Gomorrah, Reminiscent of The Wire and The Sopranos. . . It’s a grim, detailed, quotidian drama about the inner workings of organized crime (which has drawn comparisons to The Wire)… It doesn’t have the emotional or stylistic highs of those predecessors.” Alan Sepinwall on Hit Flix, 8/24/2016: “The Italian mob drama Gomorrah was first described to me as "Italy's The Wire." That's an unfair label to hang on any new show, and one that for the most part doesn't even really fit, as Gomorrah is a much more traditional crime show, without most of the larger sociological interests that made The Wire one of the best series in TV history. But as I watched the early installments of the series, which makes its American debut tonight at 10 on Sundance with back-to-back episodes, I experienced the same two feelings I often hear of from people watching The Wire for the first time. . . With The Wire, I generally tell people to give it four episodes (preferably watched close together) to resolve the character confusion and establish whether the show's for them or not. With Gomorrah, I figured out the organizational hierarchy — or, at least, that there were only a handful of characters who really mattered, and what their relationships were to each other — fairly quickly, but it took nearly twice as long for all the pieces to add up to something interesting, and even then it was just a pretty good gangster melodrama/. . . Again, comparisons to The Wire— or Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, or any other modern American crime drama that demands the audience's patience early on — is wildly unfair to Gomorrah, or any other young series. But those shows ultimately reward that early patience tenfold, taking advantage of television's strengths to make little moments in the beginning matter hugely at the end. With Gomorrah, the later rewards don't retroactively make the early hours better; they just made me wish the whole thing was either a lot deeper, or a lot tighter.”
In Indiewire, Ben Travers on 8/24/2016: “[S]ome conclu[de] that Gomorrah is The Wire: Italy, as both series provide unflinching insight into worlds most viewers are afraid to acknowledge (even when they’re already surrounding us). But I would argue it’s more of a blend between David Simon’s Baltimore-based tragedy and David Chase’s empathetic ode to American mobsters, The Sopranos.”

I expect more such commentary when Sundance begins showing Season 2 in May 2017.


In Manila, Philippines, per the 2007 Tirador (Slingshot), directed in a similar style by Brillante Mendoza (seen at MoMA’s Contemporasian Series).

Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire looks at the shantytowns as India’s Bombay transforms into Mumbai in similar fashion as The Wire, albeit with melodramatic romance.

The Class (Entre les murs) is a French take on the fourth season of The Wire’s focus on minority middle schoolers and their challenged teachers and educational system.

Ezra vividly shows how similar the scourge of African child warriors is to the youth deprivation of Baltimore’s hoppers.

Chop Shop comes close to The Wire in showing a boy and his sister in Queens.

Red Riding Trilogy – 1974; 1980; 1983 shoots an emotional wallop by linking endemic police indifference towards the underclass, and a lot worse, in the North of England to the rise of conservative free-wheeling market policies. (2/5/2010)

A startlingly creative documentary vividly shows (and borrows from) the universality of The Wire for how much North Yorkshire was like Baltimore -- The Arbor. (I also briefly reviewed it at Recommended Documentaries at 2010 Tribeca Film Festival) (My additional note.) (5/5/2011)

The Winter's Bone puts front and center the emotional and physical impact on children trying to survive the drug scourge in Appalachia. (5/14/2010)
For the real person behind a scary-looking drug dealer in the film see Stray Dog (previewed at 2014 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center)


The Pruitt Igoe Myth: An Urban History (Notes: This documentary flashed me back to my college and Harvard graduate studies –ironically, the same time as Mitt Romney--and decade of work in city planning. The residents anecdotes add considerably to the facts – such as one of the reasons the buildings were so hard to maintain was the odd built-in appurtenances, designed to load as much as possible on the Feds’ initial capital investment. Among the striking black-and-white 16 mm footage Freidrichs found unique to St. Louis is from a film called More Than One Thing, that’s not otherwise identified, but moodily shows a young black man walking around the desolate project. But the repetitive fingering of downtown business and construction interests doesn’t make for a convincing conspiracy pushing failed government actions.
Harold M. Shultz, my husband and Senior Fellow at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, felt the film lacked national context that other housing authorities were better managed, so that this film should have examined the specific mis-management in St. Louis. More puzzling was the lack of explanation that federal funds were available to subsidize rents, in this period, such that the maintenance shouldn’t have depended on the rent roll to be provided through welfare. (updated 2/12/2012)


Will a U.S. cable channel like Sundance bring us this French series?: Excerpted from “In France, It’s Vive Le Cinéma of Denial” by Michael Kimmelman, in The New York Times, 11/4/2008:
“ . . .[A]bout the riots in [In Montfermeil, a poor town outside Paris] in 2005. . .French people these days must turn to programs like La Commune, a dark television drama that ran this year on Canal Plus. Its inspiration was not French cinema but American cable series like The Wire on HBO. La Commune, glowingly received by French critics, was canceled when the network decided its audience wasn’t large enough; never mind that other shows on Canal Plus with similar audiences were renewed. Abdel Raouf Dafri, the show’s writer, an excitable 44-year-old even without the heavily sugared espressos he gulped one recent morning, shook his head in disgust. ‘The real-life characters in the series were blacks and Arabs, traditional conservative Muslims, leaders after the white policeman in the neighborhood had given up, and France doesn’t like to look in the mirror except to see itself as the most beautiful nation. Some people thought the series was too violent, but I said look at American series. The French response to that was, ‘Yes, but it’s the U.S.,’ as if there’s no violence here. . . In the United States you know how to make films and television series that are intelligent and political and don’t forget the entertainment factor. In France we just want to be intellectual.’ He nearly leaped out of his seat saying that last word. Emmanuel Daucé, a producer of La Commune, who was joining Mr. Dafri for morning coffee, nodded. ‘We invented the dramatic series, with Zola and Balzac and Hugo, but it’s as if we forgot what we started.’”
Another series by the same writer: “Some have called Braquo France’s answer to The Wire or The Shield”, per Lucy Jones in The Telegraph on 2/13/2013 (streaming in the U.S. on Hulu).
And another, per Pat Saperstein in Variety on 12/2013 about “Sundance’s ‘Returned’: Subtitles Are No Longer Something to Fear”: “WHAT TO WATCH If you like . . .The Wire, try Spiral (French, Netflix).”


Critics are citing Intersexions (on SABC 1, some 1st season 2010 episodes available on YouTube), produced by John Hopkins Health and Education South Africa, Curious Pictures Pty Ltd, Ants Multimedia, SABC Education. Per the 2012 Peabody Awards: “Aimed at stemming South Africa’s AIDS epidemic, Intersexions is public service as educational serial entertainment. The HIV virus itself plays a role as a seductive voice in this well-acted, candidly written program focused mostly on young, restless, high-risk adults.”

When I asked the Director of Film of Israel’s Consul General, at the 2013 New York Film Festival of Film Society of Lincoln Center, about the Yuval Adler film Bethlehem that won key Ophir Awards of the Israeli Academy of Film and Television to represent Israel at the U.S. Academy Awards in the foreign film category, his description, without having seen it, was: “I hear it’s like The Wire.” Well, through Israeli eyes – that it’s gritty, involves cops vs. violent gangs with financial/political agendas, and puts a young teen confidential informant in the middle of both sides.

Manos Sucias (previewed at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival) (Notes: It feels like The Wire set along the waters of the rural Colombian coast, where risky drug running is the only employment for teens and young men, dodging not just the guns of the dealers and the police, but also the navy and the paramilitaries, and leading to escalating, and traumatic, personal violence (updated 8/3/2014)

Five Star (Notes: Not only is rawly about the difficulties of for young men in the inner city to find, and not succeed, in an alternative to drug-dealing for income and respect– not the hipster Brooklyn seen in so many movies and TV series lately. Like The Wire several characters play some version of themselves, so that their experience informs the story and performance.) (previewed at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival) (4/10/2014)

Wolf - Arjan Beens recommended this Dutch crime film for Wire fans for its authentic-feeling portrayal of young immigrants tempted into drugs and drug-selling. Marwan Kenzari is charismatic as “Majid” whose only alternatives are boring warehouse community service packing tulips or taking out his aggressions in (a seemingly no holds-barred) boxing ring. But the beautiful black-and-white cinematography reinforces that it’s too influenced by boxing movies going back to John Garfield as another striving immigrant who got caught up with criminals to throw a fight in Body and Soul (1947).

(updated 11/12/2017)

Comments, corrections, additions, questions welcome! Contact Nora Lee Mandel at mandelshultz@yahoo.com
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