I guess the New Yorker knew I was having a bad week, because they did one of those massive, sprawling articles on one of my favorite tv shows, “The Wire.” A lot of people have talked about how good the show is, and it deserves all the praise it gets. The show is worth your time if you’ve never watched it. I’m a fan of the first two seasons, especially the desperate, frustrated, tragic characters of anything-to-survive union boss Frank Sobotka and embittered middle-management drug dealer D’Angelo Barksdale.
The article draws attention to the work the writers put into creating authentic windows into the cultures they look at, whether it is a project drug pit, police bar or a union dock. Not enough can be said about this. Note how many different things are at play – in terms of the character’s habitus, plot setup, notions of capitalism and great acting – in these scenes between D’Angelo and his two subordinates as they discuss pawn promotion in chess and what happened to the guy who created McNuggets. Beyond the dialogue and the acting, the scenery of these low-slung project buildings amid a wasteland of dirt, addicts and broken furniture further suggest the aridness of post-industrial capitalist society.
The new season is about the newspapers; check out these little tidbits that really give the show its flair:
In the season opener, [paper editor] Haynes provides a bitingly funny introduction to newsroom culture. He complains about a photographer who invariably gooses the poignancy of fire scenes by positioning a charred doll somewhere amid the debris. (“I can see that cheatin’ motherfucker now, with his fucking harem of dolls, pouring lighter fluid on each one,” Haynes fumes.) And he patiently explains to a junior reporter one of those house rules which arbiters of newspaper style cling to with fierce persnicketiness: a building can be “evacuated,” he instructs, but you cannot evacuate people. “To evacuate a person is to give that person an enema,” one of the old-timers chimes in.
The 6th season, if it was to happen, would have been about Latino immigration. It’s a shame they are cutting it at 5.