1.06.2008

Why You Should Watch "The Wire"

The most critically acclaimed show in the history of television makes it triumphant return to HBO tonight for its Fifth and Final masterful season, inside the Newsroom of the Baltimore Sun. David Simon's The Wire has pretty much unanimously been deemed the greatest show ever to be broadcast in the history of American TV. It has racked up Emmys, NAACP Image Awards, Critics awards, and even Peabodys. There really is not much more praise that can given or more that can be said about The Wire. There just is nothing like it. And yet, nobody watches it. David Simon has had to continually beg HBO for another season year after year, justifying why HBO should spend money on a poorly rated show. Ultimately, the need to tell this story as brilliantly as The Wire does, as well as the critical acclaim, won out, and HBO has finally pushed through the final season of David Simon's arc.

For those not familiar with the greatest show of all time, The Wire is the story of Urban Baltimore. The first season examined the street level drug trade. The second season examined crime at the Baltimore harbor docks. The third season explored Policing and what would happen if drugs were essentially "legalized" in a certain part of Baltimore. The fourth and most powerful season to date followed four middle school kids as they dealt with the struggles of inner-city life. It has been described as Dickensian in its scope, incorporating countless characters, plot-lines, and settings. It ranges the entire social class, examining how the Mayor and Police Commissioner, and suburban fund-raisers affect the lives of corner drug runners, junkies, and welfare mothers. The San Francisco Chronicle has said The Wire "has tackled the drug war in this country as it simultaneously explores race, poverty and 'the death of the American working class,' the failure of political systems to help the people they serve and the tyranny of lost hope. Few series in the history of television have explored the plight of inner-city...and none — not one — has done it as well."

This complexity and beautiful intricacy only contributes however to the lack of ratings, as many are scared away by coming late to the game. I'm here to ask you to watch this season. You won't regret it. While you won't be 100% up to speed on some of the story lines, each season has its value as a self contained set of episodes, introducing completely new characters and storylines that you can follow from the very beginning. You'll begin to catch on to the greater themes and stories as the season progresses. This season is all about the media, and why we aren't paying attention to inner-city problems. The majority of the season will take place inside The Baltimore Sun, where Wire creator and producer David Simon, as well as many other cast members, have actually spent a lot time working as journalists. This is their newspaper, this is their city, and this is their story. As a self-proclaimed newspaper junkie myself, I'm thrilled The Wire will take aim at the newspaper business. I will let David Simon explain this season in his own words from a Slate.com interview, and much more, after the jump:

"The last theme is basically asking the question, why aren't we paying attention? If we got everything right in the last four seasons in depicting this city-state, how is it that these problems—which have been attendant problems regardless of who is in power—how is it that they endure? That brings into mind one last institution, which is the media. What are we paying attention to? What are we telling ourselves about ourselves? A lot of people think that we're going to impale journalists. No. It's not quite that. What stories do we want to hear? How closely do they relate to truth; how distant are they from the truth? We have a story idea about media and consumers of media. What stories get told and what don't and why it is that things stay the same.

What's happened to the Baltimore Sun locally is what has happened to that whole second tier of journalism—below the New York Times and the Washington Post: They're being eviscerated by price per share. There used to be 500 reporters; now there are 300. They keep telling us they can do the same job, they just need to be more effective. Bullshit. Five hundred reporters is 500; 300 is 300; you can't cover the city the same way with fewer people.

The low end of journalism is not what concerns me. It's not that sensational stuff I'm worried about. It's that there may be no high end anymore, that the kind of thing journalists once aspired to, especially in the Washington Post-Watergate era, may no longer exist."

Here is the Season 5 Trailer:



Here's a link to the Baltimore Sun's coverage of The Wire premiere (its so meta!)
Official Site

Please give this show a chance. You'll thank yourself. Look for my review after the show.

3 comments:

Usama said...

That Season 5 trailer wasn't working for me, and I'm pretty sure I have Flash installed correctly (youtube works fine for me).

Anyway, you're dead on with this show and thanks for providing an overview of this season's focus, I'm sure it will help me see the bigger picture.

Usama said...

Urgh, nevermind, now the trailer's is working ..

Anonymous said...

Watch The Wire online free! All episodes, all seasons!