The Wire, HBO series

I think that was Simon’s point: that you can’t solve a problem by isolating it and ignoring it. Hamsterdam made the rest of Colvin’s district more peaceful but turned a blind eye to the drug dealers/users. The reverend pointed this out, and Colvin brought in needle exchange programs and social workers, but it was too little too late. Like Carver’s “tax” to help out the laid off lookout kids and to bring in athletic equipment to let the kids work off steam, the whole program, while well-intentioned, was completely ad hoc. The Dutch and Danish programs have been/are more successful, because they weren’t done in secret and they were thought through.

The school program, on the other hand, was a boutique solution that required lots of resources the system didn’t have. That said, it was better thought out than Hamsterdam: it pulled the disruptive kids from classes so the regular classes went more smoothly, and it dealt with those kids in a constructive manner. By the end of the program everyone was better off, then the district officials cut them off at the knees and threw the kids back into the same situations they’d been in before. And Colvin rescued Namond, reinforcing the idea that, with individual attention and effort, at least some of these kids can be rescued from the downward spiral The System has them locked in to.

That’s where Simon’s message lies. He believes that all of these problems are surmountable, with great effort and cooperation. But he also knows that the inertia of the culture probable won’t allow for the kinds of changes that are needed.

All of the institutions portrayed through the 5 seasons are populated with people who recognize the rot at the roots, but they are also populated by people who don’t want to rock the boat lest it tip over on them, or they are too self-interested to actually attempt to solve problems that they recognize (everyone who discovered Hamsterdam recognized the logic, and held off on criticizing it until they recognized the personal political advantage of attacking it).

Strongly disagree. It’s the most well written and quotable show I’ve ever seen. Not realistically written, though. Gangsters and cops don’t talk like that. There’s 20+ minute compilation vids on youtube of pithy or “deep” lines and I still think they left this or that one out.

One reason it’s so popular on the internet is because it’s borderline liberal propaganda. White liberal men love this show to pieces. If you’re even a little conservative you’re probably going to roll your eyes anytime they make a political point. Which is often. There’s also a super popular gay character who kicks all kinds of ass, and this was back when that was still controversial. There’s some tough lesbian characters. Sympathetic poor characters. Checks all the boxes.

I remember when I first got into it the first couple episodes didn’t exactly blow my socks off either (ooh, chess analogies, such sophistication). There’s a lot of Baltimore ghetto jargon you might have to look up. By the end of the first season you should know whether it’s for you or not. Another thing to keep in mind is each season changes POVs and focuses on different characters, for good or ill.

If you hate McNulty, the smug prick, you’re in for a rough ride.

Stringer Bell is one of the more compelling characters I’ve seen in a show like this. His relationship with Avon Barksdale is really interesting. I’d almost say just watch for him.

If I may make a case for the chess analogy, it was way cooler than most chess analogies because it was inverted :).

Yer typical cops show wants to explain the structure of the drug gangs to viewers, they introduce a rookie cop, and a grizzled veteran explains the gangs to the rookie, maybe using a chess metaphor. This works: the rookie doesn’t understand gangs, you the viewer don’t understand gangs, so the vet’s explanation, ostensibly for the rookie, actually serves to educate you. Good old expository dialog. It’s also hoary and clunky.

The scene in the Wire inverted that. You the viewer don’t understand gangs, but you understand chess. The scene doesn’t involve someone in your situation: rather, the “rookie” is a rookie chess player who understands gangs but doesn’t understand chess. The “grizzled vet,” really just a gangster/chess player, instead of using a chess metaphor to explain gangs, uses a gang metaphor to explain chess. You, the viewer, have to reverse-engineer his explanation in order to learn how the gang works.

The use of a chess metaphor was nothing original, I’ll grant–but the reversed structure of the exposition was very clever and well-executed, and I found that scene delightful therefore.

I watched season 4 over the past week. I liked it about as much as season three – some really good episodes but I thought it was uneven compared to the first season. Plus, I have to take points off for the “To Be Continued…” ending.

Can’t argue with this choice, but Omar is who makes the series work for me.

Omar is great, though he sticks out from what is supposedly a gritty, realistic show. He’s like a comic book character visiting Baltimore for the lawls (similar to the bow tied assassin). So quotable though!

Yes, agreed - I phrased it poorly. What I meant was that it didn’t prominently feature the sort of constant deluge of “oh snap” witty and one-liners that make shows like, I dunno, Game of Thrones or *Firefly *popular and enjoyable.

Like I said, there are some great banter scenes (most of the Carver/Herc scenes are this; and there’s a special place in my heart for Jay Landsman and his magnificent, flaccid four-and-a-half inch - that and ranting against Freemon the Visigoth) and many quotable lines, but for the most part the dialogue shines more through being well thought-out than, I dunno, “super fresh” or “try-hard” or something. Not sure if I’m being really clear here, or in my head for that matter.

Funny thing about that : on first watch, I (and I assume most viewers) kind of glommed onto McNulty as the series’ closest thing to a protagonist. So naturally, honed by decades of fine television and movies teaching us that rogue cop is rogue but, DAMMIT, he’s right ! And that gives him mandate !, you tend to overlook his flaws and support his smugness, adopt it as your own because through his prism you start looking at The System and the people making it up like, well, a bunch of inept humps holding Natural Pow-leece down.

But on second watch, when you know exactly and intimately what the sad fuck is about, those half-remembered first season scenes take on a whole different aspect, and you start noticing a lot of stuff you didn’t the first time around, like how selfish Irish McFuckingNulty fucks over just about everyone he comes near. All the time innocently going “What the fuck did I do ?!” like he’s endearingly charming.

It’s p. cool, actually. I expect it’s deliberate.

Someone earlier said the show isn’t about the characters. I totally disagree. The show had the best characters ever. Snoop. Bubbles. Omar. Clay “Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeit” Davis. Stringer Bell. Prop Joe. And those kids! Michael, Deshawn, Bug. Even that big-headed Naymond. They absolutely made the show what it was.

For me, watching The Wire was like watching a world that had never been portrayed on TV before. The “thugs” in other crime shows are two-dimensional caricatures who you aren’t supposed to think much about, let alone root for. They’re just a device. A thug isn’t a thug isn’t a thug in The Wire, though.

I liked the first season. Didn’t care for the second. Third and fourth were awesome. Fifth was just okay. My least favorite character was McNulty, so I preferred the episodes when he was just in the background.

Again, not quite what I meant.

It has tremendously fleshed-out and three dimensional characters.
But it does not have the kind of “woah !”, sensationalistic or larger-than-life characters most other popular shows do and did, then and now. Well, apart from Omar and to a lesser extent Brother Mouzone. The rest of 'em though ? They’re just… guys. Regular guys, with regular guy quirks or ambitions.

One of the most complete characters on the show, who I think appears in all five seasons, is Przb…Prezby… Presbo - whose entire story is “he was a fuck-up as a cop, then he got kicked out when he started to actually become narrowly competent, then he ended up a teacher and is sort of decent at it”. That’s it. Not very NEXT TIME, ON SUPERNATURAL, LUCIFER HIMSELF KILLS MAHAKALI, is it ?

Compare and contrast with Breaking Bad, mentioned by the OP : he’s a high school teacher *who cooks meth and takes on the Cartels *! His brother-in-law is a DEA agent with PTSD ! His wife’s sister is a suburbian wife and a kleptomaniac ! His first drug connect is a psychopathic, unhinged methhead ! Hell, even his son had to have a special snowflake factor.
Not that I dislike Breaking Bad, it certainly was a very fun show. But it sure *felt *like a show, in every last of its characters. It was about as believable as House MD.

Well the crime rates in the series dropped dramatically. Police were freed up to concentrate on serious non drug crimes. The experiment was curtailed by those big bad politicians and bureaucracts before long term benefits could be seen. This was all in the series. Its why I thought those particular episodes had an ideological bent. The same goes for the project in school. Hard working dedicated social workers being undermined by intolerant politicians. Progressive policies not being given a chance to work successfully. I thought this was the default position of the writers in those particular cases(and I suspect im not far wrong in that these were the writer/producers real life views too).

Well, yeah, of course crime rates dropped. Because the drug crimes that made up, like, 3/4th of the crime stats were being ignored (along with some of the non-drug crimes that *were *happening in Hamsterdam where nobody gave a fuck - guys selling stolen bling or robbing each other, prostitution…).
Stats are bullshit metrics of reality anyway, apparently :stuck_out_tongue:

It wasn’t ever a “let’s do this !” project though, it was a social experiment from the get go. The limp-wristed liberal jerkoff who came to Bunny for help was never interested in helping the kids, he just wanted a cool academics paper to his name.

The project further happened to be flawed and hinge on a lot more resources (need the space for the “short bus” classes, additional teachers, something to guarantee the safety of the teacher in the “all violent jerkwads, all the time” class etc…) that this broke-ass city was in no way able to provide - they were already shoestring budgeting everything. Ostensibly the school board dropped it on first blush because it was off-message and could put pwecious test score stats in jeopardy in the shortest of terms, but there were deeper practical issues with it anyway.

I think Simon’s actual positions might be a bit more subtle and moderate than the various pie-in-the-sky scenarios he sets up in The Wire (season 5 newspaper room excepted. That was just pure chip on his shoulder). Then again, The West Wing :stuck_out_tongue:

Like most, I really like Sopranos and Breaking Bad, but I think I might put The Wire in the #1 spot! I’m not really sure exactly why.

I agree in part, but would put different emphasis. The richly developed, interesting and likeable (often perversely likeable) characters are a big reason I like the series. There are exciting, almost caricatured characters, both bad guys and cops (most of the characters in Breaking Bad are more subdued so less fun to watch). And the story lines are interesting and exciting in a melodramatic way. Yet despite “melodrama” and “caricature” the people and stories also seem intensely realistic … believable.

BTW, the book the series was based on, Homicide: Life on the Street, was made into a different TV series in the 1990s, also named Homicide: Life on the Street. That’s also an above-average TV series; but despite the common origin its qualities are very different from those of the The Wire.

Yes, but don’t forget what also was in the series, the depiction of Hamsterdam as pretty much hell on earth. People like Johnnie Weeks dying unnoticed in the corner, that girl who came to get some easy drugs and ended up first an addict and then a prostitute. Young kids discarded, thefts and murders happening right out in the open. Even experienced addict Bubbles couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he walked through that street, there was nothing nice about that experiment.

The show didn’t just tell us it was a good experiment kept down by the man, it showed us the ugly side as well.

Pretty good analysis here, and I can’t see any real flaws in how you interpret Simon’s message.

I didn’t see Hamsterdam as a flowery endorsement of leftist policies either.

As a Baltimore native, I can tell you that Simon took fragments of true stories and crafted them into the universe of The Wire.

While I doubt that there was ever anything exactly like Colvin’s Hamsterdam experiment, I do know that when Kurt Schmoke was mayor he did try things like needle exchanges and was politically attacked for it. That was back during the AIDS era and it made a lot of sense.

I do know the police push the corner dealers from one area to another. There are entire blocks of abandoned row homes where that activity springs up, and sometimes the cops will leave it alone for as long as possible. It is usually the violence that brings the cops in to drive the activity underground for a while, only to have it pop up a few blocks away.

I remember when the public housing towers came down and it sparked a bloody gang war as the displaced drug dealers fought for new territory. I think that story line was close to what actually happened in the city.

Many of the characters were loosely based on real people that Simon encountered over the years covering the crime beat for the Baltimore Sun. From cops, to politicians, to drug dealers, some of those characters where inspired by real people.

Although I can barely fathom legalizing something like heroin, the parallels between the gang violence during the 1920s prohibition era are astounding.

Does that mean Simon favors legalization? I don’t know, but those drug gangs do have too much money, and power.

The police rarely follow the money trail because it usually leads to local politicians at some point.

I loved the series and watched most of it on DVD; I think that changes the viewing experience and makes it easier to follow.

The commentaries on the DVDs also greatly enhance the viewing experience.

Great series! Sure it had an opinion, but doesn’t everything?

“You want it to be one way…but it’s the other way”


What do you think of Chalky White in Boardwalk Empire?

Very close to the same character, but he is a highlight of that show for me as well.