The New Yorker Profiles David Simon and The Wire

October 17, 2007

You still have some time to get caught up before the final season of The Wire starts in January.  When the series concludes I have no doubt it will be the finest piece of television as literature to ever air.

Looking for a quick summary of the series to get you interested:

“The Wire,” Simon often says, is a show about how contemporary American society—and, particularly, “raw, unencumbered capitalism”—devalues human beings. He told me, “Every single moment on the planet, from here on out, human beings are worth less. We are in a post-industrial age. We don’t need as many of us as we once did. So, if the first season was about devaluing the cops who knew their beats and the corner boys slinging drugs, then the second was about devaluing the longshoremen and their labor, the third about people who wanted to make changes in the city, and the fourth was about kids who were being prepared, badly, for an economy that no longer really needs them. And the fifth? It’s about the people who are supposed to be monitoring all this and sounding the alarm—the journalists. The newsroom I worked in had four hundred and fifty people. Now it’s got three hundred. Management says, ‘We have to do more with less.’ That’s the bullshit of bean counters who care only about the bottom line. You do less with less.”

Need more?  Here are some great quotes from the article that may help convince you:

The show’s departure from Hollywood formulas may be nowhere more palpable than in its routine use of nonactors to fill the minor roles. No other television drama, it seems safe to say, features an actor whom one of the show’s lead writers helped put in prison with a thirty-four-year sentence. That is Melvin Williams, a Baltimore drug kingpin whom Ed Burns nabbed in a wiretap investigation in 1984; Simon reported on the case for the Sun. Williams plays the part of the Deacon, a community leader both savvy and wise.

‘The Wire’ is dissent,” he says. “It is perhaps the only storytelling on television that overtly suggests that our political and economic and social constructs are no longer viable, that our leadership has failed us relentlessly, and that no, we are not going to be all right.” He also likes to say that “The Wire” is a story about the “decline of the American empire.”

Critics, meanwhile, have compared the show to a great Victorian novel. The Chicago Tribune, Salon, and the San Francisco Chronicle have called it the best show on television. Jacob Weisberg, writing in Slate, went even further, declaring that “The Wire” was the best American television series that had ever been broadcast: “No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature.” Sometimes the fan base of “The Wire” seems like the demographics of many American cities—mainly the urban poor and the affluent élite, with the middle class hollowed out.

Read the whole article here and if you’re still not convinced, just trust me.  It is like no other show or movie I’ve seen or even comparable to any book I’ve read in terms of the canvas it paints with a sweeping story arc, complex and flawed characters and a mix of hope and tragedy that weaves its way through every episode of every season to date.


Grey’s Anatomy – Season 4, Episode 3 – Let the Truth Sting

October 12, 2007

My wife was very excited to see the old guy, who’s been part of so many lunch eating scenes, wake up.  She was even happier to find out that he knew everyone and all of their issues.  Unfortunately, he won’t be joining them for any more meals.  He was a man who wanted to die and by the end of the episode he got his wish.  But not until after he told Izzy that there was no way George was leaving Callie and I think she’s starting to realize that she’s the other woman and that she’s on her own.  With George confessing at the end of the show hopefully we’re getting closer to wrapping this misguided storyline up once and for all.

I’m pleased to say that this was another good episode of Grey’s Anatomy.  Just like Prison Break which has made a comeback on my viewing schedule after a terrible season last year, so too has Grey’s.

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Gossip Girl Renewed for Full Season

October 12, 2007

The first of the new shows to get a full season pick up is CW’s Gossip Girl.  I’m still not sure how I feel about this show.  After panning the first 2 episodes, I have to admit that by the third episode the show started to grow on me a little – more in a “so bad, it’s good” way than a “wow, this is a high quality program” way but nonetheless, I’m still watching.  If I thought about it a bit more from a psychological perspective, part of my bad reaction to Gossip Girl is tied to my bitterness about Veronica Mars’s cancellation, which is made worse when I see season 1 episodes in reruns on a local channel every morning at 7:00 before I go to work.  I know I have to let go but I don’t want to.  Boo CW.

Click here to read Variety’s article on Gossip Girl receiving a full season.


Prison Break – Season 3, Episode 4 – Good Fences

October 12, 2007

If you told me at the beginning of the season that Prison Break was going to once again become one of the most fun, pure escapist show on the air, I would have thought you were nuts, particularly after the contrived ending of last season that put Michael back in jail. But here we are at the 4th episode of the season and this show is in no danger whatsoever of falling off my list. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that this season seems to have the lamest new shows in recent memory. But that’s neither here nor there.

It’s kind of too bad that I stay on top of TV news and knew that the actress wasn’t coming back since it ruined what could have been a good surprise twist. Instead, as I predicted last week, we find out before the first commercial break that Sarah’s head is in the box that was sent to Linc. What was somewhat surprising, but actually made perfect sense to the story, was Linc not telling Michael. Given how reluctant Michael was to help when he thought it was only Linc’s son who was captured it seemed to be the right move.

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Friday Night Lights – Season 2, Episode 1 – Last Days of Summer

October 8, 2007

Regular readers of my blog know how much I love this show. I had to stop doing reviews last year because I ran out of ways to say how great this show was without sounding too repetitive and boring even myself. Well, I figure after the summer hiatus I’d start from scratch and I’m not sure yet if the trend of rave reviews is going to continue.

The season opens 8 months after the big Panthers win and the opening scene kicks off with some beefcake and cheesecake which I assume is there to bring new viewers into the fold. If it works, then I’m all for it. As we rejoin our favourite Dilloners, Tyra and Landry have solidified their friendship (can you say Fried Green Tomatoes), Matt and Julie have hit the rocks with Julie flirting with a musician, Smash and Riggins are Smash and Riggins, Lyla has found religion while her mother is dating a health food store owner and her father is living on the couch at the dealership. football team, Landry is trying out, Jason is a coach for the Panthers and Coach Taylor’s replacement isn’t exactly impressed with Riggins or Buddy for that matter.

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Grey’s Anatomy – Season 3, Episode 2 – Love/ Addiction

October 5, 2007

Now that’s the Grey’s Anatomy I remember liking.  Humor, drama, soap opera plots and an ensemble cast acting like a true ensemble.  Sure, the George and Izzy story is still alive but the word on the street is that it’s not going to end happily.

Derek and Meredith are together but not really together and it’s clear the writing is on the wall – I think Derek will be bailing on this relationship soon enough.  I even liked her a little tonight.  It’s good to see her acknowledge how screwed up she is even if it’s in the context of blowing off her sister.

The opening scene of Christina trying to trade her gifts definitely made me laugh out loud and I have to admit that McSteamy really does enhance every scene he’s in including this one where he negotiates for the cappuccino maker.   Her day gets much worse as Mrs. Burke comes back to give advice to pretty much every character and to take back her son’s stuff.  Shock of shocks, Preston’s never coming back.

The case of the week where a meth lab run by a young couple blows up and injures their neighbours, some strangers and their baby son was quite good and proved a great showcase for Alex.  It doesn’t, however, work out well for Callie who not only figures out George is cheating on her but screws up most of the day.  Bailey gets some great scenes this week between undermining Callie and showing who the real boss is and giving Alex hell for losing it on the father for running a meth lab.

I have to admit, I’m back on the Grey’s train.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A-

PS – I could still do without the voice over


Cane – Season 1, Episode 1 (Pilot) and Episode 2 (The Work of a Business Man)

October 5, 2007

Two weeks in and I’m really enjoying this show. A large part of the credit goes to Jimmy Smits who from LA Law to West Wing just does such a great job as the slightly imperfect but still moral centre of every show he’s in. Unfortunately on this show the imperfection is murder but he’s able to justify it to himself with his dedication to his family and business.  In addition to Jimmy Smits the cast includes great actors like Hector Elizondo, Rita Moreno, Ken Howard and even Beecher from Oz and Atia from Rome and the pedigree shows through.

Cane follows the story of a Cuban-American family in the rum and sugar business and their long time rivalry with a local family.  Elizondo is the patriarch who is dying and needs to hand his business down to his successor.  He has 3 children to choose from and one adopted son (Smits) who married Elizondo’s daughter.  Of course, the natural sons are passed over in favour of Smits creating a conflict in the family.

Many of the reviews criticized the show for packing too much story into the pilot – the internal family conflict, the rivalry with the other family, a hired killer and a vengeful Smits.  Personally, I didn’t find it hard to follow and found the show quite compelling.  Lots of good soap opera action, a good cast and dramatic cliffhangers.  It’s far better than most of the new shows I’ve seen this season and I’m looking forward to see what happens next.  I can’t ask for anything more.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+