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.

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Prison Break – Season 3, Episode 2 – Fire/ Water

September 27, 2007

I actually enjoyed this week’s Prison Break.  I know I sound surprised but the show has been so hit and miss you never know which side it’s going to lean toward.  Before I jump into what I like about the show, I’m going to get what I disliked out of the way.  One word – Sucre.  With all the new characters and still so many of the old around, he seems completely unnecessary.

Enough of the bad, on to the good.  First, the show looks great in high-def.   It really enhances the experience when it looks this good and takes advantage of the widescreen.  As for the storyline, the show feels like it’s raised the stakes this season.  Unlike last season’s disjointed chase across America, the Panama jail feels serious – from Bellick in a diaper to the lack of water to the absence of guards to Lechero, the informal head of the prison (the amazing Bunny Colvin from the Wire) who keeps these hardened criminals in line.  The events set up a feeling of danger, and the possibility that anything can happen which shows like Prison Break require to stay interesting.  Even the conspiracy story which has Michael trying to break a man named James Whistler out of prison in order to save Sara and Linc’s son is actually interesting and seems challenging.

For the first time in a long time I’m feeling like the decision to continue with a third season may not have been a mistake.  Bring on episode 3.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+