Friday, December 01, 2006

On The Wire

There’s an endlessly quotable interview over at Slate with David Simon, co-creator of The Wire. Season Four ends next Sunday, and the unfolding destinies of Dukie, Randy, Michael and Namod have created easily the best TV I’ve seen all year.

Amongst the many gems in the interview, I particularly liked:

On The Wire, we were trying to explore this stuff you don't see—the dope on the table, all that has been done to death. Sometimes the real poetry of police work is a couple of detectives with their feet on a desk in the backroom looking at ballistics. And that sounds like anti-drama. But that's the trick to making good drama; the drama has to be earned. There have to be moments of anti-drama. You can't make a good show based on pure verisimilitude, pure anti-drama. But you have to acknowledge a lot of ordinary life. Most TV doesn't do that.

If I had to write a police procedural right now, I'd put a gun to my head. And I really have to say this, even Homicide [on which Simon was a producer and writer] was prisoner of the form. On shows where the arrest matters, where it's about good and evil, punishing crime, the poor and the rich, the suspect exists to exalt the good guys, to make the Sipowiczs and the Pembletons and the Joe Fridays that much more moral, that much more righteous, that much more intellectualized. It's to validate their point of view and the point of view of society. So, you end up with same stilted picture of the underclass. Either they're the salt of earth looking for a break, and not at all responsible, or they're venal and evil and need to be punished. That's a good precedent for creating an alienated America.

And this contextualises the show really nicely:

In our heads we're writing a Greek tragedy, but instead of the gods being petulant and jealous Olympians hurling lightning bolts down at our protagonists, it's the Postmodern institutions that are the gods. And they are gods. And no one is bigger.

If you haven’t been watching this magnificent drama what the hell are you waiting for? Actually, I don’t want to hear your excuses. Go and get the DVDs now.


  1. ...and in a real life-imitates-art moment, we see the Latino mayor of L.A. appointing a black fire chief to try to position himself for a run for the Guvernator's chair in 2010.

    If you squint in just the right way, Villaraigosa starts to look a lot like Tommy Carcetti.

    The show is brilliant. For the past 6 years, I've worked in & amongst the cops, crooks and crooked cops in L.A., and there is NOTHING on TV that captures better what it's like to go and wrestle everyday not with evil guys, but with the godawful crushing inertial weight of these institutions we've set up and that are stomping around like fucking Godzilla all over our asses...

  2. Great link. For those who haven't seen it, the series airs 13 February, 10pm on FX.

    I am in no doubt now that it is the best TV series ever made.