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Redbeard

"There's humor in The Wire, but not much in Simon himself, and he cannot see how things can turn out all right by themselves."

I think Simon's got a fair sense of humor, it's just that when he's interviewed, interviewers focus on the down and dirty and depressing aspects of his work of art, because that is what distinguishes the Wire. The vast majority of pop culture TV (and movies) that attempt to examine life in the tougher parts of a city avoid the icky parts or smooth them over with cliches (Dangerous Minds, bleah). Simon & Ed Burns are unafraid to add these other, depressing, realistic aspects to their work, so an interviewer HAS to ask them about that. Why ask an iconoclast about the things they do the same as everyone else? I don't think the interviews he does are a representative sample. Simon at least seemed funny when he did the voiceover commentary on Season 1 DVD. (BTW, I'm in the middle of Season 2, so no spoilers) Besides, I don't see how Simon, who comes up with Omar Little's lines, could be without humor himself.

"he cannot see how things can turn out all right by themselves." This is an opinion I share with Simon. The Wire not fitting into the form of tragedy is one more way in which that show defies conventions/cliches.

Demosthenes

To be honest, I wasn't impressed with Bowden's piece. It seemed like he had an axe to grind of his own, largely because of Simon's stated disgust with the sort of axe-wielding, award-chasing newspaper editors that Bowden counts as close friends.

I'm also definitely not convinced by the idea that The Wire's Baltimore is a "caricature" when it not only closely corresponds to Simon's own reportage, but the experiences of the people who live there. Bowden might have (but didn't) mention the ridiculous popularity of the show in Baltimore, especially in West Baltimore. He also might have (but didn't) mention that a truly ridiculous number of hip-hop artists wanted a role in the final season, precisely because its realism would give them more street cred.

In any case, Simon gets a pass from me because his policy of refusing to "whiten up" the cast and hire locals whenever possible is a godsend in that damned industry. Let him grind his axes: he made the best show on television with a majority black cast, and you'd best believe that's newsworthy in-and-of itself.

Oh, and as I've said elsewhere, I think the problem with The Wire's bleakness is that it's too locally focused. The tragedy of West Baltimore is that it is the local victim of a federal war; that the white, suburban voters who make the "war on drugs" so politically popular never seen, nor feel, the results of their preferences. The root of the problem isn't found in Baltimore, but in Washington, and The Wire just doesn't go that far. I actually sympathize with Carcetti. He can't solve the problems in the mayor's office.

(Makes me wonder if it's really true that Obama is a big fan of The Wire. Now THERE'S an endorsement I'd like to see.)

esquire

http://www.esquire.com/features/essay/david-simon-0308-4#

Compare the above with the Atlantic piece. Apparently there are two ways to look at this imbroglio. In Mr. Bowden's assessment, Simon is angry and paranoid. In the other, the two editors are actually, well, deceitful hacks.

Susie from Philly

Since I was in journalism for two decades and and am familiar with the work of the people Simon doesn't like, I'm more inclined to give those points to Simon.

If you want a much better Simon interview, check out the one he did with Nick Hornby:

http://www.believermag.com/issues/200708/?read=interview_simon

Dan Leo

Long-form, basically open-ended TV drama -- like The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood -- is a whole new artistic genre, and at its best, as in the above-mentioned shows, it defies the old rules about comedy and tragedy.

I find it hard to watch The Wire regularly, but that's my fault, not the show's, and God damn it some day I am going to catch up to the whole thing on DVD. I don't think Simon's and Burns's vision is paranoid in the least, or even particulaly angry considering the subject matter. I'm a lifelong Philadelphian, need I say more? The Wire may not be the most entertaining show on TV, but judging from what I've seen it's the truest show.

bob

Simply the most brilliant show EVER to grace a television. All criticism is pretty much bullshit, similar to the criticisms of "The Sopranos". If you are so freakin' smart, write your OWN magnum opus. Coming from the days of "Dragnet" or "Bonanza" or "The Untouchables", the cycle of shows from HBO that began with "Oz" and is now ending with "The Wire"
has been the best TV ever. EVER. EVER. EVER. All quibbling pales.

burritoboy

"Kurt Vonnegut thought it was true, although he used the word "purpose-less" to describe the way capitalism has made people worth less. But Vonnegut thought this was a result of everybody's general stupidity, greed, vanity, and selfishness, and so he could be forgiving towards most of the villains of our culture. Simon, according to Bowden, thinks this is result of specific people's greed, vanity, and selfishness, and he's not forgiving because he is sure they are intelligent and know better."

Vonnegut was wrong, but you're also wrong in the last sentence above. From the things Simon has said and the show's own evidence, Simon more argues that our system and structure and ideology is wrong, and that leads to numerous bad results among the local ruling classes of Baltimore. Though, Simon never shows us our true or ultimate rulers, who don't reside in Baltimore anyway (they're in New York or Switzerland or the British Virgin Islands, etc and have no specific interest in Baltimore perse).

That doesn't remove the fact that all of the local Baltimore ruling class in The Wire are indeed also objectively bad people. And Simon has no charity for them - not very Dickensian, true. But they're not his primary target - the underlying reason for their badness is not that they know better and should just undergo some sort of Scroogian conversion process. The show's grand point is precisely that our capitalist ideology in fact doesn't know any better.

That's why nobody in the show has even the faintest idea how to improve the city's economy - because any serious thinking along those lines is effectively prohibited by the universally accepted capitalist ideology. Because Baltimore's problems are primarily caused by a neoliberal ideology that acts on a national level, the local ruling class CAN'T solve any of them. If the local ruling class could solve some of them, ambitious politicians might even attempt (for their own totally selfish and low reasons) to do so. But they can't even begin to percieve HOW to attempt any serious change, because everybody that matters (locally, nationally and internationally) accepts the exact same ideology.

It's both hard for any new ideas to emerge if even the slightest deviation from the universal ideology is immediately and ferociously denounced and suppressed as "godless communism" and if there is no institutional backing or "space" for new ideas to develope (see why smashing the unions - as Simon himself shows us - was a bad idea?).

Dickens and Vonnegut both surprisingly wrote in privileged moments in economic history - Dickens at the dawn of capitalism AND socialism, when there were also still many pre-capitalist survivals also to be examined for inspiration. Vonnegut within the historic era (1934-1975) when the Keynesian school had managed to gain an upper hand over America's usually universal fixation on classical/neoclassical/Chicago School economics. As well as globally, other forms of social organization (whether social democracy, socialism or Marxism-Leninism)were making a significant challenge to Anglo-Saxon versions of capitalism. All to be smashed in the wreckage of the following period of 1975-1990, which leads us to our universal acceptance of capitalism today.

That's why Simon more resembles the writers (more angry, less willing to be sympathetic with capitalists) from the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century - we currently simply live under a modern restatement of that era's economics (Chicago School economics being a restatement of the nineteenth century Marshall's neoclassical economics). Which is why our politicians look up to late nineteenth century political bosses (Karl Rove admiring Mark Hanna, etc) - the same economics lead to the same politics.

Hedley Lamarr

"...with a desk at the Sun right next to Avedon Carol's..."

Which Sun; the one in Baltimore or London?

Ken Houghton

Avedon Carol editing Page 3 might have saved us from Samantha Fox's singing career.

Bowden has always been, er, rather generous to authority in his interpretation of events. In which context, no one should be surprised that his interview with Simon is weaker than the others cited.

MBunge

"Simply the most brilliant show EVER to grace a television. All criticism is pretty much bullshit, similar to the criticisms of "The Sopranos". If you are so freakin' smart, write your OWN magnum opus."

Good grief, I'm so tired of the above garbage. Newsflash - When people look back at the TV of the 00s, THE WIRE will not be universally hailed as "greatest show ever and ever and if you don't agree you're a poopyhead".

Mike

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