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Making the Wire
August 26, 2008 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Making the Wire.
The HBO series The Wire, a panoramic view of Baltimore through its drug world, schools, government, seaport, and newspaper, has been widely acknowledged as one of the greatest television dramas ever produced. To mark the release of the final season on DVD, the Museum of the Moving Image presented a panel, Making "The Wire", with David Simon, the series creator and co-producer; novelist and screenwriter Richard Price, who wrote several episodes; and four of the show's stars: Seth Gilliam (who played Ellis Carver), Clark Johnson (city editor Gus Haynes), Clarke Peters (Lester Freemon), and Wendell Pierce ("Bunk"), moderated by David Schwartz, Chief Curator.
posted by chunking express (67 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
one of the greatest television dramas ever produced

As measured by the all-important "obscenities/minute" metric. [NOT PRUDISH]
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


the wire is definitely one of the best shows i've seen on tv. i'm on season4ep3 right now, been making my way through the series for the past few weeks. omar is the man, him and brother muzone. AY YO!
posted by Mach5 at 7:02 AM on August 26, 2008


Thanks for the link.

David Simon on the thesis of The Wire.

btw, according to Wikipedia, The Wire is Obama's favorite show, and Omar is his favorite character.
posted by limited slip at 7:09 AM on August 26, 2008


As measured by the all-important "obscenities/minute" metric.

Not even close. In fact, it's hard for me to really even recall swearing as an element of the Wire dialogue. I just remember countless times sitting in front of the TV rewinding multiple times to hear lines repeated. Sometimes for clarity and sometimes because I was just dumbfounded by the brilliance of how the writers conveyed so many layers of information between characters with a few grunted syllables or a few lines of eloquence that still sounded totally in character. It's pointless to debate this point unless someone has seen the series from start to finish. But I can't tell you the number of times my wife, who would rather drink lye than watch a 'cop drama', would put down her reading and start peppering me with questions any time she happened by during an episode.
posted by docpops at 7:10 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


In fact, it's hard for me to really even recall swearing as an element of the Wire dialogue.

Not a Clay Davis fan, then?
posted by jack_mo at 7:13 AM on August 26, 2008


In fact, it's hard for me to really even recall swearing as an element of the Wire dialogue.

Really? McNulty and Bunk at the crime scene of Deirdre Kresson. That was great, actually.
posted by vacapinta at 7:14 AM on August 26, 2008


Not even close.

Correct. DU has obviously never seen Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Sample Dialog: "Fucking disgusting. This isn't even cooked. Raw as your mum's arsehole. Grow a pair of testicles you sodding pussy. SHIT. Look at this fucking menu. I'm trying to help you fucks and you're too busy pulling each other's cocks to understand..." He abuses people because he loves to cook.


I guess this is as good a place as any to talk about Generation Kill, too. James Ransone's "Ray" (Ziggy Sabotka!) is wonderfully acted and funny as hell.
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:24 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


In fact, it's hard for me to really even recall swearing as an element of the Wire dialogue.

Are you serious? I'm only going by what I overhear from the next room, since I don't actually watch, but there is a LOT of swearing. Maybe it's a selection bias due to volume, but it seems to consist mainly of swearing interspersed with a few moments of mumbling.
posted by DU at 7:29 AM on August 26, 2008


I couldn't be whiter, middle-classer or English-er, but halfway through the second season, in conversation with my fiancee, I referred to our central heating boiler as "busted ass."

Things were strained for some days afterwards.
posted by Jofus at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'll save this link for after I finish #5 later this week!

As measured by the all-important "obscenities/minute" metric. [NOT PRUDISH]

Possibly, but probably not, and also by any other metric. I think you only notice "obscenities" when they are gratuitous. Having been through the first four seasons (and season 3 probably twice completely), gratuitous is decidedly not an adjective that comes to mind when I describe The Wire.
posted by kosem at 7:32 AM on August 26, 2008


I originally hated the show but then warmed up to it. However, seasons 2 and 5 are seriously weak. Season 4 was brilliant, however.

And yeah, there's a lot of swearing. It's got nothing on Deadwood (in the swearing or the greatest show ever made categories) though.
posted by dobbs at 7:37 AM on August 26, 2008


I'm only going by what I overhear from the next room, since I don't actually watch

Oh.
posted by kosem at 7:39 AM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link - bookmarked, but I'm not going anywhere near it. I have just finished watching the first series of The Wire on DVD in poor HBO deprived Australia. I am living what darth_tedious wished for in the 'Lion in a Sidecar' thread. I thank all of you people that have turned me on to this series and whetted my appetite so.
posted by tellurian at 7:42 AM on August 26, 2008


gratuitous is decidedly not an adjective that comes to mind when I describe The Wire.

I blocked out McNulty's adventures in the whorehouse, too.
posted by aswego at 7:45 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not much swearing on The Wire.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:49 AM on August 26, 2008


Gosh darned you guys and your Wire FPP's. Fine, I give, Wire Season 1 is now in my queue....
posted by cavalier at 7:50 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


My link is of course NSFW.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:52 AM on August 26, 2008


dobbs - [on post review], I've spent a shit load of money on Deadwood DVDs too, after reading the views of memberfites. NO REGRETS.
posted by tellurian at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2008


I blocked out McNulty's adventures in the whorehouse, too.

True enough. I'm not sure that makes the show gratuitous, but I'll grant you that scene for sure.

Not much swearing on The Wire.

I don't think anyone's saying that. If you sit in the next room, listen, and don't watch the show, you will hear many four-letter words. But if you stand on a drug corner, in a police station, or, say, down by the docks, you might hear an abundance of those very same words. This might well be the point.
posted by kosem at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Wire is the best show ever in the history of everything. There is no excuse for not watching it. As for the obscenity, shiiiiiiiit.
posted by tits mcgee at 7:59 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I like the wire.
posted by brevator at 8:07 AM on August 26, 2008


The Wire is prototypical Stuff White People Like.

No hate, please. I like it too.
posted by dzot at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2008


The Wire is prototypical Stuff White People Like.

Why did you say something asinine if you don't want hate?
posted by found missing at 8:19 AM on August 26, 2008 [10 favorites]


The post is a single link to an hour and thirteen minute panel discussion (really interesting, so far) of the show (no transcript). The first post is two minutes later, and refers to the first 45 seconds (the intro, not the panel at all). And it's wrong. Clearly best of MeFi.
posted by The Bellman at 8:22 AM on August 26, 2008


Not much swearing on The Wire.

But how great is the acting, to do a whole scene with only a few words?

I've loved The Wire since the first episode aired.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:28 AM on August 26, 2008


I originally hated the show but then warmed up to it. However, seasons 2 and 5 are seriously weak. Season 4 was brilliant, however.

I agree with you about season 5, but I thought season 2 was one of the strongest in the series. It took a severe left turn away from the world of Season 1, gave you a GREAT murder mystery, then showed you how this very, very different world both informs and intertwines with the original. It deepens the universe of the story considerably and gives a great account of how the drug trade affects many different facets and peoples of a city.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:30 AM on August 26, 2008 [8 favorites]


Generation Kill, done by the same guys, is awesome. It's seven-episode run finished this past Sunday.
posted by mrbill at 8:39 AM on August 26, 2008


Snoop and Chris are my new favorite two bad guys. Snoop, especially: girl is a trip.
posted by everichon at 8:52 AM on August 26, 2008


Referring to blue dialogue as "obscene" is, in fact, prudish.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:58 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I agree with you about season 5, but I thought season 2 was one of the strongest in the series. It took a severe left turn away from the world of Season 1, gave you a GREAT murder mystery, then showed you how this very, very different world both informs and intertwines with the original. It deepens the universe of the story considerably and gives a great account of how the drug trade affects many different facets and peoples of a city.

Yeah, but the characters in the dock area and their motivations just weren't compelling to me, unlike the first season where I kind of sympathized with D'angelo trying to be a decent guy while still selling drugs. That whole scene was what those characters grew up with, where the game is the only thing going. Ziggy and Nick got into dealing and stuff just to make some cash; which I can understand because they're in a state of desperation with the way the port was going, but still. The show just didn't sell it to me very successfully. Ziggy might have been the only person in the course of the entire series that I actually hoped would get shot, just so he'd stop fucking up everything he touched. And Nick just came off as a whiner. I felt sorry for Frank's situation, but that was about it.
posted by LionIndex at 9:09 AM on August 26, 2008


So, after years of hearing how great it is, and not having HBO, Season One is coming from Netflix starting today.

SO NO SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:11 AM on August 26, 2008


cowbellemoo writes "Correct. DU has obviously never seen Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Sample Dialog: 'Fucking disgusting. This isn't even cooked. Raw as your mum's arsehole. Grow a pair of testicles you sodding pussy. SHIT. Look at this fucking menu. I'm trying to help you fucks and you're too busy pulling each other's cocks to understand...' He abuses people because he loves to cook."

The kitchen of any restaurant is a world unto itself. Chefs are like the rulers of these little fiefdoms. I love Gordon Ramsay because he understands how to kick people's arses in the right way to get them motivated, just like a good kitchen manager or chef (speaking as someone who has worked in many kitchens). Running a restaurant is a harsh reality check for many people, and he's just there to put the edge on it.

/derail

Anyway, The Wire is supposed to be grounded in realism, and in the real world, cops in cities of any size swear a lot.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:15 AM on August 26, 2008


since I don't actually watch

I DON'T EVEN HAVE A TV!!!
posted by inigo2 at 9:24 AM on August 26, 2008


The Wire is prototypical Stuff White People Like.

You're right. It's a reality show.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:27 AM on August 26, 2008


Having never seen a moment of it we started it a few weeks ago and have been binging in a frightening way. I almost dream about these people. What an amazing show. What great writing.

I love the juxtapositions: The war on drugs against the drinking cops. The cop meeting/lecture against the teacher seminar. The drug co-op against the political quagmire. It's just flippin' great.
posted by cccorlew at 9:36 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Wire doesn't even touch Deadwood when it comes to swearing. The former's dialog: realistic. The latter's: gratuitous (but brilliantly poetic still).
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:38 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but the characters in the dock area and their motivations just weren't compelling to me, unlike the first season where I kind of sympathized with D'angelo trying to be a decent guy while still selling drugs.

Perhaps it is a matter of taste - I personally found them just as compelling.

Ziggy might have been the only person in the course of the entire series that I actually hoped would get shot, just so he'd stop fucking up everything he touched.

Sure, but that was his role, his part in the scheme of the show - he was a destructive fuck up. As it was a certain detective's in Season 5 (though his motivations are less self-destructive) - and I had similar feelings towards him, then.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:47 AM on August 26, 2008


I still think the closing montage to Season 2 (Steve Earle singing 'I Feel Alright') is one of the best ever filmed.
posted by docpops at 9:57 AM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


Simon, about 53 minutes in:

"I don't know how you manage to be anything but a monied oligarchy without an aggressive and surly press... And anyone who thinks the Internet is going to replace [the press]... I don't run into a lot of Internet reporters at council meetings or in courthouses or... They're not out in Fallujuah telling you what the marines are doing. The Internet is good for commentary, but it's a parasite, killing the host."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: Killing the host.
posted by Dumsnill at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2008 [3 favorites]


Having spent most of my life in Baltimore, I have a love/hate relationship with The Wire. I know these neighborhoods, even lived in a few of them. Dave Simon knows what he's talking about, having worked for the Sun himself and spent time on those streets (read The Corner if you haven't already). A lot of the actors are homegrown, and Ziggy's accent in particular is spot on (unfortunately). I love seeing this city brought to life with such meticulous attention to detail, from the lake trout to the power politics and dirty money.

At the same time, whenever anyone I know discovers I'm from Baltimore, they sort of go, "Oohh ..." with this half-pitying look in their eyes. "Well, good for you for getting out of there. I was just watching Season 4 of the Wire the other night when ..." or something along those lines. Makes me almost wish back to a time when the only television series about Baltimore was called Homocide. But there you have it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:30 AM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


BEST. SHOW. EVER.

However, seasons 2 and 5 are seriously weak.

Maybe relative to the other Wire seasons, but that still makes them 10-15 times better than just about any other show's season on TV. Except Deadwood. Loves me my Deadwood. And The Sopranos. Hell, how does HBO keep doing it?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:31 AM on August 26, 2008


television series about Baltimore was called Homocide

They was killin' teh Gays?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2008


krinklyfig: The kitchen of any restaurant is a world unto itself. Chefs are like the rulers of these little fiefdoms. I love Gordon Ramsay because he understands how to kick people's arses in the right way to get them motivated, just like a good kitchen manager or chef (speaking as someone who has worked in many kitchens). Running a restaurant is a harsh reality check for many people, and he's just there to put the edge on it.

Oh, I think my snark has left the wrong impression. Sorry. I'll make it clear now that I'm a complete and total Ramsey fan, abuse and all. I think it's awesome that anyone can be that passionate. His personality and alternating combative/nurturing jags leave me riveted.

posted by cowbellemoo at 10:32 AM on August 26, 2008


PLEASE BRING BACK ONE MORE SEASON
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:21 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


from an interview with David Simon:


My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.


From a fun interview

I <3 David Simon
posted by jadepearl at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2008 [12 favorites]


However, seasons 2 and 5 are seriously weak.

I actually though 2 was one of the best, propbably because of its 'death of the working class' theme. 5 was a little iffy compared to what came before. But it's all relative... over all it really was the Best Show Evah
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2008


I thought season two was quite good, as well. It went places that you didn't expect, and the characters were very well developed. I did think five was a little bit weak as well, perhaps because I wanted everything to wrap up a bit more definitively. But I kind of respected the show more for that, as it didn't seem to ever force the show anywhere. It seemed to develop on its own, as if it was a "discovered" story, rather than a created one. Felt more real that way.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:08 PM on August 26, 2008


But if you stand on a drug corner, in a police station, or, say, down by the docks...

Heh, yeah, I'll get right on that.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:14 PM on August 26, 2008


One of the reasons Season Five of The Wire was less successful is that they only had 10 episodes to work with, which was reduced from the usual 12-13 a couple of weeks before filming started. Season Five had other problems, but being able to flesh out some of the story over a couple of additional episodes probably would've helped.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:23 PM on August 26, 2008


they only had 10 episodes to work with

Yeah, too little time, too much material. Still great though. (Or mayby I'm just extremely white.)
posted by Dumsnill at 5:38 PM on August 26, 2008


I like the tone of the panel. They were very relaxed. On the other hand, by chance I picked up this DVD "Sucka Free City". A Showtime pilot, shot as a feature by Spike Lee, for an inner city (San Fransisco) underworld drama. IMO the writing was even more riveting. The subject matter and themes weren't as sprawling as The Wire but, the complex relationships between the factions felt so very authentic.
It Follows the lives of three young men one white, one black and one asian, inevetably getting sucked into the crime life and how they maneuver to survive in the city. Their families, best friends, girlfriends, alliances and gang afflliations all blancing in the equation, making For a gripping drama.

It would have been the first time Showtime had something to challenge HBO's usually stellar lineup of programming. It's really that good. Check it out.

PS I agree ziggy's role was interesting. But If you want to see a truly terrifying loose cannon, wait till you see Malieek Straughter's performance in SFC.

I felt that it was condescending that so many white folks were surprised at the portrayal of able black men or them as shrewd dealers. Wasted talent is a fact of life to those who are born into such decadence. The reason "their business" takes that form is perhaps best put by David Simon himself in a season 1 Commentary. "Since we are excluded from the larger economy, we will create our own".

It's all in the game, bitch
V-DuuUbb uPPP!!!
posted by Student of Man at 5:41 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


However, seasons 2 and 5 are seriously weak.

Did you watch Season 2 on BET or something? You know, where they edited out the "white" parts and thus undercut the theme?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:41 PM on August 26, 2008


(And, yeah, season 4 was my favorite too. That Barksdale storyline had gone on long enough.)
posted by kid ichorous at 5:44 PM on August 26, 2008


There wouldn't happen to be a video of this, mm?
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2008


Did you watch Season 2 on BET or something?

No, I watched all of the seasons on HBO (torrents) or DVD. Season 2 had zero new characters that were actually new to me. Every single character in that season has been done before (and better) in films and stories in the past.
posted by dobbs at 8:07 PM on August 26, 2008


Did you watch Season 2 on BET or something? You know, where they edited out the "white" parts and thus undercut the theme?

Damn, I hadn't heard about that - that's some serious, f'd up

sheeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:09 PM on August 26, 2008


No, I watched all of the seasons on HBO (torrents) or DVD. Season 2 had zero new characters that were actually new to me. Every single character in that season has been done before (and better) in films and stories in the past.

Characters are only as good as their place in their context - and I found the season 2 characters role in The Wire compelling and interesting and original *by virtue* of the world created in Season 1, and what it sets up for the following seasons.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:12 PM on August 26, 2008


I thought season 2 was great. I feel like I'm always defending it. It's like a self-contained chapter in a great, epic novel.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2008


Every single character in that season has been done before (and better) in films and stories in the past.

But is any other season of The Wire really offering something unprecedented in the history of storytelling? Nothing can live up to this standard.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:27 PM on August 26, 2008


Oh, except The Eye of Argon.
posted by kid ichorous at 10:33 PM on August 26, 2008


I really hoped that "Making the Wire" was about manufacturing the first trans-atlantic cable, or something like that
posted by rossmik at 11:07 PM on August 26, 2008


Huh. Apparently I'm the only person who doesn't like The Wire. Actually, I find it rather lame.

To me it combines all the excitement of city council budget meetings and police paperwork with the self-indulgent melodrama of reality TV. It's as though the The Wire wants to be Law and Order but had to settle on the writers from The Apprentice and the acting coaches for Two and a Half Men.

Crap, maybe I shouldn't have drawn attention to myself. Now the pod people know I'm not one of them.
posted by Davenhill at 1:28 AM on August 27, 2008


Davenhill, thanks for coming out to let us know the Wire sucks.
posted by chunking express at 8:59 AM on August 27, 2008


(points at Davenhill)

Stranger! Stranger!
posted by Molesome at 9:04 AM on August 27, 2008


Davenhill, greetings. How are things in Htrae?
posted by found missing at 10:35 AM on August 27, 2008


Davenhill, thanks for coming out to let us know the Wire sucks.
Yeah, well, you know... I'm just trying to even out my karma after running over another hobo in my Hummer. If I save just one person from wasting an hour of their lives watching The Wire or engaged in some Stockholm Syndrome flattery of the show, then the terrorist/hobos won't win. You're welcome.
Davenhill, greetings. How are things in Htrae?
As cromulent as ever - Le-Roj and I rescued bizarro-Aquaman from drowning on the least flat side of the planet. Curiously, even here on Htrae, Bush's approval rating is only 24%, so go figure. Hmmm... maybe he's the the Fifth-Dimensionally empowered Joker after all?
posted by Davenhill at 1:50 AM on August 28, 2008


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