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Abandoned HBO Soundstage for "The Wire"
January 7, 2009 4:19 PM   Subscribe

"So I found out yesterday that the soundstage for "The Wire" still existed. I wasted no time in visiting it and was there almost less than 24 hours [sic]. It's one of my favorite TV shows ever and I had to see this before everyone ruined it. The building is also scheduled for demolition and they are going to build a super market on it." NOTE: LINK CONTAINS SPOILERS

There's lots of other goodness (and a lot of crap) at the LJ "Abandoned Places" community.
posted by dersins (79 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
[via], of all places.
posted by dersins at 4:26 PM on January 7, 2009


Weirdly appropriate that the set showed up in "abandoned places."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:53 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Absolutely fantastic post.

I'm finding myself with a constant problem (that has lessened with time), but it's a problem with the unfathomable goodness of The Wire.

It's not that The Wire is simply the best show ever made, it's the only show.

To explain: it is unlike anything else on television in that it was a perfect amalgamation of journalism, unflinching and unbending accuracy, drama, thematics, storytelling entertainment, and pitch perfect skill of those creating it... that every single other show I watch seems so far removed from reality that I have absolutely no interest.

The best example is The Shield. I really loved The Shield for many years and can certainly still appreciate the intelligence and dense plotting of the writing, along with the gritty performances, but the non-stop spinning and removal from reality makes it all seem so hollow in comparison to something like The Wire.

It's completely unfair of course, they're both aiming to do rather different things, but it really highlights the problem of how some 'gritty" shows completely skew our reality. ESPECIALLY compared to the crap fare of all the CSI knockoffs and super-psych cops who are geniuses (in a purely plot conventional sense of course).

I was listening to the radio and they had this "Ask a CSI" segment. The station isn't really all that heady so I wasn't expecting top notch questions or anything, but it was really mind-numbing. "Have you ever, like, busted a guy with some trace evidence and they, like came back to hunt you down for revenge?" I think that was asked in various ways about three times.

The point is most other TV is asinine and in the wake of my experience with The Wire, it's even worse. I can only seem to enjoy obviously-fantasy related diversions like How I Met Your Mother or old episodes of Six Feet Under, or Buffy, or the like (which is not to say those shows can't say interesting things too, it's just a different kind of thing altogether).

Madmen's pretty good but only because it's like a massive middle finger to John Updike.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:55 PM on January 7, 2009 [10 favorites]


Best show of the last ten years. My god, season 2 was so so good.
posted by flipyourwig at 4:59 PM on January 7, 2009


Oh, I would've loved to rummage through that place.
posted by flippant at 5:07 PM on January 7, 2009


It's not that The Wire is simply the best show ever made, it's the only show. -- Lacking Subtlety

Eponysterical, but also correct. If you've ever wondered if they exaggerated for dramatic effect, they didn't. David Simon (the brains behind this, The Corner, and Homicide) was a police reporter and a teacher. He knew what he was talking about---and Charm City doesn't require any exaggeration. For example, Mayor (now Govenor) O'Malley was a vocal critic of the show, despite the revenue that filming it brought into the city, after the (perhaps too familiar) character of Carcetti was introduced.

The only fault it has is in not reproducing the local accents (apparently it was deemed too difficult for other regions to parse. (Although Snoop, whose accent is hers alone, was fine. Go figure.))
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:15 PM on January 7, 2009


There were a few locals that could be picked out aurally from time to time.

I don't know how McNulty was supposed to play for real "Bawlmer" anyway. He's English and it slipped out every couple of episodes in an inflection or R-sound.
posted by pineapple at 5:31 PM on January 7, 2009


There were a few locals that could be picked out aurally from time to time.

Yeah, of all the major characters, Valchek is the only one that comes to mind (although many of the smaller parts were played by local actors who would nail it).
posted by dhammond at 5:35 PM on January 7, 2009


I couldn't understand a word Snoop said. I had to turn on the English subtitles.

I just finished season five and feel like a close and wonderful friend has moved away. I'll see them again, yes, but we will never have the same relationship. I didn't think I could fall in love with a television show.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 5:41 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Madmen's pretty good but only because it's like a massive middle finger to John Updike.

I like the sound of this, but I don't know why. Please elaborate.

(will you elaborate if I promise to watch the Wire)
posted by device55 at 5:44 PM on January 7, 2009


dhammond, there was a sergeant or otherwise minor-ranking police officer that I can picture, who used to sort of relay news and get occasionally promoted and deliver deadpan lines... he was DEFINITELY local. I am trying to find him on the cast lists but can't. He was an older white guy, recurring character throughout the seasons.

But just every so often, you'd hear someone on the street or in a shop or in a bit part, and the brain would go "LOCAL."
posted by pineapple at 5:58 PM on January 7, 2009


I'm crazy for the Wire (ask Jonmc, second season fo life), but I still hang on to Deadwood as my personal (de gustibus etc..) favorite, well, Deadwood and Manimal.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:04 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


he was DEFINITELY local.

You are almost certainly thinking of Major Dennis Mello, played by former real life homicide detective Jay Landsman, who is apparently the inspiration for the character of John Munch (and the character Jay Landsman, incidentally). Major six degrees here.
posted by dhammond at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


YES! Well done. That's exactly who I was trying to recall. His Baltimore accent was authentically wonderful; they should've had Dominic West move in with Dennis Mello for six years.
posted by pineapple at 6:16 PM on January 7, 2009


Whoops. I think I just caught a major spoiler. Shit.

Zig Sobotka was Baltimore. Or at least County. James Ransone is from Towson.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:24 PM on January 7, 2009


"I couldn't understand a word Snoop said. I had to turn on the English subtitles."

I didn't get subtitles so had to be satisfied with just having her scare me. I also didn't figure out the character was a woman until like 5 our 6 episodes. I guess I just thought someone that scary had to be a man.

Season 5 was the weakest of the lot, and even it ruled, but it could also be that I work at a newspaper and I've never heard anyone use a lot of the journalism terms (so am a bit more sensitive about this). And they pretty well ignored the internet, and the arching plot line (little lies get bigger) felt like old news to me.

Season 5 also had the death of my favorite character, so maybe I'm just a bit bitter.

And this post could have had several previously links.

One last thing, and maybe I am tired or dumb, but what the grammar error in the first sentence that is earning the [sic]?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2009


Gaaaah! Spoilers! For anyone who hasn't finished watching the show (like me) you might want to give this a miss.
posted by ooga_booga at 6:28 PM on January 7, 2009


David Simon (the brains behind this, The Corner, and Homicide) was a police reporter and a teacher. He knew what he was talking about---
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:15 PM on January 7 [+] [!]


Not to be nitpicky but his partner David Burns was the cop/teacher. Simon was just the reporter.

But going with your point, he makes it a ritual habit of having a writer involved who is a primary source of authority on the issue.

For example they more or less wrote Generation Kill with a Marine present during the sessions. They always estimate that worst accusation that can be levelled is "that's not accurate"
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:33 PM on January 7, 2009


Snoop is probably my favorite female villain in fiction. Also: interesting bunch of photos.
posted by everichon at 6:35 PM on January 7, 2009


(will you elaborate if I promise to watch the Wire)

I've no idea what the Updike reference was to, except maybe the whole suburban thing, but hell, bitch at Joyce for 'not getting it' if you're going to do that.

Regardless; don't hold out. See The Wire. It's amazing.

Gaaaah! Spoilers! For anyone who hasn't finished watching the show (like me) you might want to give this a miss.

Yeah, pretty serious spoiler shows up without warning in the photos. Only view this if you've seen the whole thing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:35 PM on January 7, 2009



Madmen's pretty good but only because it's like a massive middle finger to John Updike.

I like the sound of this, but I don't know why. Please elaborate.

(will you elaborate if I promise to watch the Wire)
posted by device55 at 5:44 PM on January 7 [+] [!]


I talk about it endless in a yates post that was somewhere around here (i'll look for it)

basically it boils down to this: I hate Updike because he is obviously an extremely talented writer who has such wonderful prose and often great insight, but it is constantly, violently, and uproariously distracted both from and my his throbbing boner he has when he's writing, that complete undermines all the interesting things he says. I seriously consider him nothing but the best pornographic writer ever, which don't get me wrong, is not entirely without merit.

But it keeps being an active problem and ends up involving his better nature with some really sexist, boring stuff. Plus by having his protagonists CONSTANTLY be a stand in for himself. His stories end up always in the realm of infedelity and women fawning over his junk. His erotic bullshit it becomes so repetitive and boring. You sit there wishing he'd just cut it out and get over his damn penis cause he's such a good writer. It's ridiculous.

Keep in mind I'm no prude, I'm fascinated by sex in cinema/literation and profane subjects from an intellectual standpoint.

Moreso, check out david foster wallaces's evisceration of updike. It's one of the best things I've ever read and also DFW at his most hysterical.

Madmen, is a child of updike and yates, no doubt about it. But the updikian central character of don draper is just as much a deconstruction of updike and all his faults as a person as you can get.

It's like this. Tony Saprano was such an interesting character.

Imagine tony writing from his own perspective/story.... yeah... MUCH less interesting.

That's updike. All the things that make him interesting would be written from the outside perspective.

Updike meanwhile keeps writing about his garden and vagina lips and therefore completely missing the point.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:46 PM on January 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


"soprano"
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:49 PM on January 7, 2009


yikes. lots of bad grammar above. finishing up a day's work. apologies.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 6:50 PM on January 7, 2009


The Wire is still one of my favorite things, and I'm waiting with baited breath that it will ever make it to Japan with (most likely horribly bad) subtitles, so my wife can watch it, and no longer get that "He's talking about that show again" look on her face.

That aside, everichon, until you wrote that Snoop was your favorite female villain, I don't know that I'd ever considered her a villain. I know that's going to sound crazy, seeing as she did a lot of bad things, and was, in general, one of the more intimidating characters I'd ever seen, but

SPOILERS!

It seemed that she, like Bodie, like Pooh, like Slim, she was just a soldier, to use the phrase they all used so much. That was the problem she had with Michael, that he asked questions. She just did what she was told, as did Chris. Were they bad things? Maybe to you or me. To Snoop? Just part of the job. Did she enjoy the job too much? Oh, hell yes. But a villain? To me, the villains were Marlow, Stringer, Cheese, Burrell and Nareece, and, of course, Scott and the newspaper editor. They were out and out malicious people, uncaring and violent, and, I guess where the show seemed to draw the line was that people lacking, or unaware of the code were the bad guys. The reason why season 5 didn't live up to expectations, perhaps (aside from dropping from twelve to ten episodes) was that the editor of the Sun wasn't so much codeless as clueless, and as a villain, he was like Valcheck, pointless, almost comic, if the stakes weren't so high.

Rather than talk about villains, what might be fun to talk about is the dearth of any real heroes in the show. It's very, very hard to name one genuinely good person from the show, which I think is why I liked it so much. I mean, to me, my heroes from the show were Omar (of course) and Bodie, who both did VERY BAD THINGS repeatedly. Perhaps Sidnour, but I wonder how much of the McNulty arc he was being set up to follow. And Prop Joe, who, if you think about it, might have been one of the most damaging characters on the show (he set up the co-op, allowing the drug trade to flourish), yet seemed to have one of the more noble hearts on the show.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:00 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the perceived spoiler that some commenters in this thread are reacting to is not actually a spoiler at all. But I don't want to elaborate any more and spoil it for them by revealing that their spoiler isn't actually a spoiler, so that they'll be suprised when they discover they haven't been spoiled.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:06 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's very, very hard to name one genuinely good person from the show.

Gus from season 5. Incidentally, this is also why that aspect of the storyline from season 5 kinda sucked.
posted by dhammond at 7:07 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


favorite female villain,

There are no villians on the wire. david simon said it himself and then to quote:

"There are no absolutes. People aren't one or the other. Well, except for two. There's perfect good with Woody Guthrie and perfect evil with Dick Cheney"

That's not exact but close enought
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 7:07 PM on January 7, 2009


My very proper, highly educated, intellectual Indian brother-in-law would often get a sour look when we mortals would speak of such pop-culture trivialities. Then my wife and I talked his wife into watching a couple of shows with us over Xmas. This got her hooked. She ordered a couple more on Netflicks. Next thing we hear, he's maxed out their Netflicks acount so that he doesn't have to wait for any new disks and he hasn't slept in days pulling all nighters to watch episode after episode.

Red tops envelopes, got your red tops envelopes!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2009 [5 favorites]


what the grammar error in the first sentence that is earning the [sic]?

"almost less than"
posted by Sys Rq at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, pretty serious spoiler shows up without warning in the photos.

Yeah, what Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese said....that's not a spoiler.
posted by dhammond at 7:09 PM on January 7, 2009


dhammond, good point. One could also argue that Bunny Colvin was one of the good ones, except, following the show's mythology, one could not become one of the bosses without having been pretty awful at some point. Which makes you wonder

POSSIBLE SPOILER

why exactly Carver got Lieutenant at the end. In theory, he had been redeemed, he was a "good" cop by the end. Clearly, at some point, he'd been up to no good, but he was supposed to be one of (I thought) the shows redemptive characters. Was it that he'd written up the other (berserk asshole) cop on charges? Was he being rewarded for that/hated for that by the other cops?
posted by Ghidorah at 7:20 PM on January 7, 2009


I'm tempted to summarize by saying "So John Updike is a Mary Sue with a strap-on?" but I won't because that'd be wrong.

I do appreciate your thorough critique - and I do really enjoy the nature of Don Draper's ever-self-destroying-yet-clueless character. I think it's a great take on "the guy who has everything".

Now I will run off to Netflix to queue the Wire.
posted by device55 at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2009


Not to be petty, but I want to Omar that LJ pretty boy and take all his Wire goodies.
posted by ford and the prefects at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2009


Oh, by the way, there was a fantastic blog that followed along with the show, breaking down the episodes as they came out. It was called Heaven And Here, and it's still up, though it hasn't been updated since March 2008. If I recall, Simon actually popped up in the comments occasionally. Great insight, fun discussion, worth checking out, if you liked the show. One of the writers was Shoals from Free Darko.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:23 PM on January 7, 2009


I want to Omar that LJ pretty boy

The verb to Omar has at least two meanings.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:28 PM on January 7, 2009


Moreso, check out david foster wallaces's evisceration of updike.

It's a 1997 review of Updike's novel Toward the End of Time and it's available in full here, as well as in the astonishingly good Consider the Lobster collection. Worth noting that, for an "evisceration of Updike," it starts out relatively respectfully:

I'd like to offer assurances that your reviewer is not one of these spleen-venting, spittle-spattering Updike-haters one encounters among literary readers under 40. The fact is that I am probably classifiable as one of very few actual sub-40 Updike fans. Not as rabid a fan as, say, Nicholson Baker, but I do think that The Poorhouse Fair, Of the Farm and The Centaur are all great books, maybe classics. And even since Rabbit Is Rich - as his characters seemed to become more and more repellent, and without any corresponding indication that the author understood that they were repellent - I've continued to read Mr. Updike's novels and to admire the sheer gorgeousness of his descriptive prose.

It eventually does leave Updike's viscera on the carpet, but does it about as nicely as you can leave anyone's viscera on any carpet anywhere.
posted by mediareport at 7:28 PM on January 7, 2009


Now I will run off to Netflix to queue the Wire.

Season One and Season Four are the two most perfect arcs of a television series you'll ever see.

And to the folks who think they saw a major spoiler in one of the photos: I doubt you saw the spoiler you think you saw.
posted by mediareport at 7:32 PM on January 7, 2009


I guess I should watch the Wire then.....
posted by hellojed at 7:55 PM on January 7, 2009


>>what the grammar error in the first sentence that is earning the [sic][sic]?

>"almost less than"


Huh.. I was assuming that the sentence was trying to say:
I wasted no time in visiting it and was there [in] almost less than 24 hours.
posted by xorry at 7:55 PM on January 7, 2009


I just finished the fifth season about a month ago (I blew through all five seasons in the span of three months), and for the life of me, I can't find a real spoiler in any of these pictures. Unless, of course, you're referring to the obvious thing that's not really a spoiler, but someone might say is a spoiler to retain the possibility of spoilage... but it's still not a spoiler. Spoiled? Spoil. Fun word.
posted by bjork24 at 7:57 PM on January 7, 2009


And mediareport beat me to it.
posted by bjork24 at 7:58 PM on January 7, 2009


***PLEASE CONSIDER THIS COMMENT TO CONTAIN SPOILERS THROUGHOUT***



Is this Wireistas Anonymous?

I, too, have found and lost a warm, wonderful friend in The Wire; and both in only the last two months.

--------

After the US elections ended my daily idle-hour hobby of maintaining Electicker fell away, and I felt it might be time to watch some quality telly again. After all the (justified) clamoring from Metafilter and Charlie Brooker -- two of my heroes, after all -- I finally caved and watched the Whole. Goddam. Thing. in fewer days then there are episodes.

It was no mean feat. The degree to which I'm trained to parse American popular media, I can watch The Colbert Report while asleep and still remember what the show was about; with this beautiful beast, averting my eyes for more than a second resulted in having to scour Wikipedia just to end up realizing that I missed another dear character dying, or killing someone, or getting a promotion (if not all three).

People say you should not worry too much about understanding every word, and they're probably right. Just jump in the deep end, and you'll catch on sooner or later to what "re-up" and "redball" and "lake trout" mean. (Well, maybe not the latter, because who does, right? (!)) But only upon a second viewing -- with English subtitles -- you notice all the subtleties you missed the first time around, often revealing additional bleak observations or subtle humour, or sometimes, I'd argue, even additional plot lines. ("Ohhh..! So that was what X was referring to when Y was being so mysterious about Z!")

Living in Holland, I am very much accustomed to watching American TV series with an amount of delay -- I remember having to plug my ears and shout la-la-la at the internet when I finally caught onto Six Feet Under but realized we were only, oh, give or take a year behind. I think I literally shielded my eyes when reading through Metafilter threads that I shouldn't have when phrases like "I am now going to spoil The Wire for you, dear gnfti" and "Omar killed Voldemort" popped up in comments.

(FYI: NL broadcaster VPRO, the likely candidate for a series like this and otherwise much appreciated by yours truly, apparently had "requested" yet "declined" the show for being "too American and of limited international interest" (link in Dutch). Talk about missing the point, talk about transcending the subject matter. Beatles:Decca::Fred Astaire:"Dances a little", etc. So it was never broadcast here -- I at least cannot receive the UK's FX, which did show it.)

So in a sense, this was a unique situation for me: I wasn't a year behind the US, nor was I keeping up via BitTorrent every day: I was feasting -- overdosing, if you'll indulge me -- on a show which was irrevocably finished, over, an ex-show, yet (its original Stateside run having ended only months before) still fresh in everyone's memory.

Now, while I had started to evangelize among friends I hadn't converted any new devotees yet (God knows I do now), and mean people on the internets were spoiling everything for anyone, so I spent these past few months in a weird sort of televisual limbo where your friends don't know what you're talking about, but the web is full of densely-spoiled post-mortems. So where do you go when your favourite character gets killed, or tries to hang himself? What is a boy to do? All hyperbole aside, I cried real, liquid tears.

Charlie Brooker's laudation of The Wire linked above (and posted on MeFi) -- which is British and heartfelt and highly recommended -- mentions it being a "bipolar love letter to the city of Baltimore" of sorts, which whichever way you slice it, it is.

It is one of the great ironic tensions underlying The Wire: after watching an episode or five, it should be abundantly clear to the keen observer that in spite of all the bleak, hopeless, systemic dysfunction, the people making it -- and in a sense, the characters playing it out -- really love this town, for all its shortcomings. (I'm sure my friend OmieWise will have something more sensible to say about this.) As another Euro data point, it was intensely refreshing to see a US city other than NYC, LA, DC (or superficially, Seattle, SF, Boston, Chicago) treated with this degree of depth and -- dare I say it -- dignity.

So screw the naysayers, screw Stuff White People Like (I know it's satire); as a non-American, although a lifelong consumer of "serious television", I would wholeheartedly agree with anyone who claims that The Wire has achieved its creative goals with little to no apparent compromise, and -- in my humble opinion -- has achieved so much more. Somewhere (either the video or in one of his Guardian articles) Brooker mentions being envious of Wire virgins because they get to experience it all for the first time, and I am more than ready to follow him in this admittedly pathetic notion.

So thank you, dersins, for giving me the opportunity to finally write something about The Wire on Metafilter, thank you to everyone who recommended it here, and it should go without saying that the pictures linked in this post have a great impact on me. Thank you.

--------

I'll leave you with some related stuff yanked from my reading list:

CNN: Commentary: Growing up in the world of 'The Wire'
The Guardian: Charlie Brooker - High on the wire
The Guardian: Charlie Brooker - Oh, just watch it...
HBO: The Wire organization charts - The Law, The Street
monsoonmartin: Season 5 - Monsoon Martin's The Wire - Journalism Terms Glossary
EW: Setting Off a 'Wire' Alarm - Stephen King on The Wire
Slate: The Wire on Fire

Posts tagged "thewire" on Metafilter, Ask Metafilter

--------

Thanks, guys.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:03 PM on January 7, 2009 [17 favorites]


This may not be the right thread for this, but for everyone who loves the wire and hasn't seen this Spike Lee's Clockers could almost be a subplot of the Wire. They're so close that I have a hard time telling whether some plot elements came from Clockers or The Wire.
posted by xorry at 8:26 PM on January 7, 2009


xorry, David Simon and other writers on the show have specifically cited the original novel Clockers (by Richard Price) as a formative influence on The Wire. I kinda creamed over it in a previous thread, but it's good enough to cream again. It's one of the best crime novels I've ever read, and was so good I couldn't bring myself to see Spike Lee's version. If you liked the movie, you'll probably love the book.
posted by mediareport at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2009


Ah, thanks mediareport! I will check that out.

Right after posting I skimmed the IMDB page for Clockers and found in the trivia section:
"
The film shares many similarities with the HBO drama "The Wire" (2002). Not only do they share subject matter but writer/author Richard Price has also written for the program and actors Hassan Johnson and Fredro Starr appear on the program as lieutenants in the Barksdale drug empire.

"
posted by xorry at 8:52 PM on January 7, 2009


Fascinating. Looks all post-apocalyptic and shit. I'm sure I'd appreciate it a lot more if I'd seen the show, but no HBO for me.
posted by delmoi at 9:06 PM on January 7, 2009


You got to let him play. It's America.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:41 PM on January 7, 2009


The best example is The Shield ... but the non-stop spinning and removal from reality makes it all seem so hollow in comparison to something like The Wire.

After finishing the last DVD of The Wire, I was in serious withdrawal, so I started The Shield. I was really impressed with it for a couple of episodes, but I lost interest pretty quick. I think I was expecting it to be something it couldn't be: The Wire.

I'll give it another shot, but I need some kind of video sorbet to cleanse my palette and get a fresh start.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:01 PM on January 7, 2009


Fare thee well gone away
There's nothing left to say
'cept to say adieu
To your eyes as blue
As the water in the bay
And to big Jim Dwyer
The man of wire
Who was often heard to say
I'm a free born man of the USA....

posted by Token Meme at 11:03 PM on January 7, 2009


Not to be nitpicky but his partner David Burns was the cop/teacher. Simon was just the reporter.

Not to be doubly nitpicky, but Simon's writing partner is named Ed Burns.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop at 2:45 AM on January 8, 2009


Forty-nine comments and no one has mentioned the key piece of symbolism in the show? Or who the real characters were? Oh, Metafilter: you tease me with your broad knowledge and eloquence but staunchly ignore the elephant in the corner.

Greek tragedy described an unrelenting world: were you unlucky enough to perceive the way of the world, though an oracle or insight, your fate was the worse. Because no matter how you struggled to alter the course, to do the right thing, you inevitably wound up fulfilling the very prophecies you hoped to avoid. Human characters lived a life like a prisoner in the steel-walled cell of fate. They anthropomorphized the gods in order to cover the iron walls with soft curtains and tapestries in order to make life bearable.

The Wire is an extended Greek tragedy. The institutions: the drug trade, the police force, the school system, the political infrastructure, the media, and most of all, economics, all take the place of the Greek gods, the soft, human face of the immovable object and the irresistible force. If you're unlucky enough to garner some insight into what's wrong with business as usual, or what might be done to make things better, and act on that impulse, you are crushed or beaten into submission. The criminals, and chief characters, in the show were the institutions that would not and could not reform, and the victim was the city of Baltimore.

The key signifier in the show was Bunk and McNulty getting drunk by the train tracks. The train train tracks symbolize the unalterable steel shod inevitability of fate and the institutions that cannot change direction. And perhaps the key scene in the entire series was McNulty urinating on the tracks while the train approached from behind him, unaware in his eagerness to stick it to the powers that be that the only choices he has are to get out of the way or be crushed.

Of course, I may be wrong. The fourth season was my favorite. Still, we're all hoping that Obama isn't Carcetti. But appointing Sanjay Gupta as surgeon general and Rick Warren as the inaugural priest leaves me bereft of much of the HOPE that infused me on November 4. Eh, it's not like the only hope for redemption is a personal redemption is exactly a new idea.
posted by cytherea at 2:59 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's very, very hard to name one genuinely good person from the show.

Beadie

I was really impressed with it for a couple of episodes, but I lost interest pretty quick. I think I was expecting it to be something it couldn't be: The Wire.

Well, it's just another show... it definitely relied far too much on 'Huggy Bear'-type informers to move the plot along. However there were times it achieved real greatness - some of Dutch's serial killer story lines, Forest Whitaker's appearance... and the last season, especially the last two episodes where superb.

However, it's possibly hyperbole but, I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that The Wire is probably one of the greatest things I will ever see, possibly the greatest and that's ok. That this kind of thing (The Singing Detective, Our Friends In The North, may be one or two others) just does not come along every day.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:15 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Wire is an extended Greek tragedy.

This isn't all there is to the Wire, of course, but David Simon says the very same thing (less seriously) in this clip.
posted by dseaton at 3:21 AM on January 8, 2009


Well, just one more thing, if I may. For the Greeks, the punishment that was attributed to those aware of their fate but unable to alter it was a metaphor for the Promethean fate of those sad little animals that became aware that they would die. And The Wire is the tragic story the people who know that things aren't right in the world use as a metaphor for the death of human society. We know we're running out of resources, and that global warming is eventually going to make this recession look like cake. But we're not going to do anything about it. At best we'll be pissing on the train tracks.

(oh, ps. I heart The Singing Detective. Perhaps the best show on TV. Now I'm totally going to watch Our Friends in the North based solely on your association.)
posted by cytherea at 3:32 AM on January 8, 2009


why exactly Carver got Lieutenant at the end.

SPOILER!!!!1!!!

It's the cycle of life in the end. The more things change the more they stay the same. Carver has a soiled past but worked hard and got himself squared away, much like Daniels. Daniels is seen as an uptight prick for being so rigid in the beginning, but that image gets chiseled away by the end of the series, Carver is building the uptight prick image.

It's very, very hard to name one genuinely good person from the show.

Beadie


It's hard to name anyone on the show that is completely good or completely evil, but almost everyone has capacity for goodness and human weakness. It's hard to say that Bunk or Kima, or even McNulty and Freeman have evil motives, but they certainly have human weaknesses. Beadie is certainly not shown to be bad, but aside from the idea of Beadie the Saint, she is a relatively two-dimentional character in the show.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:59 AM on January 8, 2009


I have perfected the 'spoiler-eyes-skip-over-that-paragraph-oh-no-wait-there's-another-spoiler-skip-skip-skip' technique due to my increasing desire to see this series.

You lot are a bunch of filthy enablers. Just ordered Season 1.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:26 AM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Congrats, Dave. Have fun.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:52 AM on January 8, 2009


I couldn't understand a word Snoop said.

Really? I can't recall having all that much trouble with her dialogue. That's not to say I didn't have to figure out a few terms, but overall she was clear enough for me.

And scary as hell. Frikkin' nail gun, come on ...
posted by bwg at 6:48 AM on January 8, 2009


It's one of the best crime novels I've ever read, and was so good I couldn't bring myself to see Spike Lee's version. If you liked the movie, you'll probably love the book.

Have to jump back in to say, yes, yes, read the novel. I'm sure the movie was great but the Clockers the book was outstanding.

SPOILER (IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE SERIES):

Y'all know the story about Snoop, right? She basically played herself in the film. Mind-blowing. Ran into Omar at a Baltimore bar while filming was going on in town, and he invited her round to the set the next day, and the rest is history.
posted by pineapple at 6:59 AM on January 8, 2009


Heh. I'm reading Lush Life by Richard Price right now!

I got the same problem with The Wire as I do with Deadwood. Even though they are the greatest television shows ever produced, perhaps even the greatest entertainment ever produced, I still can't recommend it to anyone I know outside my closest friends. My mother? My daughter? My in-laws? My neighbors? Forget about it. The complexity, the rawness, the moral ambiguity of the series is too much for most Americans raised on pap to handle.

Sadly, it has spoiled me for 99% of American TV. Dexter? Huff? Damages? They're all dumbed-down formulaic crap. The Daily Show and Mad Men are the only American shows I can stand to watch anymore. So recently, the spouse and I have turned to British comedy shows. We are crazy about The Royles.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:01 AM on January 8, 2009


I still can't recommend it to anyone I know outside my closest friends. My mother? My daughter? My in-laws? My neighbors? Forget about it.

My mother is a retired history professor, a former christian missionary, and the wife of a minister.

The other day she told me that we needed to get a re-up on diapers for our baby.

Don't underestimate the ability of folks to absorb quality. As my grandmother always said, "garbage in-garbage out." So long as they watch pap, they will spew pap. Give them shows like the Wire and they will demand more.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:30 AM on January 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I love The Wire. I watched the first episode when it premiered, and never missed a single one. I watched the previous episode on-demand before the new episode premiered. When they started putting new episodes on-demand early, I had none of it, because it was a cheat. I took a good number of websites off of my reading lists during the seasons, because commentators on the sites would discuss the episodes as they came out on-demand, and I couldn't have that.

I say that, to let you know that I am a pretty big fan of the show.

I follow it up by saying that every single time I see someone go on and on about how "unfiltered" or "real" The Wire is, it makes me cringe. Compared to everything else on TV, yes. Compared to Real Life, no. Even the show's creators will tell you they had to dial things back 20% or so, just so people would believe them, and not think they were exaggerating.


It is a good show. It is a great show. As a single body of work, it is one o the most significant things we as a nation have ever done with the medium of television. But it isn't photo realistic, because it can't be. If it was, every episode would end with the target audience (people who can afford HBO) in tears.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:39 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gaaaah! Spoilers! For anyone who hasn't finished watching the show (like me) you might want to give this a miss.

You apparently also gave a miss to the ALL-CAPS-ABOVE-THE-FOLD SPOILER WARNING that I put in the post.
posted by dersins at 9:01 AM on January 8, 2009


Not to be nitpicky but his partner David Burns was the cop/teacher. Simon was just the reporter.

Not to be doubly nitpicky, but Simon's writing partner is named Ed Burns.
posted by Fuzzy Dunlop at 2:45 AM on January 8 [+] [!]


Haha. I knew something was bothering me when I wrote that. Thank ya kindly.

note to self: check facts.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 9:37 AM on January 8, 2009


The Wire: 5 seasons in 5 minutes.
posted by Gary at 10:53 AM on January 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Pineapple, you are thinking of Jay Landesman, who played Bunny's sgt.
posted by QIbHom at 11:48 AM on January 8, 2009


If it was, every episode would end with the target audience (people who can afford HBO) in tears.

That'll be The Corner then...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2009


It seemed that she, like Bodie, like Pooh, like Slim, she was just a soldier, to use the phrase they all used so much.

So used because so written.

One thing that must not be overlooked, and hopefully won't be if we're still talking about The Wire decades from now, is the political landscape in which it was produced: George W. Bush's War-On-Terror America. Themes include surveillance; the bending of laws; lying, corrupt, narcissistic, responsibility-shirking, career-driven politicians and journalists and chiefs and kingpins; law vs. morality; the consequences of emphasising foreign policy over domestic; what little choice is often involved in joining the military (represented onscreen as gangs and police--note in addition to "soldiers" the militaristic titles of the police hierarchy, usually glossed over or omitted altogether in other police dramas), be it from lack of alternatives, family pressure, default, etc.; pendulous designation of "friend" and "enemy"; War on Drugs vs. War on Terror; uniformed armies vs. civilians; etc, etc.

The Wire is, more than any other W-era series, entirely of its time.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


After the Wire, I ordered both Homicide and The Corner, and I'm almost finished with The Corner. It's bleak (a little strident/preachy at times), and I'm not sure if I want to watch the mini-series. I think I'll end up giving it a try though.

I am, however, working my way back through Homicide, which I used to watch as a teenager, then later as a college student. Having just read the book, it's interesting just how much of just the first couple of episodes is based on the book. I know it says "Based on the book Homicide" but wow. As in "only the names have been changed" kind of stuff. One problem I'm having is how, well, the first season at least feels dated. Possibly because, like in a lot of long running series, the characters haven't fully come into view. Also, possibly, because it's a show about Baltimore cops, and nobody is saying fuck every other word. I mean, after the Wire, I find that hard to believe. Silly censorship rules on network TV.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2009


The Wire: 5 seasons in 5 minutes

That was freaking awesome, Gary. Thanks!
posted by bwg at 3:58 AM on January 9, 2009


Sys Rq, funny how you mention that. It made me realize that throughout


OOOOOH SPOILERS! BEWARE YOUR VIRGINAL EYES!

Season 5, where Lester is getting his wholly illegal tap on Marlow's phone, I didn't once think "Holy shit, this is bad!" Of course, screaming bloody murder is pretty much the only constitutionally correct response. I mean, I knew Lester was doing something bad, but somehow, I was more concerned with a) Lester's culpability, b) McNulty's career, and c) them "getting" Marlo for all the bad sheeeeeeeeeit he'd done. I never really once thought: this is bad.

Hmm. I'm going to say that's because they were masterful storytellers. Yup. That's it. I certainly didn't forget my heartfelt beliefs simply because of a tv show.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:31 AM on January 9, 2009


Inside HBO's The Wire @ Creative COW
During the middle of The Wire's last production cycle The COW was invited to locations and the show's sound stages. Joe Chappelle, The Wire's Co-Executive Producer, was extraordinarily generous with his time, providing extended interviews on two occasions. Chappelle , working as both a producer and episodic director for several shows, offers yet another study in contrasts, having also worked as a Director, Producer and Consultant for numerous episodes of CSI Miami. Clearly David Simon's The Wire and the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced CSI Miami represent the extreme ends of the TV spectrum.
posted by Gyan at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


The Wire: 5 seasons in 5 minutes .
posted by Gary


Thanks for that Gary! AWESOME!

It's a credit to the power of The Wire that just watching that 5 minutes brought back the emotions I felt during those story beats when I first watched it.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:14 PM on January 9, 2009


device55: I'm tempted to summarize by saying "So John Updike is a Mary Sue with a strap-on?" but I won't because that'd be wrong.

Dude... his very name pretty much means "Mary Sue with a strap-on."
posted by Kattullus at 8:58 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think this thread is far gone and dead But I have JUST FINISHED watching all 5 seasons in some gross, masocistic event of TV watching. It's like the fucking Ring Cycle, and no one wins in the end. But I have to say this.

Rhonda Pearlman.

(Kinda Spoilerish)

How strict she was about legality and keeping everything clean and being slightly above grubby police work. How principled she was, or thought herself to be. And how at the end, she enters into a devil's bargain with the very same illegal activity that she would have screamed at and rejected at the start. Because now it's personal and now she's more powerful and she almost ..almost completely looses all her principles and legal uprightness that she had had in the beginning. Cause she's in love, cause she now has a real career, cause suddenly everything is bigger and unstoppable.

Watching her go from being a line-by-line book by book bureaucrat to being a nearly-very-corrupt-if-for-ther-right-reasons Big Shot was one of the most heart breaking things in the series that no one has mentioned. In a lesser show she would have been a Fighting Force For Decency, but here she's just Rhonda, desperately trying to make shit work and not ruin all her friends, her boyfriendh, and reputation. Just like everyone else.

Everyone gets pulled down to the lowest level. It was more than a little amazing.
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 PM on January 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, I thought personally that the 5th season was a big letdown and that they just completely fucked up their handling of characters. In one of the special features in the 4th season David Simon says something about how they should serve the story and not the characters. In principle that's a good thing but when the viewer (i.e. me and my friend who watched the whole thing with me) keeps getting jarred into disbelief when a character does something incredibly stupid for no particularly good reason (all too many characters in the 5th season).

Anyway, I don't want to go too deeply into spoiler territory.
posted by Kattullus at 10:51 PM on January 13, 2009


I find the relentless drumbeat of the story, pushing everyone into their roles and places, very fitting considering the Tragic nature of the series (like ..Antigone or Dr. Strangelove, you can't really fault anyone for thier decisions, horrible as they are)

. Everyone ends up doing what they do because they have to, because powerful, unexplainable forces above them are working them. It was too rushed and a too hamfisted in the final series (To many things are just tossed aside without context), but I thought fit the tone and overarching themes they had set up. It would have been better with more episodes.

And the newspaper sub-plot did reek of sour grapes and lacked nuance, but still had some great moments, but really shoud have been reworked to lessen the Bright Light Of Journalistic Truth Squashed theme. Not up to the series's depth and level.
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 PM on January 13, 2009


Yeah, Gus was a saint, the guy-who-made-stuff-up was a two-dimensional utterly-unmemorable guy-who-makes-stuff-up, the spunky young reporter got all disillusioned by the caricatures of bad bosses who ran the show into the ground. To be honest, by the end of the series I was desperately wishing for the death of the American newspaper (I'm better now).

Also... McNulty WTF? Same goes for Lester. WTF? Or, in fact, pretty much every single damn previously awesome character.

Furthermore... story was weak. Its plot mechanics made little sense and the resolution was a giant cop out.

But I don't care... seasons 1-4 were perfect. In fact, talking about it all makes me want to watch them all over right now this very minute. But, instead, I will go to sleep.
posted by Kattullus at 11:30 PM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am now six episodes into Season 1.

FUCKING HOOKED MAN. JONESING RIGHT NOW IN FACT.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:46 AM on January 15, 2009


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