“The Wire”: Join us for the final season

WiresonjasohnThere are two types of people in this crazy, mixed up world. Those who get The Wire and those who don’t.

(Actually there’s a third type, those who can identify Little Walter’s “My Babe” by within a nanosecond of hearing the first note, and those people also usually fall into the category of “Wire” fanatics.)

To make the most of the HBO drama’s fifth and final season, which bows Sunday at 9 p.m., Variety’s resident “Wire” nuts — including myself, Brian Lowry, Stuart Levine and any others who care to join in — will be ruminating and riffing here on each of the upcoming 10 segs. Although we’ve have had the luxury of screening the first seven episodes (thanks HBO), we’re going to be mindful of spoilers, so we’ll take go one seg at a time, the Monday after their premiere telecast.

As always, we’d love to hear from readers in this space too about the series that has never been a major ratings success for HBO but does have its fiercely loyal cadre of viewers. “Wire” has always revolved around the life of drug dealers, cops and others in tough neighborhoods in Baltimore, but at its best, it’s been more than a gritty slice of life — it’s a unrelenting look at the hypocrisy of the social order, the corruption, bankruptcy and decay of the civic institutions that were once America’s pride. To my mind, the upcoming season is more plot-driven than the others, and it’s a wild, wild ride, so buckle up.

A huge plus in season five is the addition of “Homicide: Life on the Street’s” Clark Johnson (seated in pic below) to the cast, playing a seasoned editor at the Baltimore Sun. The newspaper storyline, as Lowry noted in his Variety review, is visceral and more true to life than any other ever attempted on the smallscreen.

As a warm-up for Sunday’s preem, here’s a link to a fabulous profile of “Wire” creator/exec producer Wirenewsroom David Simon by Margaret Talbot that ran in the New Yorker in October. According to HBO, Simon has steadfastly refused to do any press for “Wire” while the writers’ strike is going on, so the New Yorker piece is likely to be his last word on the new season for a while.

However, posted below are Q&As with Simon and “Wire” exec producer Nina Kostroff Noble that HBO included as part of its press materials. Also posted are the HBO-provided Q&As with longtime cast members Clarke Peters, Wendell Pierce, Andre Royo and Dominic West. West asserts that season five remarkably “ties up every single story strand of the series.”

Also, check out these “Wire” prequel webisodes that are posted on Amazon.com.

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