Why ‘The Wire’ Should Be Must-See TV for Baltimore Pundits

Why 'The Wire' Should Be Must-See
Courtesy of HBO

The Wire” is currently available via HBO’s demand platforms, but as a public service, the pay channel should repeat the acclaimed drama before the city of Baltimore fades from the headlines. Indeed, one would hope some of the politicians and pundits weighing in on the rioting there would take a long, sober look.

Yes, it’s a fictional series. But having worked as a crime reporter at the Baltimore Sun, the show’s creator David Simon clearly recognized the intractable problems that plague the city, layering them upon each other from season to season and building toward one inexorable conclusion: Despite the inevitable posturing and pronouncements, nothing was going to get done.

The program began with the drug dealers and cops, two warring tribes, each caught up in its own intramural squabbles and bureaucracy. Subsequent seasons then proceeded to encompass struggling blue-collar workers and lost jobs; the corruption and myopia of the political class; under-funded and ill-equipped schools, failing students who fall through the cracks; and finally, a media strafed by its own slashed staffs and cutbacks, leaving a major metropolitan newspaper that wound up — as Simon acerbically noted at the time — “missing the whole story.”

Written as the great American novel for television, “The Wire” played as a tragedy, where cycles of poverty and inaction weren’t broken because, with few exceptions, nobody had the combination of will and resources to do so. The depressing nature of that vision no doubt helps explain why the series generated more rave reviews than viewers, striking a little too close to home. (HBO fared better with programs featuring mobsters, vampires and dragons.)

Simon has been blogging about what’s happening in Baltimore, and was interviewed by former New York Times editor Bill Keller about the roots of the issues. Those news outlets training a camera on the rioting and looting on continuous loop would be well advised to take the time to peruse these thoughts, which placed the unrest and other outbreaks in necessary context. By contrast, as “The Daily Show” documented, there was the image of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer expressing disbelief this could be happening — ignoring not just recent events but the fact Baltimore’s eruption comes almost exactly 23 years after the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict, and a half-century after the Watts riots, to name just two.

At their best, great dramas can produce serious conversations, holding up a mirror to reality. As for whether a deeper look from media that goes beyond the harrowing pictures is likely to emerge, consider this: The big “get” interview out of Baltimore — by CBS and CNN — has been a human-interest story about a mother caught on camera physically disciplining her son.

“Did you worry about embarrassing him?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked the woman, Toya Graham, during an on-the-street interview televised Wednesday night — presumably because the graphic on the screen, “MOTHER, SON, SPEAK OUT ON RIOTING SMACKDOWN,” surely wouldn’t.

CNN, its excesses notwithstanding, is just one part of the media ecosystem. Yet absorbing the reactive nature of the coverage and knee-jerk analysis from politicians and cable-news talking heads, one can see why Simon titled his blog “The Audacity of Despair.”

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  1. kanyewest says:

    From the very beginning of his exceptional career, Kanye West has torn down the outdated idea that rappers had to be a part of the gang life to create music. West never gave into the stereotype of the street kid who grew up in a tough world where the only form of survival was to join the gang. He was none of that. Nor did he ever try to be any of that – and for one reason only – he never *had *to be any of that. His talent was on another level. A level that people did not recognize at first, but he never let any amount of criticism hold him down. Kanye West became a rapper in his own right: without adapting his style, without changing his appearance, without making his music fit the mold that those in the rap industry expected. His fame and his awards were earned purely on his determination and a full and comprehensive understanding of his own unobtainable talent – and because he ignored every ignorant person who said he couldn’t make it. He possesses a talent no one understood until it was shoved in their faces with his debut album “The College Dropout” and the infamous “Through the Wire”. From that pivotal album, West became an icon of rap music.

  2. Ia Speaka says:

    your a dope! Fox is the only real news channel that gives both sides unlike NBC PMSNBC and other
    channels who have bias left wing progressives pushing and lying their own agenda and pushing the
    propaganda by Obama and demoncraps! Brian lying Williams? Dan Rather? Maddcow? Keith Dick
    Oberman? how many does it take to win? obviously Fox news is #1 for a reason! try turning off NBC
    or whatever progressive anti American brain washing crap your watching or listening too jerk!

  3. JSintheStates says:

    You are, of course, correct. Unfortunately, when the majority of Americans watch Faux News, and get their opinions shaped by some of the worst bigots in the history of broadcasting, any mention of a pundit becomes moot, and no one on Faux would ever admit to watching The Wire, yet alone being enlightened by the milestone series!

  4. Candice says:

    I certainly hope you’re kidding about this topic. The problem is…how do you teach kids to stop resisting arrest?

    • Candice, your comment implies that you don’t have any experience being unjustly accosted by police. The first time I was stopped by police i was 11 years old riding my bicycle in front of my church in Iowa. 2 grown police officers stopped me because a white woman had said a man “fitting my description” had burglarized her house. Iowa is 98% white. Even the police officers thought her story sounded like “BS” but still they stopped me. Since then, in the 18 years i’ve been alive, I’ve been stopped by police and my father has as well over 18 times. He was once stopped for driving his own car because they thought it was stolen.

      My point is, rather than saying, “stop resisting” why don’t u say “stop arresting innocent people?” How come this never happens to the white people who resist arrest? there’s tons of videos of white suspects resisting arrest on youtube. yet they never die from “spinal injuries” while already handcuffed…

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