News on "The Wire"
Enthusiasm for The Wire came to this household rather late (last summer, I think) but when it did hit us, it hit plenty hard. All the superlatives are appropriate.
The show does what Lukacs thought only the classic realist novel could -- that is, portray a social totality and unveil its inner coherence. (Again with the Lukacs!)
It also demonstrates what the medium of television, in particular, is capable of doing. One of the writers said somewhere that The Wire was not so much a series as a film that runs for sixty hours. That strikes me as apt; and it's a brilliantly executed movie, one that demands your concentration. But that in turn underscores the point that The Wire is something that could only be realized on TV.
Anyway, we recently finished watching the fourth season (the one following a group of kids through the Baltimore school system) and so are now fully caught up. Which is frustrating. Each of the seasons has looked at a different layer of Baltimore while also mapping out how it is inserted into the whole. So there's something to say for watching the whole thing over again at some point. But now I really want to see what happens in the next (and final) season. It will focus on the media -- paying particular attention to the reduction of staff at a newspaper and how this affects the way the city learns about itself.
In the meantime, a brief bulletin from the writers' quarters:
This final season will be a shortened one - just 10 episodes. They'll start filming in a few weeks. I cannot reveal anything about the storyline, except to say that it'll surely be the funniest season ever of "The Wire"... if you like your humor dark. We're talking the "Dr. Strangelove" of police procedurals here.
See also Undercover Black Man's interview with David Simon, the show's creator -- the first part of which suggests that the Lukacs reference above is not just my imagination after all:
If you look at the themes of "The Wire" going back through all seasons, there's been an argument that the triumph of capitalism is the creation of wealth and the diminution of labor. The corner boys are more and more expendable; the cops who know their business are more and more expendable; the longshoremen are more and more expendable; the East European and Russian prostitutes who are coming in in boxes - Every day, human beings are worth less. That is the triumph of capital. ... The more we become post-industrial, the fewer we need. Every minute, human beings are worth less.
Not that Simon is a Marxist, let alone using History and Class Consciousness to shape the scripts:
No, I'm a social democrat. I believe in capitalism as the only viable motivating force to create wealth. But I believe that there have to be certain social frameworks that allow for a distribution of a share of that wealth throughout the classes....That is not to say that I think they should get an equal share. Or "to each according to his needs." The impulse towards Marxism is not there. But I do believe that raw, unencumbered capitalism, absent any social framework, absent any sense of community, without regard to the weakest and most vulnerable classes in society - it's a recipe for needless pain, needless human waste, needless tragedy, and ultimately a coarsening of our society.
Part two of the interview is here.
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