Saturday, February 2, 2008

The David Simon Show


The final season of The Wire has resulted in more ink spilled than all of the previous four seasons combined. I tried keeping track of all the articles, but I got distracted and fell behind. Fortunately,
someone else has been keeping up with the incredible crush of stories. Simon has made the New Yorker, The Atlantic and Columbia Journalism Review, and those are just the highlights. Why the sudden tidal wave of spilled ink over a television show no one watches? That's an easy one. This season The Wire is, in part, about journalism, and there's nothing journalists love more than the chance to engage in a bout of public navel gazing.

Now, those in the journalism racket, particularly the newspaper industry, need to engage in a little navel gazing. Newspapers are on the way out, and true believers like Simon are understandably upset. Simon had a long career at The Baltimore Sun before he ended up in his current role, and he has some pointed opinions on his old paper and the state of the industry. To an extent, he has a point, but his criticism is beginning to overshadow the show itself. Simon's ranting has made the part of the Wire set in the Baltimore Sun newsroom the main event for this season, which is unfortunate, since it's disappointing. Simon's using the show to settle old scores, and the newsroom characters seem to lack the nuance of the drug dealers and cops. Part of my indifference, I think, can be attributed to the fact that the journalist characters have only been around for a few episodes, as opposed to a few seasons. There is no way a long time viewer can feel the same way about the intrepid city editor Gus Haynes as he feels about Omar or McNulty.

Still, I can't help but be disappointed by the newspaper storyline thus far. It's just not that interesting. The real story this season is about Marlo, and whether his reach will exceed his grasp. He's making a play for control of the entire city, but he's made some serious mistakes, and the tension there is almost unbearable. Will Omar's return cause so much trouble that the Greeks will have second thoughts about dealing with him? Will McNulty's gambit pay off? Or is there someone else Marlo should be worrying about? I have no question that it's going to end badly for him, which is exactly what should happen, but when one person is knocked off the throne, another rises to take his place. Now, if only the newspaper subplot had half the tension of the Marlo plotline we would have something that might top season four. Unfortunately, it's predictable and just can't compete with all of the other characters and stories Simon and his crew have put so much time and effort into building over the years.


Anonymous said...

Valchek? Rawls? Burrell? Royce? Clay Davis? The area school superintendent with the cover-our-ass agenda? These were somehow subtle to you?

Yeah, I'm sure that Ed Burns had no opinion as to the people he worked for in the police department or school system. And Bill Zorzi hasn't accessed his feelings about the politicians he covered...

Simon thinks the people who ran the Baltimore Sun into the ground are worthy of depiction. Maybe the only difference between that and the first four seasons is that politicians, police officials, school administrators and port workers don't blog, pontificate and otherwise jerk off.

Nathan Cain said...

Simon's using his television show to settle scores, and he's letting everybody know it, and it's detracting from the otherwise excellent quality of the show. He's way too angry and he's trying to get his point across in a hamfisted manner. His message has compromised the storytelling.

Anonymous said...

After watching the first 5 episodes (half of this *sniff* final season) I cannot concur. Yes, the new characters are not as familiar, obviously, as the old ones, nor do we feel for them as much, naturally. But when they introduced new characters (the kids) in Season 4 I had no problem getting close to them pretty quickly, just as I have no problem getting close to the journalists this season. It feels like old home night with Meldr... I mean Gus, and I feel vindicated in disliking from the get-go that lying-his-ass-off newsie who just wants to skip over to the Washington Post.

I have been avoiding any media related to this season, so I would not be unduly influenced in my watching. I really don't feel that Simon is being heavy-handed at all. And now that Omar is back, everything is much, much better!

Really, I try to keep a bit of distance between a creator and his/her work, just in case their opinions or lives meet my disapproval and this in turn (unconsciously) affects my enjoyment of their creation. So, Nathan, stop reading about Simon and enjoy the ride! It will be over all too soon, sadly.

Keith Logan