Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wire Marathon

I'm sure you all have been watching HBO's The Wire marathon. They've been playing a season per day, which is awesome. Even more awesome is many of the actors have been commenting on Twitter or live tweeting various episodes or seasons. It's kind of like DVD commentary 3.0.

For example, here are all the actors explaining with whom they wish they had played a scene:

I hope everyone is re-enjoying the show as much as I am.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Wire: The Class

Break from a long hiatus due to rewatching the series again.

While this surely isn't the first class on The Wire, it's probably the highest profile. William Julius Williams!! Harvard!! Don't blame me, but I told ya so.

I do believe the show can stand up as a text in an academic sense (Wire Dissertation, here I come?), but the op-ed makes it sound more like a documentary studying urban life. As I rewatch it for a second time, I see how Simon juxtaposes certain scenes to suit his themes. While not as self-indulgent as season 5, rewatching season 1 illustrates the, at times, artificial nature of the work. When Daniels and Wallace get buried by the bosses for breaking rules, both figuratively and literally, it is to serve Simon's thematic arc not real life. We can read this as how modern institutions work philosophically, but must remember that it's only TV.

With these caveats, I'm all in favor. Classes like this and this build excitement that should be welcomed in the classroom.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Scholarly Wire Realized

Dark Matter 101, an online journal of cultural criticism based in Britain, has released a special Issue about The Wire.

Here is a taste from Ash Sharma's introductory article:

Although racism is endemic to neoliberal governmentality, The Wire recognises that anti-racism is hegemonic now. This is no mere superstructural or ideological rhetoric, but present, if unevenly, in the discourses and practices of institutions and society more generally. If in the analysis of race we examine the representations of the black characters in the series we get very quickly get caught in an undecidable bind: arguably the series shows a diverse and complex range of African-American characters, yet the depictions are reducible racial stereotypes (positive or negative). The limitations with an analysis of the politics of representation is that it remains confined to a struggle over media representation. In this approach, television series are analysed as texts that are politically interpreted in isolation of the matrix of social affect, information and desire. ‘Realism’ and ‘authenticity’ become the only sites for debates over racial meaning and power. The affective dimension of race in the circuits of knowledge and information across the series and audiences; for instance, in the grain of the voices of the Baltimore accents or in the coded communication of the street corners, need analysis.
Ash's work is some pretty heavy lifting for those not versed in cultural studies and the jargon of that tribe, but it's well worth the effort. I appreciated his attempts to move beyond a duality where The Wire is either a racist appropriation of urban black life featuring modern minstrelsy or it's an authentic view of West Baltimore life, told to a part of America that never sets foot there. Instead, as Ash argues, race is located "within the structures of the series" to "understand the racial logics of neoliberalism and contemporary institutions of power and control." His essay and others in the journal constantly ask (after Sudhir Venkatesh's Freakonomics interviews with 'Real Thugs'): "If the gangs were white, what would be different about the show?"

I definitely invite you to check the other articles (one on Bubbbles and intertextual space), post some comments here and there, and keep the conversation going.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Who's Not a Fan?

From President Barack Obama to Eminem (H/T)and Filmakers/political pundits/white people?, everybody loves The Wire. Eminem even includes Dominic West (McNulty) on his newest album which was somehow recorded in between watching the entire series' run FOUR times.

Eminem on Railroad tracks.... coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Life Imitiating Art File: No Witnesses, No Case Edition

The NYTimes describes a real life defense attorney for the bad guys who gets pinned for murda one. Like Maurice Levy, played by Michael Kostroff, Paul Bergrin was a successful attorney, "hobnobbing with celebrities." The nut grafe:

According to court records, the conversation captured him telling his client’s cousin, one of Newark’s most powerful drug lords, the identity of a confidential witness: Deshawn McCray, known as Kemo. A few days later, the authorities say, Mr. Bergrin met with his client’s cousin again and told him “No Kemo, no case.”
Mr. McCray was shot to death three months later in a brutal ambush, forcing prosecutors to drop the charges against Mr. Bergrin’s client, William Baskerville.

File that story under life imitating art.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Simon Mulls CIA Series

According to Broadcastnow (H/T Play or Get Played), David Simon is thinking about the CIA as his next muse. I do think this would be very interesting development and a cool idea to do a TV show about if done well. It's also more fodder for Simon's ability to twist genre conventions with what happens in reality. What's more classic than the Bond spy thriller, yet further from the lived reality of CIA agents?

As Treme wraps up its filming and goes down the paths where Simon has less control (namely, to the HBO programming execs), he starts to think of his next project. I wonder how he made the various decisions to choose his new work. GK was inspired by a book of the same name. We could see Simon's fascination with US foreign policy even as The Wire was in full production ("Got them WMDs! Shit's gonna blow you up!" "New Package! Bombs over Baghdad!"). The injustice done to New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath seemed to inspire Treme, or at least Simon's attraction to the city. Obama's recent release of OLC torture memos and public scrutiny over the CIA's role is an obvious suspect for a CIA series. Yet Simon's explicit interest in the CIA's "history" leads me to think he's read a few highly regarded works on the CIA published recently.

Buried in the article are a few other project possibilities. A show on the battle to desegregate public housing would be extremely interesting (to me) (Confidential to DS: I would be a great choice for background material researcher!). Likewise, dramatic rendering of the assassination of Lincoln is always great fodder for a miniseries, but I fear it's been done too many times to have much new ground to cover.

In any event, history plays a major role in all three show concepts. I eagerly await the next episode.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New York Times Wire

Via Unfogged, NYTimes Modern Love does The Wire. I guess it's a pretty good show on which to meditate about Life and Death; Love and War... I can also conclude that there are some bigger fans of the show than I am as I probably wouldn't choose to watch episodes of The Wire on my deathbed.

The NYTimes also published a brief story on moving the NYC cop beat reporter's office from Police Headquarters to an offsite location. While this doesn't theoretically damage the quality of reporting, it's just more evidence of the diminishing position of the media in places were it's needed most, local government. David Simon agrees. Besides the potentially diminished oversight capability (clearly reporters cover institutions better in closer proximity or they wouldn't always desire such conditions), closing the "The Shack" will destroy a lot of history for an ambiguous "command center."