On the Greatness of The Wire

This excerpt from Margaret Talbot’s profile of David Simon, creator The Wire, explains why the tv show is one of the greatest ever made:

Simon makes it clear that the show’s ambitions were grand. “ ‘The Wire’ is dissent,” he says. “It is perhaps the only storytelling on television that overtly suggests that our political and economic and social constructs are no longer viable, that our leadership has failed us relentlessly, and that no, we are not going to be all right.” He also likes to say that “The Wire” is a story about the “decline of the American empire.” Simon’s belief in the show is a formidable thing, and it leads him into some ostentatious comparisons that he sometimes laughs at himself for and sometimes does not. Recently, he spoke at Loyola College, in Baltimore; he described the show in lofty terms that left many of the students in the audience puzzled—at least, those who had come hoping to hear how they might get a job in Hollywood. In creating “The Wire,” Simon said, he and his colleagues had “ripped off the Greeks: Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides. Not funny boy—not Aristophanes. We’ve basically taken the idea of Greek tragedy and applied it to the modern city-state.” He went on, “What we were trying to do was take the notion of Greek tragedy, of fated and doomed people, and instead of these Olympian gods, indifferent, venal, selfish, hurling lightning bolts and hitting people in the ass for no reason—instead of those guys whipping it on Oedipus or Achilles, it’s the postmodern institutions . . . those are the indifferent gods.”


2 thoughts on “On the Greatness of The Wire

  1. In case anyone is unaware; HBO On Demand is pushing the first season of The Wire as we speak. Season one ends on the 28th of this month I believe; I’m assuming season two begins thereafter.

    I smell a fifth and final season coming. Now is the time we should all catch-up.

  2. Simon’s claimed that the show demonstrates (with some thought, could be “exposes”) how we’re all constrained by the institutions we live in, be they gangs, government, police, or public schooling. It wasn’t until I saw Colvin’s social experiments in the third and fourth seasons that this intent became obvious to me, but on rewatching the series I could see it in almost every scene. “The Wire” just keeps on giving.

    As for this stuff about Greek tragedy, well, I guess I’m not that keen on ancient literature. Keep it psycho-politco-socially relevant and I’m happy.

    Interesting link and quote. Thanks.

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