kottke.org posts about The Wire

Way Down in the Hole covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2008

Two covers of Tom Waits’ Way Down in the Hole, the title song for The Wire: Tom Waits and Kronos Quartet and MIA and Blaqstarr. (thx, brandon)

The Wire gets political

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2008

Some of the cast of The Wire appeared in a “get involved” commercial for Barack Obama. Related: Carcetti for Mayor tshirts, re-elect Clay Davis shirts, and Pray for Clay campaign buttons. (thx, farhad)

The Dark Knight, Wall-E, and complete The Wire out on DVD/Blu-ray

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2008

If kottke.org had a movies and TV store, here’s what I’d be selling today:

- The Dark Knight on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Dec 9.
- Wall-E on Blu-ray or DVD. Out Nov 18.
- The Wire: The Complete Series on DVD. Out Dec 9.

MP3 of The Wire discussion

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 26, 2008

An mp3 of the entirety of last month’s discussion of The Wire presented by the Museum of the Moving Picture is online. Participants included David Simon, Richard Price, Wendell Pierce (The Bunk), and Clark Johnson.

A Wire event tonight in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 30, 2008

This is late notice and who knows if there are even tickets left, but David Simon and several cast members of The Wire (Carver, Daniels, Gus, Lester, and the Bunk) will be discussing the show in NYC tonight in a Museum of the Moving Image program.

Too Weird for The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2008

Too Weird for The Wire, a story of a number of Baltimore drug dealers and their unusual “flesh-and-blood” defense in federal court. It’s a tactic used by white supremacists and other US isolationists groups in tax evasion cases and the like.

“I am not a defendant,” Mitchell declared. “I do not have attorneys.” The court “lacks territorial jurisdiction over me,” he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve. Judge Davis, a Baltimore-born African American in his late fifties, tried to interrupt. “I object,” Mitchell repeated robotically. Shelly Martin and Shelton Harris followed Mitchell to the microphone, giving the same speech verbatim. Their attorneys tried to intervene, but when Harris’s lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Harris shoved him away.

David Simon, I believe you’ve got enough here for a sixth season of The Wire. Hop to.

Bunk and McNulty go skiing

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 03, 2008

We interrupt this vacation for an important message: there’s a new episode of The Wire where Bunk and McNulty go skiing. Here’s a screenshot.

David “The Wire” Simon’s new show, Generation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 12, 2008

David “The Wire” Simon’s new show, Generation Kill, starts on HBO on July 13 and will continue for six Sundays after that.

The Wire, season five, DVD

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2008

Season five of The Wire on DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is August 12, 2008. (thx, marshall)

HBO on iTunes

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2008

As rumored yesterday, the iTunes Store has added some HBO shows to their lineup. The initial offerings are the first seasons of The Wire, Flight of the Conchords, Rome, and Deadwood, as well as seasons 1 and 6 of the Sopranos and all of Sex in the City. Prices are between $2-3 per episode. (thx, dhrumil)

The Wire, Simpsons style

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2008

A few drawings of characters from The Wire drawn in the style of The Simpsons. Here’s a scene from season one; D’Angelo tries to teach chess to Wallace and Bodie:

Wire Simpsons

This might be my new favorite thing on the web. (thx, andy)

Paul Ford has plans to make a

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 20, 2008

Paul Ford has plans to make a better TV show than The Wire, “set in even worse parts of Baltimore”.

I’ll use cave paintings as the model for my series. Omar will chase mammoths through the streets and Carcetti will wear a robe made from a wolf and Beadie will chew bear meat for her children before passing it from her mouth. And everyone will speak proto-Indoeuropean without subtitles and the hidden cultural theme that no one sees will be land-bridge migration and phenotype variation.

I have already pre-ordered seasons 1 through 261,492.

Long long but good good roundbrowser** discussion

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2008

Long long but good good roundbrowser** discussion about which is the best TV drama ever: The Wire, Deadwood, or The Sopranos.

MZS: And I would be, frankly, stunned if, as great an actor as Ian McShane is, he ever did anything that was as demanding and as complex as what he did on Deadwood. Same thing for Gandolfini. And there are even smaller players I think that’s true of as well. Molly Parker, you know, my God, look at all the things she got to do. When is she going to be able to do all those things again?

AS: A lot of that comes from the fact that these people were doing series, and now they’re trying to move on to movies, and no movie part will ever be as complex as Tony Soprano or Al Swearengen or Bubbles.

MZS: Is that an inherent strength of the medium, then, as opposed to movies?

AS: Yeah.

Obviously, there are spoilers here if you haven’t seen all three shows in their entirety.

** A roundbrowser discussion is a roundtable discussion that takes place online. Ok, yeah, I didn’t think it was all that clever either. Oh well.

Tyler Cowen has a short review of

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2008

Tyler Cowen has a short review of Peter Moskos’ book, Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District.

This is one of the two or three best conceptual analyses of “cops and robbers” I have read. It is mandatory reading for all fans of The Wire and recommended for everyone else.


The end of The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2008

WARNING, **EXTENSIVE SPOILERS** ABOUT SEASONS 1-5. So, The Wire is over. The 60th and final episode of the show aired on Sunday night. I watched it last night and felt very sad afterwards. Sad that it’s over and that doing a sixth season could not and would not work. A good chunk of my morning was spent clinging to the show’s final moments; I must have read close to 50 or 60 pages of interviews and analysis concerning the end of the show. Here are a few of those articles worth reading:

Heaven and Here is providing their usual excellent coverage of the end of the show.

I don’t know if Cheese’s speech about the game was one of the more definitive the show’s ever put forth, or the ultimate in dime store Wire-isms. I also don’t know which way it was supposed to be perceived by the characters. But that it was immediately followed by a murder that contradicted everything it contained — one that went against a lot of what’s been both depressing and demoralizing about the show — was kind of awesome.

Alan Sepinwall has the definitive end-of-the-show interview with David Simon. It’s long but oh so good.

We knew that if we got a long enough run, all three of the chess players would be out of the game, so to speak. Prison or dead. We did not chart all of their fates to a specific outcome, but we knew that the Pit crew would be subject to an exacting attrition.

We knew, for example, that when Carcetti declares that he wants no more stat games in his new administration that the arc would end with his subordinates going into Daniels’ office and demanding yet another stat game. Or that McNulty would end up on the pool table felt like Cole, albeit quitting rather than dead. Or that Carver’s long arc toward maturity and leadership would begin with him making rank under ugly pretenses and then being lectured by Daniels about what you can and can’t live with. (It’s at that point that Carver slowly begins to change, not merely when he encounters Colvin’s integrity.) We knew that the FBI file that Burrell would not be put into play in season one would eventually be used to deny Daniels the prize.

Sepinwall also wrote an extensive recap of the final episode.

Heather Havrilesky’s interview with David Simon on Salon covers some of the same ground as Sepinwall’s interview but is still quite fine. Here’s David Simon explaining what the whole season five newspaper thread was all about:

[The season] begins with a very good act of adversarial journalism — they catch a quid pro quo between a drug dealer and a council president — which actually happened in Baltimore. Not necessarily the council president, but between a drug dealer and the city government. That whole thing with the strip club? That really happened in real life. It was news. The Baltimore Sun did catch that, it was good journalism, so I was honoring good journalism. It ends with an honorable piece of narrative journalism, about Bubbles. And the Baltimore Sun has, on occasion, done very good narrative journalism.

In between those bookends, which I thought were important, because in our minds we weren’t writing a piece that was abusive to the Sun or any other newspaper … the paper misses every story. They miss that the mayor wants to be governor, so ultimately the guy who was the reformer ends up telling people to cook the stats as bad as Royce ever did. Well, in Baltimore that happened. And they missed the fact that the third-grade test scores are cooked to make it look like the schools are improving, when in fact it doesn’t extend to the fifth grade, and that No Child Left Behind is an unmitigated disaster. They set out to do a story on the school system, but they abandoned it for homelessness because they’re sort of reed thin. Prosecutions collapse because of backroom maneuvering and ambition by various political figures, speaking of Clay Davis … And when a guy like Prop Joe dies, he’s a brief on page B5.

That was the theme, and we were taking long-odd bets that very few journalists would even sense it. That would be the critique of journalism that really mattered to me, because we’ve shown you the city as it is, and as it is intricately, for four years. It was all rooted in real stuff.

The last of Andrew Johnston’s recaps for The House Next Door. He remains skeptical about the newspaper part of season five’s main plot:

In my decade-plus as a professional journalist, I’ve seen a lot of people compromise their principles in order to stay employed, but never have I seen so many people compromise so much. At the risk of seeming terminally naive, I have to ask if things are really that much worse in the newspaper world than they are in the magazine biz (and now that I’ve raised the question, I’m sure more than one person will provide evidence in the comments below that yes, things are that bad).

Yanksfan vs. Soxfan views The Wire through the lens of Baltimore sports.

From the air, the picture isn’t quite so romantic. The satelite image above shows the site that was once home to Memorial Stadium. An entire neighborhood is oriented in a horsehoe around it. But there’s practically nothing on the site now. It’s a void. The last remnant of Memorial Stadium came down in 2002. That was a concrete wall dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars. It read, “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

The Orioles moved into Camden Yards in 1994. You’d think that, when the city agreed to build a new home for the team, there would have been a plan for the old site. But that’s not how the development game works. A rising tide doesn’t necessarily lift all boats. The money was downtown, and that’s where it stayed.

Assorted other articles that I’ll leave unexcerpted: AV Club interview with Simon, final episode recap from Thoughts on Stuff, and a letter on HBO’s site from David Simon to the fans of the show.

And finally, a few other tidbits.

Now that it’s done, I think we’re going to cancel HBO and everything but basic cable. I doubt it’ll be missed much…aside from sports and movies, The Wire was only thing we watched on TV.

There was a big bust in Chinatown

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2008

There was a big bust in Chinatown yesterday…32 vendors selling counterfeit watches, sunglasses, and handbags were shut down. All up and down Canal St today, not only are the busted stores closed but all the other shops selling fake goods are shuttered as well. And not a single person asked me if I wanted to buy Juno on DVD.

What’s funny about the whole thing is how open the vendors are about what they’re selling. These are actual physical shops like the Apple Store or the Gap, not a bunch of purses out of a garbage bag set up on a rickety card table. And uniformed police are around all the time, doing absolutely nothing about it. And then all the luxury fashion houses get the mayor’s ear, he can no longer ignore the problem, and Bloomberg ends up at the scene, grandstanding for the cameras and calling the whole thing a big problem that they’re working on tirelessly. A friend said this morning it reminded him of the “dope on the table” scenes in The Wire…little more than constabulary theater.

No spoilers, no spoilers. It appears that

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2008

No spoilers, no spoilers. It appears that the very last episode of The Wire will not air a week early on HBO OnDemand like all the previous episodes have this season. Air date is Sunday, March 9…the show appears OnDemand the next day. The series finale will clock in at 93 minutes, longer by 15 minutes than last season’s finale.

Some thoughts on The Wire, season 5

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 07, 2008

NOTE: don’t read any further if you haven’t watched episode 6 of The Wire’s 5th season. SPOILERS.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on my thoughts about season 5 of The Wire but luckily Heaven and Here beat me to much of what I was thinking. The highlights:

Too many characters, too many stories, too much telling and not enough time for showing, which is why it feels more like a conventional TV show than in years past.

Unnecessary cameos. What is this, a reunion tour? Hi Nicky, hi Randy! (Although I think the Randy thing is interesting in relation to his dad…did Cheese get the way he is through a similar trajectory? And I suspect that Randy will come back into play…the season 4 kids are the only ones, besides the drug dealers themselves, who have any evidence of wrongdoing by Marlo, et. al.)

How are they going to wrap this up? I don’t care what happens to Carcetti or McNulty or Freamon or Daniels and we’re obviously going to get some sort of closure on either Omar or Marlo, but if they leave the Dukie, Bubs, and Michael threads significantly hanging, I’m gonna be pissed. (Prediction: if Marlo gets got, it will come from within…either Chris or Michael or both.)

The whole McNulty/Freamon thing: blah. Same thing with the newspaper angle…not as interesting as I thought it was going to be.

But all the rest of the seasons started slow and built into something…they coalesced. Maybe this one will as well?

The only thing I really like about McNulty’s manufactured investigation is how it affects so many different things in the system. Carcetti running for governor on the homeless issue. The newspaper switching their focus from the schools to the homeless. All the little things that pull resources and energy away from the Marlo Stanfield case. Pulling Kima off her triple. Motivating Bunk to reopen the case files on the bodies in the vacants. Everything is connected, unexpectedly.

Oh, and I love the “Dickensian” stuff in the newsroom…it’s Simon’s little shoutout/fuck you to the real media’s coverage of the show, frequently called Dickensian. Heaven and Here on the term’s misuse:

Something that has been bothering me about the deluge of stories on the show lately (which is , as Shoals said to me earlier today, “split now between nay-sayers and people drowning in their own adulation,”) is the loose use of the term “Dickensian.” Some stories are simply grabbing onto the upcoming plotline of the Sun editor assigning a story on “Dickensian” kids, but more often than I like, I see lazy writers using Dickens as a sort of shorthand for intricacy, urban despair, and nightmarish institutional breakdown, as if he owned the patent on all that.

Maybe much of the media criticism we were promised in season 5 is meta?

The Sound of Young America’s Jesse Thorn

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2008

The Sound of Young America’s Jesse Thorn interviews Wendell Pierce and Andre Royo, who play The Bunk and Bubbles on The Wire. (thx, jesse)

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with some

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2008

Sudhir Venkatesh recently sat down with some real gang members to watch some episodes of the The Wire.

The greatest uproar occurred when the upstart Marlo challenged the veteran Prop Joe in the co-op meeting. “If Prop Joe had balls, he’d be dead in 24 hours!” Orlando shouted. “But white folks [who write the series] always love to keep these uppity [characters] alive. No way he’d survive in East New York more than a minute!” A series of bets then took place. All told, roughly $8,000 was wagered on the timing of Marlo’s death. The bettors asked me — as the neutral party — to hold the money. I delicately replied that my piggy bank was filled up already.

(thx, matt)

With The Wire final season premiere approaching

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 03, 2008

With The Wire final season premiere approaching rapidly (the episode is already on HBO OnDemand and the first two are on BitTorrent), news outlets everywhere are covering and reviewing the show. My favorite article — because it’s something different and critical for a change — is a profile of David Simon by Mark Bowden in the Atlantic Monthly. He starts out slow with a comparison of fiction and nonfiction in telling stories:

Fiction can explain things that journalism cannot. It allows you to enter the lives and motivations of characters with far more intimacy than is typically possible in nonfiction. In the case of The Wire, fiction allows you to wander around inside a violent, criminal subculture, and inside an entrenched official bureaucracy, in a way that most reporters can only dream about. And it frees you from concerns about libel and cruelty. It frees you to be unfair.

But then you get to the part describing Simon’s vindictiveness and how it has shaped him, which adds some depth to the earlier fiction/nonfiction comparison. Worth a read.

Also of note is that the full text of The Believer conversation between Simon and Nick Hornby has been put online.

With the new season right around the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 27, 2007

With the new season right around the corner, Heaven and Here, an excellent group blog about The Wire, is starting back up again. The latest two posts are about season two, the most underrated season IMO.

Radio interview with Felicia Pearson, who plays

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 17, 2007

Radio interview with Felicia Pearson, who plays Snoop on The Wire. It’s apparent from the interview that she doesn’t so much act in The Wire as play herself. “I have patience.” (thx, adam)

New episodes of The Wire, available now!

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 05, 2007

New episodes of The Wire, available now! Well, sort of. The Amazon page for the season 4 DVDs contains three mini prequels to the series: one with a grade school-aged Prop Joe, a teenaged Omar, and McNulty’s first day with the homicide unit.

Found while browsing HBO OnDemand last night:

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2007

Found while browsing HBO OnDemand last night: the first 4 episodes of The Sopranos and the entire season 3 of The Wire. Go nuts.

Big Screen Little Screen has some info

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2007

Big Screen Little Screen has some info of the upcoming season of The Wire. It begins Jan 6th and the episodes will appear OnDemand a week early (they did this last year, yes?). The post also contains 5 promos for season 5. Almost here!

Long profile of David Simon and The

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2007

Long profile of David Simon and The Wire in the New Yorker this week. Haven’t read it yet, but digging in now.

Update: Ok, all done. I thought this observation about the two main groups of fans of the show (urban poor and media critics) was canny:

Sometimes the fan base of “The Wire” seems like the demographics of many American cities — mainly the urban poor and the affluent elite, with the middle class hollowed out.

The last bit of the article talks about a new show that Simon’s thinking of doing for HBO about New Orleans musicians.

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showing

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2007

Season 1 of The Wire is currently showing on HBO OnDemand. I presume seasons 2-4 will follow as the January premiere of season 5 approaches. (thx, michael)

Speaking of, here’s a short teaser promo for season 5. (thx, gary)

Update: The post originally said that season 2 was OnDemand…I corrected it to read “season 1”.

Amazon just sent me an email about

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 28, 2007

Amazon just sent me an email about my preorder of The Wire season 4 DVD. They say the shipping date has slipped a little, but the page still says it’ll be out on Dec 4. Anyway, they made me verify the “change”; if I hadn’t, they would have canceled the order, which seems a less-than-optimal solution to the problem. If you preordered, you might want to watch your inbox.

A Prairie Home Companion

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 10, 2007

It’s been a few weeks since I saw the movie, but I still can’t get the Rhubarb Pie song out of my head:

But one little thing can revive a guy,
And that is home-made rhubarb pie.
Serve it up, nice and hot.
Maybe things aren’t as futile as you thought.

Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.
Mama’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb,
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.

Related “fascinating” facts:

Garrison Keillor got the idea for doing A Prairie Home Companion (the radio show) after writing an article for the New Yorker about the Grand Old Opry in 1974.

While driving in unfamiliar territory in an episode of The Wire, Bodie Broadus ends up listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio when he can’t find any hip-hop.