GUILTY AS CHARGED
If there's anything journalists love more than writing, it's writing about themselves. David Simon, ex-Baltimore Sun reporter and creator of HBO's gritty street drama The Wire, is well aware of this and likely counting on it.
After four seasons of laboring beneath Tony Soprano's shadow, the underappreciated Wire continues its acclaimed and often scathing social commentary by targeting the media directly in its fifth and final campaign.
Unfortunately, through the first few episodes, Simon has raised more hackles than ratings. His tormented anti-heroes and festering cityscapes are the stuff of Emmy voter wet dreams, but the mean streets of Simon's Baltimore have not engaged a significant mainstream audience.
Now, even critics have turned.
According to David Carr of The New York Times, The Wire's final season depicts the Baltimore Sun, and by extension the entire newspaper business, as "the playground of the venal, the inept and the cynical" while failing to account for "the caveats, the nuances, [and] the subtext" of the problems he addresses.
Well, duh. It's TV.
The Wire has depended on Simon's ability to create believable caricatures of corrupt bureaucracies that have turned on the citizens they serve. No one complained that he wasn't fully addressing every "nuance" or "subtext" in earlier seasons when Simon took on the city government, the public school system, or the Baltimore Police Department.
But now, the media's favorite son has become its latest pariah, and many have conveniently forgotten the reasons behind The Wire's past critical success.
New York magazine's Scott Brown refers sarcastically to Simon's "thundering sermon against the very lyingest of the lying liars," and considering the context, methinks he doth protest a bit too much.
While Simon has indeed over-simplified issues and seemed vindictive at times, he's inherently honest when it comes to the struggles faced by his characters. They are always flawed, yet often noble and unflinchingly human. Through their eyes is a unique perspective on a Baltimore that may exist only in Simon's mind, but strongly parallels the world we live in.
Rather than focus on the negative ways The Wire portrays one newspaper office, the media should applaud Simon for his efforts to enrich the lives of his fans through his writing.
After all, isn't that the point of good storytelling? —Josh Eboch