Friday, March 7, 2008

The end of ‘The Wire’

Sunday night on HBO, a very good thing will come to an end. It’s the final episode of “The Wire.” Fans are already grieving.

There’s cool stuff on the Web this week to enhance one’s appreciation of this groundbreaking series. Let me point you to a few.

Showrunner David Simon was on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” yesterday, being interviewed by Terry Gross. (Thanks for the heads-up, Invisible Woman.) I’m streaming a 3-minute excerpt on my Vox blog; click here to listen.

In that excerpt, Simon discusses the death of Omar. He also gives some real-life background on an earlier scene – controversial at the time – where Omar jumped out of a fifth-story window in the middle of a gunfight.

To stream the entire 40-minute “Fresh Air” interview, follow this link to Or you can go to the iTunes store and download it for free.

Baltimore broadcaster Marc Steiner has been providing “Wire”-related podcasts this week on his blog. You can stream or download Steiner’s interviews with Simon, writer-producer Ed Burns, and actors Clarke Peters and Robert Chew... with Andre Royo (“Bubbles”) coming tomorrow.

I’m streaming a 1½ -minute piece of the Robert Chew interview, in which he talks about the real-life foundation of the “Proposition Joe” character. Click here to hear it.

I loved Prop Joe. Chew delivered his lines with exquisite timing. I’ll never forget when he said, in reference to one prodigious killer, “He got more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery.”

The line I always wanted to put in Prop Joe’s mouth, but never got the chance, was: “Niggas can fuck up a wet dream.”

Oh well. Sad to see this story’s last chapter.


SJ said...

The last season is definitely my least favorite, but it's still leagues ahead of what other shows are. The newspaper angle also isn't as compelling as the other institutions The Wire has looked.

Still, I will really, really miss this show.

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for the show to end so I could go out and buy the DVD sets. I didn't really start hearing about The Wire until it was a couple of seasons deep. I've been sitting on the sidelines, refusing to watch it, waiting for it to end so I could consume it one huge, multi-week gulp.

Dollar Bill said...

ditto, Jorge.
Still have to get The Corner too.

Anonymous said...

C'mon UBM. You WROTE some of the episodes! What was it like in the writer's room? I'm listening to the podcast now, but what did you think of writing the Omar window scene?

The Wire has been one of the best shows to grace my television.

I think the last season suffered from the 10 episode format, compared to 12-13, but a 10 episode season of The Wire is better than anything else. I would have loved to see the Carcetti election mini-series that never materialized, but I'm grateful for the five years they've given us.

I can't wait till the finale on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

A little off topic but I just watched the episode of "Bop Gun" from the HOMICIDE DVD boxed set and that was a geat piece of TV writing. Kudos to you and your old buddy David Simon!

ItAintEazy said...

Crap, enough with the spoilers. Some of us do not have HBO you know!

Undercover Black Man said...

Russell: Thanks for remembering "Homicide."

Reviewer X: I was never on the full-time writing staff at "The Wire." And the two scripts I wrote as a freelancer were throughly rewritten by the boss. I didn't write that Omar scene, for instance.

My appreciation for "The Wire" is as a fan, not as a co-creator, because I wasn't that.

Anonymous said...

Loved Dukie's line from the episode you wrote:"Like, how do you get from here to the rest of the world?" Or something like that. Most heartbreaking line of the series.

Anonymous said...

Having worked with the police department as a commissioner and with municipal government, I LOVE "The Wire" for its authenticity and compelling story lines. This season, for me, has been the best; the role of newspaper and other media in influencing public opinion and policy, and in putting or taking pressure off politicians is timely and truthful. Last season with the kids made me depressed; this season has me cheering for justice to win out in the end (but I have my suspicions....). Best. Cable.Drama.Ever.

Anonymous said...

Oh help me, I'm dreading the end, a little. I still remember how low I felt after The Corner ....

Unknown said...

UBM, what's your taken on the writing staff's piece advocating jury nullification in federal drug cases in this week's Time?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Actually, I've got a problem with it, D.

I understand the fucked-upedness of America having 1 percent of its population behind bars. But as far back as the book "Homicide," Simon has described the phenomenon of "city juries" [i.e., black juries] exercising de facto jury nullification in murder cases, in all kinds of criminal cases.

So it's tricky for five well-off white guys in the pages of Time magazine endorsing the notion of jurors ignoring the rule of law.

Anonymous said...

Excellent links.

Anonymous said...

Mills -

I love ya but the jury nullification claim is more limited than you're making it out to be, and more reasonable; Simon et al. said explicitly that they would only subvert the system in cases where no violence was alleged. Plus, let's not get tacky - they may be well off, but they're well off because they've made a good living telling empathetic stories about the underclass, increasing the visibility of systemic problems and their individual victims. Yeah they're rich and white, and they'd sit on different juries than e.g. Namond's mom or Odell Watkins. But they're also trying to provide an example for people who're coming to discussions of the drug war from a very different position than the black juries you're describing.

Besides: the rule of law can't force people to act in good faith, and when the spirit of the law is itself not enforced nor even imposed in good faith (i.e. drug laws are largely fucked), it's perfectly reasonable to suggest limited resistance to a corrupt order. They're not stealing ballot boxes, and they're making the claim that the principle of 'objective' juries is less precious than the reality of bad drug laws.

Hell, one of the formative cultural experiences of my life (I was in middle or high school) was the OJ Simpson murder trial; I'm the last person to encourage activist juries to play parochial identity politics. But this is something else, more limited, more targeted.

[p.s. I'd love to hear more talk about writing for NYPD Blue, particularly in the context of the criticisms Simon has leveled at that show. Milch is a god as far as I'm concerned, but I imagine working for him was kind of nightmarish. Care to talk about it in a more general way than you already have?]

Vleeptron Dude said...

i'm here (and loving it) from googling around for The Wire writers' Time magazine call for jury nullification.

d., thanks for moving beyond a nifty piece of fictional drama and asking The Big Question about Reality in the Land of the Free = the world's largest Gulag.

For decades in southern Appalachia it's been near-impossible to convict a "homeboy" of growing and selling large quantities of pot. When it gets to the jury, they understand the dude was broke and had a family to feed. They send him back to his family (and infuriate the state or federal prosecutors).

So The Wire guys are recommending everybody all over the USA do the same when we get our call for jury duty.

I'm white, I'm disgusted and infuriated with Gulag America, and I say: Send me a jury duty notice NOW! And impanel me on a criminal case with a black drug-accused defendant!

Who else is going to shrink this shameful and racist Gulag? Barak Obama? Don't make me laugh. He hasn't even noticed the Elephant in the Bathtub. Neither has Hillary.

Nope, it's up to us. We tolerated the War on Drugs for 35 years, we let sleazoid politicians -- of BOTH PARTIES -- tell us they were making us safer, we knew since Nixon that it was all about mass-incarceration of blacks.

Jury Nullification -- the most delicious piece of Public Service you'll ever be asked to eat.

Vleeptron Dude said...

oh, as long as I find myself in Virtual Baltimore, I only have 2 things to add:

1. Chesapeake Bay crabs. SOB!!! WAIL!!! I miss them so much!!!

2. Kurt Schmoke!!!!!!! He's now the Dean of Howard University Law School -- wonder what HE thinks about this new call for Jury Nullification?