What Happened to Our Show? For four seasons The Wire reinvented the crime drama. Now the viewer's the victim.

News You Can Abuse: In The Wire, fakery follows the Sun’s budget cuts.

The Wire is famously acclaimed for refusing to make trite distinctions between good and bad. Drug dealers are shrewd businessmen; children aren’t merely innocents; cops are the problem as much as the solution. But series creator David Simon has always made it clear who he wants you to root for: You just have to listen for the R&B music.

If Proposition Joe, who runs the East Baltimore drug trade, is getting serious about cutting a deal, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes or something similarly soulful is usually playing in the background of his repair shop. Heading out for his morning jog, former drug-trade soldier Cutty slaps on a pair of headphones, cranks up Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up,” and tunes out a universe of electioneering bullshit on primary day. When we learn how Mayor Tommy Carcetti’s right-hand man, Norman Wilson, really feels about his boss, he’s sitting at a bar where Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” is playing. In the world of The Wire, the last remaining moral tethers in a deeply dysfunctional city aren’t police, prisons, or schools—they’re Philadelphia International, Curtom, and Hi.

Not everybody in those particular scenes is earning an honest living, but the music is there to bolster the idea that what they’re doing, in its own way, is honest work. And The Wire is about, more than any one thing, work. Plenty of shows are set in workplaces, but The Wire is exceptionally obsessed with how business gets done, from office politics (showing up to work on time, disrespecting your boss) to macroeconomics (acquiring government funds, supply-chain management). The broken system that fucks up hard work is Simon’s chosen enemy, and if he’s completely uninterested in who’s good and who’s bad, his Baltimore still has an ethical order: It’s rich with people who you might call Wire-good and Wire-bad.

The Wire-good are defined by a moral code and a determination to get a job done: Detective Lester Freamon, stickup man Omar, and junkie/small-time businessman Bubbles are all driven by a sense of fairness, even if it’s a seemingly futile goal. (Bubbles spends the early portions of Season 4 insisting that his “intern,” a fellow addict named Sherrod, go back to middle school. “School is like work,” Bubbles tells him.) The Wire-bad—just about anybody in elected office or in a senior-management position in the Baltimore Police Department—are responsible for that futility. Police Commissioner Ervin Burrell, we learn early, is committed to keeping the broken system operating. Mayor Clarence Royce is too beholden to various interests to change the system; Carcetti, Royce’s successor, quickly learns that he’s equally hamstrung. As one of his mentors tells him, the job mainly involves receiving beautiful, shiny silver bowls from people, full of shit he has to eat.

The Wire-good/Wire-bad system is a simple but very effective organizing principle, one that has allowed Simon to vent his rage at civic and corporate selfishness without making his show feel like a blog screed. And it’s given him a breadth he wasn’t allowed in his reporting for the Baltimore Sun, or in two nonfiction books. The Wire is his scream therapy. “It is an angry show,” he’s written.

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In the show’s fifth season, that anger has gotten the better of him. Much of his rage is focused on the media and the dwindling fortunes of newspapers. For the first time, though, his frustrations start to muck not just with the believability of his characters but with the rules of the peculiar social order he’s invented. One of the central arguments of The Wire has been that, despite various political and economic upheavals, despite all the futility in its world, characters stay relatively constant. Omar never points his shotgun at a citizen; Bubbles remains genial, self-sacrificing, and concerned with fair play regardless of whether he’s using; Freamon, who rode a soul-crushing job on the pawnshop detail for 13 years before earning a position worth his intelligence, takes his time and would rather fuss over dollhouse furniture than get involved in BPD administrative squabbles.

Simon has done serious damage to this premise this year in an effort to make his case against corporate media by giving money—or its lack—such character-morphing power. Money has always been short in The Wire—the angry God who made Simon’s Baltimore may well have first intoned “You’ll just have to do more with less” instead of “Let there be light.” But this time around financial concerns are strangely disproportionate, a wrecking ball that arbitrarily reshapes character. HBO has thus far only made seven of the season’s 10 episodes available to reviewers, and Simon may yet right the ship. But it’s thudding to a close, stuck in a stereotypically TV-like world it’s heroically avoided until now.

The Cart of the Matter: Homelessness figures heavily in The Wire this year.

More With Less,” as it happens, is the title of this season’s first episode, and the phrase also announces the season’s central conflict. Staffers at both the Baltimore Sun and the BPD, we quickly learn, are told they’ll need to absorb budget cutbacks. There’ll be bureau closings and buyouts at the Sun; there’ll be no more overtime and court pay for the BPD. In both cases, managers tell their employees that they will have to do “more with less.” The David Simon who lives in the real world understands this demand for the bullshit that it is. “You don’t do more with less,” he told the New Yorker in a recent story about the show. “You do less with less, that’s why they call it less.”

On The Wire this year, though, a whole lot more gets done with all that less. Shortly after we learn that a fresh round of buyouts are coming to the Sun, the storyline focuses on reporter M. Scott Templeton, who returns from an assignment to write a scene piece about Opening Day at Camden Yards with a dodgy story about a black kid using a wheelchair after being shot a few years back. And not long after we learn that police won’t get paid for overtime, Det. Jimmy McNulty, who’s drinking again, begins tampering with crime scenes to suggest that a serial killer is on the loose in Baltimore. Doing so, he hopes, will dislodge funding to help solve the case of the 22 bodies that were discovered in abandoned rowhouses last season. But to make sure his story generates public pressure to turn the spigot back on, he needs the media, which is where Templeton—cynical, low-morale, ambitious Templeton—comes in.

As the season progresses, the financially weakened Sun is paired with the ethically challenged Templeton, and Simon couldn’t make his point any clearer if he bought a full-page ad in the Sun with just the words financial cutbacks destroy the moral integrity of newsrooms. Thing is, these plot turns involving Templeton and McNulty are simplistic cause-and-effect scenarios that are disloyal both to the real world of journalism and to the world of The Wire. They also make for some hackneyed gags that oversell the point of what a lack of money does to a person. McNulty has to walk all the way to the top of a parking garage to find the unmarked police car he’s been assigned. Once there, not only does the car have a flat, it’s playing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”(Clearly, this isn’t a Wire-good predicament.) McNulty pitches a fit that’s angrier than the one he threw at the end of Season 1, when the carefully assembled wiretap didn’t get him the convictions he hoped for. Not long after, he begins to conjure up his serial-killer scheme. After all, how can a detective who’s forced to take a bus to a crime scene possibly be expected to behave ethically? And how can a reporter at a paper that’s just lost its London bureau not feel compelled to make up sources?

To understand how wrong this is, it might help to look at something in The Wire that went extremely right: the demise of Stringer Bell. Bell got what was coming to him, but it was hard not to empathize with him, and to generate that sort of sympathy for a drug dealer in about three years of TV time is a Herculean feat. But The Wire spent that relatively brief time wisely, shadowing Bell’s transformation from a loyal lieutenant to Avon Barksdale to an interim CEO to a businessman who overreaches in attempting to alter his trade’s management structure. “Stringer Bell was killed,” Simon said in an HBO promotional feature about the show, “because he was trying to reform the drug trade, and the drug trade will not stand reform.”

It’s a great, big theme, one that required a lot of nuanced storytelling and acting—for a while there, Idris Elba was the luckiest actor on television. The great strength of that

arc was its understanding that people do change depending on how the economic winds are blowing, but that those changes take time. In The Wire’s world, a person who thinks he can affect a new persona in a hurry, just because of money, is a fool. Exhibit A: Ziggy Sobotka, Season 2’s ambitious but ill-fated would-be smuggling kingpin, who was always about 100 IQ points away from being any sort of businessman.

Money alone doesn’t cause problems in The Wire. And only a desperate person in the show’s world thinks money alone will fix it. In his last moments, Stringer attempts to pay off Omar and Brother Mouzone, the two men about to kill him: “What you niggers want, huh? Money? Is that it? ’Cause if it is, man, I could be a better friend to y’all alive.”

Omar’s response: “You still don’t get it, do you?”

Shotgun Weeding: Omar’s assaults adhere to his own moral order.

And yet, in Season 5, the money plot beats its chest just like Ziggy did. Financial hardship—in City Hall, in the police department, in the schools, in the newsroom—is announced as an enormous problem early on, as if it somehow weren’t in the previous four seasons. The more-with-less mantra repeatedly echoes off the walls of the Western District police HQ and the Baltimore Sun. (Lt. Carver speaks for the mood of both here, sympathizing with his troops who groused through the morning roll call: “In the real world, we pay professionals. That’s why we call them pros.”)

Interestingly, this problem doesn’t infect Season 5’s arc about the drug trade. Marlo Stanfield, eager to take over Proposition Joe’s territory, attempts to make an end run and go directly to the East Coast suppliers, the Greeks. He drops off a suitcase full of dirty money and gets called out as a fool for it; over the next handful of episodes he’ll school himself in money laundering, erase some of his naiveté, and rethink how he could use his newfound skills to keep climbing the ladder. It’s easily the season’s most satisfying character arc.

But when it comes to the Sun, the plot is stuck in the improbable, and it’s hard not to see the problem as a function of Simon’s anger at corporate journalism. Even before Season 5, Simon was using his show to grouse about how corporate newspaper managers kneecapped journalists: the hardheaded, vicious captain who shut down the hardworking Major Crimes Unit is named Marimow, the name of a former Sun editor. The whacks keep coming in Season 5. During a planning meeting for a series of articles on education, Editor-in-Chief James C. Whiting III cautions against making the story too complicated—he wishes to avoid an “amorphous series detailing society’s ills” (which, of course, is how The Wire is often perceived).

Templeton, we learn, is the ingrate in this milieu. He’s sick of being stuck in a “shit news town” where even the biggest crime stories—like those 22 bodies that new drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield helped put in vacant rowhouses last season—“had no legs.” He tells this to young reporter Alma Gutierrez, a scribe so eager to learn and so game for legwork she’d surely be blasting Teddy Pendergrass from her cube if newsrooms would allow it. The same goes for City Editor Gus Haynes, who’s tut-tutted by Whiting when he suggests that the education series needs to address the interplay of drugs, crime, parents, and economics.

The financial changes at newspapers that The Wire describes are real, as anybody who works at a newspaper (including this one) can tell you. Fabricators in the newsroom are very real, too—high-profile frauds such as Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, and Jayson Blair are ample enough proof. (Various articles about this season have arrived at the consensus that the model for Templeton is Jim Haner, a former Sun reporter who, Simon has charged, changed quotes and fabricated scenes in his stories.)

What’s less realistic this time around—what’s much more TV-ish—are the simplistic cause-and-effect scenarios that Simon has whipped up to voice his frustration. Cooke, Glass, and Blair didn’t become fabricators because of budget cuts; journalists fake it, ultimately, because they crave the acclaim they believe they’ll receive for writing an eye-popping story that’s actually made up. Egos like those don’t need economic justifications; they just need the opportunity to get away with it. But Templeton’s whipping up fake but heartwarming tales is set directly against the gutting of the Sun newsroom. Take away the money and people will cast away their character, goes this very un-Simon plot point. Templeton isn’t Wire-bad. He’s Law & Order-bad.

As in every season, this one opens with a statement that’s meant to serve as an epigram for all the episodes to follow. It comes from Detective Edward Norris: “Americans are stupid people, by and large. We pretty much believe whatever we’re told.” True enough. For the first time, though, it’s the Wire viewer who’s subject to this manipulation.

Soup Dreams: Bubbles’ rehabilitation leads him to feed the needy.

So what if a good show stops being good? It happens all the time—jumptheshark.com exists precisely because it’s nearly axiomatic that every show ultimately fails itself. If bad reporter Scott Templeton is the Cousin Oliver of The Wire, what’s it matter?

The answer to that has to do with a couple of terms that tend to pop up a lot in reviews of The Wire: “Dickensian” and “social novel.” The former word is actually a critical part of the sixth episode of Season 5, “The Dickensian Aspect.” It refers to what Whiting wants in a series on homelessness—the small but affecting details that make for empathetic stories about the underclass. In truth, what the editor wants isn’t all that Dickensian—just something a little grittier than the paper’s usual coverage of the homeless. (Which is inept. Templeton wades into the homeless camps geekily, notebook in hand; another reporter heads straight to a soup kitchen, only to learn that there are in fact few homeless persons there.)

The Wire was designed to flip the sort of emotional switches that come from entering a realistic world—its pleasure derives from seeing the Wire-good enjoy some success in a dysfunctional world while knowing that those successes are usually brief and accidental. It’s the same work that the social novel does, and it’s a legacy that Simon wants his show to join. For the show’s third season, among those he hired as writers is Richard Price, whose 1993 novel Clockers is the model for a realistic story about the police and the drug trade. It is, as Simon’s written, “to the cocaine epidemic of the early 1990s as The Grapes of Wrath is to the Dust Bowl.”

Once upon a time the social novel had a value beyond its authenticity—it captured the attention of politicians, even occasionally affected genuine change. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration (though it did nothing practical for the wages and safety of meatpacking workers, who were Sinclair’s chief concern); The Grapes of Wrath caught the notice of president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who felt compelled to tell radio listeners about it in 1940: “I have read a book recently. It is called The Grapes of Wrath. There are 500,000 Americans that live in the covers of that book.”

David Simon is no fool—he knows that these are different times, and that The Wire has no potential to change drug policy, in the same way that his nonfiction books, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, did nothing about Baltimore’s crack epidemic and how it was policed. Indeed, the response to The Wire from then mayor Martin O’Malley was to suggest that the show was part of the problem. Asked to comment for the 2004 tie-in book, The Wire: Truth Be Told, he said the show “has branded us in the national and metropolitan eye in a way that is very counterproductive to growth, hope, violent-crime reduction, and poverty.”

There’s no single reason why the reputation of the social novel has declined—why in 1940 a sitting president would publicly recommend that his population learn about a failing economy and more than 60 years later a mayor would not only attack that idea but suggest it makes things worse. Maybe that kind of storytelling has become ineffectual for a lot of the reasons that The Wire itself has spent a lot of time richly detailing—economic decline, a Byzantine lawmaking system, an urge by the haves to strenuously separate themselves from the have-nots. But the rules of social-novel storytelling are the same for Dickens and Sinclair and Steinbeck and Price and Simon; the author still has an obligation to adhere to fact and to give the characters the necessary room to make their transformations believable. There’s a reason why these novels are all fat—and why The Wire needs multiseason arcs to get its story across; once you’ve confessed that humans don’t operate simplistically, you need a lot of room to explain how they really work.

Season 5’s mistakes—clunky plotting, false parallels, confused motivations—are violations of the realism the show promised. And without a solid rooting in truth, The Wire doesn’t just have a bad season—it betrays its own intentions. David Simon broke a contract, changed the rules without warning. In his world, that’s something only the Wire-bad are supposed to do.

Q&A with novelist and Wire writer Richard Price

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Q&A with novelist and Wire writer Richard Price

Our Readers Say

You know, I find it funny that almost every review I've read from the local news media of Season 5 of The Wire is negative. Perhaps the camera being pointed at you instead of the things you cover on a daily basis, hurts?

The Baltimore Sun in it's review decided to go ape shit over the fact that one of the very first moments we see in the newsroom is Olesker and Simon's wife. They focused on this so much that I don't think they gave the episode a fair review at all. The scene was 30 seconds in a 3600 second drama.

You say the show is so easy for you to pick the good and bad how David Simon tells the story. I can't think of anything more from the truth. So many characters are caught in a virtual tug of war on the viewer's emotions. It's just not as simplistic or just "cue the R&B Music" as you think.

Maybe you see a little bit of Mr. Templeton in yourself. Maybe you are writing this article to piss off The Wire fans for your own climbing of the ladder.

Ed Burns and David Simon have done an impeccable job weaving this story over five seasons. The true fans of the show can't get enough. If they put out 20 seasons we'd still watch. There is clamor among the internet(s) for them to continue The Wire in novel form.

For you to sit here and bitch in your column because you think you were betrayed this season or you don't like how he breaks the Media down is just very laughable. This show has given me satisfaction like no other ever on Television and for that along it is a great accomplishment.

I think with the critical acclaim the show has garnered over the past 6+ years has allowed them to take the show where ever they feel is the right conclusion. We all know they can't do worse than the epic boil to a fizzle ending that was the Sopranos.
I agree with George. If the BPD,the Baltimore Mayor's office, Baltimore Public School System, Dock Workers, Baltimore Churches, Baltimore Drug dealers, and killers could write reviews of shows they would all give the Wire a negative review as well. The show this year has given viewers a glimpse of the business of media and what gets sold to us on a daily basis. You have to be fair. How can you say the show was incredible for the first 4 seasons and then turn around and state that this season is crap, simply because you and your colleagues feel it's no longer realistic?
Very few of us are journalist and don't see the show with the same eye as a journalist..the Wire is still a great show.
"FINANCIAL CUTBACKS DESTORY THE MORAL INTEGRITY OF NEWSROOMS"

Mark's not watching the same show. Templeton is doing his best Jayson Blair impression because he wants a Pulitizer and work at the Washington Post or the New York Times. Simon pretty much lays out that Templeton wants to climb to the top by any means necessary. Gus calls Templeton on it, but Whiting without the same professional sensibiities, let's it run.

And Templeton went to the Soup Kitchen and under the bridge. There wasn't another reporter.

As for Bell, he wasn't Avon's Lieutenant, they were partners. Avon handled the streetside, and Stringer handled the business aspect. There is a tension between the two. That same tension shows up in the scene with Marlo and the Co-Op, where the other drug dealers are talking about land speculation using their drug profits.

Either you have an axe to grind, or you just don't care about getting the story right. Or worse yet, Whiting's your editor, and you want to reduce this seasons story to, "mad guy bashes his newsroom - show suffers as result".
I can't believe this review made the front page. Your "cue the R&B music" theory is weak to say the least, and the whole article comes off as being defensive - predictable.

You claim that the cause-and-effect of the Sun being told to do "more with less" and Templeton making up his stories is weak causality. Templeton's desire to climb the ladder and find something better has been a part of his character since he was introduced. The cutbacks may have produced a sense of urgency in Templeton, but to say "fakery follows the Sun's budget cuts" makes me think your viewpoint as a member of the press has made it difficult for you to pay proper attention to the newsroom plot.

Let's say money does play as big a part as you claim in your article - is that really so hard to believe? Money has played a major role in the series, to get defensive when hits close to home screams bias.

The portion of the plot relating to money is not as shallow as you claim. The effects shortages are having on the police department, for example, started in season four. Carcetti was forced to chose between the schools and crime - and the results follow in season five.

The Wire has always been a show that produced a rift between the public and those reviewing it. Only before, it was a disinterested public in the face of rave reviews from the press. Now, it's the press bitching and moaning while the (admittedly small) audience enjoys the final season. No one I've spoken to has disliked the season so-far.

This review is hilariously transparent and that is why I am shocked that you "made A1" so-to-speak.

They should send you back to the 'City Lights' section. Go get some react quotes from the yuppies at Politics and Prose, Templeton.
Mr. Athitakis is following the similar pattern of reviews from other newspapers. Of course, the reviewers lavish praise on The Wire for its creativity and realism in urban America during the first four seasons.

Now, David Simon is focusing his attention on problems with the Fourth Estate. The journalists don't like this much. Journalists don't like the fact that corporate owners have a great influence on news room operations and reporting. Simon is making this painful story available to HBO viewers. This is happening to major news dailies all over the country.

So television reviewers employed by these corporate-owned newspapers write reviews that attempt to poke holes in plot lines or character development in Season 5. Never mind the message--pick apart the little things. This is interesting because I have witnessed inferior episodic writing and two-dimensional characters in prior seasons. How can a series earn excellent reviews for the first 4 seasons but then lay a bomb in the fifth and final season? This doesn't make any sense.
there we go every thing is just fine until we look at the man in the mirror
This really made the front page? Its like the author doesn't even watch the show.

Myself and my friends who love the show think the latest season is fantastic. The writing, characters and plot are as good or better than most other seasons. This is the view of everyone I speak to about it...except members of the media. For some reason, most in the media praise the show to no end until they get to season five, then for them it drastically changes. I wonder why?
Take this piece of shit article off your website already. It makes me sick to read this crap. Obviously the people who commented believe the same. Its like the writer doesnt even watch the same thing we are watching. You want a review? this article sucks. Go get some react quotes, they shouldnt be too hard to find, theyre right here in front of your face.


lawrence- I couldnt have said it better myself. How is the writer not biased here?

I'd throw this in a fireplace to start a fire, or use it to clean my windows, much less make it a premiere article on the website.
Wow. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but that was just about the most ridiculous, biased, transparent and at times inaccurate review of Season 5 as I could have imagined. Big surprise newspapers are hammering the storyline. It says a lot about your paper that this rubbish made the front page at all.

Templeton didn't falsify quotes because his newspaper was experiencing financial straits. He falsified quotes because his moral compass stands somewhere left of North. He is anxious to climb the career ladder and is unwilling or unable to put in the leg work to do it honestly. He can't immediately produce the kind of quotes that more experienced and talented reporters can (the bought-out police reporter, for example), so he creates them on his own. He's a cheat. He'd be a cheat whether his newspaper was having problems or not. Watch it again, it will come to you.

Your R&B theory and your Wire-good/Wire-bad arguments are flat out laughable. I laughed out loud and then I asked myself why I was wasting my time reading such a clear misunderstanding of The Wire, its story, its themes, its purpose.

And by the way, Stringer was not Avon's lieutenant. Monk is Marlo's lieutenant. Bodie was Stringer's lieutenant. Cheese is Prop Joe's lieutenant. Stringer was Avon's PARTNER. His partner. There is a clear difference and if you'd truly watched the show and paid attention to the subtle distinctions that compose its story, you might not have so easily made that mistake.

I could go on but there's not much of a reason to do so. The readers see exactly what's going on here. You've shown your understanding as a viewer and your quality of analysis quite nicely on your own.
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/index.php/2008/01/15/insider-baseball-ultra-advanced-level/

It would have been prudent of your newspaper to have found someone else to write this piece considering your personal involvement with some of the targets of the so called "venting of rage" Simon exhibits through this fifth season. It may be a sixth degree of separation, but it could be just enough to call this whole article a hit piece for personal reasons.

Or, you could have at least linked this blog post to the article in some way. You are savvy enough to have a blog but not link to a post you wrote days earlier?
As a huge fan of this series, and someone who has nothing but contempt for most of the mass media, newspapers included, I also think season 5 is by far the worst of the series, and a betrayal of the show's style, and many of its characters as well. I think the reviewer misreads the Templeton character, who is obviously ambitious. And I think the Wire-good/Wire-bad distinction is stupid, sophomoric exegesis.

That being said, like the reviewer, I think season 5 is a stinker. The pacing is off. The whole media plotline is a drag on the show. Its commentary is bitter but facile. The new characters are completely uninterestin and poorly sketched. Compare that to the early scenes in season 4 where we get to know the kids, or the bar scenes on the docks in season 2, or the entry into the political world through Carcetti's hotel room in season 3 and his wooing of his campaign staff. This season lacks any of that character development. As a result, it's hard to care about the fortunes of these people one way or the other. Blame that on HBO for only buying 10 episodes, but the lack of thematic interest to the media storyline is on the writers.

The serial killer subplot is absurd and embarrassing. It's the stuff of telenovelas. Maybe stuff like that really happens, but you have to convince me, and this season didn't. It's a betrayal of the character of Freamon in particular.

Prop Joe's character is also betrayed. The whole sentimental fathering of Marlo Stanfield makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Prop Joe didn't get where he is, likeable a character as he is, by being that foolish. Likewise Omar who walks right into an obvious trap. And the Omar character hasn't really developed. Did he really need to be brought back?

Episode 2 was very poorly written, with all kinds of clunky dialogue commenting on what the series so far has shown in much more vivid, disciplined ways -- the bar scene with Mcnulty, Freamon, and Moreland being the low point, perhaps matched by the reporters talking out in the parking lot. Episode 6 was also massively awful, with McNulty's stunt with the homeless man truly painful writing.

The writers are succumbing to the temptation to resolve all kinds of plotlines from the previous 4 seasons while introducing a whole new storyline. In just 10 episodes, it's really too much and it means the writing has suffered a lot. City Hall, the newspaper, Marlo v. Prop Joe, Marlo v. Omar, Michael and Dukie, the incresingly tedious rehabilitation of Bubbles, the serial killer line, brief interludes with Kima, it didn't all need to be there. Most of it is not handled sensitively at all. And unlike every other season, there hasn't been a single time this season where I've wanted to say "thank you for respecting my intelligence!" In fact, the season has been patronizing and hamhanded.

At this point, it would be very hard for the season to redeem itself in its last 3 episodes.
ras - redeem itself in the last three episodes? So you've seen 7 episodes of season 5?

That makes you either:

1- a pirate for illegally downloading episodes that have not aired yet (6 and 7 aren't even on demand yet)

2- a member of the press masquerading as someone who has "nothing but contempt" for mass media.

I'd bet on #2, but you're entitled to your opinion. Just thought I'd call you out.

The article still reeks of shit, either way.
A friend of mine once offered to write an article for CP on hearing loss at rock shows. They told him no way "It's too helpful and not dramatic enough"

If it bleeds it leads.
For as hip & contrarian as they try to act; the CP is really not that different from the Sun as it is portrayed in The Wire.
Small wonder they are letting this hack rip on it, no?
John,

ras could have seen the first seven episodes through HBO on demand. HBO opened up the first seven episodes the night episode premiered.

And keep these comments coming. Ever since the Citypaper switched to a new early deadline, it has contributed to an unusually high number of bad articles, lack of comics, illustrations, etc. They should take the hint.
Some good points raised in the article - though the R&B link seems silly - but I would agree with the general sentiments. This season hasn't had the nuances of previous seasons and I wonder if that's because of the shortened season run - 10 eps instead of 13 - but things that have bothered me:

1) The journalist making stuff up and the management are being portrayed very two-dimensionally. We aren't see things from their POV, whereas we we see both sides of the argument for every other character.

2) The mcnulty storyline seems rushed. He's gone from everything being OK to rushing straight into making stuff up. There was no slow progression.

3) The point about about reporters making stuff up for big bucks is missing a point. Reporters also do it just to get the story and not let the news editor down. Saying it's just for the cash is far too simplistic - a charge the article also lays against The Wire.

I still have hope that the season will come good - and it's still better than most TV - it's just not as good as earlier seasons.
The wire is the Shit, man u crazy!!!!!!!!! Sike but I agree with some of the other comments that people have made on this article and very few of your points Mr. City Paper………

To your points:

The R& B music it’s true to an extent, any film uses the music that will fit with the mood or situation, but that is a stretch to take it as far as u did

The newsroom white dude, you right it wasn’t the money that made him fake the story, it was the fact that he wants to be a big shot.

There are no rules in the wire and there are no rules in life, some people live by rules and then they just change, so wire good and bad can change in a heartbeat, it all depends on the situation. You shouldn’t get upset because Simon switched the shit up on you, that’s good, it’s creativity, people just want a show that they can relate too.

For example Bubbles the crack head, he is I guess Wire good, but he still a crack head and even though you can’t judge all crack heads and Simon shows you the nuances of all characters Bubs the crack head tried to poison the dude who was beating the shit out of him and ended up killing the kid he was taking care of. Is that Wire Good?



So Wire good and bad I just don’t by it, Marlo I guess would be Wire bad cuz he don’t give a shit about anyone. I don’t have a good side for that nigga, ummm…

The mayor Royce I guess was wire bad and Carcetti is Wire good but they both are dependent on money that they don’t have and are forced to work with minimal income and some people are better managers than others but that doesn’t make them good or bad people.

Overall good article shit if you just said good things about the wire you wouldn’t get any response at all, so I guess your doing a good job!!!!!!!!!
the wire sucks this season!
Someone wrote "it's like the author doesn't watch the show." Indeed....so that must also mean he hasn't heard this is the show's last season...maybe his complaints about it being "typical" are due to need for Simon to wrap things up. This show has proven it takes more than one episode, hell, more than one season to explain a character or a situation, that's the beauty of it. But as this season is the last, there's no more room for that.
Let me get this straight...

1. This is the Washington City Paper.

2. The Washington City Paper puts a 3,000 word thumbsucker-of-all-thumbsucker review of a (admittedly fantastic) television show set in BALTIMORE MARYLAND on its cover.

3. Did I mention the show is set in Baltimore?



Not a trace of irony either. This stinking pile of crap filling newshole wouldn't have anything to do with the WCPs recent sale to the Atlanta-based Creative Loafing syndicate... a collection of hack rags that are to weekly alt papers what Applebees is to American Cuisine. Hey, you don't have to pay someone to go out and report on stuff when they're just bloviating. Pathetic.

More with less indeed.
I would like to first say that i have been a full fledged fan of the city paper since I moved to this "city" over 6 years ago. That aside, I find the lead article in this past weeks paper a f*cking atrocity. How can you print one of your reporters feeble ass interpretations of one of the best and most influential television shows of our time??? This country is so set to ignore the real problems in our society and concentrate on a b.s. war in a foriegn land, or pay attention to an election which is so uphill that it would make Sisyphus cringe, that it can't take care of it's own people. The "author" of this article, if you could call it that, simply grew up or oblivious to or was not exposed to the reality that is many major cities across this country. The Wire addresses many issues that plague our country and brings home the reality of our current "war on drugs" and the impotence of our society & government to deal with these very real problemms that are destroying our cities. For you to report this article from a biased position from a reporter who obviously doesn't know the innerworkings of a real American city from a take home essay from senior year sociology is simply criminal, and you should recuse yourself from the incident before it goes any further. All conjecture aside, I think that your editorial staff would be well justified in finding a group of credible reporters who actually knew what independend reporting was really about. Thanks for your time..

Dave Coleman
mike-

No, he couldn't have. HBO places one episode at a time on demand the Monday (12AM Monday) before it airs.

For example, episode six was put On Demand at 12:01AM Monday Morning on February 4th. It will not *air* until Sunday 02/10.

All seven episodes were not put on demand at the start of the season. The first seven episodes were distributed to press ONLY for review purposes, so that they could write steaming piles of shit like this one.

I am 100% certain that this is how On Demand works - I know because I have it myself and have been watching the episodes as they come.
In previous seasons of The Wire the show dealt with themes and characters that journalists/media people had little direct knowledge of--i.e. what do TV critics actually know about the plight of dock workers? So in a sense, they had to take Simon's word as gospel.

Now that the show has moved on to examine an area within the (presumable) expertise of white nerds and culture bloggers all of them suddenly have a bunch of gripes.

Is it possible that The Wire's promised "truth" was always a bit dubious? But hey, it's a television drama. Sorry that you only just realized that.
My main complaint with this season isn't with how it mischaracterizes journalism so much as with how the show mischaracterizes the role of money (or rather, the lack of it). When it comes to both the newsroom and the police department, the portrayal is clearly much less sensible and much less realistic than it has been in the previous four seasons.
I happen to think it’s a bit selfish and unrealistic for you to hold the final series, chapter or movie to such standards as its previous series or even the debut. It didn’t happen with The Godfather. Not with Star Wars and most recently not with HBO series The Sopranos.

It’s next to impossible to resolve every issue, arc or potential storyline in such a limited amount of time. The world doesn’t stop so most of these stories won’t either. Being relatively new to the whole “Wire” phenomenon I can’t relate to hate.

Every episode passes with great pleasure and every forthcoming episodes is anticipated like a tax return check. One of the problems with this series is so many people ruined it for themselves by watching the majority of the season before the 2nd episode aired.

Rumors leaked. Clips leaked, speculation is at an all-time high and we’re all say (just like we did with Sopranos), how is _______ _________ going to end with only a few more episodes left. I do find it rather funny that most of the negative stuff said about this has been from the media in the B-More/DC area.

I’ll reserve my opinion until the series is complete, but even if the Wire slipped a bit for whatever reasons it’s still better than 99.9% of anything else on our TVs.
This is bull shit people do not like seeing the truth thrown back in their faces

Well everybody's entitled to their own opinion so here's mine... I've been a wire fan since DAY ONE.. And over the season's I believe the wire shows how each market in life that suppose to protect us either fails us or is set up to fail us..... From the police (protect and serve), the docks (import and export), politics(corrupt), the school system(in which the kids don't learn shit and still pass) and finally the newspaper (false stories and lies to get the community up in arms) There was a person who says that season 5 sucked and corny and drawn out and like I said everyone has their own opinion but to me if you have to say that then you don't get it now and I hope you will later.... Wire focus on all outlets that's suppose to protect us from or learn from the drug game, murder game, or whatever criminal aspect that plague us these days.... The news people we see or read SOMETIMES are lies, bullshit, or just plan stupid (tired of hearing about spears or winehouse if those bitches wanna kill themselves go head I just don't wanna see it or hear about it every 30 mins fucking addicts) So in closing look closely at what happens on the wire try not to be one track minded and just pay attention to the action pay attention to everything in detail because the action may be good but the reason behind those actions is even GREATER and I'll bet you'll never say that this season sucks you will finally get it.. The Press are the ones that really SUCK
This is the worst season ever! The writers and producers should be ashamed. I feel I have been thrown a curveball. They should have ended the show in season 4. Season 5 doesn't give the show any justice. If the city of Baltimore doesn't like the heat of the show so what. I feel the show has taken a lame G rating and doesn't intrest at all. What a wasted effort and sad farewell.
looks like those in the real big league don't agree with this author's criticism.

http://www.wga.org/awards/awardssub.aspx?id=1516
I like this season of The Wire and think alot of interesting stuff is going to go off. That being said, I'm not exactly pleased with how Simon seems to have used this season as a means to grind the axe with The Sun and Haner. I know he had his issues with Haner, but I haven't found anything that really links him to the type of actions as potrayed in the Scott Templeton character. And let's be real here, to think that every article and every word in every story in a paper is 100% accurate, well you're fooling yourself. Heck, this past week's episode of This American Life had Malcolm Gladwell talking about making stuff up for his early articles - to the point that he managed to get a conference held in Australia cause he had never been there and wanted to go.
In contrast to the author's opinion, I didn't see Templeton's fabrications as the product of cutbacks at the Sun. That may have factored in a little bit, but his comment that Baltimore was 'a sh*t news town' leads me to believe that he just wants to build up some nice clips so he can beat feet to the next paper.

As the editor of a weekly newspaper - one that, in fact, was just sold to a nationwide publicly-owned company - some of the scenes from the newsroom are giving me an uneasy notion, but I do agree with the author that a lot of the storylines are getting simplified this season.

That said, it is still head and shoulders above all other television. The fifth season had the unfortunate task of following the fourth, which, barring some insane developments over the last few episodes, now stands as the series' best. Seeing the effects of the city's failing institutions visited on kids, rather than adults, was just devastating. By the time S4 was over, the viewer is just emotionally drained.

While this show's storylines are certainly engaging, they just don't tug at the heart in the same way. The show is still fantastic, even if its very-large wave crested last year.

Can't wait to see how it comes out.
"But Templeton’s whipping up fake but heartwarming tales is set directly against the gutting of the Sun newsroom. Take away the money and people will cast away their character, goes this very un-Simon plot point"

Budget cuts had nothing to do with Templeton's motivation. He fabricates his stories to bolster the quality of his work. As evidenced by his interview at the Washington Post, he aspires to work for a bigger newspaper. He was turned away and obviously wants to have better work to showcase, thus his strategy to fabricate parts of his stories.

And corporate journalism can undoubtedly be attributed to it. Scott is encouraged by his superiors to keep at it, saying he is doing a great job. Ultimately they are running a sensationalized story in hopes to sell more newspapers and garner more attention. Instead of reporting on the trouble the schools are in ( actual news the public should probably know about) they are more concerned about milking the serial killer story for all it's worth.
We've been watching the DVD's of the entire series in rapid succession and Season 5 really does suck. Much lower quality of plot and dialogue than the first 4 seasons. Too bad.
The fifth season of the wire is the most mature where the writers (finally) cohesively layer the plots and characters instead of a giant orgy of murder shown in season three off-set by the slower, less entertaining season four. What false-parallels? Someone wrote, quite well, that it seems when the critic is watching something like inner-city youths gone bad, the comfort and safety leave the critic bleating respect for the show, but when the camera focuses on something a little closer to their reality their defense mechanism kicks in, shunning the show. I'm not even a big fan of The Wire, but as one who studied English its fifth season is the most adult version of the original concept.
I feel like The Wire season 5 was just rushed. Felt like they was trying to just get alot out the way as quick as possible. The kids situations were rushed, everyone saved but Namond.. I think they could of added alittle more story with Dukie him going back to the teacher and the whole Randy situation..

What a stupid article! The writer never makes his point, and I am no wiser as to why he thinks Simon got Season Five wrong.
I just watched season 5 of "The Wire." The review's author says a bunch of shit and tries to be meaningful, but his point could have been made in a lot fewer paragraphs. It's simple: "The Wire" was not as good in the last season because it wasn't as realistic as the first four seasons. The pacing and the characterization was wrong. There were several wonderful moments of Season Five, but they still sit among a backdrop of inconsistency that is not present in the first four flawless seasons. The writers just got lazy. It always happens. It sucks.
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season 5 sucks...stop over analyzing it...the storylines are simple...as for being unrealistic its true...no city is just gonna let 22 bodies sit there becouse of cutbacks...plus it was either the school or police for a cutback? cmon theres like 1000s of diffrent other programs the mayor coulda dropped instead...Omar never should have died like that and Marlo never should have lived...its always funny how prosecutors need so much evidence for a murder but have sent others to deathrow without even a body on speculation.
heres an example of to way better alternative endings
Omar steps out of the shadows in the alley just as Marlo thinks everythings ok...
Marlo goes to prison for life and gets punked out everyday becouse he loses all his money and his soldiers leave him...
Omar pays Avon from the money he got to take out Marlo in prison
Some crazy overlooked piece of evidence is found that links Marlo to the murders and the illegal wiretap doesnt need to be used...
Marlo dies from a stray bullet from a rip and run

season 5s ending sucked...period
Season 5 was indeed disappointing, but at least it had its moments. Season 2, on the other hand, was just downright bad. Ziggy was such a ridiculous and unrealistic character that I almost had to stop watching. He stuck out like a sore thumb in a series where so many of the characters were so damn good. Also, the other two Sabotka's were annoying as well. It just didn't feel like the Wire. Fortunately, I stuck it out and managed to get through season 2, and I was rewarded with an excellent seasons 3 and 4... two of the best ever in television history.
This is, in my opinion, an excellent article.

Reading over the previous responses is amusing; mildly hysterical Wire fans, offended by a reasonable, articulate (but opposing) viewpoint.

Wow! I couldn't agree more. The rest of you guys don't see the article's point, because you're hung up on the kool aid. However, I would go so far as to say Simon begins his destruction of his own characters in season 4 when Pryzb goes to Carver as someone he can "trust". That was crap, because Simon knew he would put himself in a hole if Pryzb went to Freamon, then he would have had to divulge the bodies-in-the-abandons to soon. So he's asking the viewer to be stupid enough to believe Pryzb would go to Carver, the not too bright detective-slowly-learning-how-to-be a good detective over Freamon, his closest friend at Major Crimes. It was silly. Season 5's destruction of EVERYONE's character is systemic and indicative of a writer in love with himself while in a plot-hole suffering from writer's block. Sad because Season 5 ruined The Wire as whole.
Great article. Everything thing he stated was on point. Season 5 let me down for sure.
I'll be honest: I didn't finish reading the review. You don't bother finishing reading a travel guide once you realize the writer never went to and doesn't actually know the place he's guiding you too, and this is kind of the same. Templeton is clearly not motivated to his dishonest reporting by the cutbacks in the newspaper (he doesn't even mind them, commenting of one colleague being bought out that "they're finally getting rid of the dead wood") and McNulty doesn't fake the serial killings because he had to take a bus. It's an incredibly simplistic, shallow and tone-deaf reading of the show.

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