Does Everyone Watch the Same Show When They Watch The Wire?

Brian Cook in In These Times:


In a recent story in The Nation, Chris Hayes used 2,200-plus words to argue why progressives should back Sen. Barack Obama. I’ll use only seven: Obama’s favorite TV show is “The Wire.” It’s certainly true, as Hayes noted, that Obama, like every presidential candidate, won’t be saying one word about the prison-industrial complex or the disastrous consequences of the “war on drugs.” But it’s heartening to think that at least he’s tuning in to one of the few public forums that fiercely drags such issues into our consciousness.

Throughout its five seasons on HBO, “The Wire” has created riveting fictional drama out of the residents living, policing and selling dope on the streets of Baltimore. Described by its co-creator David Simon as the ultimate “anti-cop show, a rebellion … against the horseshit police procedurals afflicting American television,” “The Wire” obliterates easy dichotomies of “good cops” and “bad drug dealers.” Instead, it builds morally complex characters on both sides of the law whose individual decisions are largely shaped by political and economic forces outside their control. After detailing the ravages of the drug trade in its first season, the show broadened its scope in each subsequent season, examining the city’s collapsing industrial sector (and unions), political system, public schools and, finally, journalistic institutions.