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kottke.org posts about The Wire

Marlo Stanfield is chaotic evil

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2010

Here are a few characters from The Wire categorized by their Dungeons and Dragons alignment (good/neutral/evil and lawful/neutral/chaotic).

The Wire Dungeons and Dragons

There are a few more alignment charts from the same source, including a Mad Men chart with Betty Draper as chaotic evil (justification). (via @juliandibbell)

The Hour, Britain’s Mad Men?

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2010

Dominic West, who starred as McNutty in The Wire, will play the lead character in a six-part BBC series called The Hour. The show is set in the 1950s and will air next year.

The Hour follows the launch of a topical news show in London set against the backdrop of a mysterious murder. West will play Hector Madden, the programme’s upper-crust, charismatic front man.

The series is being called the UK version of Mad Men:

The only place with better retro fashion than New York in the 1960s is London in the 1950s.

(via unlikely words)

The Wire Monopoly

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2010

A version of Monopoly based on The Wire.

Wire Monopoly

(via @tcarmody)

David Simon’s original pitch for The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2010

David Simon was just awarded one of the MacArthur Foundation’s $500,000 genius grants, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit Simon’s original pitch of The Wire to HBO (PDF).

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer — who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show — is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O’Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

From my original post on this in April 2009 (which also contains links to three episode scripts):

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

Stringy Bell just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

Mayor of Reykjavik

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 04, 2010

Comedian Jon Gnarr recently won election as mayor of Reykjavik and has already gotten to work on his campaign promises of free towels at public swimming pools and a drug-free Parliament by 2020. Gnarr founded the The Best Party late last year, and other Best Party candidates, including members of the Reykjavik punk rock community, won 6 of the 15 seats on the City Council. The best part of all is that Gnarr “needed a coalition partner, but ruled out any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of ‘The Wire’.” That seems like sound policy to me.

On The Best Party, Gnarr has this to say:

No one has to be afraid of the Best Party, because it is the best party. If it wasn’t, it would be called the Worst Party or the Bad Party. We would never work with a party like that.

(Via Balloon Juice)

Toy Story + The Wire mashup

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 17, 2010

Woody = McNulty, Buzz = Stringer, and Mr. Potato Head = Bunk. (via stevey)

Complete DVD set of The Wire, $90

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2010

If you haven’t seen The Wire by now, maybe you’re never going to. But if you finally want to give it a try, Amazon has the entire series on DVD for $90 (that’s almost 65% off, today only). (via @sportsguy33)

Horse names from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2010

Some of my favorites are Prezbo, My Name is My Name, Hamsterdam, Always Boris, Fuzzy Dunlop, and Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit. Glaring omissions? Hit Me on My Burner, Snot Boogie, and Pack o’ Newports. The full list. (thx, tash & nathan)

The Avon Barksdale Story

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2010

Here’s the trailer for The Avon Barksdale Story, a documentary about the real-life Baltimore gangster than inspired the Avon Barksdale character on The Wire.

Barksdale’s real name, Nathan Avon Barksdale, and his nickname, “Bodie,” were both used in the series as composite characters. Avon Barksdale was The Wire’s first season’s central character. The storyline focused on the Barksdale clan and their ruthless hold on Baltimore’s underworld and the intense efforts of law enforcement to stop them. Barksdale was a real crime figure in Baltimore.

(thx, mark)

The 100 best quotes from The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2009

This is really well done. (thx, joris)

Update: The next 100 greatest quotes from The Wire. (thx, charlie)

Summer of The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   May 29, 2009

Alan Sepinwall is watching season two of The Wire this summer and posting reviews. Here are his episode one reviews: one for newbies and another for veteran viewers. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, season two is underrated and if you didn’t care for it the first time through, I’d give it another shot. (thx, david)

Hating The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2009

During a discussion with friends the other day, someone wondered, “Who doesn’t like The Wire?” The show is easily one of a handful of shows considered the best ever and even those who feel that The Wire is overrated still don’t dislike it. But someone’s gotta hate it, right?

In the spirit of Cynical-C’s excellent You Can’t Please Everyone series, I went to Amazon and looked for bad reviews of The Wire season one DVD. There were six one-star reviews and four two-star reviews (versus 190 five-star reviews). Three of those were customer service complaints and one read like a five-star review that was accidentially mis-rated; here are parts of the remaining reviews:

I have watched 6 episodes of Season 1 and have desperately tried to get into The Wire. Despite the hype, and all the trendies saying what a mahhvellous show it is, actually it is pretty dull. Boring characters, little conflict, confusing scripts, same stuff repeated ad nauseam. Frankly, the lives of petty drug dealers in Baltimore don’t do it for me, and not do the cops who are a pretty unattractive bunch with few dramatic qualities. I know that Prison Break was appallingly acted but at least it had a story line. The Wire is like an improvisation at one of those let it all hang out stage schools which never produces particularly great actors.

I had 1000’s of hours of viewing movies, television series, and television programming behind me before I sat down to watch this series on DVD, season one, the box in my hand. I was very dissapointed. This series stinks. I watched only episode 1, and have the experience and perception to know that it won’t get any better. […] If watching cheap white trash and cheap black trash destroy themselves and probably each other interests you, this is for you. I have a better way to spend my evenings. I experience enough negativity in the world on a daily basis, that I don’t have to put it in my dvd player after dinner for it to “entertain” me.

I really disliked this show, i watched the entire first season in two days, i only did so because i was waiting for it to become interesting. After so many glowing reviews, i could not belive how just plain awful this show turned out to be. I would rather watch reruns of Barney Miller, you get the same effect of watching the Wire except with slightly more enjoyment. I know it’s not The Shield and it’s not supposed to be but i implore you to purchase that series if you want to enjoy a television experience.

I got the Wire because I thought I was missing the boat on ‘the best show on TV’. Well…I must be missing something because after watching 5 episodes I don’t get it. I kept thinking it was going to get better..not that it was bad…it just wasn’t that interesting. The only reason I kept watching was to see Idris Elba who plays Stringer Bell cause he is a cutie!

Perhaps it is in the office where the show falters the most, sometimes having camera shots zoom in on a person for three seconds at a time while they are thinking about nothing. Then there is the whole thing with the detective using a typewriter. Okay, did I miss something? Is this 2008 or 1978 people?? High Profile crime unit using typewriters, sure I buy it and a bag of that counterfeit money they had in the first episode.

I tried it sober; perhaps I should have tried it drunk. Ham acting, cliched backdrops (pole-dancing was an idea already on its last legs before The Sopranos ran it into the ground) and dialogue which may possibly be realistic but certainly is dull. I labored manfully through the whole first episode. I shall not torment myself with a second.

If Barney Miller is more your speed, season one of that show is also available on Amazon with reviews almost as good as The Wire’s.

Update: I had totally forgotten about Andy Baio’s Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game.

David Simon interview

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2009

Short video interview of David Simon.

You know, newspapers are gonna say, “We already let the horse out of the barn door. How can you charge for content? Information wants to be free.” All that bullshit. As I remember, there wasn’t an American in America 30 thirty years ago who paid for their television. Television was free 30 years ago. Now everybody’s paying 16 bucks a month, 17 bucks a month, 70 dollars a month.

Related: the NY Times recently ran the poignant story of a interracial Baltimore couple who turned to The Wire for comfort when the husband underwent treatment for cancer.

Also related: read David Simon’s HBO pitch for The Wire from Sept 2000.

The Wire Bible

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2009

This is quite a treat. Someone got ahold of some scripts from The Wire and posted them online. [Update: I’ve mirrored the files for convenience.]

Season 1, episode 1, “The Target”
Season 1, episode 9, “Game Day”
Season 5, episode 10, “-30-“

But the real gem is a document dated September 6, 2000 that appears to be David Simon’s pitch to HBO for the show. The document starts with a description of the show.

The Wire Bible

Simon had the show nailed from the beginning. Near the end of the overview, he says:

But more than an exercise is realism for its own sake, the verisimilitude of The Wire exists to serve something larger. In the first story-arc, the episodes begin what would seem to be the straight-forward, albeit protracted, pursuit of a violent drug crew that controls a high-rise housing project. But within a brief span of time, the officers who undertake the pursuit are forced to acknowledge truths about their department, their role, the drug war and the city as a whole. In the end, the cost to all sides begins to suggest not so much the dogged police pursuit of the bad guys, but rather a Greek tragedy. At the end of thirteen episodes, the reward for the viewer — who has been lured all this way by a well-constructed police show — is not the simple gratification of hearing handcuffs click. Instead, the conclusion is something that Euripides or O’Neill might recognize: an America, at every level at war with itself.

The list of main characters contains a few surprises. McNulty was originally going to be named McCardle, Aaron Barksdale became Avon Barksdale, and the Stringer Bell character changed quite a bit.

STRINGY BELL - black, early forties, he is BARKSDALE’s most trusted lieutenant, supervising virtually every aspect of the organization. He is older than BARKSDALE, and much more direct in his way, but nonetheless he is the No. 2. He has BARKSDALE’s brutal sense of the world but not his polish. BELL is bright, but clearly a child of the projects he now controls.

The final section is entitled “BIBLE” and contains draft outlines of a nine-episode season. I didn’t read it all, but the main story line is there, as are many plot details that made it into the actual first season. (thx, greg)

Got to. This America, man.

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2009

Some think it’s unfair that the former president of Countrywide Financial, a mortgage company that played a big (and negative) role in the subprime mortgage debacle, is now the head of a company making big money buying troubled mortgages from the US government for cheap and then refinancing with the owner, making big money in the process.

But as a Baltimorean explains to McNutty in the very first scene of the first episode of The Wire, that’s how America works.

McNulty: Let me understand. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shootin’ craps, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie… he’d wait til there’s cash on the ground and he’d grab it and run away? You let him do that?
Suspect: We’d catch him and beat his ass but ain’t nobody ever go past that.
McNulty: I’ve gotta ask you: if every time Snot Boogie would grab the money and run away… why’d you even let him in the game?

(thx, aaron)

David Simon, back on the beat

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2009

David Simon, formerly of The Wire and The Baltimore Sun, noticed an underreported Baltimore shooting involving a police officer and decided to investigate it himself. What he found is not good news for the citizenry.

Well, sorry, but I didn’t trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick’s identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn’t anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn’t trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that’s the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

In other Simon news, apparently he’s doing a pilot for HBO for a show called Treme, “post-Katrina-themed drama that chronicles the rebuilding of the city through the eyes of local musicians”. The cast will include Clarke Peters and Wendell Pierce, who played Lester and Bunk on The Wire.

And speaking of The Wire, the latest issue of Film Quarterly has several articles devoted to the show. Only one article is online so you best send Lamar out to the newsstand for a paper copy. (thx, david & walter)

Another class on The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2009

Regarding Berkeley’s class on McNulty & Co., Jason Mittell is teaching a class on The Wire at Middlebury College this spring. More information is available on the class blog, including the course schedule. This class *will* include the underrated season two.

A class on The Wire

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2009

UC Berkeley is offering a class called What’s so great about The Wire?

Discerning critics and avid fans have agreed that the five-season run of Ed Burns and David Simon’s The Wire was “the best TV show ever broadcast in America”—not the most popular but the best. The 60 hours that comprise this episodic series have been aptly been compared to Dickens, Balzac, Dreiser and Greek Tragedy. These comparisons attempt to get at the richly textured complexity of the work, its depth, its bleak tapestry of an American city and its diverse social stratifications. Yet none of these comparisons quite nails what it is that made this the most compelling “show” on TV and better than many of the best movies. This class will explore these comparisons, analyze episodes from the first, third, fourth and fifth seasons and try to discover what was and is so great about The Wire. We will screen as much of the series as we can during our mandatory screening sessions and approach it through the following lenses: the other writing of David Simon, including his journalism, an exemplary Greek Tragedy, Dickens’ Bleak House and/or parts of Balzac’s Human Comedy. We will also consider the formal tradition of episodic television.

They’re skipping season two? Shameful. (via unlikely words)

Brother Mouzone implicated in Notorious B.I.G.’s killing?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2009

When The Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead in Los Angeles, a composite sketch of the shooter done shortly after the killing depicts a clean-cut black man in a suit and bow tie. Was Biggie’s killer the partial basis for Brother Mouzone, the bow-tied hitman from The Wire?

Biggie Mouzone

At least until I hear from Mr. Mouzone’s lawyer, I say: case closed! (thx, alex)

Complete DVD set of The Wire on sale for $82

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2009

The complete series of The Wire on DVD (all five seasons) is on sale today only at Amazon for $82. That’s a whopping 67% off the recommended retail of $250. (thx, doug)

Update: The box set is back to its regular Amazon price of $135 (still pretty good).

Update: Amazon lowered the price on the box set a bit…it’s now $124.99, a full 50% off the list price.

Update: As of 12/10/09, they lowered the price to $99 again. (thx, martin)

If the cast of The Wire was a football team

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2009

The Ravens are looking good in the playoffs but Mark Lamster imagines a football team made up of characters from The Wire. The most inspired choices:

Offensive Coordinator: Lester Freamon
FB: Thomas Hauk
MLB: Wee-Bey Brice
MLB: Cheese Wagstaff
Kicker: Ziggy Sobotka
Fan club president: Roland Pryzbylewski

The Wire, rapped up

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 08, 2009

A five-minute rap video that summarizes all five seasons of The Wire.

Police chief, yeah, his rank is proper
‘Cause of the window, he starts a war with Frank Sobotka.

MIA’s Paper Planes is still my favorite Wire-inspired song, but this is pretty sweet. (thx, about 2000 people)

Photos of The Wire soundstage

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2009

Photos of the abandoned soundstage for The Wire.

So I found out yesterday that the soundstage for “The Wire” still existed. I wasted no time in visiting it and was there almost less than 24 hours. It’s one of my favorite TV shows ever and I had to see this before everyone ruined it. The building is also scheduled for demolition and they are going to build a super market on it.

(thx, hurty)

Dubbing The Wire into German

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2008

An interview with a translator about the difficulty of dubbing The Wire into German.

To bring over the style of the speech out of the slums or ghettos, we haven’t used very exact, grammatically correct German. Nobody says “Wegen des Fahrrads” (because of the bikes), rather “wegen dem Fahrrads” (‘cause of them bikes), for example there we use wrong German. Here and there we’ve used other phrases, sometimes with an English or American sentence structure.

The interview itself was translated from German to English. (via panopticist)

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.