The Wire Final Season

Week 1: Baltimore Is No Longer a Viable Enterprise
Talking television.
Jan. 7 2008 2:14 PM

The Wire Final Season

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Dear David,

I admit, I wondered whether my reaction to the newsroom scenes was one of contempt born of familiarity. And it's certainly true that I've run into editors who have been monochromatically assholish, and reporters who absolutely burned with ambition. Why, it's even been said that I have, on occasion, burned with ambition. You, too, burn with ambition, but it's not so noticeable, because you're so unambitious about it.

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But: I think I know a little bit about cops, being related to cops, and, more to the point, having written about cops, and David Simon's cops generally pass the verisimilitude test, and this newsroom, so far at least, does not. But, as they say on the TV news, only time will tell. 

I don't see what you see in Carcetti. He's not shaking anyone down, is he? He's just trying to better his city and himself, which is what you'd expect. And his attack on the scumbag U.S. Attorney seemed motivated by righteous fury. It's no surprise that a sitting mayor would have an appreciation for low crime statistics. I've actually thought that Carcetti was, in a way, a stand-in for David Simon, who is made angry by—well, most everything, as Mark Bowden's new piece in the Atlantic shows—but mostly by the systematic abandonment of urban America. The bleakest moments for me in The Wire have not been the scenes of drug violence (although the harassment of Bubbles last season did break my heart), but those very effective moments, many starring Carcetti, which persuasively show that Baltimore itself is no longer a viable enterprise, and the reason it's not is because it is populated mainly by poor African-Americans, about whom America—Barack Obama notwithstanding—still doesn't give a shit. America's general disinterest in The Wire (and certainly the general disinterest of the people who vote for the Emmys) is a corollary to this larger disinterest, by the way.

Jeff

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for the Atlantic and the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror.