Speaking of Obama, did you know that The Wire is one of his favorite shows? But—and here's the kind of scoop that makes Slate the must-read that it is—according to my colleague Chris Beam, Obama actually missed last night's premiere. I know Obama's busy, but The Wire is The Wire! Doesn't the Manchester, N.H., Radisson have HBO?
As for your excellent observation that The Wire is bleakest when it shows the nonviability of Baltimore, I've been puzzling over that question for a long time. When I was in college, during the depths of the crack epidemic, it was widely believed that the American city was doomed. Sure, centerless megasuburbs like Phoenix would survive, but the sunny-side-up city, with a rich delicious center, was written off. In the 20 years since, though, center cities have bounced back: most notably New York, but lots of other ones, too—Boston, Chicago, even our own fair city of Washington, D.C., have filled back in with downtowns livelier than they were 30 years ago. So, why is the renaissance not universal? Why are some cities worse than ever? For a sheltered white yuppie like me, Baltimore remains a terrifying, I Am Legend-nightmare, where any wrong turn can take you down a street that's at once empty and terrifying.
So, what is it, ultimately, that distinguishes the New Yorks from the Baltimores? Is it race? Or poverty? Or the vagaries of the global economy? (New York has rebounded because Wall Street and the entertainment industry have had 15 fantastic years.) Or governing and policing strategies? Is it truly inevitable that Baltimore must fail?