The Wire Final Season

Week 1: Does the Journalism Feel Clichéd Because We're Journalists?
Talking television.
Jan. 7 2008 12:12 PM

The Wire Final Season

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Jeff,

Having now seen the episode again—I watched the first time when my wife was out, which is a hanging offense in our house, so I had to do a second viewing with her—I share some of your concerns about the Sun newsroom. I actually like the darkly ambitious white-boy reporter. He reminds me powerfully of, oh, three or four or 40 friends at the Post and Times. And the exchange about the photo of the burned doll was inspired. But you're right that most of the newsroom characters—the crusty, big-hearted city editor, the pompous editor, the crotchety grammar-fascist old-timer—arrive as caricatures, and do very little in Episode 1 to flesh themselves out.

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Still, it's not surprising that the newspaper seems familiar—and trite—to us, because it's the ocean we swim in. If we were drug dealers or cops (God help the public!), maybe we would have felt the same way about Episode 1 of The Wire's first season. Maybe drunk-cynical-but-brilliant homicide detective McNulty is just as much a cliché in Copworld as cranky-romantic-and-fearless city editor Gus is in ours. Maybe we have to make a conscious effort to watch the newspaper subplot as outsiders rather than insiders. If we watch as insiders, we're bound to be disappointed: It will inevitably feel clichéd or dishonest.

Don't you think that Simon is taking Mayor Carcetti a little too far to the dark side? When we left him at the end of Season 4, his political ambitions and his idealism were synchronized: They fed on each other. Now he's nothing but naked political ambition. If I'm remembering correctly, the very first words he speaks in the episode are about crime stats, the subject he spent all of last season deriding. I suspect he'd be more realistic, and more interesting, if they let him retain some trace of his old goo-goo self.

Oh, and calling you a "Teddy Bear" was too subtle for you? You need me to spell it out?

David

David Plotz is the editor of Slate. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.