From the Huffington Post, March 17, 2008
Reprinted with Permission
Well now, it’s been a week since The Wire‘s final episode and a certain calm has descended, leaving a little less agita and a little more reflection. A moment for one last question:
That wasn’t too vicious, was it?
Sure there was a fabulist and, yeah, he snatched the big prize. Couldn’t resist, sorry. That was a bit beyond the historical reality; at the historical Baltimore Sun, he was a mere Pulitzer finalist. And okay, the city editor, the honorable fellow, the one for whom journalism was an ethos, he got slapped down and thrown to the copy desk. We did that, too, because hey, to criticize such a newsroom culture did indeed carry those risks in Baltimore.
But the fifth-season story arc began with a wonderful bit of adversarial reporting on deadline — good, clean newspapering it was. And at the end there, that other fellow wrote a very sincere narrative about a very real and genuine soul. Righteous journalism that makes a good reporter get up in the morning.
True, the top editor had to get up on a desk amid the deluge of the internet and the declines in circulation and advertising. And yeah, he gave the more-with-less talk to maintain morale and it rang a hollow because at this point, buyout upon buyout, the grey ladies are down to bone already. But he was sincere in his grief. He hated closing those foreign bureaus and cutting back further in the newsroom. But what can you do? The suits in Chicago are running scared.
All in all, the last season of The Wire wasn’t that cruel a portrayal, was it? There was some love in there for the ink-stained wretches. A few funny lines, too. Tell me you didn’t laugh at the burnt-doll harem in the photog’s trunk. C’mon, it’s okay to smile.
Ah, fuck it, who’s kidding whom?
It was way worse than you thought. Any of you — save for a couple sharp journos who were able to stand back just far enough to realize what the real critique was. Lowry got it, and tellingly, he used to work for the L.A. Times but is now a step or two removed from a metropolitan daily, writing for Variety. And a couple of others at alternative weeklies figured it out – again, perhaps, because they’re less vested than everyone at the big, vulnerable dailies.
But the rest of you blessed, scribbling souls? Not so much as an offhand reference, and that goes not just for the journalists displeased enough with our newspaper tale, but for the larger number of commentators and critics who thought we did swell. No one went near the theme; everyone stayed dead-center and literal, oblivious to the big-ass elephant in our mythical newsroom.
Let’s be clear, though. I’m actually rigorous about letting criticism of the show stand without arguing back. I’ll rant a bit about journalism, or the drug war or any other issue that I rub up against. But if you didn’t enjoy The Wire this season, then let’s concede for purposes of this little note that you are correct. We sucked. The writing was a train wreck, the characterization limp, the acting and plotting, shameful and shameless both. Jumped that shark in high-topped Nikes, we did.
Okay, I don’t actually agree, but neither would I argue. We said what we wanted to say and now everyone else is entitled to talk back without some counterbitch finding them. So let’s happily concede that all criticism stands and get to the real fun.
Because the thing I can’t leave alone, the thing that makes me giddy as a schoolgirl is this: Whatever else I am — a traitorous apostate to newsprint, the angriest hack in television, a kicker of small dogs — you must acknowledge that I am now, also, the newly crowded King of Meta. That’s right. I am your new lord sovereign of buried, latent, subtextual argument. I dragged it past sarcasm, past cynicism, and all the way to balls-out snide. Crown me up and kneel, ya bitches.
Here’s what happened in season five of The Wire when almost no one — among the working press, at least — was looking:
Our newspaper missed every major story.
The mayor, who came in promising reform, is instead forcing his police department to once again cook the stats to create the illusion that crime is going down. Uncovered.
The school system has been teaching test questions to improve No Child Left Behind scores, and to protect the mayor politically and to validate a system that is failing to properly educate city children. No expose published.
Key investigations and prosecutions are undercut or abandoned by the political machinations of police officials, prosecutors and political figures. Departmental priorities make high-level drug investigation prohibitive.
Not the news that’s fit to print.
Drug wars, territorial disputes, and the assassination of the city’s largest drug importer manage to produce a brief inside the metro section that refers only to the slaying of a second-hand appliance store owner.
Par for the course.
That was the critique. With the exception of the good journalism that bookended the story arc — which is, of course, representative of the fact that there are still newspaper folk in Baltimore and elsewhere struggling mightily to do the job — the season amounted to ten hours of a newspaper that is no longer intimately aware of its city.
And here comes the meta:
In Baltimore, where over the last twenty years Times Mirror and the Tribune Company have combined to reduce the newsroom by forty percent, all of the above stories pretty much happened. A mayor was elected governor while his police commanders made aggravated assaults and robberies disappear. School principals in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland were obliged to teach test questions to pump scores at the expense of meaningful curricula. Politicians then took credit for the limited gains that were, of course, unsustainable as the students aged into middle school. Politically sensitive casework was butchered or pursued selectively by political interests and departmental indifference. Notable killings and machinations in the drug world were the talk of the streets.
And yes, in real life, there wasn’t much written about such in my city. Amid buyout after buyout, theBaltimore Sun conceded much of its institutional memory, its beat structure, its ability to penetrate municipal institutions and report qualitatively on substantive issues in a way that explains not just the symptomatic problems of the city, but the root causes of those problems.
The Sun began doing so in the 1990s — before the internet, before the Tribune Company did its worst — when beat reporting and any serious, systemic examination of issues was eschewed in favor of “impact” journalism, special projects and Pulitzer sniffing. It continued doing so into the present decade as the Tribune Company followed the Times-Mirror buyouts with even more ruthless abandon. And now, with the economic vise that is the internet tight around her, The Sun – like so many once-worthy regional newspapers — is fighting for relevance and readers.
It’s admittedly easy enough, if you are writing a fictional television show, to sit in a diner booth or on a bar stool with a police lieutenant or an assistant principal, an assistant state’s attorney or a political functionary and have them tell you the good dirt, knowing as they do that fiction is a safe abstraction. Fiction makes everyone comfortable and talkative; journalism — good, probing journalism — is a much harder, much more rigorous task. It is time-consuming, expensive, deliberate and demanding.
It would not have been easy for a veteran police reporter to pull all the police reports in the Southwestern District and find out just how robberies fell so dramatically, to track each individual report through staff review and find out how many were unfounded and for what reason, or to develop a stationhouse source who could tell you about how many reports went unwritten on the major’s orders, or even further — to talk to people in that district who tried to report armed robberies and instead found themselves threatened with warrant checks or accused of drug involvement or otherwise intimidated into dropping the matter.
It would be hard for a committed education reporter to acquire the curriculum of a city middle school and compare it to what children were taught before No Child Left Behind reduced teaching to rote repetition, or to track a rise in the third-grade test scores into the fifth or seventh grade and thereby demonstrate how temporal and false the gains actually were. And to get teachers talking, even on background, about their anger and frustration at this flummery?
That kind of trust comes slow.
But absent that kind of reporting, we will all soon enough live in cities and towns where politicians and bureaucrats gambol freely without worry, where it is never a risk to shine shit and call it gold. A good newspaper covers its city and acquires not just the quantitative account of a day’s events, but the qualitative truth and meaning behind those events. A great newspaper does this routinely on a multitude of issues, across its entire region.
Such a newspaper was not chronicled on The Wire. There were still good journalists in our make-believe newsroom, and they did some good work — just as there are still such souls in Baltimore and every city laboring in similar fashion and to similar result. But there used to be more of them. And they covered more ground, and they knew the terrain in a way that they no longer do.
I confess I thought that journalism was still self-aware enough to get it, that enough collective consciousness of the craft’s highest calling remained, that reporters still worried about what their newspapers were missing.
We certainly expected more attention from the media. Write a television story arc about the betrayal of the working class, the fraud of the drug war or the lie of No Child Left Behind and you can’t get off the entertainment pages. Maybe an education magazine writes a column on inncr-city curricula, or a libertarian website revisits the idea of drug decriminalization.
But suggest that high-end American newspapers have been gutted by out-of-town ownership, besieged by the internet and preoccupied by a prize culture that validates small-trick and self-limiting “impact,” rather than seriously evaluating problems? Now you’ve got the full attention of the media.
We are grateful for ink. Always.
But for all of it to amount to a forest-and-tree farce? To argue about whether Whiting is more venal or one-dimensional than Valchek? To debate whether Gus Haynes is more of a hero than Bunny Colvin? To wonder whether anyone would be disciplined for cursing in a newsroom, or why they made the top editor wear those suspenders, or whether it was a cliché to have a fabricator driving the overt plot? To argue about whether the drama had become arch or unsubtle? And to studiously avoid any sustained discussion about whether the depicted newspaper is, in all respects, capturing the meaningful narrative of the depicted city? And whether that is an accurate critique?
When we were beating the story out, Bill Zorzi wondered whether — in the final episode — it might be necessary for Gus Haynes to vocalize the theme, to turn to Alma or Luxenberg or some other character and say, “We’re so thin, and we waste what little resources we have left on the wrong things. I wonder what’s happening in this city that we don’t know about. I wonder what we’re missing?”
But no, show don’t tell is the rule. To have the city editor saying such things would have been, well, arch. And unsubtle. As it is, I argued, any good journalist will — if he or she loves the business — follow this story and wince at the stories systematically missed, the undiscovered and unreported tales of the city known to viewers for four seasons. As wounded and onanistic and self-absorbed as the profession has become, there are still plenty of people for whom that matters above all.
So I talked Zorzi down on that one.
My bad, Bill. My bad.
David Simon, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun for thirteen years, is the executive producer of HBO’s The Wire. The drama’s final season, depicting a Baltimore newspaper, concluded last week.
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The Wire was arguably the best television series ever made. Nice piece written here but my only real issues with season 5…
1) The newsroom angle was a good idea but perhaps the show writers were a bit too close to it. Many found it hard to relate to or invest in.
2) As for the WORST… McNulty’s “supercop character” finally jumped the shark. I’d always had reservations about the believability of character who existed in a contained bureaucratic work environment surrounded by lifers, repeatedly stabbing his peers and superiors in the back for wholly self-serving reasons with so few repercussions. OK so Rawls put him on a boat for while. Otherwise this character seemed to constantly walk between the raindrops rarely suffering real consequences for his selfishness. We’d get a rant or two from whoever he screwed over, then next episode or season all is forgiven, forgotten and everyone’s back to “good ole Jimmy” again. S5 ran him off a cliff. His rogue decision to stage serial killings was believable but Bunk’s toothless response and using Lester and his involvement to give credence to Jimmy’s scheme went beyond the pale. The Lester we’d come to know was indeed a maverick, but not a moron.
I thought this was a really interesting article, especially in the context of the current pandemic which is hitting local papers the hardest. The cutbacks, management of local papers by big out of town conglomerates and lack of attention on complex issues is something we see in the UK too. Additionally though people point to the development of hyper-local news sites as a way of saying that local news isn’t dead, these are often little more than blogs or advertising of businesses in the area rather than sustained critiques and investigations.
I wondered what you thought of new local titles which seek subscriptions from the community as well as community involvement in their storytelling. Could this be a solution to the decline of established local titles like the Sun? We have some of these initiatives in the UK but I’m not sure about the situation in the US, and I’m curious to know what you think.
Have a great day,
[…] From his personal blog: […]
Love if The producers could make a 15 minutes short just to show where all the cast are now. Has the city cleaned up. Is McNulty still clean etc. How is Baltimore under Trumps term.
If I had to wager a guess, something I noticed was that, in the first four seasons, there was always at least one or two characters who were, either struggling or chafing against the numerous failings in the institutions that were highlighted in each season, (I.e. McNulty, Frank Sobotka, Carcetti (at least in season 3), Colvin and Prez).
However in the case of season 5, as you pointed out, even the remaining good journalists such as Gus, are, to a degree, complicit in missing every major story.
I realize that this is ten years too late to be of any practical use, but I just thought I’d throw it out there.
Love The Wire. Watched the first four seasons in ’07-’08 and decided to “save” S5 so I could pretend it wasn’t over… finally caved this week and watched it, and—THANK YOU! I worked at a newspaper with a POS liar who made up quotes, and the editor was obsessed with him and looked the other way (on the fake quotes and also, grossly, sexual harassment). Thrilled at the fact that you made him irredeemable, because the reporters who do that shit truly are that way. And the depiction of the weak-willed, money-grubbing, ring-kissing top brass at papers was spot-on, too. This show is so brilliant, so uniquely American, such a mind-altering and contemplative rumination on the powerful pull of the system… FUCK, I LOVE THE WIRE!!!!!!!!!!!
I love the WIRE
It’s the best series ever
I been expressing to folk since 2002
I’m proud to be from “Home of the Wire”
Please bring us another series
They come and they go, The Wire!
THE BEST FUCKING SERIES I EVER WATCHED! I HOPE THEY COME OUT WITH MORE SEASONS!!
Hi there, I read through a few of your articles here.
I did have a question though that I hope you could answer.
I was wondering, What does it take to become an officer of
the Los Angeles Police Department? I just graduated and
I’m interested in becoming a cop there. I would really appreciate any help
you could give me!
Why did stupid fucking hbo talk over the last episode when you re watch it on demand. Fucking worthless, fuck hbo!
I am writing my thesis on THE WIRE… This argument strucked me when Omar died and no one noticed it in The Sun… No institutional memory, no quality journalism.
Thanks for this. I recently watched “The Wire” for the first time this year, and since have done my best to find critical analyses and articles that could help meaningfully fill the void left after the show. My plight feels similar to that of the increasingly-obsolete reporters you mentioned, rummaging through webpage-after-page of marketable “impact” junk to find substantial material worth digging into.
Coming into the series after nearly a decade of being exposed to the general hype and season five criticism, I finished season five feeling just as I would imagine you intended. That’s why I’m here. Particularly toward the finale, you created a meta-mirror for us that I’m still working out. I’m vaguely reminded of the backlash we (I) felt when Seinfeld came to an end, having been blinded to what we were ignoring for so long that the hyper-reality we were caught up in seemed like the be-all, end-all. But life isn’t like that.
Have just finished re-watching the whole series. It was as good as I remembered and then some. Season 5 is tremendous, you have such great payoffs for characters, building on all that came before. No need to worry about any season of this amazing show. Actually, I don’t even think of it as a show – it’s literature. Some of the most compelling I’ve seen.
Thanks David for all you did to bring it into the world.
David SImon, I don’t understand why you wrote this. You don’t need to justify anything, it’s a masterpiece. The Wire will be studied in the future. It’s like The Odyssey of Homer.
I didn’t know there were retards saying “Each ending sucked so the season 5 was bad”
It was fuckin awesome. It’s so damn realistic. That’s exactly would happen to people in the real world.
I have to say I loved the Wire the first time I saw it. I found the season 2 a bit less interesting the first time, but I really don’t know why, maybe because I was focused on characters like Avon etc, and the guys on the docks were less cool at first sight. But it was still damn above all the other things (books, series, movies). I watched The Wire a second time few years later and I loved season 2.
Anyway, for me, it’s perfect. Even though I don’t like those gay fags fuckin each other but that’s the world we live in so no problems.
I love game of thrones (but it’s too quick imo), but The Wire is the best.
I also loved Generation Kill. I didn’t get hooked by Treme or the mini serie with a mayor though. Maybe I prefer more violent things.
Season 2 was the bravest thing ever seen on TV. Production took a huge risk deciding to change setting and characters after only 1 season
The character development – and the way each character’s persona was mirrored throughout each realm (from the street, to the BPD, to the courthouse, city hall, the ports, the newsroom) – is the most amazing writing I’ve ever seen. Watching each character grow into a previous one is riveting, and the guessing game made me click the next episode each time.
Incredible. Wish there was more, or at least a book.
I just finished watching the entire run of the series a couple of nights ago. I started college as a J-student and later moved to English. I sure noticed the theme of unreported stories in season five.
I loved the series. It was a great work of art. In particular, I admired how each character was so fully realized within their part of the story arc.
Your story mirrors mine, exactly.
I worked at a small, local tabloid, before entering J-school, and rapidly became frustrated as I was lectured on ‘hooks’ and ‘handles’. I learned more from two weeks of practical work, than an entire year of overpaid theory, and eventually switched to English, because I couldn’t stand a style that, to me, was tantamount to lying.
I just re-watched the entire series, and it’s amazing how well it still holds up.
Amazing, and sad.
What to say, what to say, what to say? This show leaves me completely speechless. The writing, the directing, the acting, the story arcs: are all amazing. I’m literally addicted to this show, and watch it through at least 3-4 times a year. Don’t even know where to start, and I don’t think I can critique anything about this show because it critiques itself. Everything that happens on this show is explained, the more times that you watch it through. I was only introduced to this show in 2014 by a friend in college at Washington State University that let me borrow is DVD’s one season at a time, and I bought the DVD box set shortly thereafter. I just recently bought the Blu-ray box set as well, just to have it in both editions and to see the reunion at the Paley Center. When I say I’m an addict to this show I honestly feel like the fiends depicted in the show that don’t creep out of their addiction like Bubs happened to do. My friend letting me borrow season one was the tester, and I kept going back for the “yellow tops” or that “WMD” (the rest of the seasons). Every single time I watch this show over again, I notice something I never saw before, and get instant gratification for going back again and re-watching it. For example, for my first watch through, I was bored with Season two. I was watching for the Barksdale arc and didn’t know how important season two was in the overall visual novel. On my third or fourth watch through season two became my second favorite season, after season 4 of course. My original ranking was honestly 4-1-3-5-2 with my first watch. Now it’s so hard to even rank the seasons because they are all so important to the overall story. If I was forced, I think I’d go with 4-2-1-3-5, with 1 and 3 tied. The amount of quotables in this show is amazing. I couldn’t believe the level of writing and literary presence of this show. I have no idea how you were able to pick one quote out of the whole episode, to show at the beginning because almost every line is of substance. I guess I’m just ranting about how I fell in love with this show and can never get enough of it. Favorite scene is Avon visiting The Pit. Just the slow motion walk through of him seeing his operation in action, and the perfect timing of Polk (or Mahone?) missing such a vital snap shot to the Barksdale case. I fucking love this show. In closing, I missed you Mr. Simon, coming to do a panel at my school Washington State University in 2012 I think it was, because I had no idea about the show at that time. I had only heard of it but didn’t know it was the drug I needed in my life to actively engage in social discussions the way you do so well in this series. I wish I attended that panel, and heard the insight I’m sure you provided. Much respect, and I hope you still read these.
-WIRE FAN IN 2016.
Love your comment. Almost perfectly sums up my feelings about the series. The fact that my appreciation for every single season changed over time due to rewatching the show over and over, proves how good this series as a whole really is. I too felt really indecisive about season 2 on my first watch and have grown to love it more and more over time, just like you. I still rewatch twice a year and its my all-time favourite series. The depth, the acting, the setting, the pace, it’s all ‘spot on’ :p
Peace my fellow fan
– Wire fan in 2017
I love this show. Love it. Would still give Breaking Bad the nod over The Wire as a better show though.
Both shows only went 5 seasons but BB tied up the loose ends and made the ending much easier to swallow than TW did.
Why couldn’t we have gone one more season with the show? I know you were trying to show the 5 different aspects of what goes down in a city David Simon but one more season that just wraps everything up in a nice little bow would have been perfect.
But alas, a great show nonetheless.
My husband watched this series on HBO, I must of been working. I had no memory of this series, he forgot the name, I researched it and found it. I binged watch all 5 seasons, The Wire is the best tv series in tv history. My favorite character was ” bubs”, I knew someone like him. Melvin Wiliams passed today RIP!
A QUESTION ABOUT SEASON 3 HAMSTERDAM:
I always thought the crime reduction % that Colvin reports as a result of his Hamsterdam experiment were too low. I think it was something like a 14% reduction in crimes such as shootings and aggravated assault. Let’s say there used to be 20 of those crimes per month – a 14% reduction would mean there were now 17 of those crimes instead of 20. So they went from 20 to 17. The pictures of his cleaned up corners and happy citizens as a result of Hamsterdam would suggest that the drop was much larger than that 14%.
I love the Hamsterdam plot. Anyway, remember that Colvin’s 14% were clean numbers (he didn’t juke the stats) so 14% is a large increase if you look at it that way. And remember the part where you saw the lady outside selling snowballs, the postal carrier was able to deliver mail, people were outside hanging laundry so you could tell that the 14% drop was substantial in that district.
I’ve just completed my third viewing of the entire series. I came late to The Wire, having heard many great things about it from others over the years. Eventually I bought the box set a few years ago and binge watched all five seasons.
I see commentary all the time where the seasons are ranked and there seems to be a common thread. Most commentary has season 4 as the best and has season 5 as the least best. I can’t bring myself to use words like the worst, or the weakest, when duscussing a series that is so well written.
For me, the series is not about the individual seasons. It is a heart trending, visceral, honest portrayal of a modern city. Every time I sit down to watch it again, more and more of the depth reveals itself. No television series has ever lived with me the way The Wire has.
The excellence of Seasons 2 and 5, and how they are an integral part of the whole, are particularly revealed on repeat viewing. The clues about The Sun missing important stories are there in plain sight. Gus pointing at the screen when Clay Davis is doing his interview outside the grand jury and wondering why the paper missed it. Gus opining that there was a time when no perp walk would take place with a call first being made to the broadsheets to make sure it was covered. Flagg on his last day being the only one who could tap in to the police department to get the low down on Burrell’s removal.
I love season 5. I love all 5 seasons!
Damn, I think I might just sit down and watch the whole thing again to see what else I’ve missed.
Flagg?? I was reading The Stand at the time I posted that response. I meant To say Roger Twigg.
Season 5 in a nut shell is explained in the opening scene by bunk
“the bigger the lie, the more they believe”
“Americans are stupid ppl by and larger, they pretty much believe whatever we tell them”
“how many years you figure we been doing the same shit.”
It’s about the media and powers that manipulating the masses to support a war in Iraq fought on false pretenses.
Or maybe I’m just wearing my tinfoil hat
Or the way alma glossed over Omar’s death…I had a feeling like if she woulda mentioned his name, gus wouldve immediately recognized it and said no-heart anthonys brother? or something, but instead he was just another man shot, and his name fittingly echoed into the folklore of the streets
I’m a latecomer to The Wire and I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen on television. Or maybe anywhere. For so many reasons. Having worked (briefly) with troubled inner city kids, I thought my heart would break–and it did–during season 4. And being a refuge from a newsroom, I thought I was over my grief at the death of real journalism. I’m not. Thank you for telling these stories. (And yes, I got the theme. I was born with scoop mentality and it’s never left me. Missing a story–I’m still writing–still kills me.)
[…] own slashed staffs and cutbacks, leaving a major metropolitan newspaper that wound up — as Simon acerbically noted at the time — “missing the whole […]
I just finished the final episode of ‘The Wire’. It had been on my entertainment backlog since 2002 – I’d ‘got hold’ of the first season before it had been shown in the UK at all – being a quality TV (and I apologize for using this sensitive word considering the context of various storylines) junkie, but for various reasons…I was deferring gratification if you will.
So – thank you – for such an absolute terrific ride.
Season 5 was tremendous, I can only assume the criticism comes from those who still believe that high standards of journalistic integrity are still the goal of the modern news room.
I think not. Journalism is and has been an absolute shambles in the UK since I was a kid in the 80’s. And today, with the availability of information (political manifestos, open sites describing tax laws, politicians own blogs describing their veiled reasons behind why their nest needs feathering) etc, it’s still so easy to spot journalists turning a blind eye – and I can only assume either lazily or complicity ignoring the data to suit a narrative they’ve been fed, or have a vested interest in continuing. Some shameful shit right there.
So well done Sir.
One last thing though ….Duquan. Damn – I needed that lad to have a happy ending!
Yes, my heart broke for Duquie, too.
If anything I learned after watching The Wire series (for my 4th or 5th time) is that quick comments or knee-jerk reactions about the themes discussed “just don’t play.” Firstly thank you David Simon, Ed Burns and a host of talented and courageous collaborators for telling it like it is. That’s it. The major American cities are in woeful shape and for various reasons we can not or will not stop this slow-moving train. Reform…that word evokes so many thoughts for me now after watching The Wire.
That said, I thank you for the bitter pill. I was already a cynic before 9/11, then The Wire came. The Drug Game, The Cops, The Port, City Hall, The Schools and The Newspaper. The game is rigged and I’m not sure if I wanna play. But if I don’t play how can I and everyone else fix the rules? I guess Cedric Daniels, Stringer Bell and Bunny Colvin tried with horrible results. But if we give up…then what? David Simon I don’t think you have given up yet or maybe you would go off and retire like Marlo. But wait Marlo had to head back to those corners to be himself…the individual. Maybe enough individuals can make an impact…or at least make an impact on more individuals. You made an impact on me David. Thank you. BTW please make enough money to buy The Baltimore Sun and give it the love it so desperately needs. I can dream sometimes, right?
I’ve re-watched this entire series again recently with the HD release (probably my 4th or 5th time watching the entire series) and in many ways it gets better the more I watch it. I feel as if I understand it better and see more with each viewing.
It wasn’t until maybe the 3rd time that I understood these theme about the newsroom. I guess I understood it was there in some sense but initially the theme I was focused on were the institutional problems in the newsroom that are so similar to the problems in other institutions featured in the series. And while I tell everyone who will listen that this is the best show ever made I do feel Season 5 had some hokey yet prominent elements. For instance the homeless serial killer story and the idea that this would be more politically important than closing a case where 22 murdered bodies were hidden away in vacants all over the city.
Also the deal they made with Marlo at the end where he would be free was just nonsensical, unless you want to believe that the DA’s office is incredibly pure and moral and would never want to go to court and bust a guy they know is a major killer just because there is a little dirt in their investigation. What really made Season 5 for me was Gus and the newsroom in general. After watching the awful Sorkin show “The Newsroom” that was so dumb and naive it was nice to see some smart and realistic drama about a newsroom.
[…] The Wire’s Final Season and the Story Everyone Missed, by David Simon […]
since 2010 ive been watching the wire every year (2 tiems this year mind ) Ive tried many times to get family and friends into it and it never happens which really upsets me very much, quite simply the wire has the best charaters, the best acting and defo the best script ever. but please dont make anymore.
I even tried going back and watching homicide life on the street but without Bunk and McNulty just couldnt get into it.
Caught the wire over a year ago & I’ve watched it 3 times through since then. Fantastic series & I’ll tell anyone that’s it’s the best series I’ve ever seen. The newsroom story arc wasn’t lost on me i believe some of the characters in the newsroom just didn’t grip you as much as the other areas which makes it seem the weaker part. I loved how the series showed it’s one big circle & for everyone person saved bubbles there’s a dookie, Marlo trying to become stringer but him being more like avon, Michael becoming the new Omar & many more. I would have liked to have seen more scenes with randy & neymond though just to make it feel like they hadn’t been forgotten especially as Michael & dookie didn’t even mention them by name about same with nick sabotka maybe a conversation about the docks with someone after abusing the mayor & kracheck I like how it felt like a big open world & people could bump into each other. The port was referenced a couple of times but would have liked to have a bit more substance so it felt like it all fit. I’m nitpicking though I loved seeing the little references to old characters even sourvino being in the final series… Top series
David, let me first congratulate you on making one of the most riveting series to have ever graced the global stage. Hopefully there is some point in time when the majority of people become a little smarter and catch up w/ the intelligence this show possesses.
Thinking back on Season 5, there’s an interesting dynamic I think I picked up and just would like to know if it was intentional or if I’m just reading too much into things. During the political campaign in Season 3, when Royce was facing pressure from Carcetti, there is a subtle glimpse into the racial component. By that, I mean the sense from many of white politicians in the city holding this belief that the city was corrupted because “blacks” were the ones that made up the majority of the police department, and had a black mayor in Royce. I’m sure that to many of these guys, getting Carcetti elected would do as much to inject fresh blood into the city’s political processes as it would clear up the problem of “those blacks” corrupting the process, nevermind how ridiculous those sorts of notions hold up.
Season 4 seemed to show Carcetti living up to their ideals, and it *did* seem like things were getting cleaned up. Carcetti seemed to both indirectly affirm the beliefs of the more racist/prejudiced white politicians that a white mayor who could possibly whiten up the administration, would weed out the corruption, and at the same time did his best to work with the black members of the city’s congress, businesses, police force and school systems, etc.
And then Season 5 happens. In the end, Carcetti, despite being white, was not able to avoid the same trappings of stat-juking number games and political favoritism as his predecessor, Royce, or the mayor before that. The people changed but the game remained exactly the same. But what is particularly interesting is, aside from McNulty, many of the white characters in the season engage in almost the same amount and level of corrupted games as their black counterparts, in some cases moreso. And, just like the black counterparts, almost all of them gain some level of career advancement, be it Rawl’s promotion to superintendent, Pearlman’s to judge, Hurk’s ascension in the legal realm (admitably his is more “honest” than the others, since he wanted the same things McNulty and Freamon wanted, and he actually suffers the consequences of his mess-up in Season 4), Carcetti, Templeton, etc.
Comparatively, many of the black characters who could have made gains by playing the same game, either didn’t or chose not to. Daniels is probably the best example of this, but to a lesser extent so is Freamon, whose “corrupted” (by definition of the law) actions lead to retirement from the police force.
That being said, I think what was really being pointed out here, is that the sorts who were under the feeling that “the blacks” were ruining the city, more or less knew quite well that such levels of corruption in the legal bodies was not limited by race, as Season 5 shows, and that just like w/ many of the black characters, many of the white characters benefit professionally for their lies, cover-ups and stat-jukings. I found it as an interesting way to dispel the notion that one given group of people is more inclined or “indoctrinated” to corruption and lies than the other, but also that in any given sector of a society, you will usually find it is those who know that very truth full and well, who perpetuate that lie, in order to make themselves feel better about their shortcomings.
…Of course, given if any of that is there. I think it is, but I’d like to hear your opinion on this. And again, great work on this terrific series; don’t let the naysayers get to you on Season 5, I found it every bit as good as the previous 4. Just wished it had a normal (13) episode count.
First off, really fantastic article. I just marathoned the entire series in less than 2 weeks (okay, so I’m unemployed & have the time on my hands) and now I see why The Wire got so much acclaim in its day. Having grown up on the southeast side of PG County inside the Beltway, I can tell you that The Wire was a hit right between the eyes. If I didn’t know the show was set in Baltimore it just as easily could have been set in Lanham, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Temple Hills, Forestville…. basically that whole hood that was the result of DC trying to lower crime stats by forcing all the hood rats over the Maryland line. The apartment complex we lived in was actually the subject of a widely publicized reformation project (in ’96) after having the highest rates of violent crime in the district for 12 years. The political corruption, the cronyism, the back-asswards views on racism which prevent all minorities from getting a real say in anything lest they be deemed “racist”- and most agonizingly, the completely screwball insanity that is the PG County school system is exactly like the way you depicted life in Baltimore.
It’s disappointing to read the entire comment thread and see that no one picked up on those journalistic themes either, but I saw every single one of them- which is why I watched season 5 in total frustration as every cut back to the Baltimore Sun went straight into the same mire of bullshit all journalists everywhere in America now live in. But I’ll get back to the journalism angle momentarily.
The biggest pisser-offers for me in the series were the assclowns in the police department who clearly don’t give a shit about what actually happens to actual people. Particularly the fat guy in homicide (who pissed me off so much I blocked out the characters’ name from memory) who would rather jerk off behind his desk to titty mags and suck off the government nipple while the whole city goes up in flames. Rawls and Valchek were just as bad- and the reason they all irked me so much is because it’s way closer to the truth than people want to admit. Ohhh, and the commissioner and Senator Davis, you might as well have been talking about our infamous Marion Barry and his cronies all over the place. -And Herc? Herc just needed to get run over, along with Levy, and bleed out slowly suffering much in the process. THOSE cops and THOSE lawyers definitely exist in abundance in all over D.C., the southside, and Baltimore.
Season 4 was the hardest for me to take. The school system is closest to my heart because I grew up in that sad, irreparable school system and the stories of those kids were the ones I really hoped would resolve better so you knew that in the end, at least SOMEONE in that hood got a real chance. I am glad you landed Naymond softly but Randy getting beat down again in the group home then showing up for a second in season 5 STILL in a group home- couldn’t Carver have at least followed through on ONE good intention and taken him out of that system?! But most of all, that poor child Duquan who did nothing but suffer from beginning to end. His entire life he had nothing and no one then ends up back on the street with a needle in his arm. Yes, that IS the truth for kids all over the DMV (“D.C., Maryland, Virginia”) but I really wish, David, you could have shown him some compassion as the most innocent among them really deserved some kind of redemption. It was all very realistic and extremely tough to watch.
What is most unfortunate is that your scathing and accurate critique of Washington D.C’s left armpit (with PG County being it’s right) and really the entire D.C. area will always be written off as great entertainment and remembered as one of the best shows ever on television. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for you and the other writers/producers/actors/HBO- but even the best portrayal of life in the Charm City won’t be enough to change anything. The systemic problems of the DMV are way too deep and the people in charge are way too invested in their petty self-interests to ever have it another way.
Circling back to the journalism angle in season 5 and your above article, it is sad that so many people missed the real commentary about the total lack of journalistic integrity- not just in B’more but in the whole country. While we have been in the longest war in U.S. history we have had to sit through endless sensationalism about: Jeb Bush’s crackhead niece Noelle Bush; Terry Schiavo; Tiger Woods; Casey Anthony; Treyvon Martin then George Zimmerman; Michael Brown; and it will never end. Meanwhile our federal government has wholesaled our highway systems, infrastructure, and debt to any country that was buying while dropping trillions of dollars into the pockets of Halliburton and the rest of the 1% in the name of “fighting a war on terror.” Please. The next thing journalists should be writing about is the impending fall of the U.S. empire, because it’s coming and we’re gonna see it in our lifetimes. Another topic for another time, but don’t wait on our news media to report it.
I must comment on the general disappointment around season 5 though:
I too was bored by the whole Baltimore Sun room and cast. There wasn’t a single interesting person in that arc, except maybe the copy editor championing integrity at all costs. Every cut back to that newsroom made me almost fast-forward save for not wanting to miss something that is important to the rest of the story. McNulty crossing the Rubicon with the fake serial-killer angle brought up an appropriate amount of conflict about the age-old Does the End Justify the Means question, but really, to have BOTH Greggs AND Herc sell him out?! With no consequences for either, even Herc the Assclown who monumentally fucked up every single case he was put on? I may be the only one who remembers how he blew two critical moments in the Port case during season 2 all due to his general stupidity and self-centeredness- along with being responsible for Randy’s torment due Herc selling him out to find the camera he lost AND poor Bubbles getting brutalized on the street over and over for the exact same reason. Really, someone should have put it to Herc, you have to admit. Although I understand the validity of some of the endings, I really was disappointed with season 5. Omar and Prop Joe were the last good guys among the bad guys and both of them had to go down, while Snoop the Psycho Bitch who deserved at least a few weeks of good torture gets off easy with a single shot to the head. And it is clear that between Marlo, Snoop, and Chris, their real game was killing. Drugs were just an excuse to pursue their passion, because it is clear that wacking people is what they loved. I mean it’s obvious all three of them enjoyed it way too much for a normal gangster who just wanted someone out of their way- and Marlo’s final shot licking the blood off his sleeve just about proves that that guy was about to go on a black Manson killing spree had the story logically continued from its stopping point.
All in all, you really gave us a lot to think about. I just wish more Americans were still capable of thinking. In the annals of time, you documented as close to the reality of the DMV as you could get away with, it’s just too bad that people will always be calling it “fiction.”
(*this is a better-edited version of my prior comment)
Ps. One thing I forgot to mention is that I absolutely LOVED the continuity of the whole show. Loved how one episode segues seamlessly into the next, and one season covers one full story in depth rather than typical crime dramas that present a problem and a resolution all in 43 minutes. Even more awesome is how you actually continued that same thread from one season to the next, taking one subject matter and examining it from all the angles that make up the context of the entire problem. No show has ever, EVER done that.
Rock on, Simon. Rock on.
David. Beautiful. Everyone who complanes about season 5 is just mourning. I wanted catharis too…but I was raised on ER.
The great irony (relative to the final season) is that the criticism being leveled against NCLB and the war on drugs was lost on the real-life media in the very same way that The Wire’s Baltimore Sun “missed” those very same things in the show. In this sense, life-imitates-art just as art-imitates-life. It is for this reason that I think Season 5 is so brilliant. The plot simply provided context and structure for socio-political criticism. What a way for a series to go out….
Great blog, it confirms my suspicions of the final season but wasn’t enough to change my mind about it. Not that your intention with this blog was to do that. I agree with the message of Season 5, just not the execution. The reason I loved the Wire was because it felt REAL. Almost everything in the show from the dialogue to the outcomes felt refreshingly believable. This feeling of gritty realism was lost on me during the McNulty fake-killer arc. I felt it was entirely too unrealistic and borderline offensive to the shows entire structure. I understand the story and the tie-in’s that you wrote about in this very blog, but I feel like you could have highlighted the ‘bullshit’ of the media without compromising the core of The Wire, unrelenting, brutal, realism.
Anyway, that’s all. I loved the show, it’s in my top 5 of all time and I can’t imagine it going anywhere. I did enjoy everything else about Season 5. Thanks for making a great series.
Nothing like unrelenting brutal, realism. Hamsterdam, say.
Ha! Well played. I guess I will have to reflect on why I could easily accept Hamsterdam and not the phony killer. You win.
Thanks for the response, even if it got the best of me! 🙂
Great job started watching a lil when I was in like 4th or 5th grade before I really understood all of it but re watched it recently and it’s my favorite series. Think season 5 could of been way better but liked how Omar died didn’t expected it from the little kid. When the big bust happen since the wire to wasn’t legal I figured Marlo was going free. Also liked how micheal played through the all series always looking out for people around him and outsmarting snoop at the end
Good series wish could of been another series though!
Thank you for such an amazing show. I just watched all 5 seasons over the past couple weeks and it was a pleasure. Thank you for this clue-in as well, I admit I missed most of it.
Better late than never, right?
David-I just finished the entire series in about a week. Wow…Im emotionally drained. Any criticism you get is unwarranted. Season 5 was great. It was nuanced and I really saw Gus as the lead protagonist of this season and lester and mcnulty as shifty antagonists. I hated Marlo for his ruthlessness but I respect that you gave him a realistic ending-they could not realistically build a case against him bc of police corruption.
Good god, this was the most amazing show I’ve seen in ever.
I just binge-watched the last 3 seasons after slowly going through 1 & 2 and I feel regret that I almost missed out on this amazing thing that started basically a decade ago when I was just starting high school.
I’m sad I missed all the hoopla, the reviews, analysis, any interviews and behind the scenes footage that was released with and right after the show ended. Of course, it’s all still out there, and I can find it and watch it and still enjoy it all, but I feel like I’m a decade late to the party. I got my invitation late in the mail and I may as well just see all the videos and photos and banter about it on people’s social media profiles.
This show, it’s impact, the things it’s talked about directly and indirectly (as shown above) has along with all that impacted me, and I feel like I’ve got enough influence from this show alone to myself sit down and write like I’ve been wanting to do, but not just any writing, but writing that’s thoughtful as well as entertaining, and also writing that matters.
This show mattered and it still does. I’m so glad I got to bear witness to it, even if I was late.
David, I just wanted to take a brief moment (6 years later) to thank you for both an amazing show and this write up of your thoughts and insights into S5. Like another commenter, I only noticed the Prop Joe story being missed/overshadowed by the Sun.
I knew that in a general sense the overarching theme was the demise of quality of news journalism, but finishing my binge of the season tonight (after having avoided the show for years fearing it was over-hyped and couldn’t live up – boy was I wrong!) the biggest feeling that I was left with was that of Newton’s Third Law of Physics, the action-reaction law. I was leaning more towards something karmic, but it’s clear that many of the characters did not get what was coming to them. However, each action, no matter how small, led to clear and defined reactions that changed the course of events. It was especially poignant seeing all the since-deceased (or reformed, there’s no way I could overlook or forget Dukie becoming Bubbles) characters’ roles being filled by the “New Age.”
Anyway, I’m straying from my point: thank you for defining this additional layer to the theme of S5. It was too subtle for me to catch on my first watch, and I’m sure a 10 hour binge made it even easier to gloss over. It’s especially shameful that the media did not pick up on this. It’s quite apparent that today’s 24 hour news cycle is entirely based on sensationalist impact stories. In fact, when I was delivering newspapers as a kid back in the 90s I became incredibly skeptical of the news I was delivering. Once I learned that wrestling was faked I began to wonder what else on TV, or in print, was fabricated or “enhanced.” Then the Lewinsky story broke and dominated, and I lost even more faith. Even as a child I remember sifting through the paper wondering what a presidential blowjob has to do with anything important. This season has opened up my eyes to an important point: what exactly are we missing by focusing on all this sensationalist garbage? Even recently I remember watching CNN and they were covering the Treyvon Martin case seemingly 24/7 and in the news ticker at the bottom of the screen there was the briefest mention of some protest in Egypt. While the Arab Spring was happening, the only thing you could find on news TV was tabloid coverage of a murder case.
In response to a few specific complaints I’ve come across rather frequently in regards to the season:
How is it remotely plausible that Marlo walked free? Given the corruption in the Baltimore you portrayed, it isn’t hard to imagine an offender being released for even more serious charges. The case was based on a wealth of curruption and illegal detective work and the need for self-preservation could easily allow for a deal to be made. The vacant murders and 2 lieutenants getting lengthy sentences in exchange for Marlo exiting the business is not hard to wrap your head around.
Omar’s death/Omar returning to Baltimore: We all wanted to see Omar’s last stand be in a bloody shootout with a high body count, but anyone paying attention to the story being told knew it wouldn’t go down like that. It was pretty much written on the wall for us when that one kid didn’t run away from Omar. I knew in my bones as he walked up to the convenience store something bad was going to happen. To the people saying he was stupid for returning to Baltimore in the first place: Marlo used the perfect bait. While he is cold and calculating, from the moment we met him Omar has a big heart and made decisions based on his emotional reaction.
The finale was weak/unsatisfying: I feel that the people who express this opinion don’t quite understand the type of storytelling that you were going for. To me, The Wire was told as an epic novel. In this format you’re not going to have stark revelations, a happy and blissful montage followed by a cut to black. To me, the climactic conclusion of the show happened in S5E9 and E10 was more of the epilogue, allowing us to digest what happened and gain some insight on where things are headed for the city.
Anyway, I’ve gone on for far too long here. Ultimately, thank you for such an epic drama! I sincerely believe S4 is the best season of any show in existence and overall, The Wire is the best-told story I’ve ever experienced in television.
It’s tremendously unfortunate a potentially amazing show was turned into a cute little art project. It’s like the artist was told by everyone he’s a genius, so he gets an inflated ego and starts throwing out abstract garbage and lording over it with the ultimate smugness. Then when people point out the garbage it becomes oh-so esoteric. “It’s not garbage, they just don’t get it”. Whatever you say, arthouse. See if you can purse your lips any tighter or hold your nose any higher.
You seem angry. Six years later. Over a television drama.
No. He’s just being painfully honest. Isn’t that what your essay calls for?
“Purse your lips any tighter or hold your nose any higher”? I dunno. Seemed pretty angry to me.
You don’t like the last season of a television drama, feel free to venture an opinion. You wanna say so on the producer’s blog, no worries. Explain your displeasure in detail, no problem.
The original essay doesn’t do anything to counter anyone’s opinions as to whether “The Wire” was good, bad, or indifferent. The essay notes, accurately, that no one picked up on how disassociative the media has become to the actual issues and realities of the depicted Baltimore in the drama. That was thematic and no one commented on the argument, which I found disappointing.
You wanna say who cares, the story sucked? Okay. You wanna say that its an unfair representation of modern journalism? I’m interested. You wanna explain where the argument is inconsistent? Great.
You want to suggest that the creator of the project has his nose in the air for being interested in the matter at all, and that you have some insight into his temperament? Well, okay. But having left the topic at hand to engage in ad hominem characterization, you can’t very well expect anything less in return. If my state of mind can be presumed by this fellow, certainly I’m entitled to note his own. Painfully honest? I dunno. It’s not painful to me. Maybe it’s honest. But “inflated ego,” “ultimate smugness,” etc? Maybe the guy’s just kind of being a dickhead here.
Well said, David. I certainly read that last post and thought that’s angry. Regarding the final season, was there any sort of fake serial killer or fake serial criminal real-life story that inspired you? Did you always have in mind from the start to have the fake news/fake crime stories play in tandem? Thanks for a great series and compelling stories and characters, in what was often a pretty bleak scene.
When the Wire was first broadcast, in 2002, I decided not to watch it because of the hype. i do not like hyped up shows, because of an innate sense of superiority which makes me believe than anything that other people like cannot be good. A few months ago I decided to give it a go and, as you can imagine, I fell in love. I watched all five series back to back in less than a month… bit of an overdose I guess, but just couldn’t stop. And I thanks you for that, because you gave us a piece of truth storytelling.
Now, the fifth season was a bit of a problem. Not because I missed the point about your critique of the journalist world, I got that, but because you sacrificed some of your best characters to get your point across. The serial killer story was just too silly. Ok, maybe I can believe that McNulty would come up with a silly story to get the wire going, maybe, but Lester? Really? And why would carcetti suddenly give them all the money? Why would he care about the homeless? And Kima, would she really be snitching on them? Wouldn’t she confront them first?
And Omar, well I can understand his death, tragic, but it was more realistic than a final bloodfest. But why would he go around looking for Marlo, wasn’t he a bit smarter than that? What he suddenly turns stupid?
But thanks for creating some of the best characters in TV history. I actually cared about them as if they were real… well, nearly!
I’m watching Treme now. It’s a great show!
Wow, I can’t believe that went over my head too David. I was focused solely on the fact that the the newspaper was in a battle over the homelessness killings issue in a sense that their biggest problem right now was sensationalism and lies versus honest reporting.
But it went over my head, that the newspaper, completely missed every major story about what went on in the city. Focused on a fake serial killer, they missed rampant corruption in the city government, missed obvious lying and stat juking in the police department, missed the penetration of the law courts by shady lawyers etc.
So it makes you wonder what actually gets reported and what we all miss day in and day out. There’s a reason people say you’re a genius and why your show is perhaps the best in history.
The Wire is my favorite show of all time, but Season 5 was definitely the weakest. The only story that I noticed that the newspaper missed was when they mentioned Prop Joe. I just thought it was depressing that someone that big in the community wasn’t well known by the newspaper people, but for some reason I didn’t really put any more thought into them missing things. I think the biggest problem with Season 5 is that the Sun people were kind of boring and so many of them were one note. You had the ambitious lying dick with no redeemable qualities, the very honorable and honest veteran, some young black guy who covered Bubbles, the villainous senior editors, and a girl who was a good reporter.
I know this criticism in no way helps, the show is long done with, but I loved everything about the 5th season except for the newspaper guys. The ending was perfect, the way Omar died was perfect, the serial killer thing was perfect, but then whenever it cut back to that newsroom it dragged.
Thank you so much for making The Wire, it ruined every other tv show. Now I just read and laugh at bad writing on other TV shows. I’m an asshole.
I absolutely love The Wire so I mean no disrespect when I say this (aren’t prefaces like that always inevitably followed by something kinda shitty and disrespectful?) but what the hell happened with the last season? Marlo gets away clean and he keeps his money, Avon lives happily ever after in prison, McNulty gets screwed, the lying reporter wins a damn Pulitzer, and oh yeah, OMAR GETS KILLED BY A LITTLE KID?! What the hell, man? Did you guys just intentionally try to deliver a shitty, unsatisfying conclusion so you can feel like you didn’t pander to the audience or compromise your artistic vision or some shit? Or are you just that pissed and depressed about the world that you can’t help but force your misery on your viewers? At least you’re not complete sadists. You let Bubbles live. Only silver lining to that dark cloud of a series. Still, all that being said, it was a hell of a ride and still the best damn tv series ever made. Other than Breaking Bad. Okay, you probably hate me by now so I’ll shut up. Take it light but take it. Peace, yo. I’m out.
Sorry. We told the precise story we wished to tell and what happened was supposed to happen. If you didn’t dig it, then you didn’t dig it.
But all the endings mean something and other endings would have been the wrong ones.
I feel like an asshole now for saying some of that stuff. Who am I to bitch about how you decided to end your own show? I do honestly feel that way about the ending but telling you that personally (digitally, whatever) was completely asinine and unnecessary. My comment amounts to little more than unwanted negative feedback for a show that ended 5 years ago. So fuck what I said. You’re fuckin’ awesome. Burns is fuckin’ awesome. Pelecanos, Lehane, Price, Alvarez, Zorzi, the directors, cast, the whole lot. Thank you for your ridiculously worthwhile contributions to humanity.
No worries. No story is subject to referendum, at least not in my shop. We do what we do and people are free to react as they will. It’s not likely to change our reasons for telling the stories we do, but neither is the criticism necessarily invalid or unwarranted.
But thanks for your kind words.
I just watched all 5 seasons in short order. It was amazing television. Can you give any specific insight into why Marlo was let to walk away unscathed. Not everything can have a happy ending, I understand. but I believe even his murder would have been more satisfying for viewers who were waiting for his comeuppance.
There is always a player in the on deck circle, even when the final out is being recorded. It’s all in the game yo.
You know nothing Jon snow
It worked, I thought it fell short of the seasons 3, and 4. By the way, I’ve been through journo school in NZ, although I didn’t pass (I dropped out), my tutor told me that NZ doesn’t have the same problems as the USA regarding the demise of newspapers, because, according to him, NZ newspapers already run on a hard core skeleton staffing level with no subcutaneous fat…which I always thought was bullshit. Thanks for the reply.
Interesting article. I feel better about missing the plot about The Baltimore Sun newspaper missing important stories, now I know that the pros missed it too. Season five was the weakest season imho. Too short. Maybe you were too close?
For me, it’s all of a piece. Each season building toward a singular, connected argument. And no, I think season five achieved its goals as the other season, with me being no closer to the world of journalism than others on our writing staff were to the other worlds depicted. I know that is a meta-narrative that some people find credible, but I could as easily and as credibly argue that the meta-narrative itself stems from newspaper critics who were too close and too sensitive to the overall critique. But then I would be as guilty of lazy ad hominem as they have been in assessing the work.
The more honest assessment is that it doesn’t matter where I stand, or where Ed Burn stands, or what I think. If season five didn’t work for you, then it didn’t work for you. It’s a subjective matter that isn’t worth a good argument, especially if, like me, you don’t see the seasons as distinct but cumulative. But you’re entitled to enjoy one thing more than another, and you’re even entitled to wonder about a filmmaker’s or writer’s motivations and standing, whether or not you actually have any evidence of its relevance or not.
” If season five didn’t work for you, then it didn’t work for you. It’s a subjective matter that isn’t worth a good argument, ”
If you took out subjective arguments about popular entertainment, the nation would free up a lot of bandwidth and many repetitive stress injuries would be avoided.
I would want us to argue subjectively about public policy and social issues. At least the stakes matter.