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Footnotes to Infamy
Review of The Wire: Season One
© 2012 James LaFond
The Wire: Season One
A Belated Review of the HBO Miniseries
Copyright 2012 James LaFond
I once heard an interview with Roger Simon, a local Baltimore reporter, when his book Homicide came out. He went on to do well for himself with a TV series, and two HBO miniseries, one of which was The Wire. I knew about The Wire when it aired: that it was gritty, controversial, and that the mayor’s office hated it and eventually suppressed it. I even caught the #1 bus at a stop decorated with HBO promos for the show. Although interested in this, it being in my literary area, I intentionally avoided seeing the miniseries.
You see, in 1996, when I began writing my first book, I purchased a number of books by the publishers I would be submitting the work to, in order to make sure I wasn’t covering some well-trodden path. I wanted to produce something unique. I read the books of Quinn and MacYoung so that I would not duplicate their work. Upon reading them I found some useful information I wished to point out and duly credited the authors. Then, when that book came out, I was accused of trying to be like them, and was criticized by one of the authors himself in an e-mail for not being original. That was a lesson well-learned.
So with all of my Harm City stuff still in the works I did not want to take a chance of being a Roger Simon impersonator and avoided any chance that his work might influence mine by avoiding it. Last month Charles gave me the first season of The Wire, and asked me to review it for the website.
I love the soundtrack. The writing is not predictable and is irreverent enough for the genre. I am not into cop shows but this is different. You see things from the criminal perspective and the police perspective. I think the acting is very good, and the action is tactfully downplayed. The onsite filming is impressive and the dialect is spot on. They must have used a good dialogue coach and a lot of area people.
The ambiance of Baltimore, down to the curiously repulsive aggregate that takes the place of soil in the city: soot, clay, glass and eroded concrete, made viewing this a creepy experience. I have been in the strip-club where they filmed the interiors of the Barksdale Crew’s headquarters. The part that rang truest to me about the whole setting is the boy drug-dealers in the Low Rises living outside on an old couch. Overall the series reminds me of what I go inside to avoid, and now I am watching it on my computer…
For authenticity sake the story stays on point with the repression of unprotected witnesses by criminal syndicates and the suppression of the police by the criminal politicians that milk the city dry and share in the drug trade profits.
In Episode #3 legendary boxing trainer Mack Lewis played himself being visited by a detective looking for a photo of a criminal who used to box. The gym he was filmed in was not his Eager Street Gym.
The cemetery where the detectives meet Omar and his boyfriend in Episode #5 is Holy Redeemer and is located on Moravia Road. My brother is buried there, and George, from the Logic of Steel and When You’re Food worked there as a grave-digger for a while.
I liked the First Season, and it is very authentic to Baltimore. I don’t know how much of it I can stomach in my own living space though. It’s that real.
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