“We got our thing, but it’s just part of the big thing.” - Zenobia
If you’ve spoken to me recently, or if you’re one of about six people I forced to read my last post on my defunct first blog attempt, you know that Sunday night was a pretty frickin’ huge event for me.
The last season of the best television project I’ve ever seen, The Wire, started its run, leaving me both fulfilled and really, actually nervous about how the last chapter will play out, how it will integrate a topic—journalism and its discontents—near and dear to my heart, and how it will affect the show’s legacy.
say write “chapter” intentionally, because, as umpteen pundits have pointed out, the show is more “televised novel” than “Dramatic Series” (or whatever category the Emmys have UTTERLY SNUBBED it in). I write “legacy” intentionally because I’m all too aware that the show pulls fewer viewers right now than even a modest hit like “Big Love,” so its best chance of actual impact lies in that new kind of never-ending memorial service known as a DVD boxed set.
But blah blah “What the show means” and yada yada “Where is this season headed?” (for that kind of thing—but good—bookmark Slate’s TV Club for this season). Here’s just a few take-aways, good and bad.
Bunk—The first shot of the first scene of the first episode is a long, multi-line mind-f#$% by homicide Detective William “Bunk” Moreland on a gullible murder suspect, and it’s a great “welcome back” for long-time fans. The man just carries any scene he’s in, bringing menace, mirth and wisdom to moments like this.
Bubbs—Nobody can envy Andre Royo’s lot in this season, as he takes Bubbles/”Bubbs” down the well-worn “recovering addict” path. This being The Wire though, you know he’s going on his own, with no system to catch and comfort him, and that even if he keeps clean, there might not be a great life waiting for him—kinda realistic, you’d have to imagine.
The Humor—I’d never watched “The Wire” with more than one person until last night, when I hosted a low-key “Season Five Party” at my place for two other couples. Yes, we are all white and middle-class, and yes, I scolded myself many times for throwing a “party” for a show depicting the utter abandonment of the predominantly black, overwhelmingly poor American City. Yet watching the show in a group made me realize how skillfully little moments of humor are woven into what would otherwise seem like a daramtized Howard Zinn tale, with swearing. The opening scene drew five laughs, some in disbelief. A later scene, when a politician sees their face under a gotcha headline and mouths her discontent, brought the whole room up in “Ohhhh!”s. And the little moments of gritty truth the show is sprinkled are way more fun to smirk and nose-breathe at with a crowd.
The One True Newspaper Moment—Critics seem to be lining up evenly on both sides of how realistic or human the characters in this season’s pseudo-Baltimore Sun are. The language and overall tone, however, seem right on. I’ve only had a bit more than five years’ experience in the newspaper trade, but there’s one moment involving an executive editor back-handedly spiking a story—using a sentence that starts off with, “I was talking with [name] at [institution] the other day, and …” that rings all too true, from my own recollections and coffee break tales I’ve heard.
Those Other Newspaper Moments—At this early point in the season, I’m a bit wary of how rootsy and truth-seeking they’ve made the obvious hero, City Editor Augustus “Gus” Haynes, and how blatantly clueless his higher-ups come across. And if you know anything about David Simon’s decades-spanning beef with his former editors at the Baltimore Sun, you know that well goes much, much deeper—maybe a whole season’s worth. Then again, I might be a bit too familiar with it to really see it, and I suppose Burrell and Rawls likewise came across as Skeletor and Megatron, at first.
The Electric Piano Borrowed from “Law & Order” in the New Theme—See clip above. I love Steve Earle, but the new opening credits track makes me think someone’s always going to get done right before the commercials at 32 minutes.
No Omar—I used to fall in with the crowd who thought Omar should have been dead about 20 episodes ago. After the wait between season four and five, however, I just want the duster-wearing, shotgun-toting, Deus-Ex-Machina-serving man back in the game
I’m going to try this again after next week’s episode, hopefully in a more timely fashion (thanks, On Demand!).