Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Series: TV Milestones Series
Introduction: “It’s America, Man”
Although HBO’s The Wire (2002–8) never achieved spectacular ratings or won an Emmy, journalists and critics frequently describe it as the best show that has appeared on television. It won a number of awards, the most prestigious of which was a 2004 Peabody Award. Walter Benn Michaels, ...
1. Situating The Wire
The Wire’s critical acclaim is based on its social realism. For example, Jacob Weisberg proclaims,
No other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature....
2. The Parallel Economy
The conclusion to season one demonstrates that The Wire works against the grain of traditional police drama in its refusal to allow the closing of the case to suggest victory: although some members of the Barksdale organization go to jail, business continues. Season two marks a more radical departure ...
3. The System Is Broken
The pursuit of profits over people, and of career advancement over substantive results, is one of the series’ themes, and its effect is traced across a number of parallel institutions: the police department, the drug-trafficking organization, political governance structures, the school system, and the media. ...
4. Media, Social Justice, Community
The Wire’s claim to significance is based on its commitment to social realism and its willingness to tell a “truth” about crime and justice that is obscured by both other popular culture and mainstream discourses about crime. In this final chapter, I want to consider The Wire’s relationship to its audience and the question of whether its nuanced depiction of the drug culture...