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I don’t think any HBO original series has aged quite as well as The Wire . Just thinking out loud here…Four years after the finale, universities across the country, Ivy League universities, are updating their course catalogues with classes dedicated to using The Wire as a teaching tool. Be it Journalism, Sociology, Theatre, even American Studies; social sciences across the board are parsing facets of the series to use as a vehicle of study. I might lament the value of recognition coming years after the series ended, but better late than never I suppose. The crux of The Wire (my disservice by condensing all the issues explored is duly noted) is the War on Drugs, the Drug Game. What sets the series apart from other cop shows is the candor and perspective given to all players. As the drama unfolds it’s easy to see there is no right and wrong, the Men in Blue being just as flawed as the dealers, be it in aspiration or execution of their duties. Accordingly, to project a pall of evil on the pushers is problematic as well. Some are single minded in their cunning and ‘wrongness’, some are simply the inverse to law and order, but more seem to fall somewhere as either victims of societal injustices unable to escape generations of poverty and want or have given up on the dream of upward mobilization.
What I find most interesting about this ‘grey area’, it being seemingly impossible to find a good guy to root for within the series, is how it relates to well written fiction. Fiction of all genres, but notably mysteries because this offers an alternative and expands on the traditional bare bones, who-dunnit template of most mystery novels. One such novel that I am currently engrossed in has lineage to The Wire . Author Richard Price won the 2007 Edgar Award for Best TV Writing as a cowriter for The Wire . But before that he wrote the novel Clockers , which I can’t help but think influenced creator of The Wire , David Simon. Here you have a young hood, a cop, and a murder that stinks to high heaven. But the humanistic portrayal of all those involved, be it the scared, naïve ‘clocker’ pushing on the street, or the Machiavellian style of the local force, Price does well to quell the old expectations of black and white, and creates three dimensional characters, faults and all. I’ll be writing more about gritty, deftly crafted mysteries in the coming weeks, in the meantime do yourself a favor and catch up on The Wire with Clockers as your supplemental reading.