Last night I was at a PR event for the last season of The Wire, featuring episode 9, dinner, and a Q&A with the show's creator and executive producer, David Simon. Although I've been rather down on The Wire this season, I still think it's leagues ahead of other TV out there these days. The Wire, after all, depicts reality in a far more real way than any reality show or newspaper could ever hope to. That, he said, is the critique that Simon is making of the news industry in this season. While everyone is distracted by Scott Templeton, the Pulitzer-primed fabulist ("If you've worked in a newsroom long enough," Simon said, "you've known a fabricator."), they're missing out on the fact that everyone at the newspaper is missing the major stories in the city; drug lord Prop Joe's murder only made "page B3," as Simon said.
Simon publicly thanked HBO for allowing him to create The Wire, even though afterward he made reference to the struggle the show's writers had with executives allowing them season five. My colleague, Erica Williams, asked him about how he squared the fact that this was a show about the poorest of the poor, yet it broadcasts on a subscription-only premium cable network. Simon said he didn't really worry about that for one reason: bootlegged copies that flood the streets of Baltimore the day after the episode airs. In fact, Felicia "Snoop" Pearson once accosted someone on the street in Baltimore who was selling bootlegged copies. She called Simon, carefully reading off the serial number and asking what she should do. Simon laughed and told her to let the bootlegger go.
Simon openly admits he steals, from life and from other writers. Hampsterdam and the serial killer are totally made-up storylines, but much of the rest of the show is cribbed from life. Simon noted that in some ways his plots resemble those of the ancient Greeks; characters that are, from the outset, doomed. The characters are in a "rigged game" and the subversive act, as we saw with Bunny when he created Hampsterdam, becomes refusing to play in the rigged game.
For all my resistance to this season, I still admire Simon for what he has created -- it is something of a "moral imagination" for me, if not a direct. After all, he and the other writers created a new standard for themselves, one that sometimes even the creators of that standard cannot live up to.