The cop drama that’s really about the decline of the American city The Wire has always been the redheaded stepchild of HBO. A brilliant redheaded stepchild matched only by the greatness of Deadwood, but still, the Baltimore-set series gets all the critical praise and none of the awards. (Personally? I think we’re seeing a repeat of what Homicide: Life on the Street went through – that show was also shot in Baltimore, outside of Hollywood and on the outskirts of the industry, which hurt it deeply when Emmy time rolled around.)
I’m not going to spend too much time talking about how great The Wire is, because if you’re reading this, you probably have heard about how great it is already. Maybe you’re even a little sick of hearing how great it is, and I believe this is a show you need to come to on your own time on your own terms without any preconceived notions. But if you haven’t given The Wire – a funny, brilliantly written, tragic show that’s both sweeping in scope and intimate in its characterization – a shot, you should, and you should soon.
The Wire was the brainchild of David Simon, a Baltimore journalist who wrote the book that became Homicide, and Ed Burns, an ex-Baltimore cop and schoolteacher. Even though the fifth season of The Wire is its last, Burns and Simon are going to be sticking around television a little longer — Variety announced that HBO has signed the pair to adapt Evan Wright’s book Generation Kill into a seven-part miniseries.
Wright’s book is about the 1st Reconnaissance Marine Battalion fighting in the early stages of the Iraq war, and is described by HBO as “how elite members of the Marine Corps confront the military bureaucracy in the midst of the war.” Fans of The Wire know that’s damn near perfect for Simon and Burns – so much of The Wire is about how people find themselves defined by or part of an institution (police department, criminal enterprise, education system, labor union, professional politics), and about the inherent failure of institutions to provide for its members.
While there’s no cast attached to Generation Kill just yet, it begins shooting this summer in Namibia, Mozambique, and South Africa and the miniseries aims to have the scope, if not the high production budget, of Band of Brothers. As a fan of The Wire, I’m very excited for this one. I know that Burns and Simon won’t be loading this up with political statements or their own opinions – their honest and unflinching presentation of the material, like it has been on The Wire, will be enough of a political statement for everyone.
(And you really, really, really should be watching The Wire.)