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The Wire’s Legacy 15 Years Later

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The Wire premiered on HBO June 2nd, 2002 with an episode titled “The Target.” The scene begins with McNulty sitting with a witness to a murder that took place. McNulty asked the witness why they let someone they knew would rob them participate in their game of Craps. The witness responded “this America man.” This line fits as the backdrop to a realistic look at the social issues that plague, not only the city of Baltimore but the United States of America. David Simon provides us with his view of the drug trade, dock workers, inner city youth, and the Newspaper Industry in a gripping five seasons. The show is paced with detail. The series rhetoric manifest characters that drive the story. Simon allows the audience to assimilate to the world through his portrayal of original dialogue, memorable characters, and an illustration of social issues that are still relevant to today’s climate. The Wire is crafted like a chess match. The pawns represent the dealers in low rises ran by the King and his muscle. This seems to be a constant theme throughout and one of the many pieces that make The Wire an engaging piece of realism. It grabs and makes you part of “the game.” The game is represented by the American Dream, a dream which has a different meaning for each character.

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Created by David Simon who initially wanted to create a police drama based on the experiences of his co-writer on the show and previous homicide detective, Ed Burns. Ed Burns experienced a lot of bureaucracy with the Baltimore Police Department which led Simon to create the police drama. What became of this idea was a masterful set piece on social issues that goes deeper than just the Baltimore Police Department. The show was produced by Blown Deadline Productions, who has also produced Simon’s other work like Treme, Show Me a Here, Generation Kill, and the upcoming series about the 70’s and 80’s porn industry, The Deuce. Prior to The Wire’s creation, Simon was a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun. His experiences as a reporter led him to become a novelist and create, what became the precursor to The Wire, The Corner.

Simon created a realistic visual for the audience thanks to Robert F. Colesberry. He was a Producer/Director who worked with Simon on The Corner. Their collaboration provides a vivid view of a city torn by the prevalent drug trade and high murder rate and by those governing the city itself. They provide viewers with different perspectives from the junkies all the way to the Mayor. When a new character is introduced in the series, the viewer gets to know them by their actions, choices, and ideology in what they define as the American Dream in this “rigged game” everybody must play to survive or reach their self-serving agenda. Simon allows viewers to formulate an opinion of the character before introducing them by name. At first glance, Simon’s depiction of social issues is futile due to a lack of direction on how to improve the issues that face the city of Baltimore. However, viewers come to realize that a latent function of the characters depicted in the show illustrates the vital people necessary to evoke change. He set out to show the dysfunction of the institutions that teach children, govern the cities, and how that dysfunction effects everyone in the middle.

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Over 60 episodes and 5 seasons Simon captures each story with visual detail that sticks in the mind of the viewer. He introduces flawed characters, yet makes the viewer feel compassion, even when the viewer despises the character. Even if minimal compassion is felt for Marlo and Snoop, I doubt any viewer caught in the web of The Wire will ever forget them. The passion is felt in the dialogue of this series. There is a lot of esoteric language used by law enforcement and those involved in the drug trade that overtime becomes clear to the viewer. That is all thanks to Simon’s experience as a writer and passion for the corruption in those who govern society. He wanted to put together social commentary that told the truth, not sugar coated it. He wanted to speak on the topics that truly effect the world he lives in and not just tell the stories people are comfortable hearing.

The Wire opened a lot of opportunity for Michael K. Williams, who plays the iconic Omar Little. Omar’s character is based off 4 separate “stick-up men.” One of them named Donnie Andrews plays a small role in assisting Omar while he is in prison. Omar makes his living off robbing drug dealers and is known for his shotgun and facial scar. He is feared on the street and makes his presence known by whistling “The Farmer in The Dell.” He spends his Sundays bringing his grandmother to church. Omar follows a strict code, as one should in his line of work. He contradicts the norms of masculinity on the street due to the fact that his sexual orientation is not the same as those he steals from. He is the Robin Hood in The Wire. Omar represents a vigilante on the streets and serves as the anti-hero of the series. Despite his demeanor, Omar is a man who loves deep, as we see with his grandmother and boyfriends. He does not see the wrong in what he does because he gives back to those in need as a compensation for a corrupt political structure failing his city. He delivers each line with his raspy voice and sharp wit. He embodies each moment on screen with the ease that we see in some of today’s greatest screen actors. His confidence is unclouded, his lack of fear is terrifying, and his complexity is one of the most engaging things about The Wire.

Some of the other characters that are heavily discussed by followers of The Wire include Bubbles, Bodie, and Stringer Bell. Bubbles, played by Andre Royo, is one of the junkies on the series. He brings a deeper understanding to the world of a junkie and informant. He makes all his moments on screen his own by providing a street knowledge to being homeless and passes it along to those in the streets. Bubbles teaches young junkies about the lifestyle and attempts to keep them from harm by showing them tricks of the trade. His moments of sadness and pain are captivating, yet he maintains constant optimism despite his position. He is the President of junkies in David Simon’s dark depiction of Baltimore. Bodie plays a solider or “pawn” for one of the main powers in the drug trade. He plays someone whose only option is the drug trade, but maintains constant loyalty to his superiors. He is guile when it comes to his business and is respectful to those above him in the game. Stringer Bell, played by Idris Elba, is the right hand to Avon, the head of the Barksdale crew. He runs the storefronts and the money for Avon. In Stringer’s spare time he takes economics classes at the local community college to learn about what it takes to run a legitimate business. Simon sets up Stringer’s character differently than the rest of the member of Avon’s crew. He dresses him differently to fit a different mold and gives him aspirations beyond the street. Idris Elba embraces the character. You can see in his demeanor that he believes he is more intelligent and wise than his counterparts. He portrays a man who sees the business as a way out of the game, not a way of life. Other characters who have garnered a lot of attention include Proposition Joe, Slim Charles, The Bunk, and Jimmy McNulty. These characters are viewed as some of the most memorable screen characters American television has to offer still 15 years later.

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David Simon takes advantage of every moment in The Wire. His framing techniques are exceptional, whether it is the way he stages his characters or the angle in which his characters’ attack, like chess pieces in a match. The technique in which he shoots The Wire feels like a chess match. Where the characters move, the way they attack their opponents, and the way they die is all intentional and is an example of the next move in the game. The way Simon uses the city of Baltimore as a backdrop makes the visuals more real. The city itself is a character. The city deteriorates overtime the same way the people do and Simon wants us to see it. You can’t help but sing the theme song, even though the singer and production of the song is different in each season. Each opening per season is a montage of what the viewer is going to see and the shift in tone is conveyed by the song in each season.

The Wire 15 Year Anniversary

Simon chooses not to constantly remind viewers of events that occurred in the past with an assortment of flashbacks. You are forced to pay attention. Many important moments in this series happen around the action forcing the viewer to pay attention to the entire frame. That is one of the things that makes this show so complex and engaging. Simon is not setting out to guide you through the game of The Wire, but to give insight that cannot be absorbed without the full attention of the viewer. “All the pieces matter” and just like those surveillance tapes, DNR’s, and wire taps that the Police must pay such close attention to, Simon expects the viewer to give the series the same attention. In its infancy, The Wire was criticized for its drawn-out plot, but in order for the effect Simon wanted on the viewer to take place, it needed the detail it had, and the patience it took. The critical response to the series was extremely positive with continued praise throughout seasons 2-4 and a small drop off during season 5. While season 5 of The Wire wasn’t as highly regarded as its predecessors it still received a lot of praise. It was also necessary for Simon to capture the bureaucracy and decline that the newspaper industry faced, but also how that decline and the crime in Baltimore correlate.

Over the last 15 years, The Wire has increased in viewers not only because of the praise social media has given it but because of its continued relevance in today’s society. David Simon crafted a body of work that is unmatched because it uses realism in a way that no other series has and has shown how far a series can go in terms of structure, story arc, and visual subtlety. He created something where the viewers and the characters are meant to have the same experience because they are living in the world they observe and experience. It is regarded by many as the greatest television series ever broadcast and remains a pivotal piece of television history. “The game is rigged,” and The Wire will never age.

Film and music enthusiast. Paul Thomas Anderson fanatic. I spend my time watching and writing about different films old and new. Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you end your story.” As long as Cinema’s story never ends, neither will mine.

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  1. drbopperthp

    May 31, 2017 at 12:29 am

    Nuff Said.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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