Friday, January 11, 2008

Nick Hornby interviews the Wire's David Simon


Three or four years ago, I got an email from a friend in which he described The Wire as the best thing he’d ever seen on TV, “apart from Abigail’s Party.” Here was a recommendation designed to get anybody’s attention. No mention of The West Wing, or The Sopranos, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or any of the other shibboleths of contemporary TV criticism; just a smart-aleck nod to Mike Leigh’s classic 1977 BBC play. It reeled me in, anyway, and I went out and bought a box set of the first series.

I’d never heard of the show. It’s not widely known or shown here in the U.K., although whenever a new season starts, you can always find a piece in a broadsheet paper calling it “the best programme you’ve never heard of,” and I didn’t know what to expect. What I got was something that bore no resemblance to Abigail’s Party, predictably, and very little resemblance to any other cop show. At one stage I was simultaneously hooked on The Wire and the BBC’s brilliant adaptation of Bleak House, and it struck me that Dickens serves as a useful point of comparison; David Simon and his team of writers (including George Pelecanos, Richard Price, Dennis Lehane) swoop from high to low, from the mayor’s office to the street corner—and the street-corner dealers are shown more empathy and compassion than anyone has mustered before. The hapless Bubbles, forever dragging behind him his shopping trolley full of stolen goods, is Baltimore’s answer to Joe the Crossing Sweeper.

We talked via email. A couple of weeks later, we met in London—David Simon is making a show about the war in Iraq with my next-door neighbor. (Really. He’s really making a show about the war in Iraq, and the producer literally lives next door.) We talked a lot about sports and music.

—Nick Hornby

This seems the be Wire week around here and accordingly a friend sent a link The Believer's interview between author Nick Hornby and David Simon - the creator/writer/director of HBO's

The Wire. If you are unfamiliar I think it is safe to describe the show as a Greek Tragedy
in which the postmodern institutions are the Olympian forces. At least that's how the Simon aptly describes it. Here is another great observation from Simon.
In much of television, and in a good deal of our stage drama, individuals are often portrayed as rising above institutions to achieve catharsis. In this drama, the institutions always prove larger, and those characters with hubris enough to challenge the postmodern construct of American empire are invariably mocked, marginalized, or crushed. Greek tragedy for the new millennium, so to speak. Because so much of television is about providing catharsis and redemption and the triumph of character, a drama in which postmodern institutions trump individuality and morality and justice seems different in some ways, I think.

Full interview here.

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