David Simon and HBO’s The Wire is the best show on television, bar none.? There is no ample comparison for the show.? Calling it something trite like “the Michael Jordan of television dramas” would, in all likelihood, be a disservice to the wire.? Unfortunately, the show has only ever gained a fervant cult audience and has never been, for all it’s heaps of praise and worship, been nominated for any kind of awards.
The show is too complex, too honest and cuts too close to the bone of our lives.? Because of this, The Wire could never be fully embraced.? Yes, a large majority of people want realism in their shows, but they also want something slightly uplifting or, at the very least, entertaining.? But watching this drama you feel as though you are watching a fluid non-fiction tome unfold – a documdrama of Dickensian proportions.
Perhaps, then, Mark Bowden’s essay in The Atlantic comes closest to capturing the true importance of the show and the man behind the curtain, David Simon.
The essay takes a bit to get into, especially given the lengths that author takes in desribing the differences between fiction and journalism; however, once you get past all that Bowden sheds some light on Simon’s vitriol.? Yes, like the title of the article, Simon may be the most angry man in television.? Particularly funny, was Bowden’s confession that even he ended up on the wrong side of Simon’s anger.
Simon is the reporter who knows enough about Baltimore to have his story all figured out, but instead of risking the coherence of his vision by doing what reporters do, heading back out day after day to observe, to ask more questions, to take more notes, he has stopped reporting and started inventing. He says, I have figured this thing out. He offers up his undisturbed vision, leaving out the things that don?t fit, adding things that emphasize its fundamentals, and then using the trappings of realism to dress it up and bring it to life onscreen.
The essential difference between writing nonfiction and writing fiction is that the artist owns his vision, while the journalist can never really claim one, or at least not a complete one?because the real world is infinitely complex and ever changing. Art frees you from the infuriating unfinishedness of the real world. For this reason, the very clarity of well-wrought fiction can sometimes make it feel more real than reality. As a film producer once told me, ?It?s important not to let the facts get in the way of the truth.?
Fiction can explain things that journalism cannot. It allows you to enter the lives and motivations of characters with far more intimacy than is typically possible in nonfiction. In the case of The Wire, fiction allows you to wander around inside a violent, criminal subculture, and inside an entrenched official bureaucracy, in a way that most reporters can only dream about. And it frees you from concerns about libel and cruelty. It frees you to be unfair.
In an avalanche of articles regarding David Simon and the brilliance of The Wire, Bowden’s article is welcomed for it’s own evenhandedness in trying to encapsulate both the beauty and the ugliness of the show.