The Wire

5 LH blue.jpgAll I need to do to feel inadequate as a writer is to watch an episode of The Wire.  
I resisted this HBO series for years. John would turn it on and I’d disappear into my office. He’d watch the reruns repeatedly. In the spirit of partnership, I tried to watch with him a couple of times, but I was 1) confused 2) repulsed by the language 3) stubborn in my distaste for entertainment involving drug abuse, and 3) depressed by the reality of the world that was being portrayed. When John told me The Wire was coming back for another season, I decided I would try one more time to get into it by starting at the beginning so I could follow the incredibly complex storyline. 
We rented all of Season I through Netflicks (how did we survive before Netflicks? Seriously–we went to see Oceans Thirteen in the theater last weekend and it cost $17.50. Our Netflicks is only $20 a month.) Anyway, I got hooked on The Wire. I’m still terribly disturbed by it on any number of levels. Bury the “n” word? You only have to watch an hour of The Wire to feel the hopelessness of that symbolic gesture. I don’t like feeling inured to that word. I also feel overwhelmed by the poverty, the corruption, the greed, the desperation and the utter hopelessness. I look back at the idealism I felt as a young social worker and feel intense discouragement. Yet this show is not a downer once you get into it, and that’s a huge achievement given the subject matter. It’s saved by its humanity, compassion . . . and occasional traces of humor.
So why did I get hooked? The writing is spectacular. The acting is superb. The depiction of different social systems–the drug culture, the Baltimore police, the politicians, the long shoremen–is unflinching, tough and real. The characters are flawed and human. My sympathy for specific characters often catches me by surprise. I pull equally for a drug dealer, a cop or a snitch and when they don’t succeed in their struggle, my heart breaks. 
We’re a few episodes into Season II. As a viewer, I’m filled with anticipation. As a writer, I’m studying new-to-me storytelling techniques. Either way, I’m obsessed. I can’t wait to see what happens next.  
Are any of you fans of this series?


  1. pattie on August 1, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Diane, Gary is a big fan of The Wire. I have never watched it for all the same reasons you listed. I love Baltimore, I grew up near there and I worked in the city for six years in the early 70s. Homicide: Life on the Street is one of my all-time favorite shows–it was created by David Simon, who also created and produces (and writes many episodes of) The Wire. So….I think I’ll start watching too.

  2. pattie on August 1, 2007 at 8:21 am

    I was going to add that I came late to watching Deadwood for many of the same reasons–and I ended up loving that show! The writing was wonderful.

  3. Margo on August 1, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Never have watched it Diane but you have me curious now. I never thought I would watch THE SOPRANOS and missed season 1…decided to start watching season 2 and was hooked. With the incredible violent theme, bad language, drugs etc., why was I hooked on it? The acting and writing made the show. I’m not sure what nite THE WIRE is on but I’ll look for it and give it a try.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on August 1, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Pattie, I had the same problem with DEADWOOD. As a matter of fact, when John and I moved in together, he came into my office one night and warned me that the show he was going to watch was full of violence and bad language and should he shut my office door? I left the door opened and was totally grossed out by what I heard. Then one night I watched an episode and was completely hooked. I hated DEADWOOD to end. I DO think so many of these shows overuse cussin’, though. It becomes gratuitous.
    Margo, THE WIRE is not currently on. If you’re really interested, rent season I to figure out who the characters are. It’s so complex that it’s hard to dive right in. At least it was for me.
    Speaking of HBO, I gave JOHN FROM CINCINNATI (sp?) three tries. Three strikes, you’re out.

  5. Margo on August 1, 2007 at 10:00 am

    ‘Ditto’ Diane…I tried JOHN FROM CINCINNATI also and finally said forget it…the language was so absurd and didn’t even fit with the story. When the show first started I was really anxious to watch it because of the ‘surfing’ theme, but the fowl, unnecessary language and acting got in the way of a possible good show.

  6. pattie on August 1, 2007 at 10:08 am

    yeah, sometimes they use profanity just because they can. Doesn’t impress me either. I heard the blah reviews of John From Cincinnati and didn’t watch it. My son says Big Love is great but I haven’t seen it. I like Burn Notice (summer show on USA), clever concept and great dialogue and character interaction.
    Hoping TV-watching will improve my own writing–and especially all those versions of Law & Order…

  7. Diane Chamberlain on August 1, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Hadn’t even heard of BURN NOTICE. I’ll have to see if we get USA. OH, I love BIG LOVE! It’s not in the same ball park as THE WIRE, but it’s getting better and better. I didn’t watch it at first because the previews made it look all about sex in a polygamist household, but that was really misleading. The characters are very engaging as they try to protect their true lifestyle while living in the heart of suburbia. Again, though, it’s hard to pick up in the middle of the story and would help to rent the back seasons first. One of my favorite parts is the opening, with the husband and his three wives ice skating to Beach Boys music. . . while the ice slowly cracks between them.
    Pattie, the only problem with using TV to help with our writing is that we’re watching TV instead of writing. Hmm. A dilemma.

  8. pattie on August 1, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Absolutely true! I wrote an article for my local RWA chapter newsletter about trying to find my focus, which mostly entails turning off the daggone TV (as my mom used to say). Or better yet, not turning it on in the first place!
    Check out Burn Notice here:

  9. brenda on August 2, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Arrived home from out of town-again-at my daughter’s…forgot the computer…was involved with three little granddaughters anyway.
    I did read Annie’s Trilogy and enjoyed it again. I think My Mother’s Daughter might be my favorite in the trilogy-then again=maybe the first one in the series…Had to have my Diane fix….it is better each time, and I learn more…
    I am on my way again (in one day) for Florida-long drive-but am excited…
    I will take the computer…I am not ready for school and when we arrive home===ready for college and high school (lots of teaching)
    Will read another of Diane’s on the way-yet again…
    You know, Diane…Annie is one of the most complicated characters I have “known”, and I do not know how you come up with some of the wonderful ideas in your books.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on August 2, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Good to see you back on the blog, Brenda. You sure are having a traveling summer.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the KEEPER trilogy all over again. I agree with you. In my opinion, at least, I think HER MOTHER’S SHADOW is the best of the three books. I have to admit I did get a lot of mileage out of a dead woman, huh? LOL.
    Have a safe trip to Florida.

  11. brenda on August 3, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Pattie-would like to receive your newsletter.
    I agree about the television. Thankfully, my daughter (lives in Indy) does not have cable…she has three avid readers-who love love books…as does she.
    My son does not have cable-never has either…however…his condo building in Florida includes it (he has no time for television as he works and trains most of the time…)
    We have cable-my husband loves television…I prefer to read…but watch a couple of shows and movies…
    As a teacher, I find that my students prefer television to reading…perhaps if couples and/or parents with children chose l5 minutes per day to look, talk, and interact, without television-that might help…at least that’s what my students tell me they want.
    On the other hand, when I am stressed and tired, nothing like a chick flick on Lifetime.

  12. brenda on August 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Wouldn’t Annie’s story make a wonderful-fantastic-need I say more-movie???
    Also Cee Cee…now that’s a movie.

  13. Pattie on August 4, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Hey, Brenda, I’m sorry but the newsletter I write for goes out only for our RWA chapter members. I write a grammar column almost every month and articles sporadically.
    I agree about TV, it’s addictive and I must remember to turn it off when I’m not ‘acvtively’ watching something. Sometimes it’s just on in the background. I also have to be careful not to watch the Food Network too much, it makes me hungry!

  14. Diane Chamberlain on August 4, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    That’s how I am about the home and garden channel, Pattie. I always want to tear out a wall after I watch it.

  15. brenda on August 12, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Pattie-that’s okay about the newsletter.
    Also I agree with you girls–when I watch the home channel, I want to get organized.

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