The Wire : Truth Be Told

by Rafael Alvarez
ISBN: 0743497325

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A Review of: The Wire: Truth Be Told
by Greg Gatenby

Thinking people are fond of trashing television as an intellectual wasteland, although it has been my observation that book people are rather too conversant with the details of several shows which their trashing (and claims to never watch) should in principle prohibit them from knowing. One of the programs I found that book people rarely if ever watched was Imprint, a show that started so well years ago under Daniel Richler's aegis but which devolved into an embarrassment to the book trade-indeed, was an embarrassment to the human mind, so confused was its mission, and so appallingly priggish was its hosting. Yet for those with cable or satellite, there has been one program where the writer (rather than the director or actor) dominates: The Wire. The noted American novelist Richard Price has not only penned episodes, he has even appeared, albeit briefly, on screen. Another feted novelist who has written for the series is George Pelecanos. One of the distinguishing features of the program, set in the ghettoes and in the city hall of Baltimore, is its unflinching verisimilitude. So accurate is the program, the Mayor of Baltimore tried to have the shooting of subsequent episodes banned. Black people actually commit horrible crimes in The Wire, something rarely seen in American fictional programming-such is the medium's fear of giving offence. And the show is merciless-and witty-at illuminating civic corruption. Unfortunately, I watched it before the Gomery Commission began its revelations; now, in retrospect, The Wire seems almost Canadian. Given my affection for the TV show, I had hoped the book documenting its origins and evolution would be of a similar high standard. Regrettably, it is not, and I consider it a public service to dissuade you from buying the book, for not only will I save you money, you will not, if you haven't seen the show as yet, be put off from viewing it. The book, The Wire, is largely a padded, scene by scene prose exposition of each hour-length drama. Its organization seems to have been an afterthought by the editor. For example, cast-lists and production-credits which, logically, should appear within the delineations of each program, are stuck at the back as an appendix, forcing the reader to move back and forth, hoping that his finger doesn't slip from the appropriate page. Worse, the book covers only the first two seasons. A third has already aired, and the fourth is scheduled for 2006. Almost everything in the book can be found at the program's webpage: www.hbo.com/thewire.

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