The Wire creator David Simon has described the fandom love for the popular HBO drama series as “wearying,” before clarifying that his comments were not aimed at telling people how to consume the show.
Speaking to The New York Times about The Wire, Simon expressed “contempt” for the number of people who have discovered the show late:
“I do have a certain amused contempt for the number of people who walk sideways into the thing and act like they were there all along. It’s selling more DVDs now than when it was on the air. But I’m indifferent to who thinks Omar is really cool now, or that this is the best scene or this is the best season. It was conceived of as a whole, and we did it as a whole. For people to be picking it apart now like it’s a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time — it’s wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end. Our numbers continued to decline from Season 2 on.”
Simon then issued the Times with following clarification:
“The comments I made that seem to critique viewers who found The Wire late were not so intended. I thought, when I made that remark, that I was speaking to the reporter not about viewers in general, but specifically about folks pursuing the recent bracket-tourneys about best characters, shows, scenes, etc.”
Simon explained further in this follow-up interview with Hitfix:
“Let me say this: my apologies to anyone for saying, or trying to say, “You’re not cool if you didn’t get to ‘The Wire’ early, and I only want you to watch the show on my terms.” What I was saying is “The Wire” has been off the air for 4 years now. That it would be celebrated with things like who’s cooler, Omar or Stringer, at this late date, and that the ideas of the show would be given short shrift, those were the target of my comments. And through a miscommunication — probably my fault, I have no way of knowing — I have apparently told everybody that I don’t want the show watched except on Sunday night at 10 o’clock, which apparently is the exact opposite of things I’ve been saying in interviews for years. It is contradictory of everything I’ve said before. I’m reading it in the paper and I’m not making sense to myself. Sorry. My bad.”
It seems Simon’s initial response stems from his dislike of the March Madness-style character brackets. In the interview with Hitflix, he goes on to say that some of the more superficial dissections ‘diminish’ The Wire and the real issues it tried to tackle:
You can watch it any way you want. I know I’m not allowed to speak for how people want to watch “The Wire.” But let me put it on its head and ask, am I allowed to say what I think has value in the piece for me, and for the other people who worked on the show? For us, telling us how cool Omar was four years after the entire thing is on the page — if that’s the point, then our ambitions were pretty stunted to begin with. I was asked a question about what I thought about the show’s longevity, and about the “Wire” mania that was going on in March when the brackets sprung up, and I answered to that. Other people’s mileage may vary and will vary, but if you’re asking me whether or not that stuff is meaningful, I think in some ways it diminishes “The Wire.” if you go online, you’ll find some people who made very smart critiques of that nonsense. I read those(**) and went, “Yeah, man, those guys get it, and the fellows wasting time breaking this thing down to its components, what a shame.” I would have loved to see an idea or an argument that the show undertook come up in any of that bracketology, and it never does. Once you get done arguing over who’s the coolest, or what scene makes you laugh the hardest, there’s no room left to argue any of the things.
Simon’s initial comments do seem rather harsh on those who have found The Wire late. His follow up comments perhaps get more to the root of his frustration with how The Wire is being consumed several years on. Does he want to control that consumption, despite his protestations? To be fair, only he knows.
Simon makes some sound points in the interviews, and to a certain extent his desire to ‘protect’ the show is understandable. But I disagree with his notion that serialized drama can’t be evaluated correctly on an episode by episode basis. In my view, a large chunk of what makes serials so engaging is the interconnected journey — whenever that journey is experienced. There’s value in breathing the story as it evolves, trying to interpret the pieces, and there’s value in looking back on it as a whole.
All of this brings up another interesting question: How much difference is there in consuming serialized drama in real-time versus after the fact? It would be interesting to drill it down. Taking it a little bit further, what is ‘real-time’ in this day and age where time-shifted viewing is gradually growing in positive significance for ratings-challenged serials? Just a few things to consider in relation to The Wire and beyond.