THE WIRE Creator Tells Viewers How To Watch His Show, Or Does He?


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.

You can read Simon’s initial Times interview here, and the full follow-up interview over at Hitfix.

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.

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  1. Rick Terry says

    Here is something maybe he should consider: I didn’t have HBO at the time that the Wire was aired, so sorry I couldn’t watch it in real time, but I had decided to pick up the DVDs to get thoroughly acquainted with it. I am not one to go vote on character polls that much, but where does he get off telling me how to watch the show? I think he should just sit back, shut his mouth, and collect the royalties from the sales of the DVDs and merch that a show like this produces. He sounds like he has a bitterness toward anyone willing to get the media and watch or rewatch his show since its end. He comes across as an ungrateful prig. This has swayed my decision to even get the DVDs now, he won’t get my money. That’s not to say i won’t find it online for free and watch the hell out of it.

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    • Zoe says

      I think you’ve missed his point. Maybe what he’s trying to say is that there’s no point in going on and on about which was the best scene or who was the best character or which episode was the best. Rather, maybe we should try to appreciate the show for the issues it raises and focus on those things. I think he’s saying that there’s no point in glorifying a single character or a single scene. A single episode with a particularly beautiful aesthetic style or a maybe a character that’s more appealing… Yea, there are ways of acknowledging the work of the writers, directors, actors, editors and so on. I sort of get why Simon finds it upsetting that people might glorify a certain character more than the others. It just goes against everything he tried to do with The Wire. He never tried to get people to connect to any one character in particular but I think he was trying to get people to connect to the issues these people face, the issues Baltimore faces, the issues people in big cities all over the world face. And he used those characters to explore these issues. I’m not a huge fan of The Wire because I like fast-paced development, lots of cliffhangers and suspense and some melodrama which The Wire doesn’t really do. But I can sort of understand why David Simon said the things he did. This is his baby after all. This show came out of his personal experiences with life in Baltimore, with life in the city… To see people argue over which character in The Wire was the best kinda shows him that we’ve missed his point almost entirely.

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