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Courtesy of HBO

The Wire

The bleak streets of Baltimore take on many roles in this award-winning police drama

By Lee Simpson

The Wire
Created by David Simon, produced by Nina K. Noble, Joe Chappelle and Ed Burns, starring Dominic West, Sonja Sohn and Jim True-Frost

David Simon’s The Wire is a cop show with a city as the lead actor. The bleak streets of Baltimore take on many roles. Victim, yes: we see the bones of the city as she once was, and we see her present degradation. Villain, definitely: systems underpinning the current infrastructure are corrupt and cancerous from City Hall to the union hall to the unhallowed halls of academe; the decaying flesh of the city seeps toxin into its citizenry at all levels. But Baltimore is ultimately the victor: viewers see the seeds of possible redemption sown.

Those who love the city enact hope against all odds. Commitment to a better future springs forth pure, even from the gutters. There are no shortcuts; we watch social experiments tried and abandoned. We learn that it is only through unending hard work and belief in the possibility of change that teachers, police, the media, politicians, dock-workers, pastors and, yes, even street savvy drug-dealers make a better future possible.

If that last phrase makes you bridle, then don’t watch this series: sympathy for the quirky and empathy for marginalized urban humanity will be wrenched from you. Similarly, if liberal use of bad language makes you uncomfortable, don’t tune in.

If you do want to see how far excellent writers can advance realistically gritty acting then watch Simons turn the fiction of author Ed Burns (a former police detective and Baltimore city teacher) into captivating television. Marvel at how an unwieldy entourage of trained actors and amateurs straight from the street can bring blunt words to life.

The Wire reveals just how imaginatively this medium can preach the possibilities of change when given the right inspiration.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
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