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January 18, 2011

"Wire" creator responds to top cop's criticism

"The Wire" creator David Simon, during a break between dubbing sessions for season two of "Treme," responds to comments made recently by Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III that the HBO show was a "smear that will take decades to overcome," reviving a debate that took place throughout the show's run:

It is my understanding that Commissioner Bealefeld - by finally choosing to emphasize the quality, rather than the quantity of arrest - has been able to reduce the homicide rate somewhat in our city. If true, this is not only commendable, it is a long time coming. Too long, in fact. 

Interestingly, the newspaper that covered his department began making the argument to do exactly that as early as 1994, in a series of articles entitled "Crisis In Blue" (Ed. note: part two can be found here) that carefully articulated the disconnect between the Baltimore department's aggressive street-level prosecution of the drug war and the root causes of violence in the city. The arguments were furthered in a book entitled "The Corner" that was published three years later. After a new election cycle, however, those arguments were ignored in favor of years of "zero tolerance" of minor street crimes and an obsession with street-level drug enforcement that actually de-emphasized quality police work and led to marked declines in arrest rates for major felonies.  

Later, when a mayor sought to become governor using public safety as an issue, the same police department went further down the path, emphasizing widespread street arrests of dubious quality and legality. This did not reduce crime so much as it violated the civil rights of many city residents and led to the widespread alienation of our jury pool, with many city jurors no longer willing to trust the integrity of testifying officers - a problem that will plague Baltimore law enforcement for years.

Furthermore, on behalf of Mr. O'Malley's political aspirations, many supervisors in many police districts were engaged in a prolonged campaign to improperly downgrade U.C.R. felonies to misdemeanors so as to further the political claim that crime was under control. This was common knowledge throughout the department and was much remarked upon privately by respected veteran supervisors and investigators, themselves frustrated at the practice. Nonetheless, aggravated assaults became common assaults. Armed robberies became larcenies. Rapes were unfounded.

I do not recall that Commissioner Bealefeld - when he was rising through the ranks during those years - made strenuous public objection to the department's misdirection, to its statistical flummery, or to the decline in arrest rates that resulted as quality police work was de-emphasized in favor of juked stats.  Perhaps he did so in private, to little avail. And perhaps now that he is in a position to act, he is taking a better path. Again, as a resident of Baltimore, he has my wholehearted support if this is the case.

But publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies -- at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire have dissented.
 
Commissioner Bealefeld may not be comfortable with public dissent, or even a public critique of his agency. He may even believe that the recent decline in crime entitles him to denigrate as "stupid" or "slander" all prior dissent, as if the previous two decades of mismanagement in the Baltimore department had not happened and should not have been addressed by any act of storytelling, given that Baltimore is no longer among the most violent American cities, but merely a very violent one.

Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of The Wire that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility.  That is the police department we depicted in The Wire, give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last twenty years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O'Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work.  Commissioner Bealefeld, who was present for much of that history, knows it as well as anyone associated with The Wire.

We made things up, true.  We have never claimed otherwise.  But respectfully, with regard to our critique, we have slandered no one.  And to the extent you can stand behind a fictional tale, we stand by ours - and more importantly, our purpose in telling that tale.
 
Respectfully,
 
David Simon
Baltimore, MD

Posted by Justin Fenton at 5:02 PM | | Comments (140)
        

Comments

Can't argue Simon is quite reasoned and posed here.

However, one shouldn't simply or conflate the New York type policing with zero tolerance and quality of life and mass arrests.

The department certainly improved under Norris, but declined terribly under Clark. Fraser was also a disaster. But it was the mass arrests under Clark/Hamm, moreso than Norris. At least Norris finally modernized the place and brought in Comstat. Statistics do matter very much. But the focus should have been on analyzing the data and responding to the data and not producing a certain stat for a certain day or meeting.

Heh, maybe the Commissioner can take a lesson from this: never go up against a writer on his home turf, writing. As America becomes more and more authoritarian, writers will continue to be some of our most important communicators of dissent.

Well-said, Mr. Simon. I am a fan of Commissioner Bealefeld's work, but I think he's way off base with this critique. I think The Wire has done more to educate us about the roots of this city's problems than anything - and isn't understanding a problem a prerequisite to solving it?

Bravo, Mr. Simon!

Commissioner Bealefeld needs to recognize that The Wire depicts, fictionally of course, how Baltimore has been. Instead of recalling his selective memory when it comes to the stats, street rips, and the violence that has plagued our city for decades, he should acknowledge that things have been bad and that he is the man to fix it.

The Wire most accurately portrayed the Baltimore I know, and I trusted Mr. Simon and Mr. Burns with that portrayal wholeheartedly. However, The Wire is done. And Baltimore is still Baltimore. If Commissioner Bealefeld doesn't want people to think that Baltimore is The Wire and vice versa, then he needs to do something about it. But The Wire didn't create the story it was telling. It was right here in our backyard. The only damage that The Wire may have done was to the BPD's public image which it continues to destroy all by itself. No need to blame The Wire, Commissioner. Blame decades of negligence on behalf of your predecessors.

Hiya, Alvy! (Sorry--had to give a shout out to one of my favorite characters, ever).

While I also had issues with "The Wire", David Simon's intent with the show and his intellectual and realistic honesty is always appreciated. Well done again, David.

Of course David Simon is going to defend his product, he has made a lot of money off of Baltimore.

Here's what I remember - vividly - about David Simon. When our representatives at City Hall expressed concerns over how The Wire was portraying our already troubled city image, Mr. Simon responded by saying he would relocate the production to another city, like Philadelphia, and STILL have the show be about Baltimore. Only now, Baltimore would lose all the revenue from the show's production. Nice guy. During the shooting of the show he "hired" many local, non-union residents as actors but paid them next to nothing knowing they'd be happy just to be on T.V. He was beyond stoic - more like catatonic - with the post-production staff that worked here on the show. I spoke with him personally many times, pleasantly offered him coffee, whatever, but never got so much as a grunt out of the man. He would just open his laptop and stare at the same page for hours. When The Wire ceased production I was cynically joking with people that he would probably start another show and set it in poor, battered New Orleans and basically take advantage of them, never actually believing it could actually become true. Yeah, he's a genius alright. We could've done with a lot less of his genius around here.

*golf clap*

First of all, let me say that I applaud Mr. Simon, both for the show he created, and for the strength of character evident in his expression of its defense.

Second, in response to Edward's comments - I'm sorry you're bitter about your experience working on The Wire. As a member of the entertainment industry, who has worked on both union and non-union productions, I personally take exception to your comments.

1 - The Wire would have been a pleasure to be a part of at any level of compensation.

2 - Nobody was forcing you to work on set. You were willfully employed at a level of compensation you must have agreed to at some point. If you found the compensation too low to justify coming in to work, I assure you - they would have found somebody else.

3 - Productions bring a lot of revenue to the cities in which they're based. Are you seriously saying you'd rather they took their money to a city other than Baltimore? If you really are a citizen of B-more, that's incredibly short sighted.

Our society absolutely needs more shows like The Wire. Without a forum to criticize the status quo, freedom is constantly at risk.

I believe The Wire is an accurate portrayal of how politics influenced law enforcement in Balto. during the O'Malley years. O'Malley has a plan for higher office and he used that plan to move up. Unfortunately, the masses vote party instead of reading, observing and questioning leaders. O'Malley has a lot of personal character issues that are buried. Don't forget that the current Commish is dependent upon favors from Annapolis to run his Department.

Even geniuses make mistakes.

Sorry, Mike. You simply have no clue.

1 - I'm not at all bitter. His production came and went and all was fine. I've dealt with his kind all my career. David Simon carries bitterness like a neon sign across his head. Read his unapologetic comments. Watch his portrayal of Baltimore. If that's how a Baltimorean feels about this city I just don't know how else to describe it but bitter. And by the way, OUR Police Commissioner has to deal with David Simons's bitterness by way of Simon's actions - NOT the other way around. And also, the fact is, David Simon's production came to me. I get paid the same rate whether it's The Wire or any other client. It's called a flat rate. I have absolutely no personal grudge against David Simon. Why would I? But the fact is, he was nothing special. But, as a city resident, not a subcontractor, he could have done Baltimore a LOT better.

2 - To say that this show would have been a pleasure to work on at any level of compensation tells me you're not actually in the business. When it's for real, and it's for HBO, it ain't for free. It's called the "Entertainment Business" because it's just that - a business. Everyone gets paid all the way down the line and the money involved is darn good for the producers. The Wire got a great deal here in Baltimore and allowed David Simon plenty of new opportunities. It made money.

3 - I agree with the Police Commissioner. Why not do a police show that portrays either the city or the police in a good light. It works for OTHER shows. But then again, David Simon is no Dick Wolf.

4 - Don't let producers know you'll work for ANY compensation. There's never any knowing if a project will be good or not until it's finished. Too many sharks in the business will pounce on your enthusiasm and naiveté. Get some self-respect, do good work and be worth something. Just don't gouge.

Simon says that the depiction of Baltimore and its problems was accurate. Then he insists it was fictional. Nobody thought it was a documentary and it sure wasn't journalism. The fact of the matter is that people all over the United States think of Baltimore in terms of what they see in the show. How can they not? The reputation of the city will take generations to repair. Thank heavens it started, at least.

I completely agree with both Simon and Bealefield. The truth is, the show was super smart, and had integrity in story and character arc. The next truth is, people all over the world think of Baltimore in relationship to that show, cold, murderous, and morally weak - and without a sign of hope. There seemed to be no explanation of the foundations of our city culture. The wire also seemed to make no effort to depict our amazing cultural history, any of our local arts, or the incredible tenacity and creativity of our local heroes (i assume the people of New Orleans wouldn't allow that in treme.) For that, Simon, and Wire watchers, lose. I only hope that the next incredible super smart writer that wants to depict Baltimore and its' layers of corruption or institutionalized cruelty also sees the incredible cultural history we share here, the odd ways that the worlds of black and white tango amongst each other, the growth of public art, unique businesses, civic engagement, and wants to share that with the world as well.

david simon is no dick wolf? thank god, you idiot.

I'm not from Baltimore ... but The Wire did not make me think that Baltimore was worse in terms of crime or more corrupt than other major, messed-up cities in the U.S.

It is, however, the only "cop" show I've been able to watch more than half an episode of since I worked in the legal system. The universal slickness and dedication of cops on every other show on TV stands in stark contrast to my actual experience.

If anything, I think Simon's portrayal of the citizens, police, and even politicians in Baltimore offers a variety of characters (in both senses of the term). In each group, he shows us incredibly bad and incredibly good people -- and a bunch of regular mopes in between. That's life, and it's good art, I think.

Poor Edward. I prefer nice people, too, but brilliant writing and TV don't always come from "nice" guys. Simon's not likely to make sainthood, but he's a damn fine writer and show-runner, seems to me.

Which is it David, a accurate depiction or made up?

"david simon is no dick wolf? thank god, you idiot."

Do you really mean to go this route? Hasn't the entire country been examining itself concerning this kind of insulting, personal attack? But then again, looking at your lack of capitalization in your post, I'm not at all surprised. And what do YOU have against Dick Wolf? He's produced well-written adult dramas that are in stark contrast to the drek of Reality T.V. And like The Wire, he's able to take current, topical issues and weave them into fictional stories on commercial television. And he does this without harming the reputation of New York City or anywhere else.

My point is this - and it's not a personal attack on David Simon of any kind. (I felt it necessary to point out my impressions of Simon's attitude through personal experience - and not heresay - as well as documenting his well-known grasp of the city by the throat should any protest ensue concerning the negative nature of his portrayal of Baltimore). Yes, The Wire brought money into the city during its production. But, ultimately, at what cost to the city - in both it's reputation (hammered now through reruns of the show) and in real dollars?

We have a dedicated and serious Police Commissioner who obviously wants to do good for this town. Why so much love for David Simon? He's not out there day in and day out doing his all for you. He's not out there risking anything for Baltimore. He's moved on. He's just a pundit to us now. A guy with a keyboard and an opinion.

Oh, and be careful in your posts to call anyone an idiot. You only communicate something very, very clearly about yourself when you go the low road and it's not great.

The one issue Simon (graciously) failed to mention is that the other shows Bealefield refers to are TERRIBLE. CSI Miami is ridiculous and the NYC Law and Order shows are basically quasi-fascist propaganda where the accused is always guilty, the police and prosecutors never bend the truth, and the only problem with the criminal justice system is pansy-ass judges and public defenders.

"Poor Edward. I prefer nice people, too, but brilliant writing and TV don't always come from "nice" guys. Simon's not likely to make sainthood, but he's a damn fine writer and show-runner, seems to me."

All the writers and other production people I met on that show just happen to have been very nice, thank you. David Simon was the producer and wrote occasionally but most of shows were written by others. My preference for "nice" people has no relevance in my work and neither does your observation. The subject is - written well or not, money or not for the city during production - did or does the show cost the city too much? I don't know but I respect Commissioner Bealefield enough to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. More than I do David Simon from his hotel room in New Orleans. Commissioner Bealefield has earned that consideration, in my view.

"He would just open his laptop and stare at the same page for hours. "

Gee, imagine a writer who does that.

"Gee, imagine a writer who does that."

You all make it very difficult to make a point. One inevitably gets lost in cyber-hell where people read into things what they want and not what's really being communicated. He wasn't writing on his laptop. I never saw him type or write once. Anyway, this was later in the production process after the writing was done. He would just stare at the same email page in what appeared as a way to avoid any and all interaction with the crew. He rarely spoke at all, even when occasionally spoken to. And he did this day after day for hours, for the three years I was there. Like I said, it came across as bitter. Or call it what you like. But it was not part of his process of writing. Like I tried to point out, he already had a staff of writers on the show. Some were former Sun reporters. Now what don't you understand in cyberspace?

Perhaps we should discuss the fact that there are very real social problems in Baltimore City and there have been for decades... we can point fingers at David Simon and The Wire or we can play the blame game amongst corrupt politicians and government systems, but either way the problems persist. David Simon might have brought more attention and acknowledgment to Baltimore than it might have otherwise had, but he shed light on a frightening reality that still is not being confronted.

"Gee, imagine a writer who does that."

Insultingly put but true. Amazing what people will say when they think they know what they are talking about. Were you there? You're so wishing he was writing because it props up your idea of him somehow. But he wasn't writing. This was after the writing had been completed. He had a staff of writers. Some were former Sun reporters. He'd just stare at the same email page day in and day out, for hours. This went on for three years. The crew assumed it was his way of avoiding interaction. Some producers do that. It doesn't take a genius - like him - to figure that out. It's no big deal. It's a little odd but we've seen worse. But he never wrote a show around us.

Oh Edward. Stick to the gossip pages. People are not interested in how offensively chilly David Simon was to you while you were employed on his production set. He gave the world one of the best television shows in history--one that will be remembered long after people can keep track of which CSI or Law and Order show did what, and helped make Baltimore a better place. I wonder why you ever got involved in the entertainment industry in the first place. Was it to help great work get made, or to pal around with some folks you've seen on People magazine? I'm so sorry you were forced to do more of the former than the latter.
“Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.” --Oscar Wilde

The police Commissioner is at shock trama right now with a police officer who was shot. After spending the night at the funeral home. Where is David Simon? At home counting his money. My point is the PC is walking the walk. DS is talking the talk.

Boy, every time Edward says anything specific about the show, it's an obvious lie. Like saying David Simon rarely wrote anything when, in fact, he's known to have re-written everything except the political stuff (and, simultaneously, saying he was constantly staring at his computer writing -- contradict yourself much?)

Or saying they were all underpaid, and then admitting they got paid the same no matter what because it's Baltimore.

Your opinions seem quite poorly informed, certainly when compared to people I know and can verify actually did work on 'The Wire'. Then again, perhaps you were a PA -- their views of what happens on a set are always extremely skewed because they're so immature they still think everybody should care about them, so when they offer to get the boss coffee and he's busy thinking about to keep the show going so everybody doesn't get fired, they feel bitter and miffed.

That would certainly explain why he was getting a flat rate that he couldn't negotiate; judging by how he describes getting the job (if, indeed, he's not just lying), he's probably applied through city hall, which (in New York) is one of the job placement programs for minor criminals.

One could say that "The Grapes of Wrath" contains a negative portrayal of Oklahoma and California, but I don't think John Steinbeck was trying to smear those places. His novel was about people struggling in a corrupt, chaotic system and the perseverance of the human spirit.

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.

I really wish when people posted comments on this forum it showed the zipcode where they're typing from. The people who commonly complain about The Wire drive their nice cars into and out of the city for O's games and dinners in Little Italy before driving back out to the county and parking in their nice two car driveways to go sit on the couch and watch American Idol. Those of us who know Baltimore well love it warts and all. To change a problem you must first face it and I applaud David Simon for MAKING America face one of it's largest problems - How to bring back generations of the lost to a society that needs them.

When ever people that aren't from Baltimore (London, Stockholm, Austin, LA, etc...) have asked me if I was ashamed of The Wire I've told them flat out - "Yes, but not for the reason you think."

The Wire, as great as it was as one of the most real and poignant depictions of violence, crime and corruption in a modern urban environment, didn't even get close to as bad as it really gets. Had Mr. Simon done that it would have been too much for anyone to watch, even those of us who live in it.

I know people who worked on the show from regular actors all the way down the line and I have never heard any of them do anything but praise the experience they had and the work they were a part of creating.

A bitter representation? Have you ever driven through the neighborhoods The Wire depicts? I'd love to know how you depict a neighborhood like Pen Lucy in a positive way to America while claiming any sort of authenticity.

Why not project the city and police in a better light? Because we have enough shows that make us feel fuzzy and warm like the bad guys never win. In reality they win a lot and the powers that be win just by keeping the fight going. Just like health care, there's more money to be made treating symptoms rather then solving the problems.

Of course he calls it fiction - he had to change names, certain details, etc... to make a good television show. That doesn't mean it wasn't anchored and based in reality. Anyone who's paid attention to this city over the past 20 years could see what characters represented our local players.

Really people, wake up! Baltimore's "establishment" has done the job of making our reputation through their corruption and mismanagement of city services. If more people like David Simon depicted this side of the world we live in maybe they couldn't get away with it.

I missed "The Grapes of Wrath" series. Was that on Showtime?

Yes, David Simon has been such a blessing to Baltimore or is it the other way around? I feel like the PC was asked and gave his honest opinion, I bet he is sick of being asked about the show? I feel David Simon had a product to sell and that was writing about the gritty side of Baltimore. You can like the shows and books or not but he did make a hell of a lot of money off of Baltimore.

if edward seems unconcerned about the violence, crime, poverty, corruption, drugs, etc that plagues baltimore and the chroniclers thereof, it is nice to know that he is at least angry about the country's problem with 'insulting, personal attacks' via the internet. kudos.

Does anyone actually believe Edward worked on The Wire? I believe that he is an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk, but I don't believe he worked on The Wire.

I'm not from Baltimore. I've been there twice and I didn't see the Baltimore that was depicted. I'm obviously no expert. But the issues and calamities depicted in The Wire ARE consistent with issues that face cities across the country. They aren't unique, and you don't need to be from Baltimore to see how genuine that is.

Also @allthinky: I don't think it's an either/or proposition. The Wire, from everything I've read about the city (and other similar cities), is accurate in the sense of that its overarching themes and depiction of the city as a whole can be drawn from real events.

What he means by "we made things up" is that Hamsterdam, the serial killers, etc, are plot devices and fictional events that serve as a magnifying glass to the larger issues the show was probing. Sometimes things that are made up are just as true as a sober recitation of the facts. Are "Catcher in the Rye" or "Of Mice and Men" any less true because they are works of fiction?

I chuckle that some of the posters here are trying to subtly equate Simon with literary greats like Steinbeck, Salinger, even Oscar Wilde. Is that you, Laura...?

Growing up in the city and maintaining the ties that I have, I must say that The Wire did not create Baltimore's woes...Baltimore did ! It was so accurate in it's depiction of theme and characters, I felt like I knew every outcome and was familiar with evrything before it took place on the screen. Don't be up in arms against Mr. Simon and his production, be up in arms against the Baltimore politicos and what continues to happen everyday in Baltimore in the streets...regardless of who is in city and state government...Black or White. let's see if mr. Simon comes up "fictionally" with a new show about Cops in a positive manner...as someone suggested, and maybe one of the episodes could be about how the City's top Cop waffles on the prosecution of 4 officers who kills one of their own by shooting him over 20 times. In that same episode we'll the "positives" of how another cop kills a soldier at a nightclub because he got fresh with his girlfriend, and he now faces murder charges! Wake up Bmore, and Commish Bealefield...look within and place the blame where it needs to be placed.

Just actually watched Bealefeld's coments--if you haven't, go back and watch. His comments are spot on, courageous, and funny at the end. (The family Guy reference is perfect and perfectly appropriate.) The Wire began as a gritty neoplasm in the imaginations of a couple former police beat reporters. Over time, Simon has spun it into an elegant dueling scar on the face of Baltimore by countering every negative criticism with PR cant. It's a product. He polices its reputation and its packaging.He markets it. He gets paid.

Wow. The era of personal attack is alive and well in America. Not cool at all. And please, I could care less you doubt my involvement with this show. I'd rather not worry about any possible repercussions for being blunt. People need their myths about celebrities and will defend them to the teeth to justify their unfounded idolatry. The Wire was a compelling drama but so what? It had fine lead actors. People both in Baltimore and New York worked hard and long hours on it. It was a tough show to put together. It had a small but dedicated audience. So what? This is not about whether or not you liked the show. It's about Baltimore's reputation and Commissioner Bealefeld's comments. And It doesn't matter if I'm a jerk or anything else about my perceived on-line personality. I'm absolutely NOT a disgruntled "employee." I was not a PA and never have been. My role on productions is in the creative area and working on the show helped pay the bills. It was good work. David Simon never did nor said anything inappropriate to me or anyone else on the crew, ever. And I agree with those who say that it's really not relevant, either. I commented specifically about my personal, long-term "catatonic" experience with the man (and his attitude was well known to everyone. I'm part of a team. We all felt exactly the same way) to help illustrate my impressions of his feelings toward Baltimore and the show. I said that over and over but the myth-builders only read selectively and do exactly what they dislike about the media - select sound-bites and take them out of context. I truly believe that his bent was to make the show bleaker as a matter of style to enhance viewership, if at all possible. Remember, it was always a struggling drama in the ratings and none of us ever knew if we were working on it until the last minute. So if it helps to insult me personally or doubt what you think my role would have been on the show, knock yourselves out. Virtually no one has commented on Simon's threat to move the production out of Baltimore when the City Council and Mayor asked if he could expand the scope of the show to include less negativity about Baltimore. This exchange is well known and easily verifiable. Doesn't this at least say something to you about David Simon's attitude? Instead of "killing the messenger" lets get back to our Police Commissioner Bealefeld who might appreciate a little support. Would you fling such insults at him had he written his thoughts here? Would you have called him insulting names? (From what I can tell, yeah - you would). Are you saying he has no point or justification? The debate is over whether or not Baltimore has been hurt by this show. Despite my paycheck and involvement with the production I still happen to agree with Commissioner Bealefeld, that it did (and felt that at the time) - but others here aren't so sure but are willing to at least consider it and discuss it without tossing insults, yet again. It's a good topic and worthy of examination. Keep me personally out of it. But if you can't or won't, you're helping make Commissioner Bealefeld's point by acting like a David Simon.

I'm here to tell you...from being a cop in Baltimore from the late 80's through the "politicians","commissioners" and "police" portrayed in the Wire; it is VERY ACCURATE! Does it bring bad press to Baltimore? No, I think Baltimore brings bad press to Baltimore. It did bring money to the city, and oddly enough, brought more buisiness to the city at least from the movie/entertainment industry. I applaud David Simon for the production of an entertaining, realistic series. I denounce Baltimore for stigmatising itself, not for Mr. Simon doing it.
And, finally...Do you think the murder rate in Baltimore has "improved" because of better policing, politicians and/or commissioners? Or, do you think the additional, better equipped and staffed hospital trauma units have been saving more victims? The city has lost more than 250,000 residents since the 1980's...the homicide rate has not changed significantly per capita.

The murder rate has indeed declined by a statistically significant percentage - the issue may instead be whether that's part of changes in the city or a nationwide trend as murder plummets across the country.

Wait. I'm confused. Are we also supposed to be self righteous and angry over the success of Homicide and The Corner?

Just to be on the same page. But overall, I'm definitely down with being angry that a filmmaker made a great product off of Baltimore. Totally unfair. If you want to make films, you need to write garbage characters that sparkle and have excessive angst over their mortal dating. And your choices are either non-fiction or complete fantasy. If you can't make it a documentary, then there better be no laws of gravity and everyone better have a pet unicorn. Because you have to pick, David Simon, whether the show is realistic or fictional. The commenters of this article say so. And be nicer to the people who may or may not have worked on your show.

Lazlo Toth - I don't think I was actually being that subtle about it :-)

I do indeed believe "The Wire" to be as profound and effective in telling a part of the American story as was "The Grapes of Wrath". I would also include Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" in the same category of insightful and inciteful fiction.

The comments about Wilde and Salinger were not from me.

Edward - In answer to your question about whether Baltimore has been hurt by this show, I would say no. From my point of view, it illuminates some of the most unpleasant truths of life in the city, things I have personally witnessed. The real harm comes when we would rather avert our eyes than try to grapple with the harsh reality.

David Simon takes himself way to seriously. Is the Wire fiction or not? If its not then do a documentary. If it is then it is just entertainment. I love how actors, directors, producers, writers etc. who are put on a pedestal, bestowing themselves with accolades and awards. They have product to sell and if we buy it they make lots of money. Unfortunately many Americans spend more time in front of the TV void regurgitating the opinion of others, instead of making their own opinions and engaging life.

Well said Mr. Simon, I support your work and the authenticity of it. When asked, I've told plenty of people that what they saw on The Wire wasn't even half of what goes on here. I think Bealefield feels the same as how the local government felt when The Wire was still running because everytime they try to sweep the dirt under the rug, the rug keeps getting lifted up.

I think it’s hard to see the place you live in depicted in an unfavorable light, even if there is a ring of truth to what’s being shown.

I live in a major city that has, of course, pockets of violence and crime, and if a TV drama was made emphasizing and capitalizing on primarily those areas exclusively AND then was circulated all over the world for all to see... I certainly wouldn’t be too happy about it. No one wants their dirty laundry hanging out for all to see, especially without any counterbalance.

I’ve never been to Baltimore, but I was very aware, and repeated it whenever I praised the show to my friends, that it really made me VERY afraid to step foot in that city, even while I was conscious that it was just a TV show, not a freaking documentary!

So while I think it’s wonderful for a writer to create something like this, because TV is filled with a lot of shiny crap, it’s completely understandable that some citizens and law enforcement aren’t too happy that this is out there, basically forever.

On the other side, it also seems that there are Baltimore citizens that agree that this view of their city NEEDED to be seen and acknowledged. You know, take a long hard look... then go about changing it. Hopefully, that’s what in Baltimore’s future.

A quick point now that the topic is being discussed more rationally. I am NOT suggesting that The Wire shouldn't have kept its dark perspective, its harsh and realistic depiction of city life and government. What I want to know is why couldn't it have included a few, just a FEW more redemptive stories to balance it all out? How would that have potentially harmed the show? How would that have harmed anyone or anything? And isn't that also a real side to this city? THE BIG QUESTION is, and I repeat - why was Baltimore being threatened with the complete loss of the production if David Simon heard any more about? Hasn't this town put up with way too much of that already - "if you make me clean up my pollution our business will move out" or "if you won't allow our facility expand as we wish we're going to move out to one of the counties", etc, etc... Baltimore, like New Orleans, always seems to attract these people who just wait to kick it when its down. Sometimes those people are actually from Baltimore. David Simon's attitude seems closer to one of the dark, harsh characters from his own show. Commissioner Bealefeld seems like a believer in wish fulfillment, that we will become as we choose to see ourselves. Right now, especially now, this town needs his more of that.

edward, i'm not sure why people are disputing your assertion that david simon is bitter. the wire is unequivocally the best show i've ever devoted my time to- it's something i don't think i'll ever see surpassed in terms of media entertainment- but it is pretty widely known and accepted that simon is a bitter man. he's even acknowledged as much in a roundabout way. and, although i wasn't aware of this, i'm willing to bet that his threat to relocate production of the show was part of that bitterness. i can imagine him being offended over the city's request to alter his material and thinking, "hey, you don't like it?" ya know. i would imagine, albeit without any evidence, that he wasn't seriously considering doing so; regardless of his attitude and the way he portrayed baltimore, he's clearly fond of the city and its people, just not its leadership.

as to the question of whether the show hurts baltimore's image: maybe it has to less discerning viewers. actually being frightened of visiting due to its portrayal in the show is sort of silly. i'm fairly sure all the violence depicted was only toward those involved with the drug trade. simon has also repeated many times that baltimore is a stand-in for other major cities with similar problems, he just used it because it's what he knows. and considering the show had such a small viewership, it can't be that damaging. i know very few people who have even heard of the show, let alone watched it. as long as the commissioner continues the upward trend in his policing, i don't think it's something to worry about.

Simon specifically set out to make a show that did not engage in the "wish fulfillment" of network television. Not everything is bright and shiny, the good guys don't always win, cops aren't all good people, drug dealers aren't all bad people. There were plenty of storylines that had positive endings (Namond getting out of The Game, Carver becoming a "good police" and advancing through the ranks, Kima's ascension as a good, moral cop, etc.) but Simon was trying to depict real problems in Baltimore and he succeeded in that measure. To make a show that had more positive, uplifting moments goes against everything Simon set out to do in creating The Wire. Adding more positive, wish fulfilling storylines absolutely would have negatively affected the show because it would have gone against Simon's mission and message for the series, to depict a city and an America that is broken and needs to be fixed.

Also Edward to your point about Simon threatening to move production, this is not entirely accurate. Simon was told that the show portrayed Baltimore in too negative of a light and that the mayor would hold up production permits and things of that ilk because he was not happy with the show. Simon then offered to move the production of the show to Philadelphia, so the mayor of Baltimore would not be contributing to a show that he felt negatively portrayed his city. He was then asked if the show would be set in Philly if production moved there, which he obviously could not do because the first 2 seasons were set in Baltimore, and an entire police force does not just change cities at the drop of a hat. So he maintained that even if production were to be in Philadelphia, the show would be set in Baltimore, at which point the mayor stopped holding up the permits and allowed the rest of the show to be filmed in Baltimore (because he didn't want Philly making money off a depiction of Baltimore).

Baltimore has averaged 270 murders a year for four decades. What we need, now and always, is someone to hold up a mirror and say, "This is what we are. Don't like it? Change it." The last thing we need is to rely on the power of positive thinking and Making a Difference stories to effect a change.

The Wire did feature stories for some of its main characters that ended in redemption. That's what the show was about: individuals consumed by institutions and attempting to find their way out of the mire. Would you have preferred a Season 3 story arc about the Orioles going wire to wire?

Real life ain't dumping Gatorade on Baltimore at the moment, and hasn't for some decades. Our art should reflect that fact.

@Edward

I think the big problem that this discussion is facing is a problem with communication, and you sir are not helping things. You seem to care a lot about Baltimore and you are siding with Commissioner Bealfeld in having a problem with David Simon’s negative portrayal of things. At the same you earlier emphasized the business part of “Entertainment Business”. There is a contradiction here. Either TV Shows have a duty to help the city they are portraying, or they do not.

Commissioner Bealfeld also misses the point in a different way, other than the fact that it is not a piece of fiction’s job to help the economy of a city: Baltimore is not a city like L.A. or New York or Chicago. According to Wikipedia it is the 21st largest metropolitan area by population. Do you think that the majority of the world had even heard of Baltimore before the Wire? No. And even after the Wire that has not changed. The majority of Americans, let alone foreigners, have not seen the Wire so nothing that show did could have arguably helped the city. So your gripe, and the Commissioner’s, is totally unfounded. The Wire did not hurt the city since frankly most people did not watch the show.

As a person who is not from Baltimore, I can also tell you that I largely do not care about your city. As a person from Boston, I largely do not care about my city either. Nor am I bothered that most of the movies nowadays that mention my city are about gangsters and bank robbers, because it does not affect me as a person, and because I know that the intelligent viewer will realize that the things portrayed on TV do not show everything about anything. I highly doubt that even 1% of the viewers of the Wire thought to themselves after watching it “Wow, that must be what 90% of Baltimore is like!”

Now that may sound harsh to you, but you have to understand that there will be people online that you are arguing with that are not from Baltimore and that do not care about your city. So asking them why a work of fictional entertainment with low viewership could not have portrayed a better side to a place they do not live in is a lost cause. And even if you do live in Baltimore, are you really supposed to be depending on TV show for good press or bringing people to visit you? That is frankly as sad as Idaho being happy about Napoleon Dynamite being set there. There should be better reasons for people to visit your city than a movie or a TV Show. Mostly, that is the reason people find it funny, embarrassing, and slightly sad that the Commissioner chose to address the Wire in this way because it shows just how little the city can really offer if the best he is hoping for is a positive portrayal in a television program.

You should be thankful you are not Miami and that your police department does not depend on a serial killer (Dexter).

"That is frankly as sad as Idaho being happy about Napoleon Dynamite being set there."

Well, ya got me! I must be a sad guy because after I saw Napoleon Dynamite I thought, hey, it might be fun to go to Idaho! I'm embarrassed to admit it.

Thanks for your thoughtful post. Nice to read something that is constructive, interesting, relevant and to the point - and doesn't "go personal." You gave me something to think about. Possibly your out-of-town perspective is an asset.

Sometimes, though, it seems that there's always someone ready to pounce and make some cash at our city's expense, our quirks, our crime... Even our long-time, local term, "Hon" has been recently copyrighted by a businesswoman. It felt like even our language has been exploited. Everyone seems to benefit but us. Bless all those local business people and residents for hanging in there with all the difficulties.

@Edward

"What no wife of a writer can understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out the window." -- Burton Rascoe

.... Or maybe Simon was just waiting patiently for you to move on and stop reading over his shoulder?

I grew up near Baltimore. It's been as The Wire portrayed in since at least the 70s. Bealefield is wishing for a rewriting of history; his whining will get no sympathy from me. I've now lived in Harlem for the past 11 years. When I watched The Wire, I just saw the dysfunction of my own neighborhood--which is exactly what Simon himself has said many times, that the show could've been set anywhere because it was about an American problem, not a particularly Baltimore problem. In any case, if the BPD doesn't like how they're portrayed in The Wire, they need to check the mirror. The show was fictionalized, but certainly not fiction. I don't know of a single American city that treats its underclass any better, despite all protestations about what a "Christian" nation we are. Bollocks. And Bealefield's bitching about CSI and Law & Order is patently trite. No one with half a brain in their head thinks police in Miami or New York are anything like the actors who fictionalize them on tv. Such crap.

The Wire needs no one's defense. It speaks for itself, and will long after we're all dead and gone. America has failed its citizens. If the powers that be don't like what they see in the mirror, they have the power to do something about it. I've yet to see evidence that they actually care.

The Wire Boosterism here aside (much of it no doubt posted by Wired shills like "Officer John") the show was good television.

That's it.

It was not art and it was not literature. The show no more deserves to be studied on college classrooms than "Goodfellas" or "Casino" --shockingly realistic movies that tried to depict the "truth" about the Mafia. Simon, like Scorsese, is fascinated with the dark, violent, malevolent side of the human spirit. So be it. The fact that it is syllabus fodder says much about how sclerotic and epauperized the American academic mind has become. Anything is fair game for a thesis.

Bealefeld has a right to his indignation--give him that--he has to live with the grit in his oatmeal every morning.

Simon is a millionaire from making a viewable product for HBO. Believe me, they don't think of it as anything else. The Wire was interesting and disturbing TV viewing.

Maybe that's what toasts so many people's crullers.

Let's move on.

Edward: It seems entirely possible to me that Mr. Simon was not interested in helping the city's 'image', but rather in helping the city itself. Reading his comments that we are all commenting on, it would appear that he believes the depiction of Baltimore given by The Wire is an accurate one. As others have said, it is necessary to face and acknowledge your problems if you hope to fix them. And that is, I think, what Mr. Simon was trying to accomplish - put on display what he saw as the systemic problems plaguing his city. To say he just "did it for the money" seems, to me, to be a very cynical position. Of course he wanted to make money, but why can't it be in a way that addresses what he clearly sees as a serious problem?

As for the complaint that he threatened to move his show - can you blame him? If I created a show and had a tone and direction for it in mind, I would be quite resistant to anyone dictating to me what needed to be in it. In any case, I fail to see what real, long term damage The Wire could have done to the city of Baltimore. With any luck, making people aware of the real problems of the city will be a catalyst for change. And personally, as I was watching The Wire I was not under the impression that these problems were constrained to Baltimore - I think most large urban areas deal with most of these problems to some degree.

The people that most often use the argument that The Wire "hurts" Baltimore's image are those people who control Baltimore's institutions. Bealefeld flies off the hook when someone asks about The Wire because, frankly, the police commissioner probably feels like he's staring into a mirror when he watches that show. I completely understand his reaction to Simon, and I never expect that he'll change his tune when it comes to the show. I am sure there are plenty of BPD underlings that think the show is spot on because it reflects their experiences in what is undeniably a broken institution.

Dear David Simon,

Keep it up. If your new show can help drive the NOPD reforms in new orleans, you're doing something right.

There was a drive by in central city last night, down my block. Twenty minutes later there was a retaliation. This used to be a good neighborhood.

-SV

I am glad that the discussion has taken a more civil direction. But I'm still utterly confused by what just about everyone has posted. Let me be clear. When it comes down to it, who cares what I think about The Wire's depiction of Baltimore? And that goes for everyone else writing here, too. Especially dumbfounding to me are the comments that support the show itself. I liked the show, too. A lot. I always agreed that one of the show's strengths was its unflinching viewpoint and the writing. I only mentioned that it lacked a certain balance in its viewpoint. Yes, the city can be dysfunctional. Wow. Big news. Pointing out a flaw (and certainly this was an easy one to spot) is far less creative than proposing solutions. Especially when the flaws are essentially lifted right from a newspaper. ...And what's at all relevant about that? This isn't about us and our feelings about the show. "You jerk, don't criticize my show!" No one wants to stay on subject. May I remind you that the subject is about Commissioner Bealefeld's reaction to the show and whether or not he had a point to make. He's in the field. He deals with this "real Baltimore" everyday. But what do people do? They immediately side with the celebrity because hey, they liked the show. When it comes to crime, I'll often defer to the Commissioner (but he's not infallible, of course) just as when it comes to war I'll take the word of the soldiers in battle before I take the word of the writers and film producers of fictional war films. Those writers and producers may have compelling and useful perspectives but I don't give their words greater weight than the actual folks in the field. Do you all? Certainly sounds like you do from the comments I've read. Like I said - dumbfounding.

P.S. To the nasty comment above about my looking over David's shoulder. Had I done that I would have been very understandably fired. You're writing a story yourself and it's also fiction.

Hey, the Wire slandered McNulty! Good police would never fake homicides and frame some poor homeless guy! ;)

Bill Simmons

I'm never moving to Honolulu - the way every week there seems to be something blowing up, or someone getting kidnapped, or murdered on Hawaii Five-O... I just don't think it's a very nice place to live.

That is all.

Insulting Simon's work based on the fact that it was your fair city in the limelight is disingenuous. It's a great piece of American art, no matter the medium.

But Simon's not good at his job because he doesn't flirt with the crew, or misses out on a chance to be more like Wolf with Law and Order? Hilarious. Now go fix your damn city and stop blaming the messenger.

Edward - As a member of the entertainment industry don't you find it offensive that the City of Baltimore essentially asked David Simon to scrub his show in order for them to co-opt his positive stories to fit with their PR goals? I applaud him for saying no and threatening to take his show elsewhere. I'm from the other side of the country and I understand that The Wire doesn't portray all of Baltimore.

I'm not from Baltimore and watching 'The Wire' doesn't make me look down on the city of Baltimore. It made me look even closer to my own city of Atlanta. What happened in 'The Wire' is happening to most cities in this country. The show did a huge service to America. Blaming others is a weak way of going about it. God Bless David Simon!!

All I know is that in the law enforcement community -- from cops who train intensively @ Top Gun interdiction school, to A.U.S.A.'s, to county prosecutors -- the Wire is discussed with reverence for its accuracy.

The PC seems intent on shooting the messenger. The message wasn't the problem.

Boy, Edward here has turned into quite the troll.

Personally, I spent a week in Baltimore BECAUSE of The Wire. Don't insult my intelligence, Mr. Police Commissioner!

so what east, he's an artist...so he did not chat with you...boo hoo, so he gave people and opportunity to get onto television and to have stories that are otherwise swept under a rug told!!!! many people take less money to do something they truly want....that was a GREAT production...period

Edward must not have a show to work on today. Maybe he's bitter Simon only made The Wire 5 seasons long.

Edward: Winner of today's "Not as clever as you may think award".

My Home Boy -

Setting aside for a moment your assessment of "The Wire", are there any television shows or movies that rise to the level of what you would consider art?

As an outside observer can i just say the commissioner made a mistake criticizing the wire, simply because it's been off the air for nearly three years new episodes anyway, so why bring it back into focus now.

Surely by doing so he's accomplishing exactly what he didn't want to, to remind people about a show that he claims portrayed his city in a negative light. So why do it even if the show is on in Baltimore in re-runs its not gonna have the same impact on as many people as it did when it was new.

Now there was a show that portrayed the city in a good and bad light or basically a real light that was Homicide Life on the street that came from David Simon's book which he wrote while working as a journalist on a Baltimore newspaper so he worked maybe even grew up there as did Ed Byrne a producer and writer for the show a former cop and school teacher along with several other production staff and background actors some portraying fictionalized versions of themselves.

So from the show and interviews i've seen they had some experience of what they were writing about so there was a real life Omar and Bubbles and various of the other characters just fictional versions of them.

Which is basically what the show was a fictional version of real life, minus some of the usual Hollywood sheen.

Much as i like the CSI's is nice to have something different with at least a foot in reality. the reality of every major city not just in the US but every major city the world.

As to the show's effect on the city itself i doubt anyone outside Baltimore cares no offense i doubt if the show hadn't existed Baltimore would be much of a tourist attraction.

Why are there so many comments insisting that Simon is insincerely "selling a product"? Total baloney. Authenticity is his reason for being. Anyone who has even seen ten minutes of the show would know that.

I love The Wire, and I think that the Commish is way off base with his strange crying about the TV show.

However, I do wish that David Simon would be more frank about these failed corrupt Baltimore institutions--they are the result of entrenched Democrat party control of the city government. These are bureaucracies who have been given almost eternal power to do anything they wanted, and the corruption and waste, and deficits, and human casualties are all at the feet of these Democrats who have nobody to tell them no.

I'm part way through watching The Wire, and until I read this article and these comments, I thought the only thing about the show that was particularly Baltimore was the name of the city and the occasional crab cameos. My belief was that the show was not so much about the specifics of Baltimore, but a portrayal of complex urban crime and politics that might play out against any big city background. Evidently, not so much. But, maybe most viewers (minus those affiliated with Baltimore) are ignorant like I was.

I’d first like to say that I think the discourse on this thread is far, far better than that of most threads anywhere on the internet, so the level of personal attacks isn’t really bad at all. I also think there have been a ton of really well-written comments from those opposing Edward and ole Ed himself, despite the fact that I disagree with him.

I think to focus on how The Wire portrays Baltimore is to miss the point. Literature (and that’s what movies are, texts) is almost always meant to apply a look at something specific to the broader portions of society. Is The Breakfast Club—to name a movie most have seen—about the conditions of the high school depicted in the film, or is it about youth of that generation as a whole? Is Apocalypse Now about Vietnam or is it about war and humanity as a whole? In that same sense, to people who are truly studying it, The Wire passes a judgment on Baltimore as much as Full House does on San Francisco. Baltimore is very much a microcosm of the big city in the US, and really that of the US and its policies as a whole. How often are we concerned with the public image of our leaders rather than their policies? How often do we strive to quantify things that cannot be quantified? How often do we respect ideas of those who came before us simply because they came before us, rather than had great ideas? These problems are at the core of The Wire, and they really have nothing to do with Baltimore. Someone who truly stops to think about the show will find that their thoughts will quickly move away from Baltimore and toward government, humanity, and capitalism as a whole. I am not from Baltimore and honestly the show has made me want to visit the city, and I can say with confidence that no negative thoughts are forever linked with the city for me, but instead are linked with our country.

And who says there are positive portrayals in The Wire? Quite frankly, there are tons! Who doesn’t admire Stringer (though I was more of an Avon guy, myself) for rising from the ghetto to become a self-made intelligent businessman? As aforementioned, Carver, Greggs, and Daniels are all characters that certainly portray excellent models of police and leadership. Even McNulty has his moments, and he is the most flawed character of the series.

From a literary standpoint, what is important is that characters change, which is something you will not see on CSI, Law and Order, or any of the other drivel network television pumps out.

"As a member of the entertainment industry don't you find it offensive that the City of Baltimore essentially asked David Simon to scrub his show in order for them to co-opt his positive stories to fit with their PR goals? I applaud him for saying no and threatening to take his show elsewhere. I'm from the other side of the country and I understand that The Wire doesn't portray all of Baltimore."

This statement is a lie. YOUR statement offends, not the city's understandable request. City officials NEVER did this. The city's request, REQUEST is on record and can be looked up in The Sun archives. They requested, in order to be more balanced and, indeed, realistic (and the fact that any production being shot in the city would require Police assistance in street-closures, free access to city parks and other services) that the show also contain at least some, SOME positive aspects to our city. But the mere suggestion - and that's all it was - a suggestion, a request - was interpreted as an all or nothing threat and a cry of censorship by the producer. Think about it. The very idea of moving this terribly dark portrayal to Philly and spending all this HBO money there while saying you'll still make it take place in Baltimore seems spiteful by its appearance alone. The scrubbing of the show, censorship, PR manipulation - NEVER happened and to suggest it is a lie. Period. The fact is, film and T.V. productions come to struggling towns like Baltimore and expect the red carpet to come flying out. Hey, it's Hollywood! But these productions both give to a city and they take. They expect a lot for free. Fees for shooting in city parks? Fees that any other group would have to pay. NO WAY! We NEVER pay. We're the MOVIES! And on it goes. Now tell me, other than portrayals of hell itself can you name another city that's been portrayed like Baltimore in a T.V. series? This town has big-time problems but so do many, many other places. We're not that unique. Now, where's that five-year long series about Philly or Boston or Tuscon that makes it look all corrupt, drug ridden and rotten to its very core?

"As a member of the entertainment industry don't you find it offensive that the City of Baltimore essentially asked David Simon to scrub his show in order for them to co-opt his positive stories to fit with their PR goals? I applaud him for saying no and threatening to take his show elsewhere. I'm from the other side of the country and I understand that The Wire doesn't portray all of Baltimore."

This statement is a lie. YOUR statement offends, not the city's understandable request. City officials NEVER did this. The city's request, REQUEST is on record and can be looked up in The Sun archives. They requested, in order to be more balanced and, indeed, realistic (and the fact that any production being shot in the city would require Police assistance in street-closures, free access to city parks and other services) that the show also contain at least some, SOME positive aspects to our city. But the mere suggestion - and that's all it was - a suggestion, a request - was interpreted as an all or nothing threat and a cry of censorship by the producer. Think about it. The very idea of moving this terribly dark portrayal to Philly and spending all this HBO money there while saying you'll still make it take place in Baltimore seems spiteful by its appearance alone. The scrubbing of the show, censorship, PR manipulation - NEVER happened and to suggest it is a lie. Period. The fact is, film and T.V. productions come to struggling towns like Baltimore and expect the red carpet to come flying out. Hey, it's Hollywood! But these productions both give to a city and they take. They expect a lot for free. Fees for shooting in city parks? Fees that any other group would have to pay. NO WAY! We NEVER pay. We're the MOVIES! And on it goes. Now tell me, other than portrayals of hell itself can you name another city that's been portrayed like Baltimore in a T.V. series? This town has big-time problems but so do many, many other places. We're not that unique. Now, where's that five-year long series about Philly or Boston or Tuscon that makes it look all corrupt, filthy, drug ridden and rotten to its very core?

Paging Edward...Edward to the comments section

The Wire makes me more inclined to visit Baltimore, not less.

The Commissioner is just making these statements because of the pressure from that damned Carcetti!

Edward, you mean redemptive stories like Bubbles beating his heroine addiction and living to tell his story? Or Namond Bryce going from son of one of the most feared muscle-men in the Barksdale family to being on the path of being an educated productive citizen? Not from Baltimore, but being from a major city just south of charm city that was once known as the murder capitol of the world, I can pretty much confirm the truth and authenticity of Simon's work, having seen many of the things that the Wire portrays. The sad reality is that there are very few redemptive stories coming out of the War on Drugs and ultimately, that is the story Simon told.

I live in Baltimore. I feel the Wire has been a negative reflection on Baltimore.My friend from New Jersey feels the same way about the Sapranos. Most of you making your long winded comments don't even live in Baltimore?

Edward is trying hard but comparing the PC to a soldier is stretching beyond the breaking point. I suggest he read The Good Soldiers to get a sense of how the soldiers experience war and how they and especially their commanders justify what they have to do and motivate themselves to go on. The PC is a politician much more than he is a policeman.
I agree with Laura, this rises to the level of fine literature. And it doesn't make me think less of Bo'more. Jersey City, Philly - Baltimore's got nothing on them for horror show.
This is the only show I've ever come across on TV that rises above entertainment. CSI is horrible, shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath.
It is refreshing in a confusing sort of way that Edward loves his city - butthe strongest love doesn't deny, or hide the flaws but works to correct them.

Apparently the numerous stories of redemption depicted by so many characters in The Wire failed to resonate with critics of the show. Walon, the HIV-positive Narcotics Anonymous counselor; Dennis Wise, who left his street name "Cutty" behind with his old life; Namond, born and raised to be a criminal before being rescued from that dead-end life by Bunny Colvin; Bubbles, who ascended the stairs from his sister's basement out of a life of darkness. The people who loved this show, which was vastly unloved throughout most of its run, found these characters very uplifting.

I'm grateful to David Simon and Ed Burns for bringing this show to television. I'm glad someone was there to rage against the failed institutions that have marginalized such huge portions of our population. The Wire gave those people voices. It seems as if the message was more than the defenders of those institutions could bear.

Proving the farcical bias of many of the responders of this forum is the fact that it's MY name that keeps coming up. It's very creepy.

Hey, people - The Wire and Commissioner Bealefeld. Say it to yourselves, The Wire and Commissioner Bealefeld. Because I wrote some remarks critical of "your show" many of you have acted like spoiled children and diverted the subject to me. And the rather sick part of it is that the same would have occurred had the show in question been Gilligan's Island. Every T.V. show - inane or not - has its staunch, irrationally passionate defenders. I thought this forum was about The Wire, Commissioner Bealefeld's reaction and David Simon's rebuttal. And ya wonder why there's gridlock in Washington. Listen to yourselves. Perfect reflection.

It's patently obvious that many responders haven't even read the posts fully and just want to jump in and play with the buttons on their mobile devices. Gad, some of you are as addicted as the moribund characters in The Wire itself.

It's certain that there will always be those who loved "The Wire", those who hated it and many who never bothered to find out. David Simon is a storyteller, and is entitled to tell that story as he sees fit. I worked the show for all five seasons, and it has been my privilege to know and work with David since H:LOTS so many years ago. Doing projects such as Homicide, The Corner and The Wire is a difficult and uphill battle for everyone involved. One must have faith in telling a story that needs to be told. We have asked many to watch that story, and find that folks throughout the US can relate to the stories therein because they happen everywhere. I have lived in downtown Baltimore for almost 40 years (literally within blocks of where the towers and low rises in season 1 were filmed), and know painfully well the truths of such shows. For those still wondering about some of the City's efforts to "influence" the production, might I suggest taking a close look at the following:

http://www.baltimoremagazine.net/arts/2008/02/down-to-the-wire

If you like the The Wire, that's fine. But, I actually live in Baltimore and I am sick and tired of being asked if Baltimore is really as bad as The Wire! This is not rocket science people. There is no way that The Wire is good PR for Baltimore.

My problem with the wire is that is didn't go far enough in portraying the horrors of the real Baltimore underworld and upperworld. Also, it fictionally presents the thugs as three dimensional human beings, Of course they are neither in reality. Watching the Wire is like watching a parody of criminal life. I know. I spent time inside.

Edward,

Your comments are provincial and naive. Simon was making a show about the complex forces affecting all of urban America, be it Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles or Baltimore. Very similar stories (absent perhaps the legallization / Hamsterdam plot-line) could be found in just about every major American city over the last thirty years. The drug war, the decline of the industrial job base, the political stagnation, the broken school system, and mis-directed local media are not just a Baltimore phenomenon. Only someone with a truly provincial and limited worldview would consider his city's portrayal more important than the larger commentary. Do you really understand the point of the show? If the show was strictly about Baltimore, I doubt I would have watched. Instead the show was about major city USA and is almost universally regarded as the most important piece of television made in the last thirty years, Perhaps your commissioner need to spend more time critiquing the failed policies of a three decade old drug war. I, for one, would enjoy reading that piece.

I love the comments about how Simon doesn't have credibility because he made money off The Wire, as if this is somehow wrong. Yeah, because making a gritty, realistic show about the drug war was a surefire way to get rich! It was almost too much for HBO! Even after it had gained some attention and a fan base, they had to scratch and claw their way through five seasons.

Bottom line is, if you want to fix Baltimore's image, fix Baltimore. Dont try to change the propaganda. That's the Bush/Cheney move.

Edward,

You are the worst kind of passive-aggressive grudge artist there is. Take your tired act and move on.

Secondly, if Dick Wolf were trying to do the same thing as Simon I might agree with you. He isn't. Wolf is a money-maker not a social critic. To show Baltimore or New York or anywhere in a neutral or positive light simply because the show is filmed there is poor practice at best. Grow up.

The City of Baltimore is missing a golden opportunity. They need to conduct "The Wire Reality Tour" where they take tourists in an armored bus to the neighborhoods where the series was shot.

Imagine as the bus pulls through, the kids on the corner yelling "red tops," "WMD's," "five-o, five o!!"

I'd take my whole family!

"You are the worst kind of passive-aggressive grudge artist there is. Take your tired act and move on... Grow up. "

Sheesh. What a mouthful. I'm not nearly effective enough a writer to be what you claim. Grow up? Yeah, I'll grow up and say that posting on this subject has been a real lesson to me. Write your honest opinion, state it with candor albeit with a personal bias (mine) and look at what happens. I have an opinion, that's all. And yet, you spew this near hatred - "worst kind of passive-aggressive grudge artist there is" It's just words, man. Somewhat clunkily written words that haven't the capacity to do all that much except for someone saying maybe they felt that Commissioner Bealefeld was really missing the boat and why. So I had a mixed experience on this show. That irks you? That makes me THE WORST? Why on earth? By expressing my one, small opinion it opened the flood gates of something I just don't know what. Are folks pent up about something beyond this topic that needs an outlet? Someone's buttons got pushed over the edge because of criticism of a T.V show? Mr., I mentioned my experience with the producer to explain what I felt and why from my personal perspective. But at least I stayed on subject without flinging names at strangers. What's your excuse?

The lesson I learned? I had this odd impression that Sun readers had just a little, little more on the ball. Won't make that mistake ever again. Promise.

And to the person who claimed that Commissioner Bealefeld is no more than a pencil-pushing bureaucrat; I urge you to meet the man, look into his eyes and say that. And I'M called a passive-aggressive grudge artist?

I can't help but feel that you are now resorting to unsporting tactics, Edward. You came out of the gate willing to argue a point in a reasonable tone, and now you have, in the face of opposition both unreasonable and reasonable themselves, begun to say that you are not arguing our point, and simultaneously attempt to transform into a martyr for being personally attacked on the internet while personally attacking people on the internet.

The fact of the matter is that the PC does have the right to express his feelings about The Wire, and he has the right to think it is a burden to Baltimore. But, to make it out to be such a problem is ridiculous, it's fiction. I think Simon is 100% correct in saying that there are far more important problems any city's PC should be concerned with before a TV show.

This leads to another point--do we punish the people who reveal problems or the people who cause them? Should a someone get in trouble for lifting up a rug and exposing the dirt beneath it, or should the person who never cleaned up in the first place take the blame? Simon, who is a Baltimore man and seems well qualified to be a commentator for life in Baltimore, did just this, yet we get angry at him.

And to the many people saying that it doesn't matter what people outside of Baltimore think about this, it is the exact opposite. The issue in question is whether or not the show hurts the public image of the city, in which case the opinions of those residing in Baltimore are less important than those who do not. And if you live in Baltimore and the show has destroyed the perception of your own city, you have some serious problems.

SIMMONS!!!!

" Should a someone get in trouble for lifting up a rug and exposing the dirt beneath it..."

No, not in trouble per se. But it would be nice if you stuck around and helped clean it up. It's the superior option, in my view.

hey Eddy, did it ever occur to you that David Simon acted cold towards you because your annoying?

Stop chatting with Eddy and start chatting with The Sports Guy Bill Simmons!!!

Edward,

Exactly how much money did you expect to get paid for getting people coffee and donuts? $7 an hour wasn't good enough? How about $150,000 a year and a company BMW? Is that more reasonable for you?

"hey Eddy, did it ever occur to you that David Simon acted cold towards you because your annoying?"

Maybe. But then much of crew must've been equally annoying.

Oh, and you mean, you're annoying, not "your annoying", Addy.

Hey, Anonymous:

Re: "It would be nice if you stuck around and helped clean it up."

How droll. How clever of you.

True fact: Simon still lives in Baltimore. Never left. He's been involved for more than a decade donating and raising money for the Parks & People Foundation of Baltimore, Viva House soup kitchen on Mount Street and a residential detox facility on W. West Street. That's apart from the storytelling.

That doesn't make him right or wrong with regard to the content of The Wire and it doesn't mean that the commissioner can't argue that fact, but for chrissake, is it possible for anyone to make a substantive point here without resorting to callow, half-assed ad hominem.

Simon is angry! Simon didn't hug me enough when I worked with him! Simon makes too much money! Simon didn't say nice things about the Inner Harbor and crabcakes! Simon wasn't there at the hospital when the officer was wounded and the Police Commissioner was! Simon's an arrogant snot! He pulls the wings off butterflies!

Likewise, Bealefeld is equally entitled to be judged on the content of his argument. Who he is matters not at all to what's actually interesting here as a matter of discussion.

Geez. Listen to ya selves...

"Exactly how much money did you expect to get paid for getting people coffee and donuts?"

This actually stings a little but not for me. I've been lucky enough never to have had to do this. My offers are small acts of basic courtesy, not job-related. It's a yes or no question I ask people standing around me on occasion. Do you do that at work? Why would you choose that as your attempt to shoot my point down? What a strange reaction to all that has been written. However, I have always been grateful to those who do those jobs, though. Everyone on a show works hard. Stop searching for a personal Achilles heel and argue the topic.

Edward,

Really, you are going to correct a persons grammer on an online blog? My comments were cut short by the "blog author" and it changed what I had originally wrote so it was not my exact quote. In regards to what I am about to write I apolagize for any mispelled words, typos, and/or poor grammer as I am not an english professor.

The only thing the "blog author" changed about your post was removing the curse word. -JF

In my opinion there is no way to compare David Simon to Dick Wolf or The Wire to any of the Law & Order series. I loved The Wire and I truely believe it was the best and most realistic show I have ever watched. With that being said, I cannot write badly about Dick Wolf or Law & Order as I am frequent viewer of both the original series and SVU. I have not watched the other ones so i cannot comment on them.
I watch Law & Order because I find it entertaining but I never once think that it depicts real life accurately. Criminal investigations and trials take months and sometimes years to end. In Law & Order it usually seems to be in a span of days or weeks. In general, police officers and DA's are not as squeeky clean as Law & Order shows them...again, I say in general. There is no Jack McCoy in real life.
For me The Wire seemed very realistic about life in the hood. It's not specifically just West Baltimore, it can be anywhere of that nature ie, North Philly, Chester, Harlem, South Central LA. The parts of the series about the kids is where I can write about what they are like in real life. I work at a reform school outside of Philly with some of the hardest juvenile criminals in the country. Around 65% of my kids are from Philly and around 20% are from Baltimore. The Other 15% are from areas all over the country. The Wire's depiction of the kids choices in dead on. What they go through, why they do what they do, and what their outlook for the future is. I watch The Wire with a lot of my kids and get them to talk about it so I can better understand them and using the The Wire as a reference helps them put into words what they are feeling.
I don't have experience with the city hall aspect of The Wire but many of my friends who are cops say it's the most realistic show for them. I will add, most of the cops I know are more like Jimmy and Bunk then they are like Stabler and Benson.
David Simons goals with The Wire are completely different from the goals of Dick Wolf with Law & Order. The Wire is trying to tell the darker side of the story from a bleeker perspective while Law & Order is a franchise trying to entertain millions. You don't need to think too much while watching Law & Order while you constantly have to use your mind when watching The Wire. It's like a 63 hour version of 1 episode of Law & Order.
Of course The Wire is not going to show the local arts or cultural mingling or the sunny side of Baltimore. It's a show about the meaner part of a city and a country as a whole. This was not meant to be a show about Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Aquarium. Not everything in life is peachy. If the show was shot in and about Philadelphia I promise you South Street, UPENN, and the Main Line would not have been a part of it because none of that is in North Philly where the crime is taking place.

Adam, and now I am unfortunately forced to use your name for clarity, I agree with and enjoyed reading basically everything you said in your longer post. How can such a thoughtful opinion originate from the same person who made such a silly, one-sentence insulting response a few posts back? Am I missing something about forums? I don't know much about them as I very rarely have time to post. Why do things get so mean and personal so quickly? (A topic for another time...)

In direct response to what you've said I agree and understand very well that The Wire and Law & Order are different animals with different goals. Somehow - and I've read my previous remarks again for reference - things got off track when I made a jab, an apparent swipe at David Simon for negatively comparing him to Dick Wolf. The weight of that jab was greater than I predicted. Since you are perfectly capable of writing a thoughtful post, do you have any specific response to how our Police Commissioner feels about the repercussions of The Wire and his perception of the ensuing damage? Bear in mind that though many of the characters in The Wire are what WE might consider despicable, they appear as attractive to the more sinister element and worthy of mimicry. Five years of that, as opposed to say, a single motion picture, might also be a factor... I am reminded of a billboard I once saw in front of a downtown church; witnessing evil long enough makes one eventually grow dead inside. Most importantly and my breath is weak from the repetition, does it matter at all how we, the eager, non-violent audience, feels about the quality of the program? I don't recall the Commissioner complaining about that.

What specifically are the repercussions of the Wire on the city?

I, for one, believe that Simon should have heeded the city's suggestion and mixed in more shiny success stories. We could then downgrade the conditions in the inner cities from "Epidemic" to "Serious Problem." This is better for the city, metrically-speaking.

I'd be willing to bet that many of the local businesses within Baltimore would be more than pleased to see another production similar to the Wire return.

I feel equally as certain that, in the long run, the show did little or nothing to affect tourism to the Baltimore area.

As was stated previously, The Wire was a piece of fiction, set in a real location.

Some residents of Baltimore may feel that the story represents an inaccurate depiction.

They may be right, and they are totally entitled to their opinion. They could be understandably upset.

But if Baltimore isn't really how it were portrayed, then I don't suppose it deserves much attention from anyone who lives there and holds the city so dear.

"witnessing evil long enough makes one eventually grow dead inside"

That seems like a weak statement to me. It seems to signal a resignation of sorts.
I would hope that as a resident of Baltimore that you would take the show for what it is.
A show. Not meant to be taken literally.

"does it matter at all how we, the eager, non-violent audience, feels about the quality of the program?"

That's not what's in question here? The quality of the content?

By reading this thread it's clear to me that the focus of the discussion revolves mainly around the direction of the show and how it may have affected the city of Baltimore.

But to answer the question, I would say, no, it doesn't quite matter how we feel about the quality of the show.

How would these discussions serve to be a benefit or detriment to the city of Baltimore?

The truth is that our opinion of the city means less to the quality of life in Baltimore and moreso to the egos and vanities of those who reside there.

The people who really can make a difference are the elected officials. The PC.
I do have to say that in my opinion, discussing how The Wire negatively affected the city, his time would seem to be ill-spent....


I live in Minneapolis (formerly Murderapolis once upon a time)

I love this city. Even though it was very recently considered an extremely dangerous place to live.

If HBO made a show with Minneapolis as the setting, I doubt very much it would have any real lasting effect.

As far as I can tell, the only result that could truly be quantified would be the economic impact created by the production teams, cast, and crew frequenting the local fare.

I'm a frenchman who absolutely loved the show, my favorite to this day. I have never been to Baltimore, or even set foot in America, and from my point of view the series didn't depict phenomenons particular to either of these entities.

My own government lives by the stats too, has been for several years. If they're good, claim the credit, if they aren't blame someone/focus on a good stat in public declarations/make the bad stat disappear entirely. Rince and repeat.

I wouldn't be surprised if i learnt other european governments did the same. The only thing i question is the scale of these mechanisms, which seemed utterly paralyzing public action in The Wire.

Of course i'm not enticed to spend my holidays in B'More after watching the series, but assuming i'd never heard of it at all, would i be?

Great post Ryan.

I don't see where The Wire tries to distinguish Baltimore from any other major US city. Gang violence, the drug war, and urban decay are obviously not unique to Baltimore.

The dark tone chosen lends to the story's themes. The show dealt with a a lot of negative subject matter and its focus is a creative choice.

I'm from France (sorry for my english) and I can tell you that The Wire was a revelation here too. Our current government only focuses on police stats and our police only target small misdemeanors, whereas big corruption cases often hit deadends. Moreover, our school system (I'm a teacher) is undergoing the same transformations described in the fourth season of the Wire...
So, The Wire is not just about Baltimore, maybe it is more universal than one might think.

The Wire was a great TV show, set in the city of Baltimore just after the turn of the 21st century. But it could have been set in almost any large American city at almost any time after say, 1970. It was not commissioned by the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, or Commissioner Blowhard or any other mediocre Babbitt-style Baltimore boosters, and was therefore free to depict Baltimore as it really is, and always will be as long as hacks like Bealefeld are given any responsibilty.

B-Ho,
Minneapolis was called "Murderapolis" when the rate went from 35/yr to 75/yr, for one year. It went right back down after the Illinois police and Minnesota police addressed the gang pipeline trying to cash Minnesota welfare checks. Those who took part in the scheme called it "Moneyapolis."

During the decade I lived in Baltimore, 35 deaths was a typical MONTH. There is no comparison.

I have lived in a half -dozen large US cities, and met thousands of people from all walks of life. In my experience, the reputation of Baltimore could not be made worse by The Wire. Read Malcom Gladwell's the Tipping Point. His indictment of Baltimore's approach to civic development is more damning than anything depicted in a Cable Drama.

Baltimore is a case study in the most egregious form of institutional racism. The mass migration of caucasians into the newly formed "Baltimore County" was indefensible. It caused a disparity in resource allocation more typical of a developing nation in Africa or Latin America.

Simon was telling a story I've heard a dozen times from friends and family in Maryland.

Simon says that the depiction of Baltimore and its problems was accurate. Then he insists it was fictional. Nobody thought it was a documentary and it sure wasn't journalism. The fact of the matter is that people all over the United States think of Baltimore in terms of what they see in the show. How can they not? The reputation of the city will take generations to repair. Thank heavens it started, at least.

Posted by: Moe Howard

-------------

What exactly is Baltimore overcoming? What blight is misportrayed?

It is indeed so very sad that a great percentage of people does not see the excellent work that has been carried out by our SAPS. The commissioner is indeed a ver decent, well bred and respected commissioner of our police force.

He leads by example and has contributed to the well being and up keep of our country. He is a true example of what aCommissioner of the South Africa Police Force should be.

Commissioner/General Cele keep up this excellent work. I respect your ability to be the head of our police services. Well done you are a true comerade anmd a great leader.

Gregboy did you even bother to listen to the PC comments??? Bet not! And what have you done for Baltimore?? Watched a TV show? Your the hack!!

Just another scumbag cop who happens to occupy a position of leadership in a dumpy inner city police department. He, like every other downtown cop who enforces the War on Drugs, contributes to the decay of Baltimore City. Simon made this point and many others brilliantly in The Wire. Being from the county but spending many days and nights downtown, I am proud of the story told regardless of how it made the city look.

I disagree with the whole notion that the show painted Baltimore in a bad light. In my view, the show is a slander against institutions in all big cities - not just Baltimore. I think a similar story could be told about any big, diverse city. I've always liked Baltimore, but if anything, I have a more favorable opinion of Baltimore after the show than before.

Sounds like truth is stranger than fiction.

The comments dissing Simon are hilarious. The Wire was a Dickensian piece of genius, on the short-list for the greatest show in the history of television. I wish he did a show on my hometown of Buffalo, exposing all the cronyism and insider-network idiocy that prevents, for instance, our waterfront from ever being developed. The show was social protest at its absolute finest.

Baltimore had some problems. Simon found an entertaining way to give these problems attention.

Those causing the problems don't like the attention, and try to bury it in rhetoric with off-target arguments.

Others see blaming Simon as an excellent scapegoat for their own shortcomings.

Anyone with even a lick of sense will know that a tv show does not portray holistic reality; it focuses on one little part of Baltimore. Chill out. Everybody knows Baltimore has many faces, just like any other city.

'nuff said?

I'm not from Baltimore, and have not seen "Wire," however this is an interesting discussion on how or whether TV can effect the image of a city. For me, the distinction is whether or not it is fiction. I doubt a show like "Wire" would effect my image of the city. However, the reality series "1st 48", which is all over Netflix, has had a negative effect on my opinion of cities like Miami, Memphis, and Dallas, which are often featured.

On the positive side, I've been hoping to visit Baltimore ever since seeing those crab cakes on "Man vs Food."

I have zero knowledge to draw upon from which I could reach any conclusions about how close the Baltimore depicted in "The Wire" is to the real one. I only know that "The Wire" is the greatest thing I've ever seen on television. Ever. I don't agree that there was any smear that needs to be overcome. I wouldn't be averse to visiting Baltimore, nor would I ever expect to see there the streets depicted in "The Wire". The show was a masterful drama after all, not a documentary.

I'm not from Baltimore, and I NEVER thought that The Wire represented your city as a whole. Until I started reading these comments, that is. That being said, the Wire may be Baltimore specific, but it's also every city in this country. If you were in my neck of the woods, you'd have to throw in the good ol' boy mafia too. It's the way life is. s*********it.

Ace of Cakes
Motor Week
Outdoors Maryland
These shows depict a Baltimore and Maryland worth living in.
The other? Ptt-tu-weee! Dreck. Schmatas.

Two notes:
I've been to baltimore many times and outside of a few blocks near the aquarium I am and have always been scared to be in that city. NY at least has its nice parts....

Is someone above really arguing that the show should've portrayed the police department in a good light? Based on the readings above and otherwise in the news, I'd say the depiction was more accurate than not and changing the story for that type of political statement is ridiculous. If the police were bad than show that. If the police did a good job than show that. It appears that the show was doing a good job if you ask me.

If you are afraid of Baltimore, for sure stay away from Albuquerque. We used to have this evil dude named Tuco, he's gone now, but there is still that Heisenberg guy and lots of meth dealers waiting to murder you on every street corner.
Darn, I miss The Wire... now I have to hate on my own city instead of Baltimore!

Just wanted to share the point of view of a non-American about the show.

I have been to many places in the US, and although I'm currently living in DC, I have never been to Baltimore. Hence I wouldn't know if the show accurately depicts the situation in the city. However, what I do know, is what the show describes concern more than just the city of Baltimore or even the United States. When I started watching the show three years ago, I considered it as a excellent piece of art, brillant both technically and dramatically and much more informative than a lot of things you see on TV... but nonetheless specific to the USA.
But then, I started to compare with what has been happening in my home country (that is, France) for the last decade or so, and I saw a lot of things in common : police departments obsessed with stats, counter-effective zero-tolerance approach on the drug trade, problems within the public school system... Of course, context and problems are different, but more in nuance than in nature.

I guess what I'm trying to say is while Simons focused the show on Balitmore, in the end what the show is really about is how and why institutions are constantly failing to address society issues. They fail in their mission to society and they fail to individuals who believe in them. It goes way beyond the drug trade, beyond being a police or a politics problem, it shows that there are structural problems.

I suppose you could blame the show for being generally pessimistic and not actually proposing solutions.
I'm afraid that the reality of we live in, and I believe Simons must be credited, in addition to producing a masterpiece in entertainment, for revealing the ugly truth that we suspected but that has never appeared to us so clearly. And, while it does often more feels like a documentary than a tv show (again, from a non-Baltimorean point of view), it is still a TV show, it's not a dissertation, it's not journalism. It is not Simons' role to be scholar, nor it is to care what problems Baltimore PD's PR department may have about the show.

Edward,

It is late and you are probably gone but I felt that I should say something.

You mention that you were shocked, SHOCKED that people would perform some personal attack on you over your comments and "don't argue the point" but to be fair, your original post you had an extended ad hominum attack on Simon implying that he made a tonne of money and he did nothing for it (didn't or rather couldn't write the show because of his reported catatonia).

Secondly, it is hard to tell, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I assume your point is that Simon should have included some "happy" or "good" stories to balance out the bad ones. I hope this isn't your point because I don't even know were to start about talking about this. This notion is so far beyond my ken as to be from Mars.

Personally, I found "The Wire" well crafted and compelling TV and having lived a life I know that cities are complex organisms which are far from uniform.

Dumbing down a story so that it doesn't scare the lowest common denominator just confuses me and leaves me speechless.

Unfortunately, I won't be back to read your, undoubtedly fiery response if you indeed come back.

Warmest Regards,

There's so much good in Baltimore. The Wire depicts such a dysfunctional place.
It's hard to reconcile the two. Out-of-towners who say they love the show might as well be chuckling and saying: "Sucks to be you." Well, it doesn't. Come Baltimore and see the good parts. Just because MacBeth lived in Scotland doesn't mean it's a bad place.

The first night I stayed in Baltimore my car was stolen. That town is crazy. One block extremely high dollar housing, next block the antithesis.

I was a fan of The Wire from day one, and I can tell you that without a doubt I forgot that it was in Baltimore most of the time until the city was referenced -- to me it was more about the collision of worlds between crime and law enforcement, and in both cases it is impossible to clearly say that one is a good guy or a bad guy. The show could have been set in pretty much any major city (come down to Atlanta if you want to see a real-life Hamsterdam). And as others have said,

1. it's just a show, get over it.
2. last season was over 3 years ago; relevancy, anyone?
3. most major cities are festering pits of corruption and crime.
4. Baltimore IS a violent and corrupt city that is probably on the end of the bell curve -- you don't average 250+ murders per year without some institutional help.
5. who cares is Simon is a jerk? Most entertainment types are; you kind of have to be in order to get large projects spearheaded, especially when they are revolutionary and do indeed threaten popular perceptions and self-delusion.

As McNulty famously sneered to Rhonda, "another career in the balance".

Baltimore, get over it -- fix your city and then Simon won't have anything to hit you with.

My compliments to all who spent time posting thoughts on this article.

Most forums don’t extend beyond the “Eff you, you’re an idiot” variety, and I can understand points on both sides of this issue.

The Wire is the only series I’ve purchased in its entirety, if only because the city itself is the central character throughout.

As a government employee (otherwise known as an “information officer” at the local - state level), the prime directive / fundamental premise is that government organizations have an obligation to explain how taxpayer dollars and resources are being allocated: good, bad or otherwise, regardless of The Bosses’ desires. -- Steve, San Diego

It is very clear that "Edward" does not have a creative bone in his body, and, thanks to a complete inability to think abstractly, everything in his world is black and white. To misquote another man with an inability to think abstractly, Edward seems to think that "everyone is either with us or against us", and since, on the set at least, David Simon was not always a raconteur and since he did not use his talent to write a phony baloney love letter to the City of Baltimore he was, therefore, "against us". Sorry, dude, it is acceptable... in fact, it is often necessary... to show tough love to somebody or something you care desperately about and who refuses to respond to any other kind of love.

As a lifelong Philadelphian, a city stricken with ALL of the problems Baltimore was during the time The Wire was set, I not only wish Mr. Simon WOULD HAVE relocated production here, but I wish he would have made it about Philadelphia rather than Baltimore. Then, maybe there would be some proactive response on the part of the city to fix what is so clearly and so horrendously broken before it is too late.

Thank you David Simon for producing an astounding piece of art in The Wire. The first time I watched it, it was immensely entertaining and believable. The second time, it was absolutely educational. Ive learned more through watching and reflecting on this show, and reading essays of the subject matter, than I ever did in University.

Fight the good fight, sir.

If it will take decades for Baltimore to "overcome" the image portrayed in The Wire, it is not because that image was inaccurate, it is because it is so accurate that it resonates with the public. It sure wasn't hard to overcome "The City That Reads," despite ads, park benches bearing the slogan and speeches. Get comfortable with reality, officer.

yeah i gotta agree with that ad hominem guy. whats his name? Well, actually.

David Simon is the man. Please don't stop.

Edward, you are a very confused and angry person, but I'm glad you finally revealed what you've been going on about for so long:

"I truly believe that his bent was to make the show bleaker as a matter of style to enhance viewership, if at all possible."

Ignoring your personal attacks against Simon's behaviour (a thing you insist is a "low road", I might), it all comes down to a weird conspiracy theory you have:

"David Simon is a bitter man who portrayed Baltimore worse than it is in order to get greater ratings, and so line his own pockets with money. And he did it all at a great cost to the city itself."

There are so many holes in this argument that I don't know where to begin. Let me ask you: What TV producer in their right mind would chase ratings through making things bleaker? Especially on US TV? People don't want to watch depressing TV shows. (You'd think someone in the industry might have noticed this trend themselves.)

Let's forget that and move onto your own contradiction: The Wire was bleak because Simon was greedily looking for ratings. The Wire was bleak because Simon has a bitter attitude towards Baltimore.

Which is it?

I must add that even though you worked with Simon, it's sad to see that you apparently know little or nothing about him or his background.

Simon worked the "cop" beat on the Baltimore Sun. After years of doing that, he asked the Baltimore Police if he could shadow their Homicide Department for a year, in order to write a book. It was the first time a writer would ever be given access to such a thing.

(Although, I suppose you must think it "greedy" that a writer should be allowed to make money off a book they wrote?)

Amazingly, the Police Department said yes. So he spend a full year alongside a Homicide department, learning everything he could. The result was the acclaimed book, "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets". (The book did so well that it was later turned into the acclaimed TV show "Homicide: Life on the Streets". Not by Simon, I might add, before you accuse him of more "greed".)

The book highly praised the individuals who did the work, and took the reader into every facet of a Homicide department. Simon ran his book by every major participant, and made sure they agreed with what he'd written. They did. The friends he made in the police became life-long.

One of them, who wasn't featured in the book, was Ed Burns.

After seeing extreme poverty while shadowing the police, Simon was inspired to spend a year researching their side of the story. The side as told by people who don't usually have a voice in mainstream media. He asked Ed Burns (then retired from the Police) to help him.

Together, the two of them spent a year on the worst drug corners in Baltimore, learning more about these people who had been forgotten by society.

The result was the acclaimed book, "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighbourhood". In it, Burns and Simon got to learn the stories of the people who live in the slums, and gave them a voice. As with the members of the Police he had trailed, Simon sympathised greatly with the people he met, and told their story with huge respect.

Ed Burns then became a teacher in these run down areas of Baltimore, attempting to help the situation he'd witnessed.

Burns would later become a co-writer on The Wire, as would other experts in various fields, such as Politics and Unions.

The whole point of The Wire is not to denigrate the city that Simon has chosen to stay in (instead of moving to LA like a greedy producer), instead The Wire is designed specifically to try and highlight the problems facing America as a whole.

To try to educate viewers, raise awareness, and bring to public discussion the very real failings in the system which they know nothing about. To portray the stories of the most down-trodden and undesirable members of society as accurately and without sensationalism as possible.

(There's a real money-spinning idea for you. TV networks love shows that deal with real world problems. They work great sandwiched between reruns of Friends.)

The major system failings portrayed in The Wire all happened. Statistics were "juked" and The Wire attempted not only to explain how, but to show WHY. Why people with the best intentions could do such things, and hopefully how they could be avoided.

You seem to be under the misapprehension that The Wire was about Baltimore. It wasn't. It was about the people, systems and problems that are faced by all major American cities (all cities in the world?), and an attempt to bring to light many things people would rather not know about: The genuine human suffering that takes place that doesn't need to.

Finally there's your accusation of his horrible attitude towards the City, when he threatened to move production elsewhere, after he was asked to change the content of his show.

Are you suggesting that it would it be a good thing if an artist let a City decide to creatively control their output? Especially when the artist in question in trying to bring to light the many problems and failings such a city might have, and in doing so help SOLVE them? Should Simon have just done what the politicians asked him to do?

Or should he have said: "No, I'm not watering this down. This is the truth. I've spent years of my life researching this, and suffering I've witnessed is real and is not being discussed publicly. Awareness of the poorest members of our communities needs to be raised. TV doesn't need another 'everything is going to be OK' lie. I'm going to tell the truth about what's going on, because no-one else is. That is more important than your political careers. If you shut us down, I'll take this production elsewhere, and you'll just lose the money."?

FYI: Law & Order (and its spin offs) had more murders in one year, than the real Manhattan did. How you can prefer this distortion of something as horrible as murder in order to turn into entertaining titillation for mass consumption, over a show that tries to raise awareness of ACTUAL social issues, in the most realistic way possible, is beyond me.

Beautiful.

No matter what your opinion is, or on which side of the fence you find yourself, no matter whether Simon is a good guy for having written 60 episodes that made television history or a bad guy for having vilified Baltimore for decades to come...One has to admit that very few shows can ignite a conversation as lively, long-lived and substantial as this one—in the comments of a BLOG no less!—about city, police, crime, prison, education, corruption, reality, fiction, ethics, entertainment, perception, media.

I sincerely hope David Simon is proud of having contributed wood for the metaphorical fire, and having given viewers something to express an opinion about, something to question and rip apart, something to grossly misunderstand or totally “get.”

I, for one, hope he tours all the major American cities and creates a series in each. Kind of like Sufjan’s Steven’s aborted “Fifty states project.” Next up after New Orleans why not LA, or New York, or Boston.

Fiction does not have responsibility to portray reality accurately. Fiction, because it should be art, has the right to be quite irresponsible, actually. I would take fiction like The Wire any day over the poisonous “reality” shows that flood television channels.

But I stray.

Simon did good. Our blood should boil, we should be incensed. We should be ashamed and want to defend our cities, our people, our neighborhoods. I just finished reading John Ziegler’s “Hatred of the West”, and if you want to be scared angry about injustice and dismal reality, read the section on the Nigerian delta where oil spills equal to multiple Exxon Valdez tragedies happen every year. Or about Haiti where for many people “dry cake”—a slice of vegetable solids mixed with mud and sun-dried—is their only daily food. Until we all realize what we’ve put up with and let slide in all the systems we’re supposedly bound by (the education system, government, law, media, health care) and read books, and watch documentaries that explore these awful truths, until we realize we’re totally free, and can stand up for what is right, then…well, lots of Baltimores are going to be sacrificed and bad-mouthed for a greater purpose of awakening audiences. Great art should anger.

Um…are you all going to make fun of me and tell me I just sounded like Carcetti?

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.



Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.
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