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Dead Tree Alert: Wire Service

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freamon_mcnulty.jpgPaul Schiraldi/ HBO

In this week’s print magazine, I have a long-ish feature on the final season of The Wire. [News-pegged update: Barack Obama's favorite show!] It may be a bit Wire 101 for the already-converted; writing about this show for a general-interest magazine, you have to assume a good chunk of the audience hasn’t watched it yet. And there’s so much story in The Wire that even after 1,500 words I feel I barely scratched it. (Ditto my 90-minute interview with David Simon; I’ll try to post excerpts later.) Add to that the fact that it’s really tough to describe much of the new season without getting spoilery–it’ll be clear a couple episodes in why that is.

All that said, the bottom line is that the show is still great, and I look forward to being able to get into the details in my Wire Watch posts. The seven episodes I saw don’t quite add up to the emotionally devastating impact of season 4, but let’s be fair, what would? I’d say this season has some elements of season 3 (which combined street-gang intrigue with the audacious Hamsterdam storyline) and season 2 (which took a detour into a different, and whiter, world–that season the dock, and this season, the media). Also: more McNulty. A lot more McNulty.

There’s been some controversy already among journo types about whether Simon’s critique of the Baltimore Sun and its management is fair. (The Atlantic takes him on, as does The Baltimore Sun’s TV critic, David Zurawik–by the way, I respect him and honestly believe he’s being impartial, and he’s praised the show in the past.) Maybe, maybe not; certainly talking to Simon I got a sense that there was some score-settling going on, although the season also shows great love for reporters and the Sun’s tradition. But whether Simon’s fictional Sun matches the real Sun is a secondary, inside-baseball question. Simon’s take on the media today generally–especially how the business of journalism is affecting the journalism of journalism–is right on, and it fits into the larger theme of a society under the squeeze in the name of higher profit margins (legal or otherwise). More on that, again, as we get into the recaps.

In the meantime, get ready for Sunday–those of you who haven’t already watched On Demand–and appreciate a good thing before it’s gone.