At long last, David Simon’s grossly overrated, overwrought, overwritten, television series “The Wire” is getting the bad reviews it deserves. [Full disclosure: I’ve had my personal differences with Simon and, at one point, he took to writing be hugely nasty emails to me for daring to suggest that maybe his own reporting on inner-city life sometimes ran contrary to his own nihilistic left-wing ideology. He even once called me a profane name in a print interview. Why he, a big time television producer and best true crime writer of his generation would feel threatened by things I wrote in small circulation political magazines is beyond me.]
The show went unwatched largely because it was never much good: Its plots were almost impossible to follow, much of the acting was pretty bad, and the writing — well, Simon seemed more interested in showing off his knowledge of inner-city lingo than in telling a story. I watched the first two seasons because the show, for all its flaws, did show a good understanding of police officers and police life. But I never thought it was great.
Nonetheless, television critics loved it and typically gave it rave reviews. But viewers, smarter than the pointy-headed critics, tended to stay away. Frankly, the shows’ “blame the system/blame the cops” liberalism tended to stoke the most primitive and discredited left-wing prejudices. Some libertarians with an anarchist bent liked it because Simon favored legalizing drugs but presented his pro-legalization arguments with some degree of nuance.
In fact, the show was the most anti-libertarian treatise ever to emerge from American television. It got credit for being “complex” and “multi-layered” because it depicted all social institutions — churches, unions, police, business, schools, and newspapers — as irredeemably corrupt and, really, not better than street gangs. In short, it depicted a society where it seemed like nobody other than an inspired central planner could fix things.