Teleconference with ‘The Wire’ producer

By Amanda Carson
April 30, 2009

HBO’s award-winning series, “The Wire,” should be viewed as a depiction of society.

“‘The Wire’ was not merely designed as entertainment, it was an argument,” David Simon, the producer of “The Wire,” said in a teleconference Thursday, April 16.

Students from the course, “Social Realism in Literature and the Media,” participated in the co-sponsored English department and Honors Program teleconference.

Students asked questions regarding the casting process, story line, script writing and music of “The Wire.” The teleconference was later opened up to other audience members, who were not in the class.

“I gained a deeper understanding of the writing and casting processes that go into creating a television show that deals with socially relevant issues,” Jessica Pickering, sophomore English and philosophy major, said.

“I thought the teleconference was a marvelous success for two reasons. One, because our students asked penetrating questions that demonstrated how deeply they thought about the show and its themes, and two, Simon gave such rich and detailed answers; each of his responses was like a mini-essay on the social and political crises of our time,” Dr. Paul Wright, assistant professor of English and co-director of the Honors Program, said.

The teleconference was hosted in conjunction with Wright’s course.

Students enrolled in the course also read books written by three writers for “The Wire.” Other texts included “The Jungle” and a Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus.

The students then could relate “the rich tradition behind what seem to be very modern themes” to “The Wire,” Wright said.

Wright chose to have the class study “The Wire” because, according to his syllabus, it “is acknowledged by many critics to be the finest work of dramatic television the has yet produced. Yet despite this critical acclaim, for the most part the series has been passed over by viewers and awards alike.”

“The Wire” is set in modern day Baltimore and reflects the urban America that is most often neglected.

Simon explained that the show says “something about the American Empire,” and criticizes society’s institutions, which have been failing to serve our country.

He encouraged the students to not focus on racial and gender themes but rather focus on how it criticizes America.

Wright now hopes to continue offering his piloted course, which was approved as a core curriculum and “Individual and Society” course.

He is waiting for final approval to offer the class next spring as an inside/out course “where Cabrini students take the class with inmates at a local correctional facility,” Wright said.

He is currently in the process of writing an article on “The Wire” and will be researching at Simon’s production office this summer. There, according to Wright, he will have access to “materials related to the show’s creation and production.”

Of the teleconference Wright hopes “students came to see that television and the media at large, when at their best, enter into a productive dialogue with literary traditions and social justice issues that are at the heart of a good liberal arts education.”

Amanda Carson

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