Inside the Mind of a Genius

Google any phrase like “best television show” and The Wire is sure to dominate your results.  It wasn’t always this way.

Back in September of 2000, David Simon (one of 2010’s MacArthur Genius Grant recipients) made the pitch to HBO.  About what you’d expect.  79 pages of proposed episode synopses and thematic sketches.

What surprised me the most were the ample changes throughout.  Here’s a rundown:

Conspicuously absent

  • Wallace
  • Wee-Bey
  • Poot
  • Pryzbylewski

Names changed

  • Stringy Bell = Stringer Bell
  • Aaron Barksdale = Avon Barksdale
  • Jimmy McArdle = Jimmy McNulty
  • Doughboy = Proposition Joe
  • William “Bunk” Moreland
  • Lester Weeks = Lester Freeman
  • Shakima = Kima

Character differences

  • Slim Charles is fat.  Really fat.
  • Herc is really into steroids.

Significant plot deviations

  • Bubbles has AIDs and dies by the end of the first season.
  • Kima gets murdered by Slim Charles at Orlando’s.
  • Orlando’s undergoes a name change to Odell’s afterward.
  • Herc gets busted for steroids and gets fired.
  • Santangelo is still a rat for the Major in charge of the homicide department, but also for Stringer Bell.  This sets up a situation where a Barksdale crew tries to kill D’Angelo, Lester, and Sydnor in a motel room.  Santangelo eventually gets arrested for this and Lester and Sydnor beat him up badly in a bathroom.

I know, right, Michael?

[David Simon’s pitch to HBO via Kottke]

[images via Blake Hicks & Variety]
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October 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Smart-Ass Pawn

I’m not sure what initiated this article, but for whatever reason, Lorrie Moore wrote a very welcome piece about David Simon and The Wire. Here’s a nice excerpt:

The Wire, of course, is a deliberately far cry from Adam-12 and Dragnet, the cop shows of Simon’s childhood. Its newness as a narrative art form is underscored most convincingly by its power on DVD, where it can be watched all at once, over sixty hours: this particular manner of viewing makes the literary accolades and the comparisons to a novel more justified and true. On the other hand, so engrossing, heart-tugging, and uncertain are the various story arcs that watching in this manner one becomes filled with a kind of mesmerized dread. In this new motion picture format the standard, consoling boundaries and storytelling rhythms are dispensed with—mostly. One is allowed a wider, deeper portrait, a panorama, of entrepreneurial crime, government corruption, a harassed underclass, and faulty institutions of every sort—sprawling portraiture that aims at inclusivity.

Even though its city hall has been mum, Baltimore’s Police Department has given The Wire its endorsement, as have the kids of East and West Baltimore. Moreover, the show’s themes can seem reiterated everywhere in the world, from out-of-work shrimpers and autoworkers, to the meth cookers of the Ozarks, to the poppy growers of war-torn Afghanistan (oddly, Hamid Karzai has two brothers who live in the Baltimore area). It is sometimes hard to think about the world’s troubles without thinking: “This is just like The Wire.”

I concur. You probably know by now that David Simon just won a MacAurthur Genius Grant for his television work. Very few humans get this award. If you were waiting for a reason to watch this show, this is it.

[Lorrie Moore @ the New York Review of Books via the Browser]

[image from personal favorite: Blake Hicks]

October 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.