Holding My Breath Until I See Spinoffs from “The Wire”

Bunk, McNulty, The WireAfter months of squeezing in an episode here and there whenever time permitted (which was rarely), tonight I finally finished watching all five seasons of The Wire. It’s sixty episodes of the most politically charged, complicated, incisive, meaningful, profane, discomfiting, provocative, challenging television I’ve ever seen. It’s not a show for everyone, but following the storylines of its roughly eight thousand different characters (give or take three) became an unprecedented adventure that part of me secretly hopes has left me scarred and ruined for any other TV show or fictional tale that dares to try impressing me in the future. Its multifaceted examination of life on the streets of Baltimore at every level made my own lower-class upbringing look like the life of a prince, put my comparatively benign hometown in perspective, and has made it hard for me to read any local crime news without wondering how much they’re not telling us.

That being said: the fan in me is disappointed that five seasons is all there is. I’m glad David Simon and company were allowed to tell the stories that deserved to be told, though a September 2012 interview at Salon.com reveals he had more ideas in store and collaborators itching to join him. Unfortunately, no more stories or extensions are forthcoming because America forgot to tune in the first time around.

(In my head I’m blowing a gasket and indulging in an apples-and-oranges comparison of the ten smart people who watched The Wire in its original HBO run to the millions of uninformed Nielsen commoners who won’t let a lot of horrid TV shows die much-deserved deaths. I’ll spare you that tantrum.)

Alas, thanks to the American viewing public, we’ll never have the opportunity for an entire line of The Wire spinoffs, each concept extending even more deeply into the distant corners of the Wireverse. If not for America, right now I could be moving on to DVD boxed sets of any or all of these sequels and other follow-ups:

..inserting courtesy spoiler space here — if you ever plan to watch, here’s your exit sign…

* The Wire: Season Six — One of the few settings I felt could use more exploration: inside Baltimore prisons. Granted, Oz covered this ground a while back, but did they have Avon Barksdale? I think not. Imagine Avon, Wee-Bey, Chris Partlow, Monk, and the other incarcerated soldiers of the erstwhile Barksdale and Stanfield organizations, all forming an alliance and establishing communications to Slim Charles on the outside, devising a plan for everyone to return to the streets and relive the glory days of the Game. While Greggs and Bunk remain the primary murder po-lice caught in the middle, McNulty gets a low-tier job with the phone company and in no time flat begins cobbling together plans to set up his own illegal wiretaps. Because drunken single-minded Jimmy will just never, ever learn.

* Kenard the Killer — Escaping the Baltimore juvenile system is a snap for the tiny, scary, grade-school soldier who snuffed big bad Omar and once made poor Dukie cry. Armed and on the run, Kenard leaves the 410 and wanders the country in search of a place he can call home and a gang he can take over, all before he learns to multiply or divide. I envision a concept like Lone Wolf and Cub, except Kenard is Ogami and Daigoro combined.

* The Legend of Omar — A minuscule sample of this prequel concept was covered in one of the three shorts HBO produced, which I found online at DailyMotion (which were not included in my Season Five set, despite WikiPedia’s insistence to the contrary). Basically, this would be The Wire‘s answer to Smallville, in which a small street urchin grows up to become the most feared and hated man in all of Maryland. Expect lots of teen angst, failed relationships, and pop-music montages.

* Everybody Really, Really Hates Ziggy — Every week a different character spends thirty minutes beating the stuffing out of that infuriating man-child Ziggy Sobotka. This show wouldn’t even require a paid writing staff, just a stunt coordinator to ensure every beatdown appears really satisfying.

* Squeak and Bernard — At the end of season three, the cranky comedy couple were thrown in the clink and lost their jobs as traveling cell-phone buyers for Barksdale’s crew. Years later, the two “lovers” are reunited, still hate each other, but still refuse to break up because they fear change. Instead they look for somewhere else to work together, no matter how trivial or illegal the job is. 2 Broke Girls meets Moonlighting via BET!

* Gus Haynes, American Journalist — I have no real pitch in mind. I just want an excuse to see the deceptively easygoing Clark Johnson rocking in front of the camera again.

* The Wire: the Network Reboot — Let’s face it: the show ended in 2008 and it was mostly unwatched anyway. Why wouldn’t a major entertainment conglomerate see fit to craft an opportunistic remake for a wider, less discerning audience? I could just see Fox streamlining the concept by tossing out all but ten characters, eliminating the season-long narratives and subsubplots, and turning it into another interchangeable crime-of-the-week cop show. Picture it: The New Wire starring Jimmy Smits as Jimmy McNulty! Reginald VelJohnson as Bunk! Former movie star Eddie Murphy as Avon Barksdale! Some famous NBA player as Stringer Bell! Tyrese Gibson as Omar! And, in a real humdinger of a casting twist, Lance Reddick returns not as Lieutenant Daniels, but as Bubbles! Only on FOX.

…okay, maybe I can live without that last one. If nothing else, it would teach the commoners to appreciate the real thing a little more.

I conclude here with a heavy sigh, though I don’t have cause to be 100% bereaved just yet. I have the show’s thematic predecessor The Corner on my shelf, waiting its turn. If I want to delve even further into Baltimore crime and the earlier TV work of David Simon and other contributors, I still have my Homicide: Life on the Street collection to return to at some point as well. Sooner or later, though, the well will run dry and I’ll have to go back to watching, I dunno, something sci-fi or whatever. I expect it won’t be the same.

3 responses

    • Too true. Some folks don’t mind when reading requires them to think hard, but when TV demands the same consideration, they can’t flip the channel to reality shows quickly enough. Then again, it would help if TV merited that consideration more often. I dream of a day when shows like Simon’s aren’t anomalies.


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