"The Wire": A Panel Discussion at Harvard


Longtime _floss blog readers may recall my fanatical devotion to The Wire, an HBO show that recently wrapped up its fifth and final season. In my view, The Wire is important because it's smart TV -- it's a demanding, complex show that poses difficult questions and hesitates to give in to happy endings. It prompts thinking and discourse among its viewers, but manages to remain entertaining. While I appreciate "junk TV" too, I feel like smart TV is an important form to nurture. If you haven't seen The Wire, the first four seasons are currently on DVD and the fifth will arrive next month.

Last week, the Harvard University Institute of Politics hosted a forum entitled: The HBO Series The Wire - A Compelling Portrait of an American City. It's a ninety-minute discussion of the series and the issues it raised, with a panel including:

* David Simon, writer/producer of The Wire
* Nora Baston, Deputy Superintendent of the Boston Police Department
* Geoffrey Canada, author of Fist Stick Knife Gun: A Personal History of Violence in America and president of the Harlem Children's Zone
* Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.

The discussion was moderated by William Julius Wilson, Professor at Harvard University and author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor.

Topics include: why it took a TV show to bring the drug war back into the national discourse; the difference between academia, journalism, and dramatic TV; how to get a Pulitzer prize at a modern newspaper; how The Wire is a show about "something" (an implicit Seinfeld comparison there); what's wrong with "Just Say No"; the effects of the drug war on the U.S. prison population; how environmental (social) factors affect kids; and lots more.

You can watch the discussion online, but you'll need the RealPlayer plugin installed.