The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence Is Power

The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence Is Power

The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence Is Power

The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence Is Power


This book offers the only examination of the television writing of David Milch and David Simon as significant contributions to American culture, literature, and social realism.

David Milch and David Simon are two of the most prolific and successful television drama writers in the last 30 years. These talented writers have combined real-world knowledge with wild imaginations and understandings of the human psyche to create riveting shows with realistic environments and storylines. Minch and Simon's writing have resulted in television series that have earned both critical acclaim and millions of viewers.

The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence is Power is the most comprehensive text yet written about Milch and Simon, and documents how television dramas of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s mirrored American culture with unprecedented sociological accuracy. The author explains how both individuals are not only capable dramatists, but also insightful cultural critics. This book also examines the full range of Milch's and Simon's authorial careers, including Milch's books True Blue: The Real Stories behind NYPD Blue and Deadwood: Tales of the Black Hills and Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood.


The Wire (2002–2008) is a stunning achievement for David Simon, for HBO, and for television drama. This series offers one of the most comprehensive, authentic, and detailed fictional portraits of an American city ever captured on film, testifying to Simon’s talents as a writer, producer, and social realist. The Wire, by dramatizing the lives of residents across the social, cultural, economic, political, and criminal strata of Baltimore, Maryland, forms a fascinating counterpoint and bookend to David Milch’s Deadwood . Whereas Deadwood depicts the origins of American political and economic dominance in 19th-century brutality, theft, racism, and entrepreneurship, The Wire reveals the exhaustion of American confidence in 21st-century bureaucracies that demean, diminish, and degrade the lives of average citizens. Deadwood’s characters struggle to construct a viable community from the basest forms of avarice, repression, and murder to secure a better future, while The Wire’s characters struggle to survive the decline of their community’s economic, political, and democratic potency in an environment where hope seems ever more distant. Simon’s program, therefore, refuses an optimistic, bright, and happy vision of American life to offer its audience a darker, more cynical, and more troubling view of the unrestrained capitalism that Deadwood depicts in its infancy. Both series, however, share an unrelenting skepticism about bureaucratic institutions that, to casual viewers, verges on civic nihilism.

The Wire, indeed, has ambitions beyond the status of mere entertainment that Simon’s writing, DVD commentaries, behind-thescenes documentaries, and press interviews dismiss as network television’s fundamental goal. Simon, in his long introduction to Rafael Alvarez’s “The Wire”: Truth Be Told (the 2004 book that chronicles the program’s genesis, development, background, and influences), states that while “the best crime shows—Homicide and NYPD Blue, or their predecessors Dragnet and Police Story—were essentially about good and evil,” The Wire’s creators “are bored with good and evil. We renounce the theme.” Differentiating his HBO series from the NBC cop show on which Simon first worked as a television writer and producer allows Simon to declare that he and The Wire’s creative team “are not only trying to tell a good story or two. We are trying, in our own way, to pick a fight.” This fight not only opposes the crime dramas and cop shows that fill network television’s programming landscape but also enacts Simon’s belief that network television is indifferent to the forgotten people, places, and aspects of American life that have become, in the 21st century’s postindustrial economy, superfluous. “The Wire,” Simon states in a supremely confident yet revealing passage of his introduction to Alvarez’s book, “is most certainly not about what has been salvaged or exalted in America. It is, instead, about what we have left behind in our cities, and at what cost we have done so. It is, in its larger themes, a television show about politics and sociology and, at the risk of boring viewers with the very notion, macroeconomics. And frankly, it is an angry show . . .

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