Connecting The Wire Interview
By Jac KernOriginally posted February 13, 2017 by University of Cincinnati for UC Magazine
|The Wire aired on HBO from 2002-08, but still maintains a growing audience today. Photo/HBO|
In this latest release, Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Postindustrial Baltimore, Corkin offers a season-by-season analysis of HBO’s 2002-08 crime drama The Wire.
Following law enforcement in Baltimore, each season explored the police in relation to a different institutional entity: initially, the illegal drug trade, then unionized work on the Baltimore waterfront, city government, the public school system and finally in its last season, the news media.
The show was hailed by critics and adored by fans, but never brought in top ratings or managed to score an Emmy Award. Today, it is universally considered one of the best American television dramas and continues to gain a growing fan base following its run on TV through streaming services like HBO Go and Amazon Prime. Corkin’s book is the first comprehensive scholarly study of The Wire.
A key figure in the emerging film program in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, Corkin’s books include Realism and the Birth of the Modern United States: Cinema, Literature, and Culture (1996), Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S. History (2004) and Starring New York: Filming the Grime and Glamour of the Long 1970s (2011).
Give us an overview of the book and why you wanted to write about The Wire.
I had always endlessly been interested in urban geography. As I was finishing my last book—I’m always trying to think of the next project—one of my kids had brought The Wire to my attention. I binge-watched it, and I loved it. I thought it was a great show—sociologically and historically interesting. I’ve written about race and urban life a lot over the course of my career so I thought this would be a natural next thing to do.
The showrunner, David Simon, tried initially to respond to genre expectations in the first season. It’s really within “noir-ish” crime drama caper stuff, but after that, in subsequent seasons, he gives you four different ways of looking at a given American city—in this case, Baltimore—within the context of a neoliberal cultural moment. I thought that was really powerful.
|Author and UC professor Stanley Corkin. Photo/provided|
Baltimore is below the level of the mega successful, international cities. So the fact that it’s not New York or Chicago or LA; nor is it even San Francisco, Boston, or Houston—makes it like many cities in a lot of ways. Baltimore is a perfect neoliberal specimen. It’s a city that didn’t quite boom when the economic system changed in the '90s. Cities that didn’t boom, like Cincinnati, kind of got left behind and they’re just picking up the residue of that restructuring of international economics. And just like Cincinnati now is relatively booming, so is Baltimore.