TV Club

Week 4: No Cursing in the Newsroom

Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, Jamie Hector, Method Man, and Robert F. Chew in The Wire

Dear Jeff,

It’s not just Prop Joe who got did this week. All the chunky old veterans were kicked to the curb. Joe got a bullet in the brain. Plus-size police commissioner Ervin Burrell got a plaque. And spare-tired police reporter Roger Twigg got a final scoop and one last byline. (Oh, and Hungry Man, who’s not fat but is, apparently, hungry, got it worst of all.) Each was a victim of the octopuslike system that Simon believes is destroying America. The younger, colder Marlo—the living embodiment of conscienceless capitalism—sucks every bit of useful information from Joe before corpsing him. The mayor who cares for nothing but his own political ambition chops down Burrell, but not for any principled, improve-the-city purpose. Toolish editors Whiting and Klebanow force Twigg to quit, simply to serve their rapacious corporate masters.


(I also think it’s sly that the fat old-timers are replaced by the lean-and-hungry: Marlo has never consumed anything but a lollipop on the screen. And as I wrote last week, Burrell’s heir-apparent Daniels suffers from an acute case of manorexia.)

I totally agree about the power of the Prop Joe-Marlo drama. And I love watching Carver’s frustration over the disintegration of his department, at the very moment his career is taking off. But I continue to puzzle over practically everything else. The fake serial killer story line is increasingly operatic and mannered: What did you make of that Hieronymous Bosch spectacle in the homeless encampment? A bit too much, if you ask me. And as you say, the no-cursing-in-the-newsroom speech defied belief (though, even as I write that, I am betting we get e-mail from at least one reporter who’s been on the receiving end of such a lecture from some newspaper-chain middle manager).

My favorite moment of the episode: when Prop Joe and Herc are waiting around in lawyer Levy’s office and Joe tells Herc that he and Burrell attended high school together, back in the day (a connection, incidentally, that is meant to foreshadow their simultaneous downfalls). Prop Joe says of Burrell, in that inimitable Jovian drawl: “Ervin was a year before me at Dunbar. He was in the glee club.”

Yours without profanity,