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Your mileage may vary
on September 2, 2012
The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television is a good companion for anyone who is interested in delving deeper into the myriad connections and themes of one of television's most complicated shows. This collection of essays runs the full gamut of topics, from exploring the forces that shaped two of the main characters in Season Four in Ralph and Luara Bolf-Beliveau's excellent "Posing Problems and Picking Fights: Critical Pedagogy and the Corner Boys" to examining homophobic attitudes of HBO forum posters towards the Wire's arguably most popular character in Kathleen LeBesco's "Gots to Get Got: Social Justice and Audience Response to Omar Little".
Historical explorations of Baltimore, character studies, television narrative complexity - there's a LOT of meat here. But then again, the show is so rich that I felt that there is absolutely no shortage of material and perspectives for another collection.
Because the collection covers such a broad spectrum of topics, its appeal may fluctuate from essay to essay. I would find myself immersed in one section (Jason Read's Stringer Bell's Lament: Violence and Legitimacy in Contemporary Capitalism), only to be completely disengaged and outright confused in another (Kevin McNeilly's Dislocating America: Agnieszka Holland Directs "Moral Midgetry" did nothing for me because I'm unfamiliar with the process of directing). I expect this to be the case for most readers; thus it's tough to throw out a solid recommendation for every Wire fan out there.
Still, I suspect that if you enjoyed the series enough to seek out additional analysis, there's definitely something in here for you. Personally, this book has earned a place on my bookshelf, as the Wire has cemented its spot in my DVD collection as television's most engaging and demanding show.