“With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?” — question for cast members of The Wire

Back in 2014, during The Wire marathon on HBO, I started tweeting to cast members a simple question:

“With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?”

After all, there are so many fabulous actors on The Wire, and many never got to do a scene together, despite so many cast members — regardless of season — becoming friends or at least friendly off camera.

I grouped all of the responses in a Storify file, but unfortunately the site closed down and the post is gone. So I’ve re-configured them here, in order in which I received them, and I’ll keep this post updated if and when I get more.



Continue reading ““With whom do you wish you could have played a scene?” — question for cast members of The Wire”

The Wire Season 4: Marlo Stanfield, Baltimore’s serial killer


The genius of the character of Marlo Stanfield is that a textless, bold-colored headband came to feel too flashy.

He opened without one, an intro so perfect yet under the radar because the scene is about Bubbles, not this unnamed, previously unknown character whose first appearance departing a building is teamed with the sound of a bird chirping, as if Marlo is a hawk fledging from his nest and preparing to hunt the people of Baltimore like squirrels.

Continue reading “The Wire Season 4: Marlo Stanfield, Baltimore’s serial killer”

Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 5.01.54 PM Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“Makes me sick motherfucker how far we done fell.”

As “The Wire” HD marathon rolls on, I’ve spent time tweeting with fans about our passion for the show and with cast members about characters with whom they wish they’d played one scene while also writing or re-sharing my work on the show, such as this, thisthis, this, this and this.

The topics that come into focus while steamrolling episode after episode are the ones strung across seasons or even the series — the repetitive or parallel elements that only reveal themselves upon multiple viewings.

Like characters sitting and talking on a park bench, for instance. Continue reading “Two people on a park bench — “The Wire” and the importance of conversation”

Four reasons why it’s not “The Wire” without Season 2

Frank Sobotka, I.B.S. local 1514.
Frank Sobotka, I.B.S. local 1514.

You can’t spell “The Wire” without “Sobotka” — An examination of Season 2 

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“You’re a Sobotka.” 

“Fucked, is what I am.”

Season 4 would have been too late for Season 2.

When a new chapter of The Wire was born in 2006, 21 months after the end of Season 3, two significant story threads were already in motion: the simultaneous rise of Tommy Carcetti and Marlo Stanfield.

There were also changes for McNulty (now manning a beat in the Western), Cutty (now running his gym), Prez (out of BPD and pursuing a new and then-unknown career) and Daniels (a newly-minted major) that a new season would naturally address.

Chester and Nicholas Sobotka.
Chester and Nicholas Sobotka. (screen shot from HBO)

Season 4 needed to feel like a continuation of Season 3. The reason the fresh batch of school characters felt like a continuation rather than a departure is that the school story folds easily into the others.

Carcetti’s first administration-defining choice revolves around the school budget; Marlo helps corrupt Michael and doom Randy; Cutty interacts with all four boys at the gym; Prez teaches all four.

That wasn’t the case in Season 2. After spending 13 episodes learning names, faces, personalities and backstory of close to 30 characters, this unruly little show about Baltimore did (seemingly) a 180 and introduced a (seemingly) unaffiliated set of characters in a different part of the city.

For people who don’t like “the docks,” the complaints tend to echo how Fruit felt about Hamsterdam: “Why you gotta go and fuck with the program?” Continue reading “Four reasons why it’s not “The Wire” without Season 2″

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later

A look back at “Middle Ground,” the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest show in television history

by Jack M Silverstein (@readjack)

“…nothing I can do to change y’all minds…”

My parents had Kennedy.

I had Stringer Bell.

Granted, John Kennedy was an international figure, and real, and my parents experienced his death when it happened. And Stringer was local, and fake, and I didn’t watch Season 3 until three years after it aired.

Didn’t matter. Stringer’s death, silly as it sounds, was a “Where were you when?” for me.

I was at my parents’ with them and my brother, the four of us locked into the fates of nearly 40 characters over 10 hours of storytelling. And really, by the time Stringer was facing Omar’s shotgun to the east and Mouzone’s pistol to the west, we’d had almost 36 hours of this story.

That elongated buildup and knowledge of history is what makes Season 3 my favorite of the five. And that makes “Middle Ground” — that season’s penultimate, and finest, episode — the greatest 60 minutes in the show’s history.

I first saw it in 2007. But the night TV fans went to bed stunned by the death of this fictional drug dealer was Dec. 12, 2004 — 10 years ago today.

There’s a lot to like about “Middle Ground.” Let’s start at the beginning. The previous episode, “Reformation,” opens with the return of Brother Mouzone and closes with Mouzone and his assistant Lamar kidnapping Omar’s boyfriend Dante. I won’t even chop into that backstory, only to say that its strength and depth allows Omar to be one of the stars of “Middle Ground” despite having only two scenes, the first and the last.

That first scene is one of several that anchor the episode, the season and the series. By my count, there are nine.

Continue reading “The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest television show ever”

20 (ish) non-spoiler clips to show your friends to convince them to start watching ‘The Wire’

“You call the guy Snot?”

So, you love The Wire. Maybe you’re among the few who started watching on HBO back during the first three seasons. Maybe you caught on in 2006 for Namond, Dukie, Michael, and Randy. Maybe, like me, you tuned in right at the end, watching all of the seasons to lead into Season 5. Or maybe you’ve watched the whole show on DVD. In any case, you LOVE IT, and now want to turn every person you know into a Wire devotee. Continue reading “20 (ish) non-spoiler clips to show your friends to convince them to start watching ‘The Wire’”

Homicide, the Wire, and being very gentle

Finally picked up David Simon’s Homicide. The book is a masterwork of journalism and compulsively readable, especially if you’re into The Wire or certainly the television adaptation of similar name. Or if you’re a reporter and non-fiction storyteller searching for strong examples of the work. And, of course, it is a personal delight for me to fish out the Wire references (or, I guess: it is retroactively a delight for me to fish the Homicide references out of The Wire).

There are the locations: Murphy Homes, the Western; there are the names: Landsman, Twigg, Butchie; there is the lingo: red balls, taxpayer. Portions of dialogue or conversations are there, too, with the best so far a clear runaway winner, a discussion at Kavanaugh’s (home to Cole’s wake, among other scenes) between Det. Sgt. Terrence Patrick McLarney and his mentor and former partner Bob McAllister.

I think you’ll recognize it immediately… Continue reading “Homicide, the Wire, and being very gentle”

All the pieces matter: analysis, essays, and anything else on The Wire

Avon and Stringer starred in Season 3, the epic Wire season.
Wood Harris and Idris Elba starred in Season 3, the epic season of The Wire.

I have posted a few items on The Wire here at the readjack.com blog,  referencing  it in my blog intro and covering it in a February 2008 essay. Now, as I have done with my Iran and Bulls coverage, I would like to pool all of my favorite Wire material into one spot. This one. So here we go.

**UPDATED JULY 26, 2015**

Please send me other essays/videos/links that you don’t see here. Either drop a link in the comments or tweet me and I’ll add ’em in. Thanks! –JACK Continue reading “All the pieces matter: analysis, essays, and anything else on The Wire”

The Godfather of Television

Following the thread: how The Wire became a cinematic masterpiece

February 29, 2008

It doesn't take McNulty and The Bunk to figure out why The Wire is so good.
It doesn’t take McNulty and The Bunk to figure out why The Wire is so damn good.

“We’re building something here, detective. We’re building it from scratch. All the pieces matter.” –Freamon

My true introduction to the The Wire came with a man in a wheelchair.

My dad and brother discovered the show last October when HBO re-ran the entire series; I’d been in and out of the house, catching an episode when I could. My family loved it, and while I thought the show was excellent, it did not have its hooks in me. That changed with “All Due Respect,” the second episode of Season Three. Continue reading “The Godfather of Television”