The Wire at Ten: Joe Spillane, “I’ve Never Watched The Wire”

Editor’s Note: This week we begin a new series marking the tenth anniversary of The Wire, arguably the most important television program about drugs in the history of…well, of the whole world. Points co-founder Joe Spillane kicks us off today– in a post I had to twist his arm to write– with his meditations on NOT watching The Wire despite its incontrovertible relevance to his own work.  In the weeks to come, we will hear from scholars working in a variety of fields about the show’s relevance to their work: Carlo Rotella (Boston College) will talk about its place in the history of police genres, and  Sergio Campos (U. Miami) will weigh in on the way the show foregrounds the dynamics of subordination. Stan Corkin (U. Cincinnati) will map the human ecology of the Baltimore ghetto and Judith Jack Halberstam (U. Southern California) will discuss the power of queer queens within those dynamics.  Finally Jonathan Simon (Cal Berkeley) will examine the way that academic interest in the show mirrors trends in legal and criminology scholarship. Drugs and drug history, broadly described, inform all of these posts even if they are not at their centers, and the ways in which these guest bloggers work within and against the traditional histories of drug prohibition, regulation, and policy suggest the richness of contemporary “alcohol and drugs history” research. -t.t.

Ten Years After

David Simon’s drama series The Wire debuted on HBO a decade ago, and spent the next six years (60 episodes over 5 seasons) winning critical praise and an enormously loyal fan base.  Loyal to a fault, perhaps– it has been reckoned that The Wire produced one of the most annoying groups of fans in television history.  Exhibit A for annoying fandom is Points Managing Editor Trysh Travis.  Long before Trysh and I cooked up the idea for Points, she embarked on a lengthy quest to turn me into a viewer of The Wire.  Lengthy, and relentless.  In- person conversations inevitably turned to the question of whether I had yet begun watching the series, emails generally were tagged with a quick admonition to get busy with Season One.  All because, despite my dual interest in the drug wars and in quality television entertainment, I had never seen a minute of the show.  I hadn’t then, I still haven’t today, and chances are reasonably good that I may never.  And I’m OK with that.

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