In the pantheon of great, conclusion-defying debates this one ranks up there with “Who’s Better, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle?” from my Little League days, “The Beatles or The Stones? ” from high school, and, shifting criteria a bit to contemporary matters, “Who’s More of an Embarrassment to Their District, Steve King or Michele Bachmann?” There are no definitive answer. Everything is subjective. The only thing to agree on is that in each case peerage is close enough to warrant a discussion.
So too is the argument over “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad”, the latter of which begins closing out its run as “the best show on television” this Sunday night.
The case I make for “The Wire” is that like anything aspiring to art it made a conscious decision push beyond established convention. It pulled its audience into places, points of moral perspective and reflection that others of its type had not, could not and would not. Specifically, the authentic, unhygienic, street-level culture of the black inner city.
The running joke is that “The Wire”, created and frequently written by crusty, cynical, ex-Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, is every white liberals’ favorite series, mainly because it is as close as any of them will ever get to scoring crack in the hood and the way it confirms everything we/they’ve ever wanted to believe about why hellholes like that exist. I.e. massive, chronic corruption up and down the political system, resulting in futile-to-non-existent social services, wretched schools, little to no community investment, counter productive police work and a gangland hierarchy that maintains its control by mimicking white-collar criminality.