As far as pop-culture creations are concerned, The Wire is pretty much unbeatable across a number of genres. Most critics worth their salt argue that it is, and will likely remain, the greatest television series in the history of the medium. We’ve yet to see the end of, much less a beginning to, the creative responses that it will likely engender from imitation series to collections of essays and articles about the series cultural impact. Thus far, the greatest response has been The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez, a comprehensive guide to the series.
This book leaves little unturned regarding The Wire. It is worth the purchase price just for David Simon’s introduction, a 20-page account of the birth of the series. The following section is a copy of the letter that Simon wrote to HBO executives convincing them to air the series. The next article is an essay on President Obama’s love of the series. From there on out, the book is divided into seasonal chapters. In each chapter, the first section is a general overview of the season, followed by a succinct but insightful summary of each episode therein. Peppered throughout each episode summary are sections that provide behind the scenes information, primarily accounts of the real people who inspired characters like Bunk, Bubbles, Frank Sobatka, and many, many others. There are also occasional sections that feature topical discussions like “Women in The Wire.” The book also contains countless photos (both color and black-and-white) that cover some of the more memorable scenes of the series.
There’s not much else to say about this book except that it is a must own for every fan of The Wire. In fact, it will make a perfect teaching tool, both in the classroom and the congregation, for professors or ministers wanting to use the series to discuss anything from theology to social justice. While it would be difficult, or nearly impossible, to watch every episode in such a setting, the summaries here are absolutely perfect replacements. And as if any extra assistance were needed, the topical sections can also provide discussion starters, although I imagine most discussion groups or classrooms would need several weeks just to work through the socio-political aspects of Simon’s introduction.