Last night Handwashings and I went to the Museum of Television and Radio for an event entitled Unraveling The Wire. We had tickets to the overflow satellite room where we could watch the panel discussion on a large screen. Luckily, we were among the first ten to line up for that room. Doing so allowed us to enter the main room for the discussion (We spent an hour in the satellite room as episode one of the third season was shown to the assembled groups).
The panel featured creator David Simon along with Ed Burns (Producer/Writer),
John Doman (Dep. Commissioner Rawls), Idris Elba (Russell 'Stringer' Bell), Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver), Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield), George Pelecanos (Producer/Writer) and Karen Thorson (Producer). It was moderated by Ken Tucker.
During the discussion I was reminded that the show has a huge ensemble cast. Having four cast members and so many people behind the scenes on stage last night may have been too much. It didn't impact the panel poorly, it just made me wish the event had gone on for another hour. The second season about the docks was barely mentioned. David Simon also did a good job reminding the audience that the City of Baltimore really does play a huge roll in the series. While not pounding us over the head with the idea that the city is a character, he talked about the setting of the series as if it was just as strong an element as any of the lead actors.
The big question on your mind, I'm sure, is - what's up with season four. Tucker was quick to ask the question and initially Simon said nothing had been decided yet. About halfway into the conversation the topic came up again and Simon mentioned that season four is up to him. The ball is in his court. If he and the other producers can come up with credible stories that appeal to HBO (and to themselves), then it seems likely that season four can happen. The issue of ratings was discussed. The show didn't get huge numbers this past season but the way ratings are counted changed between seasons 2 and 3. All those airings of THE WIRE on HBO2 and HBO On-Demand don't count toward the ratings.
Simon went out of his way to praise HBO and my reaction is that his praise was genuine, especially when he mentioned that working with a network to figure out the direction of your series artistically is a much better problem to have than arguing with the network about how to get the ratings up. His one complaint was about the issuing of DVD's for seasons one and two after the start of season three. Now that we're three or four years into having tv shows on dvd, it's becoming common sense to most that a previous season for a show that's such a serialized drama should be made available to as many people as possible before the new stories begin.
Idris Elba was thoroughly praised by more than one audience member. In introducing the first question from the floor, one audience member suggested that Denzel Washington watch his back. Hearty laughter ensued.
Ed Burns seemed like an interesting guy, even though he didn't say an overwhelming amount. He's worked as a detective and he's also worked in the Baltimore City schools, thus providing one of the hints as to where the story for season four may find it's major arc.
All in all, it was a great event. I've got my fingers crossed that Handwashings will also provide a recap.