What I Read: Of David Simon

With HBO’s “Treme” series kicking into its third episode tonight, wanted to hit a few highlights in the vast archive of stories analyzing David Simon, the show’s co-creator and auteur behind arguable the greatest TV show of all time, “The Wire.” Simon, who also penned the book that served as the basis for “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” from all first-person accounts, Simon leaves an initial impression about as complex as his stories. He’s passionate to a fault, observant of the tiniest details but somewhat blind to the counterpoints of those he disagrees with, shy and bombastic depending on the situation, a rage of a human being who can articulate the complexities of our species with pinpoint accuracy. He’s Don Quixote with a pen, blasting away at the windmills of 21st century hipocracy. And like the Man of La Mancha, his anti-authoritarian stance attracts a band of misfit followers. The windmills, though, tend to remain unmoved by his onslaughts.

Pugnacious D, New York Magazine.
“David Simon hates being pegged as angry, but it’s his fury—and passion and empathy—that made The Wire into such transcendent TV. Now, with Treme, he’s moved from postindustrial Baltimore to post-Katrina New Orleans, his irascibility very much intact.”

Stealing Life, The Crusader Behind “The Wire”
“On a muggy August afternoon in Baltimore, trash scuttled down Guilford Avenue, the breeze smelling like rain and asphalt. It was the last week of shooting for the fifth and final season of the HBO drama “The Wire,” and the crew was filming a scene in front of a boarded-up elementary school. Cast members had been joined by forty or so day players—mostly kids from the neighborhood. Earlier, the episode’s director, Clark Johnson, had been giving some of the kids the chance to say “Cut!,” and they’d bellowed it like drunks at a surprise party. Now, when Johnson yelled “Cut,” the kids swarmed around a video monitor to look at themselves in the last shot, pointing and laughing. “He just said it was good,” one kid complained. “Why we gotta do it again?” Johnson, who was wearing what he called his “lucky cowboy hat,” stepped away to talk to one of the professional actors. Another man—a bald white guy, unprepossessing in jeans and a T-shirt—remained by the monitor, and he answered the kids: “Hey. He’s the director. You don’t believe him? He kinda, sorta knows what he’s doin’.” The bald guy was David Simon, the show’s creator: a former Baltimore Sun reporter who figured that he’d spend his life at a newspaper, a print journalist who has forged an improbable career in television without ever leaving Baltimore. The kids listened politely to Simon and ran back to their places.”

The HBO Auteur, New York Times Magazine
“It was a bright, warm, blue-skied December afternoon in Central City, New Orleans, and in this neighborhood of humble shotgun houses and overgrown empty lots, a convoy of white trucks and trailers idled incongruously while unmarked police cars blocked intersections nearby. On any other morning, a police presence would have meant more bad news: in a city that has one of the highest homicide rates in the United States, this neighborhood — roughly a mile from the French Quarter — has a murder rate that, in recent years, has hit quadruple that of the city as a whole. This morning, however, the 20 drivers, as well as 80 other crew members who hefted and humped a boggling array of gear at the tumbledown corner of Second Street and South Liberty, had anything but murder in mind: they were six hours into a day of filming the third episode of “Treme,” David Simon’s new HBO drama — co-created by the seasoned television writer and producer Eric Overmyer — which is set in post-Katrina New Orleans and will make its debut on April 11.”

Who Gets to Tell a Black Story, The New York Times
David Simon was white but he knew he could write black people. Maybe not all black people but the ones he had known in Baltimore, where he had been a crime reporter for 14 years. He had spent a year on a Baltimore drug corner and written a book that had done something almost unheard of: It had shown black inner-city drug addicts as complex and startlingly human.

So Mr. Simon was not thinking much about his whiteness when he walked into the Los Angeles offices of HBO in January 1998 and set about trying to interest three white programming executives in the improbable idea of making the book into a television series.

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2 responses to “What I Read: Of David Simon

  1. Really makes me wish I had HBO. Any way to catch these shows online somehow?

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