What I’m Watching: Week of 5/14/10
The Wire: Season 4
If The Wire had ended after season 3, it would already have a claim to the title of Greatest Television Show Ever. With this fourth season, they leave absolutely no room for debate. For the uninitiated, The Wire does nothing less than chronicle the collapse of the American social infrastructure, using the mean streets of Baltimore as its canvas of systemic decay and the imprisonment of the underclass without need for prison bars. This season expands the show’s peerless observance to the public school system, where anarchy lies just under the surface and where the social contract has failed those least able to defend themselves. The four young actors who comprise the focus of this season display an incandescent talent as I’ve never seen in a TV show, and their perilous journey through an urban jungle rotting at all levels is the most searing and heartbreaking art ever brought to the small screen. For anyone who hasn’t seen this show, correct that immediately. This is great American literature made life, and it’s essential viewing for any properly sensitive citizen of this country, a country where the greatest tragedies are systemic and where many of those lost are buried before they even get a chance. The Wire is the Great American Tragedy, and this is the best season of them all.
Capitalism: A Love Story
Michael Moore still has a penchant for letting his indulgent narration and tacky stunts get in the way of his message (boat trip to Cuba, anyone?), but unlike the unfocused zealotry of Fahrenheit 9/11, this film possesses a more sober tone and a clearer focus that makes it a valuable viewing experience. His illustration of modern American capitalism, which has devolved from an open garden of free enterprise into a ruthless cartel of corporate giants unfettered in preserving their own self-interests, hits a lot of strong notes. I remember cases like the PA Child Care incident (though few else do), where privatized juvenile corrections resulted in the wanton incarceration of teens guilty of crimes along the lines of throwing a steak at their stepfather or mouthing off to a friend at the mall. These cases are not uncommon, and they’re endemic of a country far too willing to put valued social institutions in the hands of machines with zero interest in the common welfare. Moore still succumbs to a few cheap theatrics and the film noticeably lacks any coherent proposal other than vague defenses of socialism, but its observations are keenly made, and that’s worth quite a bit.