David Simon, the executive producer of The Wire, was not trying to set a Guinness-style record but was paying homage to a “very smart and very funny” homicide cop he’d come to know in Baltimore, when he rendered a memorable season 1 scene in which the root word for all dialogue was the F-word or the MF-word as two cops, to their own amazement, sussed out how a months-old murder had really gone down.
Nor was Mr. Simon-who built his first TV following via Homicide: Life on the Street, also set in Baltimore and spun from Mr. Simon’s book of the same title-aiming to appall HBO viewers. Indeed, who’da thunk viewers inured to the language, not to mention the violence, sex and nudity, of The Sopranos and Oz and Six Feet Under could be shocked-shocked- by abundant profanity in a very original series about heroically flawed cops and masterful drug capitalists. But numerous viewers were shocked by the sometimes splendiferous variations on the ultimate four-letter word and its four-syllable cousin.
“I was sort of surprised,” Mr. Simon said. “We just had a lot of response [along the lines of], `Boy, they curse a lot.”’
The Insider has to say that is one [four-syllable expletive deleted] of a [gerundial expletive deleted] understatement when it comes to Mr. Simon’s verbally authentic series.
The Wire “is a profane show,” the producer conceded. But “we are not trying to be provocative. It’s just the way cops talk in Baltimore-the way I know they talk.”
Mr. Simon takes great inspiration from the people around him, whether they are Lt. Terry McLarney, the cop who saw the language devolving into basically two F-ing words, or actors Dominic West and Wendell Pierce’s immersing themselves with such Zen-like “deliberation” that the scene passes Lt. McLarney’s test with soaring colors.
So Mr. Simon helped usher in The Wire’s second season Sunday (with four repeats this week, all ye who missed the season opener) with a band perpetrating a rocking rendition of Sixteen Tons in a dockworkers’ bar while a character proudly exposes himself. “Stay tuned” takes on a whole new meaning as The Wire weaves in the new story line about corruption on Baltimore’s docks, while tying up loose ends left by last season’s powerful saga of the Barksdale gang.
Might we count on staying tuned for a third season? “We’re planning one,” Mr. Simon said.
The Insider begs HBO to do the same.