Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jeffrey Goldberg Is Too Smart For The Wire - Week 1

You're an average American. Kinda smart but not threateningly so. You go along to get along and you watch television to be entertained. You are not Jeffrey Goldberg. Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for Atlantic.

He is firmly entrenched in the ink business, and when David Simon decided to indict the Baltimore Sun as a main plot point for The Wire's fifth season, Jeffrey Goldberg was not going to let it stand. Upon hearing this news, he decided on the spot that he would not like this season and watching the actual episodes would not change his mind. They are impugning his profession! And, by extension, him personally! He's a journalist. Everybody that comes to his fancy dinner parties is a journalist. They are important people shaping the national discussion. At these dinner parties, they only eat line caught fish that come from sustainable stocks with a side of cruelty-free broccoli.

Slate has a feature in which two writers exchange letters to each other throughout a given week on a given topic. Goldberg and Slate's own David Plotz have been discussing every episode of The Wire and Goldberg is two compliments shy of being called curmudgeonly. Since he's nitpicking every single aspect of The Wire and David Simon this season, let's nitpick his very own critiques. And let's just realize something now. This is going to get loooooooooooong.

Plotz opens up with a note that includes, I'm a little worried about the Baltimore Sun plot. I've had two brief conversations with David Simon—he's a friend of a friend—and my wife has had two long ones. In all four of those exchanges, Simon demonstrated an obsession with the Sun that bordered on monomania. There Hanna and I were, slobbering to him about Omar, and Simon kept changing the subject to stories that his editors had screwed up 19 years ago.

This is good. Right off the bat, the reader knows how important these men are and that their opinions will probably be quite biased. The stage is set!

In an opening post titled, "I'm Worried", Goldberg counters with musings like, First, let me dissent from Mr. Weisberg's audacious claim that The Wire is the best show on television ever. I think that I would have agreed with his assertion, except that I recently watched, in seriatum, the first season of The Sopranos, which is just pure Shakespeare...It has become a cliché to call The Wire Dickensian, because it so clearly is, but it's no insult to Dickens to say that he's no Shakespeare.

Since you're not presently sitting in his office where you can see it, Goldberg has tacked his English lit degree to your forehead. Consider yourself duly informed. If you're wondering, in seriatum means in series. Goldberg is much too refined to crassly tell us he watched the first season "in order" or "in a row". Also, you should know that he doesn't watch episodes of a drama randomly. He watches them in seriatum. Ipso facto, he is ahead of the game.

In our early glimpse of the Sun newsroom, we're not seeing much in the way of gray: just asshole bosses, a fantasy-camp city editor, a brooding and envious general assignment reporter and his naive-seeming Hispanic colleague, who gave us the most unrealistic moment last night: After she is publicly humiliated by the grammarians of the city desk, she actually seems grateful. Give me a break.

Goldberg has never enjoyed being corrected by an editor, so he can't even fathom a reporter who would be. For instance, there was the time an editor mentioned that a particular Latin word is typically spelled seriatim, not seriatum. Goldberg hated that guy.

By the way, Obama's love of The Wire speaks well of him. I don't picture Hillary going in for this sort of thing.

It is a well-established fact that elite media types hate Hillary Clinton with a burning fury, and any chance to land a shot on her is not be passed by.

Then David Simon, who has a divining rod for any mentions of his name, found this insightful repartee and chimed in. Just curious: What were the circumstances at which those conversations occurred? When I am at say, at a book-release party with a bunch of journos, or at a wedding table, where I am seated exclusively with newspaper people, or simply talking to a noted reporter or editor, the conversation is often about journalism and quite naturally, my unlikely transition from newspapering to television also is a topic and yes, I am very blunt about what went bad for me at The Sun, and for many, many others there as well...And in all instances when people come up to me to discuss how much they love them some Omar and how he's the bestest character ever, well, okay, my eyes do glaze to the point of distraction and I do desperately try to change the subject back to whatever the collective conversational zeitgeist might be at a given gathering.

So perhaps the Plotzes do not run in the ritzy Hollywood circles that we first imagined. How disheartening to learn that after four conversations, David Simon basically has no idea who they are. There's a critique for you!

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