Below the fold, you’ll find excerpts from a long and intermittently interesting interview with David Simon, creator of the best show in television history. The interview contains spoilers. And perhaps more insight into Simon than is desirable.

Simon on the much-maligned newspaper storyline, which I like more than many other observers (Which raises, in my mind, the question of whether The Wire is like any other ethnographic portrait: the more one knows about its subject, the easier it is to spot flaws in the details. Or maybe the Sun story just isn’t very good.):

This was a story about a newspaper that now — on some fundamental basis — fails to cover its city substantively, and guess what — between out-of-town ownership, carpetbagging editors, the emphasis on impact journalism or Prize-culture journalism and, of course, the economic preamble that is the arrival of the internet and the resulting loss of revenue and staff, there are a f–k of a lot of newspapers that are failing to cover their cities substantively. That is the last piece in the Wire puzzle: If you think anyone will be paying attention to anything you encountered in the first four seasons of this show, think again.

On the show’s ostensible moral relativism:

One of the great overstatements was always made about “The Wire” is “There’s no good guys or bad guys.” I was always amazed by that. Marlo’s not a bad guy? Do characters acquire a bit of nuance as you live with them longer? Of course. The more time you live with them on screen, the more chance you have to add nuance. And I know I said good and evil bored me, but the notion that all characters are treated equally is sort of a misunderstanding of point of view.

On the tragedy that is life:

I’m not saying that “The Wire’s” unique in that respect — there’s a lot of other high-end television that is dark and continues to be dark — but I agree with Chase in one respect. I read an interview with him where he said what American television gets wrong relentlessly is that life is really tragic. Not a lot of people want to tune their living room box to that channel. It’s an escapist form. There are people who are willing to look at it for something else. It’s not a mass audience, but possibly some portion of that mass audience finds its way to something else, and then they expect to be treated as they’ve always been treated. There’s nothing the writers can do about that, other than twist themselves into hacks trying to please people with what they want. What are you gonna do?

Is The Wire cynical?

I think it’s a misuse of the word “cynical.” I think it’s a dark show. I think it has a great deal of sentiment to it. I just don’t think it’s sentimental. I think it’s intensely political. I think if you want to suggest that it’s cynical about institutions and their capacity to reform themselves or be reformed, I would have to plead guilty to that. The only thing I would cite is to say that, given where we’re at as a culture right now, cynicism therefore becomes another word for “pragmatically realistic.”

I don’t think it’s cynical about human beings. I think that’s why viewers were so committed and loyal, because the human beings that were traversing this rigged game were entirely worth the time spent following them.

Here’s Mr. Happy on Obama and the hope for change:

Not that I’m announcing my support for anybody, but I’m impressed that Obama got this close to being a nominee just being part African-American. There’s a part of me that looks at that and says, “Damn, we’re getting healthier on some things.” Now, is Obama any more able to address the fact that we’re a money-obsessed oligarchy and not a democracy? I don’t think so.

I think for change to happen on a level that actually affects the structure of that oligarchy, a lot of distressing things will have to happen, and more people are going to have to suffer a great deal more. More struggle for the working class, and the middle-class is going to have to be marginalized. Wages will have to go a lot lower, the recession will have to go a lot deeper — and I think we’re in a recession and headed for some bad economic times. I think it’s going to have to go a lot deeper.

At some point, the Sunis that we paid out with money and guns are going to have to wait until we fashion whatever escape we have from that war and start ripping the country up and reducing it to a civil war. I think we’ve built a Lebanon, and once it becomes clear that we’ve built a Lebanon and condemned that region to generations of internecine violence, and it cost us 4000 troops and a veritable treasure — I hope we get out of there before it’s more — I think people are going to be angrier.

Right now we have the illusion that we’re fixing things. I don’t know for sure; I’m not there on the ground. But I’m sitting here in a room with Even Wright, who just was in Baghdad and spent weeks there interviewing everybody there and talking to Petraeus and to people on the ground, and his take on it is we’ve built another Lebanon. Right now, we’re paying people not to shoot at each other, and we’re giving people guns and saying, ‘Please don’t use these.’ At some point, somebody’s going to assert for power there, probably after we’re gone, and we’ll realize that this was over nothing, over absolutely nothing.

When that happens, maybe the next war gets harder, and when the economic structure fails to a point where people begin to realize en masse that they’ve been cheated and that their future has been marginalized, at that point maybe there’s another New Deal coming, maybe there’s another reckoning. But short of that, as long as it’s just some people in places like Baltimore, and it’s only 10 percent or 15 percent of the population we don’t need, I’m sorry, I think there’s a lot of money to be spent by a lot of people in order to keep people pacified.

Okay, read the rest yourself. If you want to. Again, though, beware the spoilers.

Via Ezra Klein.