Problems Addressed In the HBO Series “The Wire” That Are Still Relevant In Baltimore

The Wire is one of the most iconic shows to ever hit the television. When the show was still on air, it had developed a cult following. Now, after almost seven years, it is just as relevant today as it was then, if not more. The Wire originally aired on HBO for five seasons from 2002 to 2008. Baltimore is the background against which the show is set and it primarily focuses on the war of drugs from the perspective of the cops, and interestingly enough, the drug dealers too. This was quite a watch, since it made the viewers think before jumping to conclusions. There was no one good guy to support and one bad guy to thwart. Everyone was doing what seemed to them as ‘right’.

There were no special effects put into the show to make it more palatable. The show’s success is completely because of its story and how that helps the characters to develop over time. The characters were built in a way that the viewers would have to be invested in the show to see them evolve. The show was praised highly by the critics and rightfully so. The show was touted as being too real. The places and people showcased on the show closely resembled those the ground reality. Other than that, the attention to detail was impeccable. The bravest thing that the show did was pick up some of the most controversial and pressing issues of race, politics, crime, education and so on, which were as sensitive then as they are now. They did not shy away from it and the whole narrative is a thoughtful and thorough analysis of all these aspects.

omar quote the wire

The writers for the show were ex-officers of law enforcement and some reporters too. So, it had that air of realism about it. It was very relevant for its time. However, even while watching the series today, it is eerie how much relevance some of the characters and plots still hold.
One of the themes of the show was the corruption in the police and the political system that preceded the riots in the city. It was the public’s frustration that finally gave in. It is not difficult to recount the violence that broke out in West Baltimore on the funeral of Freddie Gray Jr. The death of the 25-year old African American man came into much media limelight, when it was learnt that the police officers arrested him for no probable reason and beat him to a pulp. Freddie Gray Jr. later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital. Numerous media debates followed this incident and the actors of The Wire were called upon to share their two bits on the situation. The incidents portrayed by the actors so many years ago on the show couldn’t have been more relevant than on this day. The Wire is certainly one of the best television shows, which gave an account of the complex circumstances that run behind such riots and uproars.

This is possibly the only show that considered police brutality as an ongoing problem. It is not a side track that makes a cameo in one of the episodes of the show. Given the ample screen time, the show was able to delve deeper into the issue and find out how the race affects the justice churned out for a person. The show also touched upon the reaction of politicians and religious leaders in the process, which was also very apparent in the actual Baltimore conspiracy.

There are still childrens whose lives are threatened every day in areas of Baltimore

There are still childrens whose lives are threatened every day in areas of Baltimore

These were the few aspects of the show that were relevant to the media at the time of the uproar and therefore, were much highlighted. However, the real plot of the show and also a very real problem of the city even today is its flourishing drug trade. It would not be wrong to say that the problem has actually worsened after the show went off air. Moreover, in all probability, drug trade is the progenitor of many other problems that the great city of Baltimore is still party to.

One of the problems wreaking havoc in the lives of the Baltimore people is the lack of opportunities. The fourth season of the show concentrated on the children in drug trade. The drug dealers in the area and the inherent violence makes it very difficult for any business to actually thrive. This lack of security leads to poor opportunities for the children and the youth. They are forced into being a part of the drug trade itself. Even with the revamped school system in the city now, this past makes it impossible hard for them to pursue a regular life anymore.

Omar Devone Little is a fictional character on the HBO drama series The Wire, portrayed by Michael K. Williams

Omar Devone Little is a fictional character on the HBO drama series The Wire, portrayed by Michael K. Williams

These kind of basic problems in the city are not generally a part of politicians’ agenda in Baltimore even today. The Wire also focused on the city politics and showcased the role of politicians. The leaders only focus on topics that are trending, which will get them the most attention and hence, the most brownie points with their party. The situation is not any different today. The politicians continue to make the same choices, and do not care whether the problems are solved or not.

Poverty was a very big part of the West Baltimore district when the show aired, and it continues to plague the people of the district. The downtrodden condition of the neighborhood, the lack of development and the lack of employment thereof have remained unchanged with time. This further fuels the crime rate that runs there.

The city of Baltimore has been a victim to several violent attacks in the last few years

The city of Baltimore has been a victim to several violent attacks in the last decade, if not longer

The Wire pointed out towards the deep-rooted nature of the problems that plague the city. Even the show that ran for five seasons could not come up with a magical solution to all the real problems of Baltimore. But, it at least highlighted the urgent need for one. There is hope as long as people do not live under the pretense that nothing is wrong and continue to ignore these problems. Even worse, politicians should not have been allowed to use the unfortunate death of the teenager. The death was definitely saddening, but it was not the problem in itself, but a symptom of it. The Wire puts forth a lot of issues, which are definitely not a job of one man or one politician to solve them, like they were not in the show, but of every member of the society. The Wire airs on HBO, and you can watch it by purchasing a cable TV package.

Game of Thrones and Global Warming. Are We All Fighting Against White Walkers?

Game of Thrones, both the TV show and the novels, are immense in their storyline, character development, scope and depth. There is a lot in Game of Thrones that resonates beyond Westeros and reverberates even in our world. Because of its immensity and scope, the story can easily be related to numerous metaphors in the real world. For instance, the great wall can be referred to the talks to build a wall to curb illegal immigration. However, there is one connection between this world of dragons and ours that is hard to dismiss. It has been proposed by Vox’s Zach Beauchamp, and makes up quite a lot of sense.

Zach claims that White Walkers and their army of dead zombies represent the looming threat of global warming in our real world. At first, this may sound like some Hollywood fodder to keep the show in the audience’s minds until the next season airs. But, that is not the case for many reasons. For one, Game of Thrones has developed such a cult following that it will be hard to keep people off the television when the show’s latest season actually hits the air. These metaphors are much bigger than just some marketing gimmicks. So, what makes such an outlandish claim worthy of debate? Let’s have a look.

The Threat

Game of Thrones is notorious for throwing relevant social problems in our time right in the middle of the plot

Game of Thrones is notorious for throwing relevant social problems in our time right in the middle of the plot

Westeros is a land, where the seasons last 10 years each. The show begins with the prosperity of the summer coming to an end. The winter is starting and the winters of Westeros are not typical winters of the earth as we know it. The food stops growing, and resources become scarce. But, what makes matters worse is that with winter, come unholy creatures from colder regions. There are White Walkers and they command an army of zombies. They try and lay waste to any human inhibited land they can find. The only thing protecting the humankind from them is the huge wall that is built at the edge of the kingdoms, which are guarded by the Night’s Watch.
Now, the above description vague feels familiar. It is as if we have heard this story before. Let’s see. The winters are coming. Literally. Global warming is looming on us, and with it there is a possibility of us being shoved into another ice age. Draughts and climactic changes are already upon us, and have been wreaking havoc across the world. The only thing standing against this threat is the collective minds of our scientists, who are trying to find ways of counteracting the effects of global warming.

Politics

The speed at which the characters die within the timeline could also signify the short life spans due to pollution

The speed at which the characters die within the timeline could also signify the short life spans due to pollution

The world of Westeros is ruled by a King, who presides over seven kingdoms. The kingdoms are largely different from each other, and their alliance is not strong. [Spoiler Alert] The king dies at the end of the season 1, throwing his entire rule into chaos. Various kings from each of the seven kingdoms try to lay their claim to the throne by implementing every devious technique ever invented. While the threat of winter and White Walkers looms, these kings are completely preoccupied in their own petty squabbles. In fact, their fights with each other are distracting the larger public from the issue at hand.
Isn’t this something that we all hate in our world too? Our leaders are fighting with each other like little girls on who is going to have an upper hand, while the entire humanity is on the brink of what could possibly be a large scale extinction. While it is known that carbon emissions are the cause of global warming, the two leading contributors of greenhouse gases, the USA and China, are involved in a tussle of sorts. Each of them has grown wary of the other’s intentions and abilities to grow bigger and more powerful. Further, any step to control the emissions directly affects their chances of growing more powerful, which has created a stalemate situation.

Denial

There are people in Westeros, who are old enough to remember the previous time when the kingdoms were attacked by the White Walkers. These people know for a fact that these creatures exist and they can end all humanity, if proper measures are not taken against them. But, there are people like Joffrey and others, who are not even ready to believe the threat posed by the White Walkers. Even when they are provided the first-hand accounts of people who have witnessed the horror as proof, they are defiant in the face of it.
This should be quite obvious to the readers. Our scientists have unearthed data spanning across millions of years. They have concluded without a trace of doubt that the atmosphere carbon concentration has played a major role in wrapping our planet in a thick blanket of ice. Yet, there are politicians leading us, who arrogantly dismiss all the proof provided by our Night’s Watch guards, our scientists, and believe whatever suits their vested interests or beliefs.

The change is within all of us, just like inside the White Walkers

The change is within all of us, just like inside the White Walkers

Apathy

The distinct apathy among the royalty in the Westeros as well as the leaders in our world is sickening. In Westeros, as Winter approaches and suitable measures are not being taken, some members of the royalty go to the extent of saying that if there is any resource crunch, say for food, it will be the peasants who will die first. Their logic is that this way they will end up with fewer peasants to take care of. Moreover, even the Night’s Watch guards are not provided suitable resources to keep the kingdoms safe, while they are the last line of defense against complete annihilation.

In our earth, the situation is not too different. The powerful hurricanes resulting from climatic changes, and draughts caused by unreliable rains, are already creating a shortage of food across the world. Nearly 800 million people across the world face severe shortage of food, which is getting worse with time. It is these impoverished people who will face the first hit of axe that is global warming. Not only these people’s woes are ignored by the world, even the people who can do something about the whole issue are ignored as well. The scientists, who are trying hard to come up with new solutions to these problems, have their funding cut repeatedly. Investment into scientific research is on the decline. There goes our last line of defense.

While George R. R. Martin does not draw a direct connection between the two, he too has agreed that the analogy is consistent. He wanted to keep the main problem of Westeros as concurrent and understandable to the audience as possible, and in this pursuit, the similarities do exist. So, it is true, we are fighting out own version of White Walkers. If you don’t already watch Game of Thrones, you can on HBO after you select a premium cable package from XFINITY.

Home phones are dead. Live tweeting and Livefyre Streams are the new way to connect with Television

Everyone is familiar with the today’s reality shows, where contestants are pitched against each other with the background theme being a dance competition, cooking competition, singing competition, and so on. To increase the audience’s engagement, these shows have voting systems, which give the audience watching these shows on TV, to vote for their favorite contestant by dialing a particular number of messaging to it. Their votes can help that contestant survive in the competition, and sure, it makes the audience feel involved in the scheme of things. All sounds familiar? Well, this whole circus is set for extinction. The reason? Big data.

If you have any exposure to the tech industry, then you would have heard this term “big data” thrown around a lot. You might have wondered what it really means and could have dismissed it as some “tech stuff”. But, don’t worry, here is what you need to know about it. Big data analytics, basically, involves crunching of a mammoth size data into sensible insights. For instance, when someone makes a tweet and it spreads like wildfire, Twitter has a record of every interaction that tweet has ever made. It collects all information such as the number of impressions, people who shared it, their age, their gender, time of sharing, and a myriad other things. This information grows to humongous size all the time. Various Twitter based SEO tools plough through all that information and provide useful insights to businesses across the world, who can then use that information to improve their marketing strategies. Twitter uses big data, so does Google, and a host of other companies. In fact, it is one of the biggest things happening in the tech world right now.

What does Twitter have to do With TV Shows?

More than you think! There has been a monumental shift in how viewers consume TV shows today. A huge population of TV audience owns at least one smartphone. People’s addiction (for lack of a better term) to their devices means that they are constantly online and socially active. This also includes the time when there are watching television. So, whenever there is something they like, hate, get disgusted with, love, enjoy, and feel a strong emotion about something on the television, it immediately makes it into their Twitter feed, be it Jon Snow’s death (?), or The Flash’s latest fight against Zoom. As often happens in this case, the emotions are still raw and the tweets are an indication of exactly what the audience thinks about the show at that moment.

Stephen Colbert and his #fridaunightfights

Stephen Colbert and his #fridaunightfights

Here comes the boring part. There are algorithms that analyze the shows being aired on TV and compare that with the tweets made by people, and connect the two based on their “context”. This means that even if you do not mention the name of the show in your tweet, the algorithm is capable of relating your tweet with the content on the show. That’s freaking awesome. But, that’s not where it ends. The algorithm can also make sense of whether your tweet is positive, or negative.

Do you see where I am going with this? The show producers can analyze the big data of all the tweets made during the airing of the show to understand the emotions of the people watching them, without actually interacting with them on the phone. Who need the phone now! This helps the showmakers to
make suitable decisions. They can either engage with the people who are creating trending tweets, or make suitable changes to their shows to make them more enjoyable and popular among the audiences. In fact, the show producers are already doing this. It is only a matter of time before the voting via phone system, is phased out completely.

Livefyre Streams: The Next Big Thing in Interactive Television?

Livefyre streams are online comment sections, where people can voice their opinion on the content they have read or seen. As most of you would know, these comment sections can often be a place for heated discussions. People are very assertive, to say the least, in these sections and love to express their opinions. As blog owners or website owners, whether you like it or not, the people who are the most active in the comment sections are the most active and loyal visitors. In fact, most people spend more time going through the comments and understanding different people’s views than they actually spend reading the original content. Naturally, these comment sections are not something that can’t be ignored. And ignored, they are not.

On Jimmy Kimmel Live celebs even read mean tweets about them

On Jimmy Kimmel Live celebs even read mean tweets about them

Livefyre, which offers the comments platforms, is changing the television industry by making use of all the comments that are posted on its platform, which is used by innumerable number of websites. By making use of (guess what, again?) Big Data analytics to study the nature and tone of the comments being posted on Livefyre streams on various topics, including TV shows. The algorithms that do this are so smart that they can actually differentiate between comments made by people interested in the discussion and spam comments made by random marketers. Again, as with Twitter, this information can be used by the show producers to gauge the mood and opinion of the show producers to make suitable decisions regarding the show.

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All of this in itself is amazing to think and makes us wonder about the ingenuity of people and technology behind these systems. But, this is not even the complete story. Livefyre is going one step further than this. It is offering an advertising feature for businesses in its comment section. These ads are highly targeted and are based on the discussions happening in the Livefyre streams in real time. So, if you are discussing about a TV show in a comment section of a website, don’t be surprised to be flooded with ads about that very show there. It is no coincidence. Now you know. A number of major TV networks have already joined the bandwagon to utilize this platform.

In conclusion, phone as a medium of involving TV viewers by show producers, is set to go out of existence, soon. When you have a reliable cable TV package, you can tweet during all your favorite shows whenever you want!

Networks like Showtime use Lyvefyre to let the audience know about shows right inside their app

Networks like Showtime use Lyvefyre to let the audience know about shows right inside their streaming app

Is Silicon Valley TV Series Inspired By the Real-Life People and Organizations Such As PayPal And Google?

Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley TV series has been a phenomenal hit over the past two years. It has already completed two seasons and is well on its way to a third season, which will premiere this April. The show revolves around a group of sex young geeks and their startup in Silicon Valley. The organizations, characters, and startups portrayed in the show have been a constant topic of discussion among the audience as to whether they have any real-life inspirations. Quite frankly, the resemblances are often quite uncanny. But, as to the question whether they are actually based on real-life people and organizations, the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no. So, let’s delve into this a bit more.

Is Pied Piper’s Story an Adaptation of Paypal’s?

kumail nanjiani plays Dinesh

Kumail Nanjiani plays Dinesh

The one thing that Pied Piper and PayPal may have in common is that they are or will be great successes. Apart from that, there is no common storyline connecting the two. In fact, PayPal was founded after the merger of two separate companies, Confinity and X.com, and evolved in a much different way than Pied Piper has been portrayed on the show. However, that doesn’t mean that the show does not share anything with the hugely successful international payment system. Read on to find more.

Enter Peter and Peter

I hope you remember the billionaire genius, socially awkward, and possibly slightly (arguably) creepy investor, Peter Gregory? The character was a regular in the first and second season, until Christopher Evan Welch, who played the part, died in real life, succumbing to lung cancer. Peter was the first investor in Pied Piper and can be considered quite eccentric person. It is widely believed that the character played by Welch was actually based on Peter Thiel, one of the founders of PayPal. Well, there could be more truth to this speculation than can be shrugged off as audience’s curiosity gone wild.

I am sure you recall that Peter Gregory was the first investor in Pied Piper. Well, Peter Thiel was the first institutional investor in Facebook. Yes, Facebook! Thiel had a knack for finding exceptional talent in its bud and nurturing it. He used this ability (or you can easily call it a superpower?) to fund the dreams of alpha geeks, who were more than willing to drop out of colleges to work on their own ideas.

TJ miller plays Elrich Bachmann

TJ miller plays Elrich Bachmann

That’s not all. Anyone who has ever known Thiel would corroborate that he is quite nervous among people, and tends to make eccentric statements every now and then. Moreover, Thiel has a habit of speaking in a halting style, which is exactly what Peter Gregory on the show does as well. If that hasn’t convinced you about it yet, well, this should. In the first episode of the show, Gregory’s assistant, Monica, finds Richard (Pied Piper) and meets him outside a doctor’s office. Richard is surprised as to how she found him and she casually replies that Gregory has invested in a company that tracks people using their phone GPS. We felt that it was creepy and so did Richard. If you thought that the scene was more of a gimmick to show off some tech that would never happen in the real world, then you can be excused for thinking so. Sure, it did show off, but the “non-existent” part is not so. In real life, Peter Thiel was one of the investors in a company called Palantir. Guess who was on the investors list of this company? “Freaking CIA”. Bonus points if you guess what Palantir did. Nope, not location tracking. Palantir could monitor criminal activity by using the phone and a lot of other devices through facial recognition. There was some speculation that Palantir was also a part of the NSA’s much-maligned PRISM program, although there is no proof of that. Of course, we don’t have any proof. There is a reason for the placement of the word “covert” in the term “covert intelligence agencies”. That’s the story of Peter Thiel, Peter Gregory and PayPal for you.

The resemblances would seem to firmly establish that Peter Gregory is in fact Peter Thiel. But that is not what Mike Judge agrees with. Judge says that the bits of character traits which prompt the audience to link Gregory to Thiel are actually not that rare. He says that these are the most common characteristics of Silicon Valley techies turned businessmen. According to him, these people think way faster than they can
talk and consequently, when they are asked something, there is an initial delay followed by a machine gun fire of sentences. Since Gregory is a Silicon Valley billionaire, he exhibits these characteristics and there is no one-on-one correlation between him and Thiel.

Zach Woods plays Jared Dunn

Zach Woods plays Jared Dunn

No doubt, Judge’s explanation makes sense too. After all, he has seen enough of Silicon Valley himself. For those of you, who do not know, in the 80’s Judge spent some time there honing his coding skills. At the time, things were not as bright there as they are now. So, he left all of it to pursue his career in show business. So, he has met his share of these wide-eyed socially awkward young geniuses. Moreover, he has spent considerable time with people at Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and the likes to understand the way these people talk, think and behave.

Conclusion

So, now, it is up to you to decide whether Peter Gregory was enough of Peter Thiel or was a just enough of an average techie genius out there. Whatever you believe, one thing is clear. Silicon Valley, the show, is not biographical, satirical or a spoof. So, it is not important for the producers to make the characters as similar as the real-life people or the characters from other shows and movies. This could be why he has no motivation to liken the character to Thiel. However, that doesn’t mean there is not real-life inspirations. For instance, the tech giant in the show, Hooli, which is full of programmers, with access to a universe of snacks, is almost certainly Google!! Go figure. Check out Silicon Valley on HBO, which is included in cable TV plans from Comcast XFINITY.