Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s he coined the phrase Jump the Shark when he founded the site of the same name. Since then hes written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer he shares his thoughts on whats new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.All the ingredients are right there for some great television. David Simon running the show with co-creator George Pelecanos. An adaptation of a non-fiction book by a Baltimore Sun journalist. The Baltimore police department at the center of it all
Sound familiar?Theres a natural inclination to compare We Own This City which premieres tonight at 9pm on HBO and HBO Max to David Simons masterpiece The Wire. Ive always stood by my decades old claim that The Wire is the best drama to ever air on TV Breaking Bad comes in second. Those two series had lots of bandwagon jumpers claiming to have been there all along but the ratings say otherwise. Consider me OG on both.Further fueling the flames of comparison will be the presence of many actors from The Wire who appear in We Own This City albeit in different roles. These talented actors are often confused with the parts that they play.
If youre a fan of The Wire youll be grinning throughout this six-part series seeing those faces back in Baltimore.
David Simon knows this comparison is coming and my guess is that he doesnt really care. The Wire came from the six-part drama The Corner which profiled what was really happening on the Baltimore streets. Simon is all about nailing the details and highlighting flaws to reveal who the good guys and bad guys really are. He takes a no-holds barred look at the police and his television truly makes a difference.We Own This City tells the true tale of the Baltimore PDs Gun Trace Task Force. The city of Baltimore should be credited as a co-star of the show. Since Homicide this city continues to be the most powerful backdrop for any police corruption scandal and an illustration of life in the streets. All the Law & Orders and similar knockoffs feel like theyre shot on a set. Baltimore oozes through the screen and takes the stories being told to a different level.
The casting is top notch. Sergeant Wayne Jenkins played by tailor-made for a David Simon project Jon Bernthal has risen through the ranks by any means necessary. Baltimores most hated cop Daniel Hersl is played by Josh Charles who brings a wicked smirk to a nasty role. Jamie Hector The Wires Marlo is back in Baltimore as detective Sean Suiter who contemplates testifying against his fellow police. The task force had tremendous success taking guns drugs and criminals off the streets. Their methods however were anything but scrupulous and the final destination of what they removed often ended up in the task force members pockets. If the police were getting results why would anyone care about how they were doing it? This fundamental flaw in the Baltimore PD is the sweet spot for David Simon and George Pelacanos.