Friday, February 1, 2008

Brief geeky interlude

I've been watching The Wire on DVD. I'm currently about two thirds of the way through season 2. And while I really like The Wire, I have been repeatedly, inexplicably irritated by one tiny aspect of the show. I don't buy Jimmy McNulty's taste in music. Jimmy McNulty, for non-Wire fans, is probably the closest thing the show has to a main character: he's a screwed up, arrogant jerk of a cop who happens to be very, very good at solving cases and kind of horrible at every other aspect of his life. Every time we see Jimmy McNulty out on a bender, which is fairly often, he's listening to early '60s Motown hits on his car radio. Now, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on Jimmy McNulty. He's supposed to be about my age, and he's supposed to be from the next city over from the city where I grew up. Had Jimmy McNulty been a real person, we probably would have bumped into each other at that Beastie Boys/ L7/ House of Pain concert that my friends and I schlepped up to Baltimore to see in 1992. And it bugged me to no end that we constantly saw him driving around listening to the oldies station. I don't believe that Jimmy McNulty would listen to oldies. What I do believe is that David Simon, the series' creator, listens to that music, and he identifies with the Jimmy McNulty character. Given his obsession with getting the minute details of his characters' lives right, it irked me that one of the show's main characters listened to music that in real life would be more appropriate for his parents.

I was thinking about this tonight, ranting about it in my head, as I was about to watch my nightly episode of The Wire. And then I turned it on, and in the first scene, Jimmy McNulty goes out and gets wasted, gets in his car, turns on the radio, and it's playing...

"Transmetropolitan" by the Pogues. Which, I have to say, is exactly what Jimmy McNulty would be listening to while he was driving around drunk off his ass. Someone clearly noticed the Jimmy McNulty music problem and fixed it.

And then when the episode ended, I checked the credits and realized that this is the first episode of The Wire that was written by George Pelecanos. I actually happen to kind of hate George Pelecanos's books, for a lot of reasons that are too complicated to go into. He's definitely one of the best writers about contemporary D.C., which is a sad, sad commentary about the state of writing on D.C. But you've got to hand it to him: he has an impeccable sense of his characters' musical taste. And some googling reveals that he was, in fact, responsible for fixing the McNulty soundtrack:

As story editor for the popular HBO crime drama The Wire, set up the road in Baltimore, he’s wielded a minor musical influence: in a scene last season Detective Jimmy McNulty, on a bender, seeks his own soundtrack. “When he’s drunk, he throws the Pogues in the tape deck?” Pelecanos recalls. “That was me.”

To which I can only say: thank you, George Pelecanos. You have removed one of the small irritations in my television viewing life.

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