5:27 pm Jun. 15, 2010
David Simon has never been a mass-audience guy. He merely makes shows like "The Wire," the Baltimore epic which was considered by some commentators to be one of the greatest television feats of all time, and "Treme," a show about post-Katrina New Orleans which has also been taken very seriously by critics, but which, even among Simon’s smart-people demographic, has been somewhat more controversial.
He’s fine with this.
“No one’s had a longer career in television without gaining a mass audience than me,” he said, in a phone interview. “I have shown pretty much that I can exist pretty well at the fringe, but that’s about it. But that’s OK. It’s only OK because HBO doesn’t have to get the maximum number of eyeballs. David Simon brings some people into the tent, and they pay their whatever a month, $12.95 a month extra, on your system. And I don’t bring as many as David Chase, or ‘Sex and the City,’ but maybe I bring a little bit more than ‘Curb,’ or I don’t know—I don’t know who’s watching what. It’s a different economic construct.”
This construct—he brings the prestige and critical acclaim, “True Blood” brings the eyeballs—allows him to exist as a hardliner. Genuineness trumps accessibility, always.
“Television, for most of its life, has been governed by advertising, and because of that, you had to bring the most eyeballs and keep them, to any given show in order for it to be viable,” he said. “It operated on the premise of a mass medium, and the result was you had to explain everything down to the lowest common denominator, which was destructive to the credibility of the piece. The world doesn’t work that way, people don’t talk that way."
“And when you go to someplace new, because in some ways, there is a parallel between tourism and voyeurism, and television has a voyeuristic logic, when you go to a new place, there’s two ways to experience it, one of which is to sit on a tour bus and to have someone explain to you what you’re looking at, at the moment you’re looking at it, and tell you everything about it. And the other way is not to be on the tour bus and to experience the people and the place on its own terms. And it’s been my experience, as both a viewer and a tourist, I guess, that I’m much more interested in people and places on their own terms, than having it explained to me à la carte every time I want to go through the line. It’s better.”