The Wire doesn’t just “evade” arguments over solutions, it posits that no solutions actually exist. ~Peter Suderman
I have never seen The Wire (I don’t own a TV, much less do I have a cable subscription), so this is one of those facets of popular culture that is completely unknown to me. (I was a great fan of Homicide when I was younger, particularly enjoying the references to Poe and the all-around cynicism of Richard Belzer’s Det. Munch, and I was actually very upset when it was cancelled.) But, if Peter and the other critics are right, it sounds like an unusually smart television show, which it would have to be to carry on in the tradition of Homicide. (Trivial aside: Homicide was among the first to consistently use the hand-held camera documentary conceit to lend the show a more “realistic” flavour, and the use of a similar effect in the new Galactica is part of that show’s tremendous success as a more “realistic” approach to the obviously fantastical genre of sci-fi.)
From what I read, it seems that it does not try to do what every other television show does: bring things to tidy resolution. Whether it is in an arc-plotted series or a single episode, TV usually tries to provide us with more or less nicely wrapped story packages. Almost every kind of television does this: the sitcom, the miniseries, the sci-fi series, the Dallas-style one-hour primetime, non-crime-related drama (a lost art form known for the most part only to those of us watching in the ’80s), etc. Soap operas are probably the one form of television that never really try to provide resolution, but only the illusion of it, which allows the story to continue indefinitely and take endless twists and turns. This is one reason, in addition to the acting and writing, why they are generally considered bad television: it just never goes anywhere! This is also why soap operas can be addictive, because there is an implicit promise of some sort of conclusion without any payoff.
People like finality and resolution, which is why writers typically structure stories with some kind of resolution. Narratives without some obvious ending, a conclusion, seem incomplete–this much just seems like common sense. Finish the story, we say. That is why real life agitates us so much, because resolution often eludes us. Things happen, and they do not always make a great deal of sense nor do they seem to tend towards anything in particular. (This is why the pessimists seem so compelling to people who are paying attention, and why they would be entirely right but for the truth of revelation.)
But it is a terribly modern and optimistic way of looking at the world to see “problems” that have “solutions” rather than burdens to be born, and we know what I think of modernity and optimism. This does not mean that we ought not try to alleviate suffering or rectify certain injustices, but that we are fools if we think we can “solve” these things that arise from the structures of our existence. There are no solutions, only ways of making the best of what we have.
Television routinely tells us that we can solve the injustices or difficulties of life, which may be the main reason why television is the most pervasive source of confusion about reality that exists. If there were more shows that did not indulge this happy falsehood, we would probably all be better off for it.