The Corner That Started The Wire

If you finished The Wire and were sitting there thinking, “Where can I get more of that Baltimore crime goodness?”, I have just the thing for you. Before The Wire there was The Corner. Based on a book called The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, this show depicts some of the same things as The Wire, on a more intimate level. Focusing on one family, instead of a large cast of characters in many sections of the city, The Corner is another creation of David Simon that is worth checking out. It will certainly take less time and you can think of it as having a ton of special features.


The Corner is another one of HBO’s fine mini-series and runs with six episodes, totaling just under six and a half hours. Most people aren’t in the habit of watching TV for that much time each day but, if you approach TV like the drug addicts in The Corner (like me), it makes for an intense, emotional day. The drama of The Corner is relentless and depicts a harsh reality. Each episode brings you in, closer to the heart of the neighborhood and the show. If it wasn’t a mini-series, I’d watch episode seven and onward, but it is and you have to pace yourself through all the drama and emotion of The Corner.


The actors in The Corner might not be stars in big, blockbuster movies. They may not have names that you recognize, or faces that you’ve ever even seen before. What the actors of The Corner do is completely embody their roles, to the point where you think they’re just playing their actual, drug-addled, selves. Rest assured, though, they’re acting. They’re just doing it so well that it feels real, realer than some of the things in real life.

Gary is the father of the McCullough family, the focus of The Corner, and is played by TK Carter. Carter doesn’t even get a picture on his IMDb page but his performance in The Corner is so memorable that I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t recognize him unless he was poor, in real life. Gary started his life off right, before the drugs, and his fall from grace only fuels the addiction. He’s heartbreaking to watch, but TK Carter is great. He carries a large portion of the plot so he better be.

Fran is Gary’s wife, played by Khandi Alexander. You might remember Alexander from News Radio, but that’s only if you’re memory is really, really good. I don’t mean her performance was forgettable, either time, but that she’s unrecognizable in The Corner. Fran hit the drugs before her husband and started to her gradual decline before he did. The Corner picks up when both are in full swing of their addictions and they’re already split up. This broken family gets revealed piece by heart-wrenching piece.

Gary and Fran had a baby after they got married and that baby was named DeAndre. At his birth, DeAndre had a pretty prospective future but, by the time The Corner comes into their story, his parents have essentially abandoned him and he has turned to slinging drugs and starting a new, young gang. Fans of The Wire get to see an early foundation of the young kids working in crime.


The Corner starts off each episode with a documentarian asking questions to a character or two. This documentary approach to camera-work continues through-out the rest of the show, even after the cameraman is removed from the story. We are not meant to believe that there is a man following this family around but that we are still a fly on their walls, only observers in the life of people extremely foreign to us. This immersive approach to story-telling provides an intimate approach to seeing these characters in their rawest and truest form. This kind of pacing was lost with the larger cast in The Wire and shines, as a high light, of The Corner.


I didn’t read the book but The Corner was written by one one of the authors and that same writer went on to create The Wire as well. So, not only was I not worried about the consistency to the book but I was also hoping for some kind of prequel-action. It’s not a prequel, at least in any direct way. The Corner depicts West Baltimore and particular one family trying to live there. David Simon knew West Baltimore, particularly the corner of West Fayette and North Monroe, “the” corner of The Corner.

Attention to detail is a mark of a good writer. Some research their topic and some just go with what they know. Simon does the latter and, because he knows it as well as he does, the product is a window into the world of West Baltimore drugs. Editor’s note: For more on how much I love David Simon, refer to my The Wire review.


Much like The Wire, The Corner has a jazz intro and it occasionally leaks into the background of the show. However, with their voyeuristic way of looking into the neighborhood, the creators of The Corner left only the music coming out of the junkies radios. So, though sparingly used, music was like a splash of color in a desert. I’d guess, when you’re in a stupor of drugs, you don’t focus on things like music. That being said, the songs could have been picked at random and had the same effect.

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