Audiences are now six episodes into The Deuce, the latest HBO drama from David Simon, the acclaimed creator and writer of The Wire, The Corner, and Treme. As per usual with Simon’s work, rather than just being taken at face value, “The Deuce” is also deeply layered, too.
Last month I had the opportunity to talk to Simon at the premiere for “The Deuce”, and the writer went into detail about his intention with the show. First of all he recalled its origins, admitting that he and his co-creator George Pelecanos originally had no interest in the story.
“We were working on ‘Treme’ in New Orleans, and the assistant locations manager (Mark Johnson) had been trying to get something made about Times Square and the rise of pornography. And when he said it me and George weren’t particularly interested. It sounded gratuitous. It sounded exploitative. He said you have to talk to this guy who was a mob front, and was deeply involved in this critical moment. We reluctantly went, but after three and a half hours we were writing on cocktail napkins, because they were so compelling.”
It was during this initial discussion that David Simon immediately started to dream-up the themes and the allegory that would then be explored throughout “The Deuce.”
“What also emerged was this allegory for market capitalism and what happens when something that’s not a product becomes a product, and that product happens to be labor itself. The laborer, who is entirely exploited because of the nature of what sex work is, is in fact the product. That seemed to me to be an interesting place to make an argument about this incredibly naïve notion that markets are the measure of a healthy society, and that if we could only let markets show us the way they would be a blueprint for how we should live with each other and together. It seemed like a great place to critique the way America has been behaving for the last 40 years.”
I then asked Simon about his process for building a show and its episodes around this objective.
“You have to write characters and you have to write story. But you write it with the consciousness of not only knowing what happened to Times Square, but what happened to the porn industry. Which is that after a while they were chasing billions, not millions, and how it affected the way men and women look at each other, and how we advertise. Because we don’t sell blue jeans or beer without the tropes of pornography. When you know the future you can shape the narrative to address that.”
It’s not all been so rosy, though. Because David Simon also admitted that he was struggling to understand why so many people had found “The Deuce” so nostalgic, insisting that the New York City of the 1970s was a terrifying place to visit.
“People keep sayings it is nostalgic, but I think they’re grafting that into it, because they’re remembering it with a certain nostalgia. I don’t feel any nostalgia for it. When I came into Manhattan in this era it was dangerous and debauched and astonishing, but I didn’t have to live here. I think I would rather have what it is now then what it was. It’s why people like westerns. There was a point when everyone used to picture themselves with guns attached to their hip marching around Dodge City shooting each other. I imagine if those people were actually dropped into the west they would not like westerns.”
“The Deuce” is now down to its final two episodes, the first of which will air on Sunday on HBO at 9PM. HBO have already renewed “The Deuce” for a second series, too.