Baltimore-based `Corner' set to air

TV: Creators of the HBO miniseries, which deals with a family's struggle with the area's drug culture, say it will go beyond `the stereotype of American television.'

January 21, 2000|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

LOS ANGELES -- HBO has set a showcase date of six consecutive Sundays starting April 16 for "The Corner," a six-hour miniseries about a family's battle to survive in Baltimore's drug world.

Filmed in Baltimore, it is directed by Charles S. Dutton and based on the book by David Simon and Edward Burns.

"This is not only an extraordinary film, it is one that in an election year takes on even greater importance," Chris Albrecht, president of original programming for HBO, said Wednesday in announcing the dates and introducing a press conference for the film.

Simon, who co-wrote and served as one of the executive producers, said one of the primary goals of the film was "to go beyond the usual caricature and stereotype of American television to capture the real people" that he and Burns chronicled in the open-air drug markets.

"These are stories that we have no place for in our culture of mass media," said Simon, a former Sun reporter who also wrote the book on which the acclaimed TV series "Homicide: Life on the Street" was based. "We don't want to really hear these voices. The really neat thing is that if you actually listen for a little bit, it's an incredible journey. It's one that you haven't seen anywhere else," he added.

Critics saw only a short presentation reel of several minutes from which it was impossible to get any real sense of the final product. One of the questions asked, though, dealt with whether the city complained to the producers about the image the film might be presenting of Baltimore.

"The mayor of Baltimore at the time,

Kurt Schmoke, took a lot of heat for suggesting that the war on drugs was dysfunctional and alternative solutions needed to be considered. So when this book came out in 1997, it received considerable support from the city hierarchy, the health department and the NAACP," Simon said.

"So, there was very little `This won't be good for the city.' Baltimore's the city with the highest intravenous drug rate in the country. The problem's there every day, and they're not shying away from it as policy makers.

"As for the neighborhoods, we didn't have any problems being in East Baltimore, and that's because we were filming with Charles Dutton," Simon added.

"There may have been some pockets of people who thought that it was giving the city a bad image," said Dutton, who grew up in the city, "but it's the truth."

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