The drug war is a game of Whack-A-Mole.
That’s the conclusion one might draw from the HBO series “The Wire,” anyway: Catch the kingpin of one network, another crops up in the void left behind, one that has slowly been building its own network – or poaching the existing one – for months, maybe even years, for that eventual chance to move in and take over.
The new kingpin may be on the police’s radar already, but by the time a case is built – and it takes a whole lot of time to do it by the book – another network is waiting in the wings.
The reason? People like drugs. Scratch that: People use drugs, largely because drugs make them feel good.
And people sell drugs because people use them, and because it results in a whole lot of money. So it’s going to be hard to take the incentive from the sellers; getting caught is the risk they balance against the piles and piles of cash.
And the incentive for the users? Feeling good – and the seemingly helpless feeling of addiction – are also the risks they balance against getting caught. And dying. Death is the biggest risk factor that each one of the players in the drug trade faces, overtly or not, and yet it does little to nothing to prevent the process from cycling on.
And it does, because drugs keep coming into the country from parts of the world where livelihoods depend on those wads of cash that the trade offers. Theirs, too, is an existence balanced by the threat of getting caught, getting taken over or getting killed, and it’s all balanced against the benefit of getting paid.
One masked figure in “The Trade,” a Showtime documentary series that dives into the various parts of the deadly heroin industry, describes it as “fighting a very large enemy called money. And against him, no one can win.”
From the growers in Mexico protecting their territory from another cartel, to the police in Ohio working their way up the chain from small dealer to bigger dealer, to the user in Atlanta who moves back in with his parents for support, “The Trade” focuses on the individual stories that have made heroin – and, by extension, the opioid industry – the deadly health epidemic it has become.
Far from the urban street drug it was once considered, heroin has infiltrated the suburbs and middle-class neighborhoods of a much different clientele. The addiction may have started with a prescription for painkillers, the synthetic opioids of oxycodone, hydrocodone or fentanyl, but progressed to heroin because of its relative easier availability and cheapness when prescription sources dried up.
But as the headlines tell us – and more personal stories may inform us, unfortunately – heroin and synthetic opioids kill. Prince and Tom Petty are two of countless names of those who have died because of overdoses that included opioids; how many more will there be before authorities – or, worse yet, another lethal drug concoction – get the upper hand?
The premiere episode of the five-part documentary, from Oscar nominee Matthew Heineman, “The Trade” airs at 8 p.m. Friday on Showtime; the series continues each Friday with new episodes at the same time, each following the fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, and authorities and producers involved in the business of heroin.
Celebri-tainment? Yeah, it’s a made-up word, but it’s kind of a made-up genre, too. The “celebrity” status of such shows as “The Celebrity Apprentice” or the “star” quotient of “Dancing with the Stars” is somewhat questionable; let’s all agree that these are not the A-list actors and actresses who open multimillion-dollar movies, but rather names known to fans of particular sports, recent Olympians, or various reality TV shows. And such is the case of the cast of CBS’s “Big Brother: Celebrity Edition,” beginning Wednesday and running in saturation mode for the next three weeks. The network kept the cast list under wraps, teasing that we wouldn’t find out until we tuned in … to the Grammy Awards last Sunday, during which the hosting network ran a promo for its upcoming show. But if you missed it, here’s the rundown: “American Pie” actress Shannon Elizabeth; Brandi Glanville, known for “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens”; UFC fighter – er, legend – Chuck Lidell; model and one-time Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutiérrez; actor/musician James Maslow, who starred in Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush,” then played in the band of the same name; former NBA player Metta World Peace; former “Ross the Intern” of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” Ross Matthews; “Rock’N’Roll Jeopardy” champion Mark McGrath; actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, known to a generation as Rudy Huxtable; Tony-winning actress Marissa Jaret Winokur, “Hairspray’s” original Tracy Turnblad; and Omarosa, who got her singular name-recognition on the inaugural season of “The Apprentice,” hosted by the current president and her most recent boss.
Hosted once again by Julie Chen, this accelerated version of “Big Brother” premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Ch. 3, airs again on Thursday, and Feb. 9, followed by a four-night week (Feb. 11, 12, 14 and 16), then a five-night week (Feb. 18, 19, 21, 23, and 24), until its finale on Feb. 25. It inspires another made-up word: Celebruary.
Movies galore: TCM has another 30 Days of Oscar (well, it’s really 31 Days of Oscar, but since it started Feb. 1, as of today, only 30 days remain). The schedule, which runs right up to the eve of Oscar night on March 3, includes more than just Best Pictures and those films with Best Actor and Actress awards, though there are plenty of those; the final week includes nothing but Best Picture winners and nominees. But there are also films awarded and nominated for art direction, original story, documentary, and more; Friday’s films include those nominated for – and winners of – original score. The format plays winners and nominees during the day, which can start as early as 5 a.m., and only winners during prime time, with the exception of best-picture week, which offers nominees during the day, and saves the winners for prime time. There are some little-seen movies on the schedule, including the first-ever Best-Picture winner, 1927’s silent film “Wings” (midnight, Feb. 25); and some classic gems, including “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (7 p.m., Feb. 9), winner of costume design. Visit the schedule at 31days.tcm.com, and get ready to set your DVRs.