Ken Tucker's got more good news for fans of the best show on TV. Plus: Letterman's inspired idea, and more

By Ken Tucker
Updated December 27, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST
The Wire: Paul Schiraldi/HBO

Ken Tucker’s got more good news for ”Wire” fans

1. The Wire gets renewed for a fifth season
Thus allowing creator David Simon and his magnificent crew to wrap up the series next season with its final theme: the role of the mass media in ignoring or perpetuating stereotypes about the drug trade — or, as he told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week, ”how this world exists while everybody is busy… watching something else.” Meanwhile, you need to see this week’s upcoming episode, as young Michael (Tristan Wilds) is finding it harder to deal with his mother’s drug addiction and to protect his younger brother.

2. ”Ventriloquist Week” on The Late Show With David Letterman
(CBS, Sept. 18-21)
Sometimes one’s devotion to a man and show pays off — Letterman is reaching back into show-biz history to salute a fading genre of entertainment: the people who throw their voices into wooden dummies, to the terror of little children and the bafflement of so many adults. Except those of us who love ventriloquism as an expression of surreal dislocation in pop-culture: It’s as if the entertainer is saying, ”Don’t look at me; I have no idea why you’re being entertained!” Anyway, tune in starting Monday, when Willie Tyler and Lester are scheduled to start the proceedings…

3. Laura Palmer lives in The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Greil Marcus’ new book is about how ”the country remakes itself again and again by means of the tension between its promises and their betrayal,” and finds examples in the work of everyone from Philip Roth to Pere Ubu’s David Thomas to director David Lynch. There are wonders on nearly every page, connections made and broken between history and pop culture, and always there is Marcus’ gift for summoning up an entire phenomeon in a single sentence. Take this one, on page 149, about Lynch’s most famous character: ”Twin Peaks made Laura Palmer a corpse; Fire Walk With Me, which is about her discovery that the demon who has been raping her since twelve is her father, is the greatest teenage jeopardy movie ever made, and even as she dies at her father’s hands Sheryl Lee is more alive than anyone else in the picture.”

4. ”This Is How We Rock in America”
From James Kochalka Superstar’s Spread Your Evil Wings and Fly (Rykodisc)
Kochalka, a wonderfully playful yet acerbic cartoonist, is a thoroughly credible fake rock god. I already wrote about ”Britney’s Silver Can” (a touching salute to Ms. Spears) a while back, but now you can actually buy the album, featuring anthems such as ”This Is How We Rock in America,” Kochalka and his five-man band’s stirring throwback to Bad Company/Black Sabbath/Grand Funk sludge-rock.

5. Tuesday Weld in Pretty Poison
(1968, DVD)
By ’68, Weld had already driven Warren Beatty nearly crazy as Thalia Menninger in TV’s The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; in 1981, she would tempt James Caan to go straight in Michael Mann’s Thief. In between, however, she delivered this amazingly funny, lewd performance, and provoked Anthony Perkins into actually seeming turned-on by a blond cheerleader with lust in her eyes and the almost effortless ability to convince him to help her kill her own mother.

Late Show With David Letterman

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