[Vincent] Peranio: The orange couch came from a dumpster, the first day we were scouting up in Marble Hill. It was perfect. We weren’t going to start for another month, so I had them put it in one of the vacant houses to hold. And we used it. It ended up being a central part of the pilot.
The pilot was over and everything was dispersed. And then a month later [The Wire] got picked up. We certainly didn’t expect it to get picked up that fast. So I was talking with my decorator and said, “Well, it’s a good thing we still have that couch.” And he went mute. I said, “Oh no, you didn’t throw that couch away, did you?” It’s like a centerpiece for the show. He said, “Yeah, we did.”
We had to make that couch. Make the frame, send away to Scalamandre in London for the fabric because they were the only place that had crushed orange velvet. It was not popular at the time we were shooting the show. Then we had to age it, split it, pull the stuffing out. It ended up being a $5,000 couch. But we made it as close as possible to the other couch. I don’t think anybody knew. We didn’t even tell the producers.
Episode 1.12 “Cleaning Up” ends with a shot of an empty couch in the deserted low rises, just following the arrest of drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, and more relevantly, the grisly murder of Pit drug dealer Wallace. Throughout the entire first season, the couch represents a non-changing part of the low-rises’ landscape; it is a place where D’Angelo and the Pit boys (Wallace, Poot, and Bodie) congregate for social and business purposes.
A point was brought up in Thursday’s class, regarding Patrick Jagoda’s “Wired:” “stuff” enables connections. Although a complex argument, it draws off the extensive networks and connections between institutions and people made apparent throughout the series; this extensive web is essentially the entire focus and meaning of The Wire. These connections allow the viewer to ascertain a picture of the portrayed Baltimore societies, and by extension classes within the societies. The orange couch is part of the “stuff” enabling connections; the couch serves as a grounding point of the Pit, and allows the Pit crew to make connections to outside entities, such as higher up in the Barksdale operation (earlier in 1.12 “Cleaning Up” when Stringer comes to discuss the fate of Wallace) and the police (episode 1.2 “The Detail” when McNulty and Bunk visit D’Angelo regarding the Gant murder). The couch facilitates interactions between different groups within the series, and elaborates on their relationships. As an informal base for operations especially with dealers that should be in school, the couch makes apparent the low rises depressed socioeconomic status; it also makes apparent the tense relationship with the police.
Beyond what was mentioned in class, the orange couch is significant because it represents a stable component to the Pit boys’ lives, as serving as the center of their universe. However, it also shows change in their lives. At the end of 1.12 the empty couch is shown to elucidate the loss of Wallace as well as the old way of life; Poot and Bodie outgrow the Pit in killing Wallace, and become even more connected to the Barksdale organization. D’Angelo is taken into custody, and begins to question his own role in the business.
The orange couch is a clever component to the series on the part of the writers and set designers. It creates a constant setting for conversation and business to take place, especially with the backdrop being the low-rises themselves. Take for example the scene in which D’Angelo teaches the boys that the invention of the McNugget is the work of a lowly worker, all for the corporate chain. This is an obvious metaphor for the business, and creates an almost touching moment where D’Angelo tries to teach them about reality. The couch creates a natural setting for this conversation, and ties back into the fact that it is a place where connections happen and the boys learn the business. Even the color is significant, as it visually confirms that this is the most striking and important aspect of the Pit boys’ lives, and separates them from the rest of the low-rises.
McNuggets (also a topic I had considered writing about: product placement)