As the last episode of The Wire looms ever larger - seriously, if I had a time machine that could only go forward in time, I'd make it Sunday already and consider the intervening days acceptable losses - I thought I'd throw the following out into the ether:
It became very popular for a while to describe The Wire as "Dickensian" - so much so that the creators wrote some snarky little digs into the current season as regards the use of the word as shorthand by lazy journalists. David Simon, in recent interviews, has pointed out that his show looks much more like a Greek tragedy, in which hapless protagonists are pushed around by forces that are out of their control and utterly indifferent to their fate, only with, say, bureaucratic inertia or unfettered capitalism instead of randy old deities with lightening bolts and spouses who have had enough of their betrothed's swanning about.
So perhaps it's time to put the Dickens comparisons out to pasture. That said, I'd like to humbly submit that if we are going to keep that little trope alive, Hard Times is far closer in spirit to what Simon and Co. seem to be up to, and almost as close in execution as the oft-cited Bleak House.