The Wire: A cult classic that takes a deep dive deep into urbanity and humanity

Gepubliceerd op 26 mei 2023 om 21:28

Few TV series have explored and evoked urban life like The Wire. The feeling of being an individual in a system – in a ‘game’ – that is above your control and understanding is a constant trope within this acclaimed series. 


This is one of the many reasons why The Wire transcends its typical definition of a crime drama series and is more than just action and entertainment. 


Set in Baltimore, The Wire follows the city’s police department and many of the institutions that comprise life in the city. Major tropes surround the dysfunctionality of these institutions, which include the drug trade, city government and educational system. Another major theme is surveillance, which gives the series its name. 


The Wire is regarded as a work of art, of historical importance, because of what it does and how it does it. The series only ran for five seasons between 2002 and 2008, with 60 episodes created in total. The Wire has gone on however to garner a true cult following, with fans of the show located all over the world.


Writing, Production and Direction


The Wire was the brainchild of David Simon, a former journalist at The Baltimore Sun newspaper and the writer of two non-fiction books that focused on the Baltimore Police Department. 


The show developed out of an idea for a police drama based on the career of Ed Burns, a former police officer and teacher, who became Simon’s writing partner for The Wire and many other projects.


HBO had worked with Simon and Burns previously to produce a mini-series based on Simon’s book The Corner (2000). This led the team behind The Wire to approach the network regarding the show, and HBO agreed to produce a pilot episode before commissioning the series.


Simon worked as an executive producer on the show, alongside Robert F. Colesberry who had worked on The Corner – as well as Martin Scorsese’s film After Hours (1985) and Alan Parker’s Mississippi Burning (1988) – and Nina Kostroff Noble, who had also been involved in The Corner. 


Directors involved with The Wire include Clark Johnson, who also did directing work on Homicide (1996-98) and The Shield (2002-2008), and Tim Van Patten, who worked on The Sopranos (1999-2007). 




Idris Elba saw his career take off after taking up the role of Stringer Bell, a major figure in the drug dealing Barksdale crew that features throughout The Wire. Prior to his part in the show, Elba had mainly been seen in British television series, but his role in the show launched his career on the global stage. He would go on to star in the Luther (2010-2019) TV series, as well as films like Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007) and Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla (2008).


Michael B. Jordan also starred in the series when just 15 years of age, following on from brief appearances in The Sopranos (1999) and Cosby (1999). His character Wallace was a young member of the Barksdale crew and is involved in one of the most memorable scenes from the show. Jordan would go on to star in The Fantastic Four (2015) and the Creed (2015/2018/2023) film franchise.


Lance Reddick (1962-2023) had previously starred in Law & Order (2000-2004) and Oz (2000) before taking up the role of Cedric Daniels in The Wire. The well-respected Deputy of Operations of the Baltimore Police Department appears in 58 of the 60 episodes – the most of any character on the show. Reddick would go on to star in TV series such as Lost (2008-2009), Fringe (2008-2013) and Resident Evil (2022), as well as films including White House Down (2013) and the John Wick (2014/2017/2019/2023) franchise.


Michael K. Williams (1966-2021) had previously featured in Law & Order (1997-2009) and The Sopranos (2001) before landing the role of Omar Little in The Wire. A complex and tender character, Little would be an increasingly important figure in the series as the seasons went on. Williams would go on to star in Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014) and Community (2011-2012), before his untimely death in 2021.


Famous Fans


Barack Obama is such a fan of the show that he invited David Simon to the White House in 2015. 


In their conversation, the former American President described The Wire as ‘one of the greatest, not just television shows but pieces of art, in the last couple of decades’.


The Wire Trivia


- David Simon is one of only two screenwriters to have been awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant for his work.

- Despite being widely regarded as one of the best TV series of all time, The Wire never won an Emmy award.

- The show’s original ratings were not good at all! But with time, appreciation for the series has grown and grown.

- The show’s theme music is the song Way Down in the Hole by Tom Waits, and was performed by different musicians for each series, including Waits in Series 2 and Steve Earle in Series 5. Waits himself has a long list of film appearances to his name, including roles in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), and Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths (2012). 


By Sean Dudley, Carduelis CHR, on behalf of Carduelis & Media


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