My Top 10 TV Shows of All Time – No. 4: The Wire

To celebrate the return of Jack Bauer kicking ass in the newest season of 24 I decided to do my first list/countdown for this blog. Every day starting from No. 10 I’ll count down my top 10 shows of all time. Now this is my list, and believe me I know people will disagree with it, but I’ll try and justify my choices with a spoiler free summary of my thoughts and feelings.

4. The Wire

2002-2008, 5 Seasons, HBO, Created by David Simon

The Wire is probably as ‘real’ as TV gets outside of documentaries. A gritty, no holds barred look into the life of both sides of the Law in Baltimore, the show introduced some of the most fascinating characters we’ve ever seen and stimulated debate as to how the country treated those fighting for the law, and those fighting against it.

Across the 5 seasons, The Wire delves into different factors of life in present day Baltimore. From the cops who work to keep the drugs off the street, to the criminals pushing it, the politicians who run the city and the kids who suffer at the bottom of the food chain, all is given a fair and ‘warts and all’ portrayal. One thing you will have learnt by the end of the first few episodes, Good and Bad is not so clear cut in the world of The Wire and in fact, one of the most rooted for and liked characters, Omar, is nothing more then a stick up artist.

Creator David Simon was a journalist who hung around the Baltimore Homicide department and other departments in the early 90’s. He published a book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (well worth the read) which was later adapted into a popular and critically acclaimed NBC Show, Homicide: Life on the Streets. After HBO adapted Simon’s and collaborator Ed Burns (a former Baltimore Police Detective who met Simon during the years he was a journalist) book The Corner about drugs in Baltimore into a critically acclaimed mini series they green lit a TV show expanding on the themes on both books and The Wire was born.

The Wire was never a commercial hit when it aired on HBO though it was often cited by Critics in a very popular light. Viewing figures were always low and it dodged cancellation a number of times but with the shows release on DVD, word of mouth grew and it gained a new life in the home video market after the final episode aired where it seems like most people who are fans, have seen it.

The reason to me why The Wire isn’t higher on my Top 10 List is mostly due to Season 5 being such a let down. Season 4 is incredible, and it’s such a departure from what came before it that I guess anything that could follow would be a disappointment but the path Season 5 follows till the end is just too formulaic for me, totally not what the show has given us before. Don’t be put off from watching the whole thing just because of this though as even in 5 the last 2 episodes pretty much redeem all the episodes that come before it.

I leave you with the opening scene from the very first episode, probably one of the greater opening scenes ever put to celluloid.

The Wire on Amazon

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