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The Wire (2002-2008): changing the face of TV crime drama

In acknowledgement of Black History Month, The Royal Gazette continues the publication of stories throughout February on African-American, Black Bermudian and global African people, events and institutions, and their contributions in history

The Wire was a popular television series that aired for five seasons on the HBO network, from June 2, 2002 to March 9, 2008. The show, set in Baltimore, Maryland, was created by former police reporter David Simon and based on his experiences and those of his writing partner, Ed Burns, who was at one time a homicide detective and public school teacher.

The show starred Dominic West as Jimmy McNulty, John Doman as William Rawls, Idris Elba as Russell “Stringer” Bell, Wood Harris as Avon Barksdale and Michael Kenneth Williams as Omar Little. The show was a crime drama focused on the illegal drug trade in Baltimore. Many critics considered it one of the best shows in television history.

During the first season (2002), The Wire focused on two groups, the Baltimore Police Department and the Barksdale family criminal organisation headed by Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell. The second season (2003) examined the blue-collar urban working class and especially the dock-workers in the city’s port, who smuggled drugs into the city. Season three (2004) centred on the Baltimore Police Department’s attempt to take down the Barksdale organisation at the same time a rival criminal gang, the Stanford Organisation, rose to prominence. The Stanford Organisation was headed by Marlo Stanford, played by actor Jamie Hector alongside enforcers Chris Partlow (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and Snoop (Felicia “Snoop” Pearson).

After the end of the third season, the show took a two-year hiatus and returned in 2006 to focus on the public school system and the Baltimore mayoral race. In 2008, The Wire aired its fifth and final season following the news media of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department taking down the Stanford Organisation for good.

The Wire stood apart from other crime dramas in that it examined not just the drug trade and accompanying inner-city violence but also LGBTQ+ issues. The show’s main character, Omar Little, for example, was a gay stick-up man who robbed street-level drug dealers. Other LGBTQ+ characters on the show included police detective Shakima “Kima” Griggs, a lesbian, Stanford Organisation enforcer Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, also a lesbian, and Baltimore Police Department Major William A. “Bill” Rawls, a gay man.

The Wire won awards from the American Film Institute, the Writers Guild of America, and the Directors Guild of America. The show was also nominated for the NAACP Image Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards. The popularity of the show reached academia, where courses around it were taught at Johns Hopkins University and Brown University. Even President Barack Obama claimed The Wire was his favourite television show. According to many television critics, The Wire permanently changed the way crime dramas were presented on television.


“The Wire,” HBO, https://www.hbo.com/the-wire; “The Wire,” International Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306414/ “The Wire,” BBC, https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20211015-why-the-wire-is-the-greatest-tv-series-of-the-21st-century

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Published February 27, 2023 at 8:04 am (Updated February 27, 2023 at 8:04 am)

The Wire (2002-2008): changing the face of TV crime drama

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