Binge Guide

Everything You Need to Know Before You Binge-Watch The Wire

by and | June 12, 2014 | Comments

With the wealth of high-quality premium television currently available, journalists and fans alike have been quick to enter into discussions about “the best TV show ever.” One series that consistently makes the cut is HBO’s crime drama The Wire, even though it ended its run back in 2008. So what’s the big deal? We’re here to tell you.


The Wire

The Wire

What’s the premise? Broadly speaking, The Wire follows a ragtag task force assembled by the Baltimore Police Department to investigate a local drug kingpin suspected of multiple homicides. As the case expands, it illuminates the systemic malaise and corruption plaguing the city’s various public institutions.

What’s it like? Nothing in popular culture can match The Wire in terms of epic scope and lived-in authenticity, but if you were to take New Jack City (about the rise and fall of a drug kingpin) and Clockers (about the street kids who do the actual grinding) and mix them together with Nas’ Illmatic and a Frontline documentary about the war on drugs, you’d be on the right track.

Where can I see it? All five seasons are available to stream for members of Amazon Prime and to HBO subscribers on HBO GO.

How long will it take? The Wire takes five seasons and 60 episodes to tell its story, with each episode running close to an hour. If you possess zen-like self control, you can probably close out the series in a couple of months; if you find yourself burning through the episodes, though, it can be done in two to three weeks.

What do the critics think? When The Wire initially aired, there were a couple of critics who didn’t know what to make of it, so its first season is also its lowest-rated at 82 percent. Everyone was on board after that, though, so seasons two through five all earned 100 percent Tomatometers. Perhaps most accurately summing up the series, Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote, “It is one of the most intimate and alarming depictions of urban America on television, and yet it’s an invigorating and even exhilarating experience, each season a new Harry Potter book for adults.”

Why should I watch this? Everyone has that friend who’s been saying for years, “Dude, you have got to watch The Wire.” You should take your friend’s advice, just to get him or her to shut up. But what you’ll quickly discover when you blast through a bunch of episodes — trust us, it’s that addictive — is that you’ve never quite seen anything like The Wire before. There are plenty of police procedurals in the world, and there are plenty of movies about inner-city life, but nothing before or since has captured the rhythms of a city — from the street corners to the interrogation rooms, from the docks to the halls of power — like The Wire does for Baltimore. And the reason is that every character — and we mean every character — is endowed with such care that everyone, from the big stars to the bit players, feels like a fully formed, gray-shaded human being. It’s difficult to single out one actor within this magnificent ensemble for inordinate praise — remember, The Wire gave Idris Elba, Amy Ryan, Aidan Gillen, and Michael B. Jordan their big breaks. But as Omar Little, Michael Kenneth Williams gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance; with his scarred face and his trademark whistle, he’s the boogeyman that even the toughest street guys see in their nightmares. He also possesses a razor-sharp wit, providing a succinct appraisal of Baltimore corruption with one of the series’ most memorable lines: “I got the shotgun. You got the briefcase. It’s all in the game though, right?”

What’s my next step? Series creator/writer David Simon formerly worked as a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun, where his experiences provided the material for his true-crime book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. If you’re not much for reading, though, you can always check out the acclaimed TV series adapted from the book, Homicide: Life on the Street. Prior to The Wire, HBO also adapted another of Simon’s books into a miniseries called The Corner, which also profiles the war on drugs in Baltimore. If you’re looking for another drama populated by thoughtfully fleshed out characters, Orange Is the New Black is all the rage right now, and if you’re a fan of The Wire‘s talented cast, you can see some of them in other HBO dramas like True Blood, Treme, and Boardwalk Empire. For something you can digest in one sitting, you might try films like American Gangster or the aforementioned Clockers and New Jack City.

Have you tuned into The Wire? Tell us why it is (or isn’t) one of the “best TV shows ever.”

Tag Cloud

Tarantino Interview wonder woman royal family Tumblr PaleyFest Netflix Christmas movies Best and Worst Valentine's Day free movies 2015 Avengers ABC Signature sitcom Video Games Television Academy IMDb TV TV movies venice suspense thriller Native Marathons golden globes comic books Oscar Cannes BET 73rd Emmy Awards Classic Film Binge Guide doctor who stoner The Witch mcc true crime award winner Amazon Studios Sundance king arthur Cartoon Network vampires MSNBC golden globe awards Amazon Prime prank boxing Amazon french Universal Pictures NBA Extras TCA mission: impossible Awards canceled TV shows archives cancelled TV series 24 frames science fiction DGA Women's History Month IFC Films news rotten movies we love 45 Rocketman 2016 lord of the rings TV Land natural history canceled Nominations directors GLAAD sequels CNN Reality Competition Toys indie Hulu a nightmare on elm street reviews Instagram Live movies Trophy Talk nbcuniversal twilight franchise Superheroe The Walking Dead National Geographic Rocky superhero Pet Sematary VOD Freeform Nat Geo satire Masterpiece Family New York Comic Con spinoff Sony Pictures WarnerMedia Exclusive Video Photos TCM Martial Arts Holidays talk show renewed TV shows hollywood FXX joker rom-coms cats TCA Awards ViacomCBS The CW romance Black History Month E! DirecTV Rom-Com heist movie crime thriller HBO IFC cancelled television slashers comic worst versus DC Universe monster movies scorecard Neflix OneApp quibi facebook Peacock social media Turner obi wan Best Picture ID universal monsters crossover serial killer Box Office all-time australia MCU Fantasy Mindy Kaling TCA 2017 scene in color film series dreamworks werewolf classics 79th Golden Globes Awards binge SXSW 2022 batman Set visit Nickelodeon spider-man FX on Hulu The Purge Comic-Con@Home 2021 dexter Grammys Sundance TV GIFs blockbuster Countdown trophy spain spanish discovery cars Action hispanic heritage month jurassic park cartoon Fox Searchlight politics revenge crime drama Marvel Studios video on demand Adult Swim Writers Guild of America LGBTQ stand-up comedy AMC saw superman laika Hallmark San Diego Comic-Con dogs Showtime obituary VICE Polls and Games die hard WGN MGM Comic Book supernatural TBS summer TV rt labs critics edition The Academy Epix fresh spy thriller new york comedies CBS teaser AMC Plus streaming comic book movies Bravo medical drama HBO Max films Syfy Comedy Central trailers Thanksgiving Hear Us Out scary movies historical drama dragons target scene in color Mary poppins Sci-Fi Discovery Channel Funimation sag awards political drama Vudu reboot CW Seed child's play casting cinemax TLC genre Fargo dc GoT Apple DC streaming service book adaptation italian scene in color series Emmys ABC Pop The Arrangement TV renewals composers Ellie Kemper Captain marvel justice league crime Prime Video Shondaland HBO Go remakes Arrowverse japanese Pride Month series blockbusters festival kong USA Network SXSW 1990s indiana jones live action Opinion cancelled TV shows 4/20 independent mutant psycho Logo NBC disaster adenture RT History stop motion based on movie Wes Anderson Universal Paramount Pictures Tokyo Olympics Starz name the review finale Paramount Network Oscars Tags: Comedy TruTV christmas movies Acorn TV asian-american Red Carpet Film new zealand LGBT football FOX 93rd Oscars Esquire basketball kaiju target Walt Disney Pictures Endgame Netflix television Quiz best 2020 godzilla movie mockumentary debate interviews fast and furious book Elton John History Fox News new star wars movies Ghostbusters zero dark thirty mob documentary comic book movie adaptation foreign screen actors guild TNT chucky travel Trivia Crunchyroll singing competition Summer Television Critics Association adventure CMT king kong festivals Sundance Now The Walt Disney Company witnail 007 slasher aapi posters toy story Geeked Week Mystery Spike young adult Apple TV+ strong female leads Focus Features docudrama olympics MTV Star Trek latino Schedule sequel gangster Lifetime Baby Yoda scary Rock Premiere Dates rt labs Alien high school 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards cooking Kids & Family Star Wars sports cults Mary Tyler Moore deadpool diversity First Reviews Watching Series pirates of the caribbean ratings Certified Fresh 90s Stephen King halloween richard e. Grant live event streamig action-comedy Anna Paquin Chernobyl Christmas romantic comedy Ovation ghosts broadcast streaming movies leaderboard PlayStation toronto YA international Columbia Pictures vs. worst movies Superheroes Paramount American Society of Cinematographers green book TIFF 94th Oscars Academy Awards CBS All Access A24 docuseries YouTube Premium Disney Plus Turner Classic Movies psychological thriller technology Broadway BET Awards spanish language Travel Channel telelvision Britbox feel good Disney Channel ABC Family BBC America Disney 20th Century Fox children's TV El Rey Star Wars Celebration Comedy documentaries james bond Lucasfilm Tomatazos emmy awards X-Men YouTube Red war A&E President Crackle Dark Horse Comics unscripted hispanic art house black anthology TV One Pixar Cosplay biopic legend women SundanceTV transformers Podcast Creative Arts Emmys Marvel Television nfl 2017 video Apple TV Plus TCA Winter 2020 RT21 Lionsgate VH1 police drama kids Black Mirror OWN Country game show Best Actor marvel comics SDCC Election comiccon hidden camera hist dramedy Hollywood Foreign Press Association BBC One FX 72 Emmy Awards game of thrones space Disney+ Disney Plus period drama Biopics Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 99% Drama 2019 2021 japan critics Awards Tour elevated horror Spectrum Originals boxoffice harry potter 71st Emmy Awards Film Festival comics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Fall TV Sony Hallmark Christmas movies sopranos Infographic halloween tv ITV blaxploitation Image Comics Paramount Plus South by Southwest Film Festival Pirates zombies BBC Emmy Nominations Pacific Islander USA Musical zombie Brie Larson spider-verse anime Pop TV breaking bad dark See It Skip It scene in color Shudder Mary Poppins Returns Trailer miniseries popular Best Director Tubi Winners know your critic Marvel rt archives Reality Teen tv talk summer preview Music Year in Review APB cancelled Animation Legendary south america animated Sneak Peek Food Network nature black comedy aliens Western cops Song of Ice and Fire Spring TV jamie lee curtis TV razzies theme song Lifetime Christmas movies Comics on TV rotten Horror Musicals dceu Calendar Mudbound ESPN Indigenous criterion Heroines Holiday 2018 PBS Amazon Prime Video 21st Century Fox robots DC Comics Winter TV screenings Disney streaming service concert what to watch critic resources BAFTA Best Actress First Look HFPA Character Guide summer TV preview Super Bowl E3 Warner Bros. parents NYCC YouTube marvel cinematic universe biography