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

Spring TV Teen LGBT TCA 2017 Awards ghosts nature National Geographic Shudder Song of Ice and Fire GLAAD cinemax Sneak Peek YouTube Premium Disney Plus true crime zombie robots Winter TV DC Universe Grammys green book Columbia Pictures reboot SDCC werewolf politics Sundance television The Purge series IFC Photos composers Quiz Endgame thriller Spectrum Originals VICE Disney streaming service Rom-Com 2015 Showtime space Vudu cooking Marvel Studios TLC psycho Year in Review Hallmark diversity USA Network E3 romantic comedy YouTube Lionsgate Starz hispanic Sundance Now GoT YouTube Red CNN Film Festival Logo NBC Warner Bros. Star Wars MCU Fantasy revenge Paramount Network historical drama finale 2016 teaser Women's History Month movies Character Guide Esquire Acorn TV Drama Anna Paquin Extras Reality OneApp Britbox President cats Ellie Kemper WarnerMedia slashers TV Land what to watch Family stand-up comedy renewed TV shows video Epix streaming independent spanish language Spike miniseries Elton John San Diego Comic-Con spy thriller First Look CMT Amazon Biopics E! Cartoon Network blockbuster sports Avengers Action zero dark thirty Marvel christmas movies Comic Book blaxploitation SXSW indie Nickelodeon harry potter Amazon Prime Video mutant PaleyFest Ghostbusters 45 TIFF MTV spinoff golden globes DC Comics ABC American Society of Cinematographers mockumentary Marvel Television See It Skip It Apple TV Plus RT History docudrama Chernobyl Mary poppins Sony Pictures GIFs Freeform Countdown Horror Cosplay Mystery aliens Infographic 2018 NYCC witnail political drama award winner Pixar Reality Competition science fiction WGN Universal Comedy Disney+ Disney Plus TruTV First Reviews social media BBC Binge Guide dragons anthology crime drama justice league cancelled TV series ITV BBC America CBS talk show Winners doctor who BET boxoffice kids FX 2017 MSNBC Tomatazos DirecTV Interview TCM Hulu rotten movies we love Opinion breaking bad 007 2019 VH1 animated Rock hist cancelled television biography Hallmark Christmas movies TV TCA Brie Larson facebook Toys Marathons Heroines Nominations AMC Adult Swim tv talk RT21 police drama Premiere Dates Television Academy based on movie Pirates Animation Red Carpet canceled Sci-Fi zombies Tarantino Crunchyroll cancelled technology Dark Horse Comics Stephen King vampires Fall TV game of thrones south america psychological thriller Mary Tyler Moore Netflix Christmas movies elevated horror Apple TV+ Turner Creative Arts Emmys The Walking Dead cancelled TV shows theme song OWN Peacock 20th Century Fox sequel Food Network Valentine's Day Box Office foreign Academy Awards comiccon comics ABC Family Certified Fresh Chilling Adventures of Sabrina USA Martial Arts canceled TV shows Holiday Election Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt free movies HBO Country HBO Max quibi Emmys jamie lee curtis natural history LGBTQ batman CBS All Access Bravo Christmas dceu Western Rocketman anime Cannes Discovery Channel spain Musical APB Lifetime Christmas movies Classic Film spider-man TCA Winter 2020 The Arrangement Sundance TV Rocky DGA SundanceTV FOX Trailer The Witch CW Seed Set visit Nat Geo singing competition war versus Pop joker Shondaland Trophy Talk Kids & Family Holidays serial killer Writers Guild of America X-Men 21st Century Fox A&E Super Bowl cars comic transformers Captain marvel Syfy supernatural Polls and Games Summer Turner Classic Movies Mudbound Oscars Mary Poppins Returns crime TV renewals A24 Paramount cults Superheroe Video Games festivals TBS crime thriller Walt Disney Pictures adaptation Tubi TNT screen actors guild Masterpiece game show 24 frames Musicals name the review Netflix Comedy Central ESPN 2020 crossover children's TV FXX New York Comic Con dramedy Trivia Amazon Prime screenings Lifetime disaster Tumblr Pride Month DC streaming service IFC Films richard e. Grant sag awards Pet Sematary The CW directors Arrowverse Podcast travel Comics on TV Music History Best and Worst Thanksgiving Awards Tour discovery Mindy Kaling cops binge Crackle romance Calendar latino Lucasfilm strong female leads medical drama El Rey Disney Channel unscripted documentary cartoon casting PBS toy story Superheroes ratings period drama halloween Ovation 71st Emmy Awards Disney Star Trek Baby Yoda Emmy Nominations dc Apple Black Mirror Fox News Schedule book sitcom YA Watching Series adventure Film