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

harry potter award winner binge Hallmark Christmas movies talk show ITV social media Endgame police drama Teen Biopics OWN TV Land venice Binge Guide revenge TBS GLAAD nature USA Network cats Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song 45 worst 20th Century Fox independent Emmys Shondaland DC streaming service HBO versus die hard Country spanish language Star Wars 24 frames IFC Films Mary Poppins Returns movies Best and Worst Mary poppins Britbox serial killer Columbia Pictures Starz Musical Reality Competition Amazon Prime sports FXX Fall TV The Walking Dead Sundance TV critics science fiction unscripted finale universal monsters FX A24 Sony Pictures 007 Awards Music vampires Comics on TV movie Tubi TCA green book CBS Travel Channel PlayStation Kids & Family NBC Anna Paquin Hulu 21st Century Fox Winter TV WGN game of thrones DirecTV Lucasfilm based on movie A&E miniseries YouTube Red MCU politics Crackle Cartoon Network Avengers romantic comedy Turner Writers Guild of America Valentine's Day Horror Freeform VICE Family Premiere Dates 2015 spain The CW disaster war jamie lee curtis Pop slashers spinoff SundanceTV screenings Extras MTV all-time name the review child's play asian-american Super Bowl discovery Elton John rotten movies we love Pet Sematary Captain marvel Marvel Pop TV American Society of Cinematographers latino Holiday dc CMT Superheroes YouTube biography Hallmark HBO Go Nominations Disney+ Disney Plus Awards Tour Cannes Comedy Warner Bros. ghosts Year in Review sequel dramedy Paramount halloween Spring TV Ovation period drama Animation Turner Classic Movies New York Comic Con Spike Superheroe Universal cars RT21 PaleyFest concert south america Chernobyl dogs Masterpiece TCA 2017 Tumblr parents 2016 Vudu television christmas movies Netflix Ellie Kemper APB YouTube Premium USA casting Dark Horse Comics Nickelodeon Women's History Month Mindy Kaling mockumentary scorecard series TruTV ABC Family Set visit First Reviews natural history First Look El Rey dceu Syfy aliens Pride Month TCA Awards Rocky Summer golden globes BET Awards VH1 streaming Television Academy The Witch Funimation dragons Academy Awards OneApp Marathons richard e. Grant psychological thriller TCA Winter 2020 a nightmare on elm street Countdown Reality Emmy Nominations Comedy Central ratings Sci-Fi Opinion The Academy Mudbound thriller Calendar docudrama Marvel Television Christmas anime festival Apple TV Plus Video Games spanish screen actors guild Rom-Com 4/20 doctor who italian hispanic what to watch BAFTA HBO Max TCM Amazon Prime Video The Arrangement DC Universe SXSW NYCC E3 IFC blockbuster Rocketman indiana jones tv talk DGA 2020 Oscars Infographic satire Disney streaming service Western BBC transformers TV renewals Quiz Pirates classics Drama psycho indie Schedule foreign adventure Trivia batman Certified Fresh emmy awards Sundance Creative Arts Emmys nbcuniversal Discovery Channel FX on Hulu joker fast and furious Amazon cancelled TV series Thanksgiving strong female leads Polls and Games spy thriller singing competition witnail X-Men chucky book Walt Disney Pictures 71st Emmy Awards space Bravo Trophy Talk game show rotten TNT LGBTQ romance Action Mary Tyler Moore Fox News Ghostbusters Disney TV cancelled TV shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina halloween tv reviews supernatural toronto sequels cancelled Shudder zombies facebook sitcom stoner The Purge Red Carpet Mystery spider-man diversity Tarantino documentaries Food Network technology AMC teaser films Martial Arts Epix justice league worst movies Stephen King Disney Plus cults History Lifetime cops Toys Black History Month travel GoT Apple TV+ BBC One Adult Swim werewolf Arrowverse best elevated horror remakes Nat Geo japanese crossover CW Seed 2018 Netflix Christmas movies criterion 2019 comedies CNN Crunchyroll Acorn TV Hear Us Out Pixar Logo zombie BET President CBS All Access Fantasy breaking bad adaptation GIFs Photos Cosplay football Television Critics Association Lionsgate Watching Series crime comiccon french Star Trek Marvel Studios historical drama Black Mirror sag awards free movies crime drama nfl Box Office kids Election National Geographic Grammys Lifetime Christmas movies stop motion medical drama Paramount Network comics VOD archives DC Comics ESPN reboot TLC Musicals documentary superhero Spectrum Originals Interview Fox Searchlight Peacock Apple stand-up comedy quibi Sundance Now Amazon Studios composers canceled Trailer mutant australia cinemax laika video on demand cooking scary movies Tomatazos WarnerMedia mission: impossible YA dark BBC America true crime video See It Skip It Sneak Peek TIFF 72 Emmy Awards Podcast RT History PBS cartoon ABC Comic Book MSNBC Song of Ice and Fire political drama Film children's TV toy story animated Esquire zero dark thirty twilight festivals anthology comic directors canceled TV shows Disney Channel cancelled television news boxoffice franchise Holidays 2017 Character Guide blaxploitation robots Film Festival Rock Showtime Classic Film E! SDCC crime thriller hollywood hist FOX Winners Baby Yoda San Diego Comic-Con obituary LGBT Brie Larson renewed TV shows Heroines