The Wire

6. The Wire

Charm City and institutions are the true protagonists

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“The Wire” debuted in 2002 and would eventually go on to usher in the age of the gritty/realistic dramas that would become increasingly prevalent in the years to come.  Even though “The Wire” didn’t win any major awards, it is a show considered masterful by most critics and adored by many for the strong and relevant statement that it made about institutions in America.  It is widely regarded by a multitude to be the greatest drama of all time with artistic merit and value to spare. 


“The pilot of ["The Wire"] is very much the anti-pilot. The one thing it doesn’t have is that sense of, ‘Are you gonna watch this show now? Are ya? Huh? Huh? Huh? If you don’t come back we might kill this guy.’ That’s what you have to do on network, cause if they don’t come back, you’re cancelled,” said show creator David Simon.

“On HBO, it’s like, we’re in it for the long haul. Tell the story in a smart way and we will bring people into the tent or we will die trying.”

Due to David Simon and Ed Burns’ commitment to a novelistic, slower pace of storytelling, the show almost didn’t catch on.  In fact, it was virtually on thin ice throughout the entirety of the time it was on the air without the ratings to justify its existence. 

At the time, HBO had the monster hit “The Sopranos” owning the ratings week in and week out while “The Wire” struggled to simply break even.  With the unsure future of “The Wire,” it was Simon’s vision that kept the show alive.  After a shaky first season, “The Wire” managed to stay on the air without solid numbers until season three.  That is when Simon (in order to save the show from cancellation) pitched the storylines for season four and five to an HBO executive (Chris Albrecht) who thought the almost guaranteed monetary loss was worth the telling of a good story.

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