All the pieces matter: analysis, essays, and anything else on The Wire

Avon and Stringer starred in Season 3, the epic Wire season.
Wood Harris and Idris Elba starred in Season 3, the epic season of The Wire.

I have posted a few items on The Wire here at the blog,  referencing  it in my blog intro and covering it in a February 2008 essay. Now, as I have done with my Iran and Bulls coverage, I would like to pool all of my favorite Wire material into one spot. This one. So here we go.

**UPDATED JULY 26, 2015**

Please send me other essays/videos/links that you don’t see here. Either drop a link in the comments or tweet me and I’ll add ’em in. Thanks! –JACK


 June 25, 2002 in Entertainment Weekly (

‘Wire’ Power by Ken Tucker

“Just you, me, my partner…and Mr. Shit here.”

EXCERPT: ”The Wire”‘s fifth episode is, well, funkin’ amazing. McNulty’s unit has been trying to get the goods on kingpin Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris), a figure as elusive as a phantom. The cops crack the code that Barksdale’s scattered minions use on their pagers — a key to tying Barksdale to large-scale drug running. Many of the established story lines converge here. The best of them involve the moral struggles of Barksdale’s young nephew D’Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.) — a natural lieutenant in the enemy army, who’s deciding if he has the stomach for pushing death on the streets — and the office politics McNulty must endure to combat that army. The latter affords ”The Wire” an opportunity to dissect the multilayered bureaucracy, and episode directors such as Clark Johnson (Boycott) get beautifully detailed performances from ”Oz”’s Lance Reddick as McNulty’s promotion-minded superior, ”Homicide”’s Peter Gerety as a pushy judge, and Clarke Peters as a brilliant detective consigned to a desk job for a forgivable sin committed years ago. (The series may be about cops and criminals, but you’ll recognize ”The Wire”’s workday tensions in your own life.)


June 29, 2002 in

‘What drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has’ by Ian Rothkerch

Poot, Bodie, D, and Wallace in the Pit.
Poot, Bodie, D, and Wallace in the Pit.

EXCERPT: HBO’s new series “The Wire” is as much a polemic against the drug war as it is an indictment against traditional cop-show conventions. Over the course of a season, “The Wire” follows the frustrated attempts of federal agents and Baltimore police to topple an elaborate drug organization run by an elusive crime lord named Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and his conscience-stricken nephew D’Angelo (Larry Gilliard Jr.). When first we meet D’Angelo, he’s on trial for murder — a rap he beats after one of the star witnesses is coerced into changing her story by Uncle Avon’s crew. In attendance for this bogus verdict is Detective James McNulty (played with charismatic intensity by Dominic West), a pit bull homicide cop who takes D’Angelo’s victory as an insult to his professional ego. McNulty is subsequently brought in by the presiding judge to do a postmortem on the case, revealing that this was only one in a slew of uncharged homicides attributed to the Barksdale clan.


September 13, 2004 in

On ‘The Wire,’ sometimes the bad guys win by Michael Ventre

Johnny and Bubbs
Johnny and Bubbs

EXCERPT: With “The Wire,” the entire series is like a brazen gunfight on an inner-city street. Even if you think you are safe, you could still be hit with a stray bullet. Characters that you’ve invested time and emotions in suddenly are gone. Executive producer David Simon apparently has too much integrity, intelligence and respect for the harsh realities he and his crack team of associates deal with to hand out one-hour helpings of vanilla. Here’s hoping he keeps it up.


September 23, 2004 on National Public Radio

David Simon and head writer George Pelecano on “Fresh Air” (20 minutes long)

David Simon (center) and George Pelecanos (right) with Simon's co-creator Ed Burns. (photo by David Johnson for Time Magazine)
David Simon (center) and George Pelecanos (right) with Simon’s co-creator Ed Burns. (photo by David Johnson for Time Magazine)

SIMON: “One of the things that I wanted ‘The Wire’ to be was a story told in its own time. We were very conscious of the fact that our story moves more slowly than the average episodic drama because we’re not going to pay off at the end of the hour. We’re going to pay off at the end of 12. So we know we’re starting in a very laconic poise, and we’re going to go at our own speed and we’re going to revel in detail. And if that’s the case, then the camerawork has to reflect that. So we wanted more languid movements. We wanted the background to show great detail. You can watch these episodes two or three times, you’ll pick up stuff in the background every single time. It’s made for DVD viewing…”


October 1, 2004 in

Everything you were afraid to ask about ‘The Wire’ by Dan Kois

Prez, Kima, Lester, and Jimmy monitor the wire in the MCU office.
Prez, Kima, Lester, and Jimmy monitor the wire in the MCU office.

EXCERPT: “It’s a novel,” David Simon likes to say about the show he created, HBO’s “The Wire.” Which is a good way of explaining the show’s distinctively long plot arcs, dense webs of characters and grand scope — but an intimidating message to new viewers who, tempted by the show’s wild critical acclaim, are trying to tune in now, early into the program’s third season. After all, you wouldn’t start reading a novel on page 201, would you? But getting a handle on the third season of “The Wire” doesn’t necessarily require watching 25 hours of back story. Though I heartily recommend the Season 1 DVD set (out Oct. 12), I’m happy to present a guide to HBO’s acclaimed, and extremely intricate, series.


December 13, 2004 in the New York Times

Whacked! Another HBO main player meets his end by Lola Ogunnaike

“Well get on with it motherfu- “

EXCERPT: Mr. Elba, who is far more sensitive than the stoic Stringer, said his last day of work was particularly emotional. Michael K. Williams, who plays Omar Devone Little, the gay, shotgun-toting thug who blasts away Stringer, said: “There were a lot of wet eyes on the set. I just had to keep telling myself that Idris is alive and he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Fans of the show may be surprised to learn that Mr. Elba is not African American. The only child of a mother from Ghana and father from Sierre Leone, Mr. Elba was born and brought up in Hackney, a working-class borough of London. It is a fact he reluctantly shares with fans, preferring instead to use his American accent when talking with those who request autographs. “Wherever I go the real hard-core dudes come up to me and confide in me,” said Mr. Elba, who over the years has been approached by dozens of drug dealers identifying with Stringer. “I almost feel guilty turning around and saying: ‘Hello, mate. My name’s Idris and I’m from London.’ ” Mr. Elba burst into an exaggerated version of his cockney accent. “I don’t want to break the illusion.”


August 18, 2006 on youtube Charlie Brooker on The Wire


August 25, 2006 in Entertainment Weekly

Setting off a ‘Wire’ alarm by Stephen King

Chris and Snoop make their pitch to Michael.
Chris and Snoop make their pitch to Michael.

EXCERPT: In David Simon’s version of Dante’s Inferno, Hell is played by Baltimore and all seven of the deadly sins are doing just fine, thanks. Midlevel drug dealers welcome fall by giving their corner boys money for new clothes — a little perk to keep them happy and moving those spider-bags and red-tops. The bigger crooks give to the politicians to make sure the influence keeps flowing. The only difference is the amount changing hands. And Lester Freamon, a detective Sherlock Holmes might hail as a peer, has an aha moment while looking at an abandoned row house — one of thousands in the city’s decaying core — on a chilly winter afternoon. ”This is a tomb,” he says.


September 1, 2006 in

Sports Guy seal of approval (item 17) by Bill Simmons

Wee-Bey, Stinkum, D'Angelo, Stringer, and Savino strike the GoodFellas pose.
Wee-Bey, Stinkum, D’Angelo, Stringer, and Savino strike the GoodFellas pose.

EXCERPT: Before I started watching “The Wire,” my four favorite TV/movie detectives of all-time were Sonny Crockett (“Miami Vice”); Jack Cates (“48 Hrs.”); Johnny Kelly (“NYPD Blue”); and Nick Curran (Michael Douglas’ character in “Basic Instinct”), who couldn’t break away from Sharon Stone even though he knew that every time she climbed on top during sex, there was a 50 percent chance she might ram an ice pick into his chest. But Jimmy McNulty in “The Wire” (played by Dominic West) … he might end up beating them all before everything’s said and done. He might have even moved to No. 1 during the scene in Season 2 when they raid a brothel and he ends up in a threesome before the rest of the cops arrive. Not even Sonny Crockett would have done that.


September 7, 2006 in Variety

The Wire, Season 4 review by Brian Lowry

Judge Phelan reviews the work of the Barksdale detail with Deputy Ops Burrell.
Judge Phelan reviews the work of the Barksdale detail with Deputy Ops Burrell.

EXCERPT: What Simon and his collaborators achieve is breathtaking — creating a dozen parallel plotlines that slowly converge as the season progresses, all rooted in a totally organic world. There is drug kingpin Marlo (Jamie Hector), consolidating his hold on the streets; Det. Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters), who continues to follow the drug money despite his higher-ups’ reluctance to stir the pot in an election year; and former cop Howard Colvin (the magnificent Robert Wisdom), who, after unilaterally decriminalizing drugs in season three, is recruited to research at-risk teens, intersecting with the aforementioned youths.


September 13, 2006 in Slate Magazine

Why ‘The Wire’ is the best show on television by Jacob Weisberg

Sobotka and Nick talk at Delores' bar.
Sobotka and Nick talk at Delores’ bar.

EXCERPT: The Wire, which has just begun its fourth season on HBO, is surely the best TV show ever broadcast in America. This claim isn’t based on my having seen all the possible rivals for the title, but on the premise that no other program has ever done anything remotely like what this one does, namely to portray the social, political, and economic life of an American city with the scope, observational precision, and moral vision of great literature.


September 18 to December 11, 2006 in

Breaking down the Wire by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz

In one of the crucial thematic scenes of the entire series, Omar and the Bunk chop it up on a bench.
In one of the crucial thematic scenes of the entire series, Omar and the Bunk chop it up on a bench.

EXCERPT (from the 10-16-06 Steve James post): For my money, The Wire‘s visual and storytelling style is what you might call “classical.” The series runs against the tide of current television (and even film) drama by not indulging in spurious attempts to mimic the look and urgency of real documentaries with a lot of “shaky-cam”: jiggley hand-held shots, quick unmotivated zooms, extreme close-ups, and editing that seems intent on letting no shot play longer than two seconds. It’s an affliction shared by recent works like Friday Night Lights (the film and the series), the controversial Path to 9/11, much of the work of Oliver Stone, and virtually every awful network-TV miniseries involving natural and man-made disasters. (Though I don’t include such deft appropriations of doc style as Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday and Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves.) Real documentary filmmakers would fire shooters who can’t hold a shot or focus, or sit still on a subject. Why? Because it prevents the viewer from connecting with the subject and story at hand. And as David says, The Wire is, above all, intent on pulling the viewer into the story and characters.


September 20, 2006 in

Mad libs world in Hollywood by Bill Simmons

Slim Charles and Prop Joe discuss Omar and Marlo, presumably.
Slim Charles and Prop Joe, seen here discussing Omar and Marlo and maybe Cheese, presumably.

EXCERPT: There’s nowhere to hide in “The Wire.” The characters are stuck in Baltimore, a washed-up city ravaged by drugs, poverty and political corruption. Our closest thing to heroes are renegade detective Jimmy McNulty (a likable, hard-drinking iconoclast who disappears for much of Season 2 and becomes completely irrelevant in Season 4) and a gun-wielding nomad named Omar (a scarfaced Robin Hood, only if Robin Hood was gay and stole from drug dealers). We spend three full seasons watching Baltimore police break the city’s biggest drug syndicate … only to watch an angrier, more ruthless group of rival dealers immediately pop up in its place. The current season centers around four poor teenagers (all of them threatening to succumb to the drug lifestyle) and Baltimore’s incompetent school system (which can’t even begin to hope to save them), with the show elucidating in painstaking detail why these kids can’t be salvaged: They have no role models and no chance to escape, and things will never change because the lead politicians and major police heads only care about themselves. There’s no overall plan to save the city, no passionate leader on the horizon, nothing. All of it would take too much effort. Like a dead fish, Baltimore rots from the head down.


Season 4’s run, in Entertainment Weekly (

Season 4 episode recaps by Michael Endelman

JACK’S NOTE: For some reason, I am having difficulties locating all of these reviews. As I secure them, I will post them.

Team Carcetti discusses the perils of waking up white in a city that ain't.
Team Carcetti discusses the perils of waking up white in a city that ain’t.

EXCERPT (from Endelman’s recap of episode 4 ‘Refugees’): As for Marlo’s own bloody trail, Lester Freamon is inching a bit closer to figuring out that the murder rate isn’t down; the corpses just haven’t appeared. ”The boy is a young lion,” he muses while drinking one of many whiskeys with Bunk. ”The lion has to have its kill. Where’s he putting the bodies?” Don’t you just want to shout into the screen and tell him? Look in the row houses, dude! I’m gonna predict that that B-More’s own Sherlock Holmes will find them in the next episode; it seems like the right point in the season’s narrative arc for a major event like that. And when that happens, the now dead Major Crimes Unit will have to come back to life, despite the suffocating presence of Charlie Marimow. And though Bunk seems to miss his beloved Jimmy McNulty, the hefty detective is spending some time showing homicide’s newest member, Kima Greggs, the ins and outs of her new unit, while hazing her too. Bunk does impart some useful information, so we finally hear one explanation of the phrase ”soft eyes” (which was also the title of episode 3). The question, however, is whether Greggs will be able to develop soft eyes soon enough to solve the political-hot-potato case that’s just been dumped on her desk: the murder of the state’s witness that Carcetti used to skewer Royce in the debate. Burrell is trying to bury the case until after the election, but he dropped the case on the wrong rookie. I bet Greggs will get this murder tied up in time for a Carcetti upset.

9-18-06, ‘Soft Eyes’

9-26-06, ‘Home Rooms’

10-02-06, ‘Refugees’

12-04-06, ‘That’s Got His Own’

12-10-06, ‘Final Grades’


2006 to the 2010 in What’s Alan Watching

Episode by episode recaps of The Wire by Alan Sepinwall

Twigg and Gus in the Sun newsroom.
Twigg and Gus in the Sun newsroom.

SEASON 1 (written summer 2008)

SEASON 2 (written summer 2009)

SEASON 3 (written summer 2010)

SEASON 4 (written 2006, as the season aired)

SEASON 5 (written 2008, as the season aired)

Sepinwall Q&A with David Simon


September 22, 2006 in The House Next Door

The Wire and the Art of the Credit Sequence by Andrew Dignan

New link, at Slant Magazine

This image first appeared in 'The Wire' title sequence in Season 2.
This image first appeared in ‘The Wire’ title sequence in Season 2.

EXCERPT: A dialogue is brokered through the alternating images of law enforcement and those seeking to undermine it; the cutting creates symmetry through juxtaposition. To wit: a pay phone call in which a dealer orders a re-up of drugs is followed by a shot of an officer listening in through an ear-piece. Though their heads are out of frame, the man using the pay phone is clearly facing screen left, while the man with the ear piece is facing screen right. Yet bisecting the frame in both shots is the titular wire, occupying roughly the same position within the frame. The cop needs the criminal and the criminal is only forced to employ cloak and dagger tactics because of the cop.

JACK NOTE: Check out the comments section for lengthy contributions from producer Karen Thorson, plus comments from creator David Simon and noted critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz.


October 28, 2006 on youtube Idris Elba discusses the demise of Stringer Bell, with an anecdote from his death scene

JACK NOTE 1: This was uploaded in 2006, but I feel like I saw the full panel discussion once and believe it was shot not long after Season 3 aired in 2004. Regardless, it’s great insight from Elba. JACK NOTE 2: Sonja Sohn dropped some cryptic thoughts about Stringer’s death scene. I always dug seeing her in the background of the aftermath scene.


November 17, 2006 in ESPN’s Page 2 Will HBO series change attitudes? by LZ Granderson

Omar and Dante.

EXCERPT: “[Omar]’s one of the best characters on the show,” the Cavs guard [Larry Hughes] says. “I think Omar is very believable. If you can have a businessman be on the down low, why can’t you have a gangsta?” Or athlete? “That’s different,” Mason says. “Because Omar does his thing but you don’t have to be around him all of the time. In football, you spend so much time together and you’re in the shower … it’s just different. I still think if an athlete comes out, he would be committing professional suicide.” But Mason’s teammate, Bart Scott, has a different take. “I don’t care what he does in his personal life,” the linebacker says. “All I care about is, ‘Can he help me win football games? Can he help me win a Super Bowl?'”


December 1, 2006 in

Behind The Wire: An Interview with David Simon

Namond, Michael, and Randy go after some pidgeons
Namond, Michael, and Randy go after some pidgeons

EXCERPT DAVID SIMON: There were no models for us in TV. I admire the storytelling of The Sopranos, though I don’t watch it consistently. And Deadwood; I don’t watch it, but I admire their storytelling. We certainly weren’t paying attention to network TV. Instead, the impulse on my part is rooted in what I was supposed to be in life, which was a journalist. I’m not interested in conducting morality plays using TV drama—in stories of good versus evil. I’m not interested in exalting character as a means of maintaining TV franchise. Most of TV works this way: You try to get something up and running, and once you do, you just try to keep it going, because there’s a lot of money involved. That’s not in my head. What’s in my head is what I covered, what I saw as true or fraudulent, what made me smile, as a reporter. I’ve been mining that ever since. To be honest, at the end of The Wire, I’ll have said all I have to say about Baltimore. I don’t have another cop show in me. I don’t have another season about Baltimore. What I’m saying is that I have to go back to the well.


March 22, 2007 on youtube Jay-Z, A Week Ago, The Wire


May 22, 2007 in

The Wire and the Serial Procedural: An Essay in Progress by Jason Mittell

Reprinted in 2011 on Electronic Book Review

“But you gonna let that boy go. Bet that.”

EXCERPT: The Wire’s novelistic qualities are most directly linked to its storytelling structure and ambitions. As Simon attests in frequent interviews and commentary tracks, he is looking to tell a large sweeping story that has traditionally been the purview of the novel, at least within the realm of culturally legitimate formats. He highlights how each season offers its own structural integrity, much like a specific book within a larger epic novel, and each episode stands as a distinct chapter in that book. The model, modestly left unspoken, might be War and Peace, a vast narrative containing fifteen “books,” each subdivided into at least a dozen chapters and released serially over five years.


August 2007 in

A conversation between author Nick Hornby and Wire-creator David Simon

Sydnor and Bubbs go undercover in the Pit.
Sydnor and Bubbs go undercover in the Pit.

EXCERPT NICK HORNBY: Baltimore may have had more of an influence on me professionally than any other U.S. city, now that I come to think about it. Certainly with High Fidelity, one of the things I was trying to do was cross Barry Levinson with Anne Tyler. Levinson, Tyler, The Wire, John Waters… None of these seem even to share an aesthetic, and yet there is an incredibly distinctive body of work that’s come out of your city. I’ve never been there, although I’d like to visit. Can you explain how it might have produced this work? DAVID SIMON: I’m somewhat at a loss to explain Baltimore’s storytelling appeal. The interesting thing is that all of us are slicing off different pieces of the same city. My demimonde is decidedly not the Baltimore of Barry Levinson or John Waters in terms of filmmaking, and none of us get close to the blue-blood districts of Anne Tyler’s Roland Park. Laura Lippman moves all around the city, but her latest stand-alone novels are actually strongly referenced to Baltimore County, which is the suburban subdivision that actually encircles Baltimore city. She’s been mining places like Towson and Padonia and Owings Mills, where a lot of the upper-middle-class wealth has migrated. One thing that I do feel is that by getting out of the traditionally dominant locales of New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, writers stand a better chance of speaking to conditions that are reflective of a lot of less-than-unique or less-than-grandiose second-tier cities. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington—these are unique places, by dint of their size, their wealth, and unique aspects of their culture (New York as financial, fashion, and theater capital, and as cultural icon, or Washington as the government city, or Los Angeles as the film capital of the country). Baltimore is a postindustrial city, wedged between D.C. and Philadelphia and struggling to find its future and reconcile its past. In that sense it’s like St. Louis and Cleveland and Philly and a lot of other rust-belt American places, and so stories from here have a chance of being about more than Baltimore per se. The storytelling here might be quite detailed in referencing local geography and culture, but it translates easily to elsewhere and therefore acquires additional relevance easily.


September 15, 2007 in

The Sopranos vs. The Wire by Rebecca Traister and Laura Miller

Cheese hangs with Marlo's crew.
Some Semper Fi motherfuckers.

EXCERPT (from Miller’s Wire half): What “The Wire” is about is the game. The “game” is what the show’s black characters call the drug business, but the smarter players know that the game’s boundaries are not so finite. Although the series is scrupulously realistic (its creator, David Simon, is a former Baltimore Sun crime reporter and his writing partner, Ed Burns, is an ex-homicide detective), there is one improbably romantic character: the maverick stick-up artist Omar Little — beholden to no one, afraid of nothing, resolute in his abstention from curse words and the injury of “taxpayers,” and, last but not least, gay. Leave it to Omar, the show’s only true outsider, to state the series’ premise while pulling off a bit of prime courtroom rhetoric in a scene from Season 2. Testifying against a soldier of the dreaded Barksdale gang, accused by the gang’s sanctimonious lawyer of leeching off the drug trade, Omar coolly tells the shyster: “Just like you … I got the shotgun; you got the briefcase. It’s all in the game.”


October 22, 2007 in The New Yorker

Stealing Life: The crusader behind “The Wire” by Margaret Talbot

Bunny Colvin and Namond share a moment as Mr. Study Our Study looks on.
Bunny Colvin and Namond share a moment as Mr. Study Our Study looks on.

EXCERPT: Each season of “The Wire” has focused, with sociological precision, on a different facet of Baltimore. The previous season featured a story line about the city’s anarchic schools, told partly through the character of Roland (Prez) Pryzbylewski, a young cop turned schoolteacher. Simon recalled, “On the first day, the kids were all cutting up and yelling. It was like the first day of school. You know how they kicked the shit out of Pryzbylewski emotionally on the show? The kids were doing the same to the assistant directors. One poor A.D. was, like, ‘Please! This is too fuckin’ meta.’ By the end of the year, we had a good crew of young actors, but in the beginning it was, as we say in Baltimore, like herding pigeons.” While Simon was telling this story, Jermaine Crawford, a fourteen-year-old who joined the cast last season, came over to hug him. The scene being filmed would mark the final appearance of Crawford, whose character, Dukie, comes from a family in which all the adults are addicted to drugs or alcohol.


June 1996…posted on youtube November 2007

Steve Earle performing “I Feel Alright” on MTV


January/February 2008 in The Atlantic

The Angriest Man In Television by Mark Bowden

Beadie patrols the docks.
Beadie patrols the docks.

EXCERPT: [Simon] has done something that many reporters only dream about. He has created his own Baltimore. With the help of his chief collaborator, Ed Burns, a former Baltimore cop and schoolteacher; a stable of novelists and playwrights with a feel for urban drama (including George Pelecanos, Richard Price, and Dennis Lehane); a huge cast of master actors; and a small army of film professionals shooting on location—in the city’s blighted row-house neighborhoods and housing projects, in City Hall, nightclubs, police headquarters, in the suburbs, the snazzy Inner Harbor, the working docks—he has, over four seasons, conjured the city onscreen with a verisimilitude that’s astonishing. Marylanders scrutinize the plot for its allusions to real people and real events. Parallels with recent local political history abound, and the details of life in housing projects and on street corners seem spookily authentic. (A New York City narcotics detective who loves the show told me a few years ago that street gangs in Brooklyn were watching it to learn tactics for avoiding cell-phone intercepts.)


January 1, 2008 in

The Bleakness of the Wire by Reihan Salam

McNulty and the Bunk grill D in the box.
When it came to their approach to police work in the show’s early going, McNulty and the Bunk epitomized the reality of Jimmy’s sarcastic statement to Pat Mahone: “…two horses, together in harness.”

EXCERPT: …who doesn’t want to believe that the tragedies of the inner-city are intractable? David Simon thinks he’s constructed a critique of capitalism, but in fact he’s prepared an elaborate, moving brief for despair and (ultimately) indifference. If you’re outraged by The Wire, do you then … go and support the election of your own Tommy Carcetti? Or do you throw up your hands and rail against the depredations of the market economy? This could lend itself to some more radical challenge to the status quo, and of course we’re never shown the depredations of Chavez’s Venezuela where petrosocialism has fueled new inequalities and new repression. Or it could lend itself to paroxysms of white guilt.


January 2, 2008 in Variety

The Wire, Season 5 preview by Brian Lowry

McNulty and the Bunk did not see eye-to-eye on certain issues in Season 5.
In Season 5, however, that wasn’t the case.

EXCERPT: “The bigger the lie, the more they believe,” detective “Bunk” Moreland, played by Wendell Pierce, says in the opening hour, providing a window into a season whose labyrinth of plots are too good to give up and too intricate to do justice. In the process, the series juggles a mind-boggling assortment of characters (40 are listed in the credits provided by HBO), raises issues seldom explored elsewhere in either drama or news (such as the tepid reaction to African-American fatalities) and assiduously builds from an understated start in tone, depth and intensity.


January 7, 2008 in New York Entertainment

The ‘Wire’ backlash begins by Ben Mathis-Lilley

Zorzi and Templeton at a meeting
Zorzi and Templeton at a meeting

EXCERPT: One of the otherwise-engaging newsroom scenes in last night’s Wire premiere stuck in our craw: David Simon’s grammar lesson. Remember? The go-getting young reporter played by Michelle Paress gets chastised for writing that (paraphrasing) “the Fire Department evacuated 120 people” during a fire. “You evacuate a building. You don’t evacuate people,” Old Curmudgeon Editor grunts. Cut to Paress’s character looking in some sort of reference book, then admiringly muttering, “He’s right, you know,” to a fellow reporter. But is he really right?


January 7, 2008, at

Truth of “The Wire” by LZ Granderson

Marlo taking target practice.

EXCERPT: When someone like [Sean] Taylor is killed, we tend to spend much of our energy analyzing what happened. But it’s “The Wire” that takes a blunt look at the why. It doesn’t blame everything on race. The “good guys” tend to have really, really bad days, and no, you don’t feel good at the end of each episode. Instead, you are left angry, helpless and confused, as if stricken by a debilitating disease that no one is willing to diagnose, let alone treat. Each year, the show concentrates on one particular aspect of the overall problem. Last season was the education system. In prior years, the streets and politics were the focus. This final season is about the media, particularly newspapers. Not necessarily the sexiest subject, but certainly one that plays a huge role in the way we see crime, particularly those crimes involving black men.


January 22, 2008, on National Public Radio Michael K. Williams: He’s Only Playing Tough, by NPR Staff EXCERPT, from an interview with Michael Kenneth Williams

Michael Kenneth Williams, near the fifth and final season of The Wire
Michael Kenneth Williams, near the fifth and final season of The Wire

On HBO’s The Wire, actor Michael K. Williams plays Omar Little, a stick-up guy who robs only drug dealers. Omar has a scar running down his face. That’s not a prosthetic scar; it’s real. Williams tells Terry Gross the story behind his scar — and lots of other stories about himself and Omar. Williams’ other TV credits include Law & OrderCSIBoston Legal and the TV movie of Lackawanna Blues; he’s appeared on the big screen in Gone Baby Gone. Williams tells Terry Gross that he initially had a hard time figuring out how to be as hard and frightening as the script calls for Omar to be.


January 9 to March 10 2008, at the Freakonomics blog

What Do Real Thugs Think About the Wire? by Sudhir Venkatesh January 9: PART 1 January 18: PART 2 January 25: PART 3 January 31: PART 4 February 7: PART 5 February 12: PART 6 February 22: PART 7 February 28: PART 8 March 10: PART 9

Carcetti and Normal share a laugh.
Carcetti and Normal share a laugh.

EXCERPT (from Part 1): Thug assessment #4–Carcetti is a fool. Numerous observers commented on the Baltimore Mayor’s lack of “juice” and experience when it came to working with the feds. The federal police, in their opinion, love to come in and disrupt local police investigations by invoking the federal racketeering (“RICO”) statutes as a means of breaking up drug-trafficking rings. “When feds bring in RICO, local guys feel like they got no [power],” Tony-T explained, offering some empathy to local police who get neutered during federal busts. “White boy [a.k.a. Carcetti], if he knew what he was doing, would keep them cops on Marlo just long enough to build a case — then he would trade it to the feds to get what he wanted.” Others chimed in, saying that the writers either didn’t understand this basic fact, or they wanted to portray Carcetti as ignorant.


February 16, 2008 in Esquire Magazine

A Newspaper Can’t Love You Back by David Simon

Vondas and the Greek talk
Vondas and the Greek talk “business. Always business,” in their favorite booth.

EXCERPT: I was an angry kid, by and large, with a cynic’s wariness of authority that was in harness with a good newspaperman’s contempt of cant and hyperbole. I loved a snide turn of phrase. I edited my high school paper, pissed off the faculty advisor, who thought about firing me, won some awards. I edited my college rag, pissed off the media-board chairman, who thought about firing me, won some awards.


February 18, 2008

An examination of what The Wire considers as “real police work” by William Rodney Herring

String and Bey meet with D, Poot, and Bodie about
String and Bey meet with D, Poot, and Bodie to discuss “them pay boxes.”

EXCERPT: Policing is about surveilling. It’s about knowing every individual on your beat. It’s about having information about them. It’s about visibility. It’s about knowledge. And it’s about power. It is, in particular, about knowledge-power. In short, it is about discipline. (Is this not what makes the rowhouse murders so horrific in Season 4? That although we suspect murders are occurring, we can’t see evidence? That we don’t know the victims?) So it turns out that policing is not occupying because a disciplined society is a transparent society that doesn’t need occupation. And it doesn’t need occupation because visibility and information are produced everywhere and by everyone, at least for those properly positioned to see and know. But Foucault has taught us this, and this series merely illustrates with surprising accuracy his argument in Discipline and Punish.


February 25, 2008 from 92Q’s Big Phat Morning Show Thuliso Dingwall (Kenard) and Keenon Brice (Bug) talk about their experiences on the show JACK NOTE: This interview was from the day after “Clarifications” — S5E8 — aired, AKA the episode where Omar gets killed. Dingwall discusses not being sure if he was killing Omar or if Omar was killing him, and his father telling him that, yes, he was killing Omar. Both of these actors were 12-years-old at the time, and while Brice and Bug seem similar, hearing Dingwall speak is another reminder that as much as people like to call the show “documentary-style,” even many small parts are filled with actors, not extras.


February 29, 2008 on

The Godfather of Television by Jack M Silverstein

Rawls shoots down Lt. Daniels' request to keep the Barksdale investigation slow and careful.
Rawls shoots down Lt. Daniels’ request to keep the Barksdale investigation slow and careful.

EXCERPT: Simply put, The Wire is the story of its characters’ humanity. That comes first. It has to. Without the humanity, who really cares if a hopper gets killed because he tried to leave the game, or if the bosses shut down a case because cracking gang violence is less of a career-maker than political fraud? It is the humanity that drives the show, the humanity that makes Dad and Mike hop out of their seats at the reappearance of Omar, the humanity that makes viewers sweat during a shoot-out because they’re worried about the well-being of people on both sides of the fight.


March 4, 2008 on the B.S. Report

Bill Simmons and Jason Whitlock discuss “The Wire,” up through the second-to-last episode of the series JACK NOTE: Just found this. I haven’t listened to it all but it’s great from the start. Fun to read/listen to reviews/commentary from the time that the show aired, as opposed to now. Still fun now, but the interviews during the time the show aired are historical documents while of course also being fun & insightful.


March 5, 2008 in Time Magazine

The Wire‘s War on the Drug War by Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon

“Adjourn your asses.”

EXCERPT: What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we’ve been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.


March 7, 2008 in New York Entertainment

Debating the legacy of ‘The Wire’: did Season Five tarnish the show that invented the Dickensian Aspect ratio by Dan Kois and Adam Sternbergh

“This is me yo. Right here.”


Kois: For me the oversimplifications of this season brought to my attention the oversimplifications of seasons past — ones I overlooked initially, because I don’t know the world of cops and drug dealers the way I know the world of the media Which ended up, yes, tarnishing the show for me somewhat.

Sternbergh: I would never argue that the show is, or was, flawless. But most of these flaws were a product of its outsize ambition. (Not to reference the dreaded Dickens, but you think there aren’t a few one-dimensional characters in his classics?) And it’s this ambition, and the astonishing attempt to which it was realized, that makes this the GREATEST SHOW EVER™!


March 9, 2008 in The A.V. Club

Interview with David Simon by Scott Tobias

David Simon... absurdist?
David Simon… absurdist?

EXCERPT, starting with Tobias’ question: What sort of tone were you trying to strike with the homeless-murders subplot? It initially seems like absurdist comedy, but then, like a lot of things on the show, it eventually curdles into tragedy.

Right. I think it had the same mixture of tragedy and comedy that the destruction of Frank Sobotka had. The investigation of Frank Sobotka… there are real issues at stake. There’s a can full of dead women. There are real issues of horror and tragedy to be reckoned with, and yet the investigation begins because a very petulant asshole of a police major can’t get his stained-glass window in the right part of St. Ignatius. The investigation begins incompetently, then eventually morphs into something that matters. And when we did “Hamsterdam,” which is as improbable a story as you could do… This conspiracy of McNulty and Freamon requires the complicity of two or three people at most, in knowing all of it. But legalizing drugs in a district like the Western… The Western has 150 cops. When you’re making fun of police commanders and politicians and school superintendents, it’s all fun and games. If at any moment you’re going to do anything in the same tonality involving journalists, look out! It’s gonna be a different dynamic. I thought there were elements of Dr. Strangelove meets police procedural in the origins of that storyline, but it becomes very practical and serious fairly quickly. And it spins out of control, as bad ideas always do. That was the point. The point was not to preserve the heroism of cops that people like, or to regurgitate previous themes, but to address ourselves to the ideas of truth and fiction. That’s what this was about. If it worked, it worked. If it didn’t, it didn’t. We liked it.


March 10, 2008 in New York Entertainment

‘The Wire’ Finale’s Montage: A Shot-by-Shot Commentary


March 10, 2008 in Rolling Stone

Goodbye to ‘The Wire’ by Sean Woods

“Bad advice! You motherfuckers gave me bad advice!”

EXCERPT: As great as the last episode was, saying goodbye to the show sucked. Why stop? There’s so much more to say about Baltimore and any number of these characters. And when HBO announced that after The Wire we could stay tuned to the season finale of Russell Simmons presents Def Comedy Jam, a nation’s television sets went dark. I’m sure of it. Still, it’s somehow fitting that the day after The Wire retires, the Governor of New York is busted in a prostitution ring by getting caught on a wiretap. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.


March 11, 2008 in

Stomach on your Nikes (Levy, Pearlman, and Jews on the Wire)

A newly released Cutty goes to work as a landscaper.
A newly released Cutty goes to work as a landscaper.

EXCERPT: Given the uneasy history between blacks and Jews in this country, I’m surprised Simon, a Jew himself, allowed the final season of his masterwork to hinge on a conversation between two powerful Jews. Granted, Levy was the ultimate token Jew on The Wire, as Pearlman was Jewish like Snoop was gay, but the implication was that everything ultimately gets hashed out behind closed doors by Jews. After Pearlman and Levy’s stand-off, I sent a text message to my brother marking the birth of a new generation of anti-Semites.


March 17, 2008 at, reprinted from the Huffington Post

The Wire’s Final Season and the Story Everyone Missed, by David Simon

Whiting and Klebenow: victims of David Simon's Baltimore Sun vendetta.
Whiting and Klebenow: victims of David Simon’s Baltimore Sun vendetta.

EXCERPT: Here’s what happened in season five of The Wire when almost no one — among the working press, at least — was looking: Our newspaper missed every major story. That was the critique. With the exception of the good journalism that bookended the story arc — which is, of course, representative of the fact that there are still newspaper folk in Baltimore and elsewhere struggling mightily to do the job — the season amounted to ten hours of a newspaper that is no longer intimately aware of its city.


March 20, 2008, on youtube

David Simon speaks at USC Law


April 20 and May 4, 2008 on Both Teams Played Hard

A Playoff Weekend with The Wire, by Jared Wade, Part I & Part II


Washington Wizards (“I wasn’t meant to play the son” — Marlo) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (“Why don’t you just shove the broom up my ass and I’ll sweep the floor too.” — Bill Zorzi)

The 2008 Cavs needed LeBron to do everything, from scoring to passing to rebounding to, yes, sweeping the floor.
The 2008 Cavs needed LeBron to do everything, from scoring to passing to rebounding to, yes, sweeping the floor.

…all you really need to know is that at one point while calling the game Steve Kerr calls LeBron’s performance “Jordanesque.” It was total bullshit. Because not even Jordan ever did anything like that. After that explosion, it was game…set…match. Frankly, I’m not even sure why Detroit showed up for Game 6 (and, actually, they really didn’t: Cleveland won 98 – 82). Then they got swept by San Antonio in the Finals. Predictably, that was LeBron’s fault too. Fast forward ten months and it’s looking like more of the same. Sure, Danny Ferry shuffled the deck chairs a little bit and this Cavs team is improved. But they’re also gonna hafta get through both a “Remember the Alamo” Detroit team as well as the Boston Three Party, who are vastly superior to anything the East had to offer last season. And if the Cavs somehow manage to get through all that, then, surprise, they get the best team in the West. Basically, there’s absolutely no chance this is the year LeBron gets his first ring. But it sure will be fun watching him try.


From the Summer of 2008 in Dissent Magazine

Three essays

‘Is The Wire too cynical?’ by John Atlas and Peter Dreier

‘In Defense of The Wire’ by Anmol Chaddha, William Julius Wilson, and Sudhir A. Venkatesh

John Atlas and Peter Dreier Respond by John Atlas and Peter Dreier

Michael helps Bug with his homework.
Michael helps Bug with his homework.

EXCERPT from Atlas and Dreier’s first story: The few heroes depicted in The Wire are individualist renegades and gadflies. These include cops like James McNulty (Dominic West) and Lester Freaman (Clarke Peters) and the stick-up artist Omar (Michael Kenneth Williams), as well as social worker Whalen (a Narcotics Anonymous sponsor played by the singer Steve Earle), the Deacon (an influential West side churchman played by Melvin Williams), and Dennis “Cutty” Wise (Chad L. Coleman), whose boxing program may stop a teenager from succumbing to a life of drugs. Unlike ACORN, BUILD, the Algebra Project, and Justice for Janitors, these do-gooders don’t seek to empower people as a collective force. They try to help individuals, one at a time, rather than try to reform the institutions that fail to address their needs.

The Detail prepares Sydnor for his trip undercover.
The Detail prepares Sydnor for his trip undercover.

EXCERPT from Chaddha, Wilson, and Venkatesh follow up: According to Simon, the central and straightforward goal of The Wire was to show that the “system” is broken and that it fails individuals and families. With its sophisticated critique of the structure of urban inequality, the show drove this point home, although apparently with a “nihilism” that, for Atlas and Dreier, rendered the critique ineffective. However, the community organizers they describe would presumably agree that the “system” has profoundly failed their communities. We would argue that the message of the show and the work of the grassroots activists go hand in hand. The Wire exposes the systemic inequality that the activists and organizers are working tirelessly to challenge and reform. Indeed, The Wire suggests that, since attempts to reform these institutions from within are doomed to failure, the only way to challenge failed systems is through independent action unsanctioned by these very institutions.


August 13, 2008 in Entertainment Weekly (

‘The Wire’: 15 Brilliant Moments

“Mother fucker.” “Fuck me.”

EXCERPT (from Moment 2): Season 1, Episode 4-Watching Bunk, chomping on his cigar, and McNulty methodically work a crime scene was one of The Wire‘s richest pleasures. In the victim’s kitchen, their whole dialogue is one variation or another on a most satisfying swear word. Actors Wendell Pierce and Dominic West, brilliant both of them, make it sound like Shakespeare. Suck on this, network crime procedurals.


October 27, 2008 on youtube

Wire cast members urge North Carolina voters to vote Obama


December 12, 2008 on House of Georges

Evening Essay: “The Wire” by bankmeister

“Me? I’m just the po-lice.”

EXCERPT: Stubborn prick that I am, though — I can’t dive into something like that; I’ve got to have the handle, the entire litter as opposed to the alleged pick. So I got on the NetFlix, and I ordered it up, one disc at a time, cordially interspersed with one movie for the wife, then one for me in between. Earlier this week, I finished the entire program, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so thankful for a recommendation, so stunned by a production of any kind. And I say all that to say this: There is nothing current-events-related about this post. The Wire called it a wrap and ended their fifth and final season earlier this spring. But, like Jim Gaffigan says, it’s frustrating when you see a movie for the first time that everyone else has already seen ages ago, and you want more than anything to talk to someone about it. That’s the position I’m in right now, so I’m talkin’.


December 19, 2008 on youtube

The Wire Wrap Up’ by Mad Skillz


On a show full of murderers, dope dealers, corrupt police and politicians, Wire fans find the hen-peckin' mama of Namond Brice as the least likeable of all.
On a show full of murderers, dope dealers, corrupt police and politicians, Wire fans find the hen-peckin’ mama of Namond Brice as the least likeable of all.

December 23, 2008 to the present on IMDb, started by user Everyday-Struggler

Top 3 characters poll

Results HERE at the blog

EXCERPT: Worst liked characters on the show… DE’LONDA BRICE, Rawls, Marlo, Clay Davis, Herc, Johnny Weeks


January 26, 2009 in New Yorker Magazine

‘A Lonesome Death’ by David Simon

JACK’S NOTE: This story is not about The Wire, but it is written by David Simon, and seeing his stuff in print–getting another layer of what he is about as a writer and social commentator–is always interesting. Also, the Hattie Carroll story did take place in Baltimore. So thar ya go.

Sgt. Carver brings Michael Lee in for a session in the box with the Bunk.
“Gift wrapped!”

EXCERPT: In February of 1963, twenty-four-year-old William Zantzinger, armed with a toy carnival cane and wrecked on whiskey, made a spectacle of himself at the Spinsters’ Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. He was a drunken country mouse in the big city, at a time when the notion of racial equality had barely shown itself in the neighborhood of his father’s tobacco farm. When the hotel’s black waitstaff was slow to serve Zantzinger another drink, he yelled racial epithets at Hattie Carroll, a barmaid and a fifty-one-year-old mother of eleven, and he rapped her on the shoulder with his cane. She became upset, then collapsed and died of a stroke.


March 1, 2009 in the Washington Post

‘In Baltimore, No One Left to Press the Police’ by David Simon

David Simon, seen here in the series finale in one of his two Wire cameos, the other coming in Season 2's Bad Dreams.
David Simon seen here in the series finale in one of his two Wire cameos, the other coming in Season 2’s Bad Dreams.

EXCERPT: In the halcyon days when American newspapers were feared rather than pitied, I had the pleasure of reporting on crime in the prodigiously criminal environs of Baltimore. The city was a wonderland of chaos, dirt and miscalculation, and loyal adversaries were many. Among them, I could count police commanders who felt it was their duty to demonstrate that crime never occurred in their precincts, desk sergeants who believed that they had a right to arrest and detain citizens without reporting it and, of course, homicide detectives and patrolmen who, when it suited them, argued convincingly that to provide the basic details of any incident might lead to the escape of some heinous felon. Everyone had very good reasons for why nearly every fact about a crime should go unreported.


March 12, 2009 in

Every Villian Has Their Reasons by Seanachie

JACK’S NOTE: A decent essay… doesn’t give you much you don’t already know… bricks on some character names and details… but provides some absolutely terrific links to other Wire-related stories.

“This is you.””

EXCERPT: Though the political commentary in The Wire is usually implicit, the show can be read as a text that bridges the Bush and Obama eras. David Simon said that he was initially prompted to make a show whose scope far outreaches the crime series he had previously been involved in after witnessing the institutional corruption and failure of American corporations such as Enron and WorldCom, both of which happened in the months following 9/11, and which, one would imagine ought to have served as a warning sign for the much greater collapse seven years later.


May 29, 2009 in

The Politics of Brisket: Jews and the Wire by Keith Kahn-Harris

Levy represents D'Angelo on his murder of Pooh Blanchard.
Levy represents D’Angelo on his murder of Pooh Blanchard.

EXCERPT: What is intriguing is how far our brief insights into Levy’s home life are tied in with references to his Jewishness. His family life is bound up in Jewish ritual (Sabbath dinner) Jewish food (brisket) and Jewish belonging (mishpocha). Levy’s invitation to Herc to become mishpocha has unmistakably clannish, even conspiratorial overtones. He extends the warmth of his Jewish family to someone who has loyalty to him – loyalty forged through Herc’s betrayal of Carver. In turning his back on his loyalties to the police and to his former partner, Herc is received into Levy’s Jewish family circle. Even if Herc has previously betrayed Levy himself through giving Marlo’s cell number to Carver (something of which Levy is not aware) Herc’s pleasure in Levy’s invitation indicates his willingness to forge a new set of loyalties that, whilst anchored in the Jewish home, are built on the values of The Game. In other words, Levy succeeds in seducing Herc – one of The Wire’s dumbest and most suggestible characters – away from the rectitude represented by his former partner in the police (who over the five series has come to be redeemed from his earlier corruption). The embrace of Levy’s Jewish home is ultimately the reward for Herc’s betrayal. The home, a source of succour for other characters, is in the case of Levy a source of corruption. Lots more Wire essays from that I will profile as I read.


June 26, 2009 on

Alan Sepinwall, NJ TV critic and master of “The Wire,” by Jack M Silverstein

Alan Sepinwall, posing with a blown up cover of his 2012 book
Alan Sepinwall, posing with a blown up cover of his 2012 book “The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever” (photo from

EXCERPT: What makes Sepinwall’s writeups so fantastic–apart from the enjoyment of going deeper into perhaps the greatest television show in the history–is the way he breaks down the many minor tragedies along the way that have to happen for the big tragedies to take place.” I won’t go thru it, because it is quite timely, and I can’t find the exact link, but we’re talking about all of the little events that had to occur for Wallace to be killed or Randy to end up back in the group home. For me, that’s what always made The Wire such a brilliant piece of storytelling. We are not connected by random coincidences (think Crash), but through millions of small, concrete decisions that people make every day. That was The Wire to me.


July 10, 2009 in

The Wire’s roots: David Simon’s Homicide by Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

Cheese and his dog.
Cheese and his dog.

EXCERPT: Many of the characters, scenes and institutions that Simon unrelentlingly portrays are broken in The Wire are essential elements in Homicide.  Reading the book is almost like seeing an earlier version of one of Michelangelo’s statues half-carved out of marble: the future masterpiece is visible, but not yet fully formed. The drug dealers and users are a major ingredient of The Wire that is not a significant part of Homicide.  Simon spent the year with the detectives, and while he does an effective job of painting complex pictures of these public servants, his depcition of the criminals at that point was far thinner.


The Wire F*cking Fan Club at…now known as The Wire HBO Fan Club at

“We got your picture McNulty. Don’t you worry.”

JACK’S COMMENTS:It seems this former fan site has been ‘picked up.’ Congrats to them! This is a great spot to go for current, post-show material and news on Wire alum. It also has tons of links to fun stuff like soundtrack listing, discussions on Wire actors with British accents, and, prior to Season 5, ponderings of the worthwhileness of a Snoop Dogg cameo.


Rev/Views episode by episode recaps and writeups from

Snoop, Marlo, and Chris iron out the wirnkles in their
Snoop, Marlo, and Chris iron out the wirnkles in their “kill all comers” plan with their lawyer Maurice Levy.

JACK’S COMMENTS:I have only just recently found this site, but the ep-by-ep reviews feature in-depth, scene-by-scene recaps, and they also provide character guides, so this is a terrific site for beginners–it kind of functions as another set of Wire Cliff Notes. The site runner has just finished her/his Season 2 writeups following coverage of Season 1, (an example of one episode writeup) and it says the site will be doing all 60 episodes, so thar ya go. Definitely recommended.


August 27, 2009 in Reflections on teaching The Wire by Jason Mittell

Bunny Colvin teaches the kids in Hamsterdam Jr.
Bunny Colvin teaches the kids in Hamsterdam Jr.

EXCERPT: First off, this was the most satisfying course I’ve ever taught. It truly felt like a shared community of learners exploring the program and its contexts, with nearly every student fully engaged and excited about what we were working on. In large part, I was blessed with great source material – the show clearly rewards close attention, and if anything, I felt myself holding my students back from wanting to just keep watching episode after episode. Even though we met for 7.5 hours a week (5 of which were spent watching episodes), I felt there was not enough time to discuss everything that was on people’s minds. Luckily, the class blog captured the overflow, making it the most vibrant online discussion I’ve ever run.


September 2, 2009 in

The Wire’s Omar Little Is the First (and Maybe Last) Gay Icon by Tom Katsumi

Omar, Brandon, and Bailey count up the score from the Barksdale stash house.
Omar, Brandon, and Bailey count up the score from the Barksdale stash house.

EXCERPT: Omar makes no attempt to hide his sexuality, but is not overt about it either – he feels no need to wear it as a badge but similarly shows no shame. It is a testament to the amazing writing on the show that Omar wasn’t flirting with the police or planting a kiss on the cheek of someone he was about to shoot in the head – he even has terrible fashion sense, demonstrated in a bizarre scene where McNulty takes him shopping. At the same time they resisted an ‘Omar coming to terms with his sexuality’ special; in the words of the recent Stonewall campaign “Some people are gay. Get over it”.


October 13, 2009 in

Transcript: David Simon on why he created The Wire by David Simon

Life on the street was a bit too gritty for NBC.

EXCERPT: As I learned on my earlier experience in network television, the NBC executives used to ask the same questions every time they read a first-draft Homicide script:

“Where are the victories?”

Or better still:

“Where are the life-affirming moments?”

Never mind that the show was called Homicide, as head writer and executive producer Tom Fontana liked to repeatedly point out, and never mind that it was being filmed in a city struggling with entrenched poverty, rampant addiction and generations of deindustrialization.

Brave soul that he is, when Fontana wanted to write three successive episodes in which a violent drug trafficker escaped all punishment, he was told he could do so only if the detectives shot and killed the villain at the end of a fourth episode.

Good one, evil nothing. Cut to commercial.


October 13, 2009 in Determining The Wire‘s best character NCAA Bracket style

Determining a “best” character is a personal matter.

EXCERPT, from their introduction to the rules: “Best” character can mean whatever a panelist wants it to mean. A suggested framework is to evaluate the characters according to the following three categories: 1. Which character is “cooler,” more fun to hang out with, has a more awesome personality, etc. 2. Which character is better at his job. 3. Which character adds more value to the show. The panelists still must decide how to weigh the different categories. For example, in a hypothetical matchup of Wee Bey vs. Chris, a panelist may find that Bey seems cooler and more fun to hang out with, Chris is more essential to Marlo than Bey to Avon, and they both are equally valuable to the show (of course, another panelist may disagree with each of these assessments). The panelist must then decide which is more valuable- Bey’s superior coolness or Chris’s superior assassin/consigliere skills.


November 16, 2009 on Both Teams Played Hard The NBA and The Wire: Together for the Millionth Time on BTPH, Perhaps Because I’m Racist,  by Jared Wade

Poot and Bodie attend D's funeral.
Poot and Bodie attend D’s funeral.

EXCERPT: “We either step up or we step the fuck off.” (Bodie – 0:36) Portland looks promising. But to hang with Denver and San Antonio — let alone LA — they’re going to need Greg Oden to both keep up his early-season defensive and board dominance and step up his offensive production as well. Tough order, indeed. But it’s either that or do what Bodie said.


2010 at Rhetoric of The Wire by James Zborowski

“Hey Mr. Nugget, you the bomb! We selling chicken faster than they can tear the bone out. So I’m gonna write my clowny-ass name on this fat-ass check for you.”

JACK NOTE: I cannot copy/paste an excerpt, and I don’t feel like typing everything out, but this is an essay about the language of the show’s world, and about how the show uses slang so that we both hear the characters speak as they realistically would while also teaching us about terminology and culture we might not otherwise understand. Included in this essay are breakdowns of the first crime scene shared by McNulty and Bunk (“You moldering motherfucker…”); Kima, Carver and Herc talking about “ECU submissions” in episode 1; the detail taking doors (errantly) in season 1; the chess scene; the opening Snot Boogie scene; and a few other moments, mostly in season 1.


March 24, 2010 in This Will Be On the Midterm. You Feel Me? by Drake Bennett

Dr. David Parenti, seen here looking on.

EXCERPT: For Wilson, the unique power of the show comes from the way it takes fiction’s ability to create fully realized inner lives for its characters and combines that with qualities rare in a piece of entertainment: an acuity about the structural conditions that constrain human choices (whether it’s bureaucratic inertia, institutional racism, or economic decay) and an unparalleled scrupulousness about accurately portraying them. Wilson describes the show’s characters almost as a set of case studies, remarkable for the vividness with which they embody a set of arguments about the American inner city. “What I’m concentrating on is how this series so brilliantly illustrates theories and processes that social scientists have been writing about for years,” he said in an interview.


May 11, 2010 on

“Omar don’t scare”: Why ‘The Wire’ produced the most offbeat gangsta of all, by Straight-Six

“He’s just a kid.”

EXCERPT: Amid this misery and brutality strides a character that has put a whole new spin on the gangster genre and the two-dimensional characters it so often yields. Omar Little is truly like no other: with a monster scar running at an angle down his entire, slightly droopy eyes that twinkle as often as they harden and a dazzling smile he exhibits anytime he rips off dealers for their stashes, well, it’s clear he’s a product of his environment.


October 4, 2010 on The Johns Hopkins Gazette

Learning from “The Wire” — Public health studies class eyes ills through lens of gritty TV series, by Lisa De Nike

Former Baltimore Police Department commissioner and Wire cast member Ed Norris speaks with Johns Hopkins students. (Photo: Will Kirk/
Former Baltimore Police Department commissioner and Wire cast member Ed Norris speaks with Johns Hopkins students. (Photo: Will Kirk/

EXCERPT: “The world depicted in The Wire may seem like fiction to most of you, but in truth it is a frighteningly accurate portrait of life in some parts of Baltimore—the city in which you are sitting right now—and in many other cities through the United States,” said Beilenson, who was Baltimore City health czar for 13 years under two mayors, Kurt Schmoke and Martin O’Malley, on the first day of class. “We’re talking about poverty; the war on drugs and the illegal drug trade; city governments and their bureaucracies and how those work, or don’t; politics; the police, the courts and criminal justice; homelessness; and education. This series tackles them all in a very thoughtful, interesting and realistic way,” he said.


October 11, 2010 on youtube All opening quotes


March 23, 2011, in

“When It’s Not Your Turn”: The Quintessentially Victorian Vision of Ogden’s “The Wire” by Sean Michael Robinson and Joy DeLyria

Omar Little, in the pages of Bucksley Ogden’s classic novel “The Wire”

EXCERPT: If at any time besides its treatment of Templeton The Wire flirts with caricature, it does so in the character of Omar Little.  Yet no one would ever reduce such a monumental culmination of literary tradition, satire, and basic human desire for mythos as Omar Little by defining him as mere caricature.  Little is not Dickensian.  Nor is he a character in the style of Thackeray, Eliot, Trollope, or any of the most famous serialists.  If he must be compared to characters in the Victorian times, he most closely resembles a creation of a Brontë; he could have come from Wuthering Heights.

The reason that Little so closely resembles a Brontë hero is of course that the estimable sisters were often not writing in the Victorian paradigm at all, but rather in the Gothic.  Their heroes were Byronic, and Lord Byron himself took his cue from the ancient tradition of Romance, culminating in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, but originating even further back.  Little would not be out of place in Faerie Queene, and even less so in Don Quixote: an errant knight wielding a sword, facing dragons, no man his master.  The character builds on the tradition of the quintessential Robin Hood and borrows qualities from many of the great chivalric romances of previous centuries.  Meanwhile there is an element of the fey, mirroring Robin Hood’s own predecessor—Goodfellow or Puck—and prefiguring later dashing, mysterious heroes who also play the part of the fop, as in The Scarlet Pimpernel.


April 17, 2011 at Harvard Andre Royo (Bubbles) and Jamie Hector (Marlo) interviewed at Harvard

ROYO and HECTOR talk about their favorite lines of dialogue — ROYO: “All the pieces matter. I quote that. All the pieces matter. It’s not just one thing. You can’t fix one thing and think the whole thing is going to be great. ‘All the pieces matter’ was my favorite line of the show.” HECTOR: “I can’t pick any, but one was when the Deacon said ‘Trying to correct the drug problem is like sweeping leaves on a windy day.’ It’s very difficult. The leaves are going to blow all over the place. And that right there stuck with me also because there are different strategies that you have to approach in order to fix this problem. It’s bigger than you might think.”


May 3, 2011, in

NBA Playoffs are ‘Wired’: Part I & Part II, by Bill Simmons

EXCERPT, from Part II

34. ”I admire a man with confidence.” 35. “I don’t see no sweat in your brow either, bro.”

“I want to ask you something, brother.” “Omar listening…”

To Ray Allen, who nailed so many big shots for Boston in four years that it’s reached “even if you know we’re running this double-screen for him, we’re doing it anyway,” status and he’s still as reliable as anyone. If Chicago doesn’t win the 2011 title, it will be because they didn’t overwhelm Allen with a three-year, $40 million offer last summer. In their defense, I think they thought they were a year away — they never expected Rose to make The Leap that soon. But why pursue a J.J. Redick/Kyle Korver tandem for the same money that it would have taken to get Ray? Clearly, they read the tea leaves: Barring injury, Ray should remain at this level until he’s 38 or 39. One of my favorite parts of this year’s “The Association” was learning more about Ray’s preparation — how early he gets to the arena, where he shoots on the floor, how much thought he puts into everything — and coming away thinking, “Wait, this guy is kind of a lunatic!” And I mean that in the nicest way possible — he wouldn’t waver from his routine for anything, not even if it meant shooting 3s at 4:00 while they were still putting down the floor, or trying to get his drills done as a cheerleading squad practiced 20 feet away. He did everything short of shooting jumpers while muttering “15 minutes until Wapner, 15 minutes until Wapner” or counting 250 toothpicks that just dropped on the floor. As recently as last year, arguing “Reggie Miller versus Ray Allen” was as fun as arguing “The Sopranos” versus “The Wire” — you could make compelling cases for each side, even if the Reggie/Sopranos backers were arguing with their hearts and not their heads (and romanticizing certain things about the player/show that became distorted narratives over time). After Allen’s 2010-11 season? There is no more debate.


July 21, 2011 on

Pick-and-Pop: The top 8 hoops moments on ‘The Wire’ (and 8 that should have been) by Andrew Unterberger

This picture does not technically apply to the excerpt, other than Melo being Jordan Brand. Also, why not?
This picture does not technically apply to the excerpt, other than Melo being Jordan Brand. Also, why not?

EXCERPT 7. “Soft Eyes” – Afraid that his gangster mother has withheld new school clothes form him as a result of his poor performance, Namond Brice is overjoyed to find out that she has in fact procured a number of hot items for him, including a hot No. 52 Artis Gilmore Bulls throwback. Oddly, Michael Jordan is not prominently mentioned once over the course of the entire series, though actor Michael B. Jordan (who played Wallace) probably heard him referenced once or twice.


August 2, 2011, on

Bad Decisions: Why Breaking Bad beats Mad MenThe Sopranos and The Wire, by Chuck Klosterman

When it comes to decay, Chuck Klosterman prefers the moral of Breaking Bad over the institutional of The Wire.
When it comes to decay, Chuck Klosterman prefers the moral of Breaking Bad over the institutional of The Wire.

EXCERPT: Meanwhile, The Wire was more nuanced [than The Sopranos]: In The Wire, everyone is simultaneously good and bad. The cops are fighting crime, but they’re all specifically or abstractly corrupt; the drug dealers are violent criminals, but they’re less hypocritical and hold themselves to a higher ethical standard. There were sporadic exceptions to this rule, but those minor exceptions only served to accentuate its overall relativist take on human nature: Nobody is totally positive and nobody is totally negative, and our inherently flawed assessment of those qualities hinges on where we come from and what we want to believe. And this, of course, is closer to how life actually is (which is why The Wire felt so realistic). It’s a more sophisticated way to depict the world.


Autumn 2011, at Critical Inquiry from the University of Chicago Way Down in the Hole: Systematic Urban Inequality and The Wire by Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson The Wire’s Impact: A Rejoinder by Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson Wired by Patrick Jagoda Sociology and The Wire by Kenneth W. Warren Ethnographic Imaginary: The Genesis and Genius of The Wire by Linda Williams

Perhaps down the hall from Stringer's econ class, another professor is teaching courses on The Wire.
Perhaps down the hall from Stringer’s econ class, another professor is teaching courses on The Wire.

INTRODUCTION: David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s landmark series The Wire, has acknowledged his debt to the research of William Julius Wilson (Harvard), especially his classic When Work Disappears.  In this feature, Wilson himself assesses The Wire in collaboration with Anmol Chaddha.  With discussions by Patrick Jagoda, Kenneth Warren and Linda Williams, and a response by Chaddha and Wilson.


September 28, 2011 on 20 (isn) non-spoiler clips to show your friends to convince them to start watching ‘The Wire’ by Jack M Silverstein

The first scene -- spoiler free!
The first scene — spoiler free!

EXCERPT: So, you love The Wire. Maybe you’re among the few who started watching on HBO back during the first three seasons. Maybe you caught on in 2006 for Namond, Dukie, Michael, and Randy. Maybe, like me, you tuned in right at the end, watching all of the seasons to lead into Season 5. Or maybe you’ve watched the whole show on DVD. In any case, you LOVE IT, and now want to turn every person you know into a Wire devotee. Only problem is you’re not sure how to show clips without ruining plot points or feeling like you need to explain a million miles of backstory. We’ve all been there: “So, in this clip, a guy named Proposition Joe is trying to get a young gun named Marlo to join the ‘New Day Co-Op’ by convincing Omar, Baltimore’s shotgun-toting Robin Hood, to — what? Oh, the ‘New Day Co-Op’ is a drug organization built by Stringer and Prop to combine assets and efforts in the Baltimore drug game in order to — huh? Oh, Stringer is from the Barksdale crew on the Westside while — oh right. Sorry. The Barksdales are…” Well, your days of trouble are over! Here are 20 spoiler-free clips that you can use to turn your friends onto The Greatest Show in Television History.


November 30, 2011, at “What I Learned from Watching the Wire Three Times” by Aaron Huertas EXCERPT, from “Go-Through One: Wait, What Just Happened?”

A new day for Baltimore…

The Baltimore of The Wire is a war zone. And we are left with little satisfaction when the police put the bracelets on anyone. Avon Barksdale, Wee-Bey Brice, and Marlo Stanfield see jail as an extension of their street lives. In their world, jail time is comprised only of “The day you go in and they day you come out.” Though Dennis Wise (Cutty) puts the lie to that later. The police characters experience “career death” over and over again as they lose and regain positions of power. McNulty goes to the boat and returns, just as Cedric Daniels winds up in a bland processing office before being given a command again. Carcetti moves up the ranks, Kima toys with different lines of police work and we watch as they all struggle to find their place in the world.


February 1, 2012, on A complete history of the 110 deaths on The Wire, by whoever runs  EXAMPLE:

Wee-Bey and Little Man make the
Wee-Bey and Little Man make the “We shot Orlando and presumably one of Orlando’s hoes” phone call, with Little Man’s finger prints on the top of the phone soon to spell the end of him.

Victim #9: Little Man Cause: Unknown Location: “Druid Hill. Behind the reptile house. You get back in them weeds, you might could find what’s left of him.” When: S01E12 Killer: Wee-Bey Death Toll: 9



March 5, 2012, on ‘Smacketology: A tournament to determine The Wire’s greatest characters,’ by Grantland staff   EXCERPT, from Grantland’s opening article

Grantland’s ‘bracketology’ approach to the Wire served as a reminder to the ‘Crown of The Wire’ guys: It’s about getting to the finish line first, not the starting line.

Over the course of five seasons, The Wire populated its fictionalized Baltimore with more indelible, vibrantly flawed characters than any TV metropolis this side of Springfield (which also had its share of cynical cops, dirty politicians, and lovable substance-abusers). And yet, even in that context, it’s hard to argue that Omar Little — the proudly gay, profanity-averse, Honey Nut Cheerios-loving trap house stickup man played by Michael K. Williams — doesn’t still stand alone, like the cheese. (Word to Cheese.) If The Wire were the X-Men, Omar would be Wolverine; if The Wire were M.O.P.’s recorded output, he’d be “Ante Up (Robbin Hoodz Theory).” To paraphrase the President, if you were to rank the show’s characters in a March Madness-style bracket, “He’s got to be the no. 1 seed.” This gave us an idea. What if we actually did subject the key players of the Wire-verse to rigorous bracketological inquiry? If we played corner boys against dock workers, murder-polices against hoppers, and craven politicos against enigmatic not-actually-Greek human traffickers, in matchups as arbitrary and occasionally unjust as life and death on the mean streets of West Baltimore, would the king stay the king? This week, we’re going to find out.


March 5-14 2012, on ‘Smacketology’ full archives, by Grantland staff   EXCERPT, from Grantland’s interview with Michael K. Williams, whose Omar Little was the Smacketology champion, by Andy Greenwald Were there any characters you would have voted for outside of yourself?

Michael K. Williams, the man behind Omar Little.

I always said that if I didn’t get a chance to portray Omar, and I could have picked any other character, it would have been Bubbles. I liked what that character represented: the struggle that was real prominent in Baltimore, the addiction. Bubbles had his own moral code that he walked to. I always wanted to see him win. And yet you crushed him in this. [Laughter.] It’s Omar! What do you want? As the person closest to him, why do you think Omar won so easily? He represented everything that society deems negative. And he also represented everything that society should aspire to be. He walked that fine line. He had a moral code, but also his heart. He had an awesome heart.


March 14, 2012, from March Madness and ‘The Wire’: Why ‘Smacketology’ Completely Misses the Point, by Peter Labuza

Should “television’s greatest show” be reduced to yet another pop culture signpost? That is the question.

EXCERPT: “The Wire” has been used as a stepping point in examinations of urban decay everywhere from law journals to Harvard sociology courses. Last month at the SW/TX PCA conference, I listened to a paper describing how the city of Vancouver had essentially created a district just like “Hamsterdam” from season 3. Shows like “The Sopranos” and “Deadwood” have been hugely ambitious in terms of storytelling and characters, but neither can claim to have inspired the social commentary and political discussion sparked by “The Wire.” That’s why holding a bracket-style tournament to figure out the best character feels like a disservice — it takes creations out of context of the larger ideas they helped represent. Jay Caspain Kang wrote the winners would be chose based on their “Gulliness, Spine-tingling/goosebump-inducing scenes, Depth of character/uplift factor, [and] How badly you wanted them to win The Game,” as voted by their Facebook fans. According to “The Wire,” no individual is greater than the institution that controls them, unless, it seems, that institution is a social media game.


March 22, 2012, from The Greatest TV Drama of the Past 25 Years, the Finals: “The Wire” vs. “The Sopranos,” by Matt Zoller Seitz

The Wire vs. The Sopranos: a TV debate that continues to rage.
The Wire vs. The Sopranos: a TV debate that continues to rage.

Criterion No. 1: Influence and transformation – tie Criterion No. 2: Philosophical sophistication – tie Criterion No. 3: Characterization – I have to award this category to The Wire for the sheer breadth of its achievements. Near the end of its run, as it struggled and succeeded at recalling and polishing characters and subplots dating back five seasons, sometimes hauling out people you’d nearly forgotten about and giving them one last lovely grace note, the magnitude of its achievement became undeniable. At its most magisterial, the show felt like the dramatic version of a journalism-school test in which students close their eyes, open up a phone book to a random page, call whatever person their finger randomly landed on, and try to tell their life story in 500 words or less. Simon’s crew did this over and over and over for five seasons, with black and white characters, rich and poor people, civilians and cops and criminals, teachers and politicians, state senators and grieving mothers: hell, everybody. Criterion No. 4: Formal Daring – “The Sopranos” Criterion No. 5: Influence on the Medium – “The Sopranos” Criterion No. 6: Consistency – If you rank the seasons of The Wire and The Sopranos by overall quality from greatest to least, I think you’d find that The Wire seasons are more consistently excellent, and more densely and elegantly plotted and executed. (My picks are The Wire: 3, 1, 4, 2, 5, and The Sopranos: 6, 1, 3, 2, 4, 5. What are yours?) Winner: The Wire


April 4, 2012, on vimeo Style in the Wire, by Erlend Lavik An exploration of the Wire’s visual style — and an accompanying essay by the Lavik And an essay about Lavik’s video, from


April 5, 2012 at the New York Times by Jeremy Egner and April 6, 2012 from Alan Sepwinall Two interviews with David Simon about how people watch the Wire, in part a response to Grantland’s Smacketology feature EXCERPT, from NY Times interview: Mr. Price noted that even with “The Wire,” many of the people who praise it now weren’t around when you almost couldn’t get a Season 4, much less a Season 5.

David Simon.

That’s right. I do have a certain amused contempt for the number of people who walk sideways into the thing and act like they were there all along. It’s selling more DVDs now than when it was on the air. But I’m indifferent to who thinks Omar is really cool now, or that this is the best scene or this is the best season. It was conceived of as a whole, and we did it as a whole. For people to be picking it apart now like it’s a deck of cards or like they were there the whole time or they understood it the whole time — it’s wearying. Because no one was there in the beginning, or the middle, or even at the end. Our numbers continued to decline from Season 2 on. EXCERPT, from Sepinwall interview: David Simon doesn’t want to tell you how to watch The Wire So what’s your concern with the interview?

I’m not trying to disown any of it. It was really done at the end of March after all the bracketology, and that at some point came up, and I was like, “Oh, that stuff,” and then we were talking about that in my head, but maybe not in his head. I read it and I said, “That is contradictory on its face. Why would I not want people to come to ‘The Wire ‘late when I feel it’s the delivery system that saved the show?” And that applies to every show I do, because when you’re building it in the early stages of it, the nature of it can’t be self-evident. It needs time for people to find it.
What I was expressing disappointment at was specifically the guys doing all the bracketology on Grantland, where these guys weren’t around when the show was fighting for its life, and now that it’s all there on the page, and you can consider all of that and argue about that, they want to break it down like a deck of cards, and argue over whether the jack of spades is better than the jack of hearts.. “The Wire” wasn’t about whether Stringer was better than Omar, or this scene better than that scene, or season 2 versus season 3. That’s what we were trying not to build. I was expressing distaste for that.


May 1, 2012, from RedEye Chicago Deconstructing the Bill Simmons-David Simon beef, by Stephen Markley

The Bill Simmons-David Simon ‘feud’ all started with an innocent chat between the Sports Guy and the President.

EXCERPT: What makes “The Wire” so valuable is not just its writing, acting, or storytelling brilliance but the dire picture it paints of societal crisis and how mundane that crisis can sometimes look. It’s the most indispensable piece of art of the 21st century so far not because Omar is a great character (though he is) but because of the questions the show poses about our inner cities, public education system, blue-collar workforce, political processes, and—omnipresent—the prohibition of drugs and militarized enforcement of that prohibition. As someone deeply interested in all of those questions, I can see how it would be annoying to hear the show reduced and talked about with the kind of devoted yet airless worship of a serial like “Lost.”


May 11, 2012, from Anniversary Special: 10 Ways The Wire Changed TV, by Alec Banks EXCERPT 2. Main Characters Could Be Killed Off “The game done changed.”—Dennis “Cutty” Wise

For Wire fans, Stringer's death is the show's ultimate
For Wire fans, Stringer’s death is the show’s ultimate “Where were you when…?” moment.

Television used to feel safe and reliable. Viewers could sit back and relax, watching their favorite characters get in and out of trouble both comically and dramatically. The Wire didn’t just create drama; it followed through by killing off some of the most beloved characters on the show (shades of The Sopranos, perhaps), including (spoiler alert!) D’Angelo Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Bodie Broadus, and Omar Little. No one was off-limits. Shows like Game of Thrones (Ned Stark), Breaking Bad (Gustavo Fring), and Damages(Tom Shayes) don’t hesitate to destroy the very roles they built up.


May 31, 2012, from The Atlantic 10 Years After Its Premiere, ‘The Wire’ Feels Dated, And That’s A Good Thing, by John Handel

Vondas, seen here blowing Marlo's mind in 2008 with... camera phones.
Vondas, seen here blowing Marlo’s mind in 2008 with… camera phones.

EXCERPT: David Simon brings a historian’s sword in his analysis of urban decay, and the blade is very much one that befits the years 2002 to 2008. The era carried a specificity to its history that is worth noting and is memorialized in this iconic HBO show. The drama was a portrait of its time in the same way a show like AMC’s Mad Men strives to capture the 1960s. The only difference is Simon sought to tell his story in real time. These breakdowns of institutional order emanate from the history that surrounds them, history that already feels distant to those of us rewatching episodes in 2012. To see 2002 again is jarring. Recall the hoppers’ casual use of payphones? Characters’ confusion at the very idea of text messaging or an Internet search in season 2? Or the lack of social media in the disintegration of journalism Simon depicted in season 5?


June 4, 2012, from Maxim Maxim Interrogates the Makers and Stars of The Wire, by Marc Spitz EXCERPT

The Maxim oral history on 'The Wire' reveals the bond of friendship among cast members.
The Maxim oral history on ‘The Wire’ reveals the bond of friendship among cast members.

Seth Gilliam (Sgt. Ellis Carver): Ed Burns said to me once, “You know, this isn’t the kind of cop show where you’re going to be pulling a gun. You might not even fire it. You’re not gonna be T. J. Hooker–ing it.” Domenick Lombardozzi (Thomas “Herc” Hauk): We were doing some ride-alongs with the police officers there, and they took us to some really seedy parts of town. Wendell Pierce (Det. William “Bunk” Moreland): I actually was in the (interrogation) box with a couple people as they were asked questions, and then I hooked up with real “Bunk.” He took me around, telling me stories about Homicide, introducing me to all these other cops. “This guy is going to be playing me in this new show. Come here Bunk!” He called people Bunk. It comes from the military. Your bunk mate. Delaney Williams (Det. Sgt. Jay Landsman): I didn’t even know there was a real Jay Landsman until the end of the first season. I wasn’t told a lot. I’m something like 30 characters down the cast list.


June 20, 2012 on Funny or Die The Wire – The Musical JACK NOTE: Omar and Bubbles have as many scenes together in the trailer for “The Wire – The Musical” as they do in the show’s five seasons.


October 29, 2012, from On The Wire: Thirteen Essays on The Wire, Season 1, and Overthinking The Wire, by David Warkentin EXCERPT from Season 1, Episode 1

The Wire introduces
The Wire introduces “the game” with Snot Boogie, McNulty and Snot Boogie’s unnamed friend in the series’ opening scene.

This first vague mention of “The Game” will echo through all five seasons. Over the course of the series, we will hear many a character utter the phrase: “It’s all in The Game.” In the above conversation, we have heard this game described aptly — a description all the more beautiful for how economically it captures the inherent confusion. America waves the flag of freedom, but those who would take part in said freedom will be summarily compartmentalized and forced into rigid schemas of interaction, regardless of their particular affiliation. The game, then, takes place both within and without the boundaries of these rules.


November 21, 2012 on Global Grind TV Michael K. Williams interviews Felicia Pearson about her experience on The Wire


March 1, 2013, from Chasing Amazing Blog Bunk, McNulty and the Blurring of Fictional Media, by Mark Ginocchio

Bunk and McNulty and Marvel?
Bunk and McNulty and Marvel?

EXCERPT: Part of what makes The Wire such an exceptional show is its attention to detail and its often unsettling realism about police work, the drug trade and the entire mechanics of how a major American city in decline works (or doesn’t work). David Simon and Ed Burns, the creators of the show, have fictionalized everything, but have gone to great lengths to incorporate real life drama from their experiences at the Baltimore Sun newspaper and the Baltimore City Police Department, respectively. While I know the show has been homaged in other instances (including some great inside references from Michael K. Williams on Community), it seems less severe than seeing these two characters in the pages of a comic book.


June 13, 2013, from Mother Jones Why the NSA Surveillance Program Isn’t Like ‘The Wire’, by Kevin Drum

How do surveillance efforts by the MCU (like this one in S3 led by Lester) compare to current NSA tactics?
How do surveillance efforts by the MCU (like this one in S3 led by Lester) compare to current NSA tactics?

EXCERPT: Simon’s point [about the similarities between the Major Crimes unit and the NSA] only goes so far. Suppose, instead, his detectives had gone to a judge and asked for permission to monitor calls on every pay phone in Baltimore County; to monitor those phones indefinitely; to use the records for any purpose they chose; and to keep those records permanently. Would the judge still have approved it? I’m guessing not. But that’s what’s been approved for the NSA. It’s very different from Simon’s example in Baltimore, and one thing that surprises me a bit is how little of the conversation surrounding the NSA program has addressed the key reason for this difference: Simon’s detectives were focused on a specific enterprise happening in the present. NSA is focused on anything that might happen in the future.


August 14, 2013, from Think Progress Let’s Not Pretend “The Wire” Has Great Major Female Characters, Or, Expanding The Golden Age of TV by Alyssa Rosenberg

Snoop buys a nail gun.
Snoop buys a nail gun.

EXCERPT: Snoop, Beadie, and Kima–not to mention Rhonda Pearlman, Elena McNulty, and Brianna Barksdale–are all supporting characters, in both narrative and literal ways to the men whose stories are at the center of The Wire. Snoop’s a soldier in Marlo Stanfield’s organization, important in service to his story, and as an illustration of what happens to children who are failed by their families, and by Baltimore’s social services and educational institutions. Beadie acts an opportunity for homicide cops to look cool and competent, a surrogate for us to feel sympathy for Frank Sobotka, and as an incentive for McNulty to get his life together, but her experience isn’t of interest to the show outside these contexts. Kima’s story is a facsimile of McNulty’s, and her major moral act doesn’t come until the final season. Rhonda Pearlman exists as an example that some talented people with integrity can do good work and rise even within broken institutions. Elena McNulty is an illustration of McNulty’s brokenness. And Brianna Barksdale is inherently less interesting to The Wire than the women who marginalize and deceive her, Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell.


September 1, 2013 on @jamesransone James Ransone defends his character Ziggy Sobotka against twitter criticism JACK NOTE: Here is the tweet that set Ransone off, here is the collection of tweets (read from the bottom) and here are the tweets strung together as paragraphs.

Fuckin' Ziggy.
Fuckin’ Ziggy.

EXCERPT (edited for punctuation/capitalization): When we were shooting the season, the only intention I had every day I went to work was to make Ziggy as comically ridiculous as possible. I always tried to find humor in the darkest corners of the story. So if you didn’t find Ziggy funny or ridiculous then it is my fault as a performer and I apologize to you. However if you believe that the character didn’t into the show as a whole I beg to differ. He’s Fredo in the Godfather. He’s Frankie in that Springsteen song Highway Patrolman. I grew up with guys like him. I have him in my family. I was him at times in my life (sadly). He’s the dude that’s just smart enough to get what’s happening but too dumb to not let hubris dictate every decision he makes, but he’s still blood. Look around your life. I’m sure you have your own.


November 6, 2013 on youtube David Simon at Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas Transcript from The Guardian EXCERPT: And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show. You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.


February 24, 2014, on Interview with Armando Cadogan Jr. AKA Panama AKA “Bubbles’ Tormentor” from Season 4, by Brandon Robinson

Armando Cadogan Jr. AKA Panama AKA
Armando Cadogan Jr. AKA Panama AKA “Bubbles’ Tormentor”

EXCERPT: Man, The Wire was family loyalty. The Wire was more of a documentary journey. The way it was documented, the way it was shot, the people that were involved. It was fictitious versus real life but it was based on a true story. Bubbles was a real character, I was a real character that used to torment Bubbles. That whole relationship between Baltimore and New York, yes it was exaggerated, that they didn’t like each other, but it happened! This show became popular with the urban community. Now that the wire came out, Baltimore is a little bit more prideful of the show, they’re more prideful of where they come from and who they are.


June 21, 2014, on National Public Radio From Backup Dancer to ‘The Wire’: How A Scar Transformed A Career, by NPR Staff EXCERPT, from an interview with Michael Kenneth Williams

The smile and scar of Michael Kenneth Williams.
The smile and scar of Michael Kenneth Williams.

“I was down in the dumps. I got really depressed,” he says. “Like, really depressed.” Then, months later, Williams received an unexpected fax outlining a character in a new show called The Wire. It was the part for Omar Little. “I got to grow with an amazing group of people that I consider my Wire family,” Williams says. “That character changed my life. And that was my big break.”


October 16, 2014, on HitFix 12 revelations from The Wire reunion at PaleyFest, by Josh Lasser Jack note: THIS CLIP INCLUDES THE COMPLETE VIDEO of the reunion panel, moderated by HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall, the critic who popularized the now standard web practice of episode-by-episode reviews. Lauded here by the AV Club, Sepinwall’s rise along with the show (and the broader age of television) has been fun to watch. The Bunk thinks so too. EXCERPT: Seth Gilliam and Domenick Lombardozzi were frustrated shooting so many surveillance scenes

Herc and Carver, chillin'.
Herc and Carver, chillin’.

The two actors actually went to David Simon to complain about not being effectively used. They were angry and, Gilliam claimed tonight, threatened to walk off the show. Simon pointed out to them during that meeting that the two guys were feeling just like their characters were feeling. He told them to “use it.” Lombardozzi was “buoyed” by that.  Not Gilliam.  Gilliam then did a great Lombardozzi impression.  Really, watch the livestream, it was impressive.


October 19, 2014 on We Got This Covered JACK NOTE: There are lots of good interviews from this event, and additional good stuff on this clip, but Wendell Pierce opining on the acting and talents of Michael K. Williams is powerful. Look at Williams reacting and remaining composed. Listen to the thought that Pierce has obviously put into his evaluation of Williams. This isn’t the first time he’s considered this topic. Great insight and a moving peer tribute.


December 2, 2014 on HBO Watch The Wire Being Remastered, Rebroadcast in HD by Jacob Klein EXCERPT: The Wire: The Complete Series in HD will be available for the first time as a full series purchase at iTunes, Google Play, X-Box Video and Vudu on January 5. Individual episodes and seasons will be available through all of HBO’s Digital HD retailers. To celebrate the HD launch, HBO Signature will air the entire series consecutively, one season per day starting with season 1 on Friday, December 26 at noon. The marathon will wrap with season 5 on Tuesday, December 30.


December 3, 2014 on What Will Be Lost and Gained When The Wire Is Remastered, by Aisha Harris

David Simon credits executive producer Robert Colesberry (right, as Detective Ray Cole) for his role in shaping the show's visual style.
David Simon credits executive producer Robert Colesberry (right, as Detective Ray Cole) for his role in shaping the show’s visual style.

EXCERPT from David Simon: As full wide shots in 4:3 rendered protagonists smaller, they couldn’t be sustained for quite as long as in a feature film, but neither did we go running too quickly to close-ups as a consequence. Instead, mid-shots became an essential weapon for (Robert Colesberry, show producer), and on those rare occasions when he was obliged to leave the set, he would remind me to ensure that the director covered scenes with mid-sized shots that allowed us to effectively keep the story in the wider world, and to resist playing too much of the story in close shots.


December 12, 2014 on

The Death of Stringer Bell, 10 years later: A look back at “Middle Ground,” the greatest episode of (probably) the greatest show in television history, by Jack M Silverstein

“We got him.” Lester, McNulty, Kima, Daniels and Pearlman celebrate officially catching Stringer Bell on the wire in “Middle Ground.”

EXCERPT: The show builds to the final capture with quick scenes peppered throughout the episode. Lester explains that catching Stringer will take four or five phone calls as the system funnels down to his number, and then each scene is anchored by one line of dialogue that sums up the progress (Caroline: “Like cutting butter with a hot knife.” Lester, later: “We’re on the top of the mountain.”) When they nab him while he talks to Shamrock about a pair of hit men (“Those two hitters you asked about”) for Clay Davis, it’s exhilarating for the characters and the audience — we know how long this has taken. They appear to have won the race.


December 25, 2014 on

The Wire Cast Members Reminisce as an HD Christmas Kicks Off, by Mike Mettler

December 26, 2014: The Wire is back -- remastered in HD
December 26, 2014: The Wire is back — remastered in HD

EXCERPT: “For something like The Wire, you need that grit of film,” notes Tristan Wilds, who played kid gangsta/budding boxer Michael Lee in Seasons 4 and 5. “There’s something about the feel of it. It looks like you could reach out and touch it, and there’s a certain level of realness that comes with that. You need to pick up the right things for whatever you need to shoot.”

Getting complete Wire scripts each week of shooting was pure manna. “We got a chance to read everything that was going on in that world at that moment,” says Wilds. “Man, every time we got a script, it was like getting a brand-new book. We would open it up and rip it apart: ‘Oh my God, this is happening! Yo, I can’t believe Dom Lombardozzi is walking in on the Mayor!’ It was the craziest things at the craziest times.”


December 26, 2014 on Uproxxx

A Baltimore reporter is taking photos of ‘The Wire’ filming locations now vs. then,by Josh Kurp

Left: Wallace, Poot and D'Angelo in the Pit. Right: The Pit today, photo by Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun
Left: Wallace, Poot and D’Angelo in the Pit. Right: The Pit today, photo by Justin Fenton, Baltimore Sun

EXCERPT: In honor of HBO Signature’s The Wire in HD marathon, which is happening right now (they’re still in season one), Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton has been visiting and taking photos of the show’s old shooting locations, or in his words, “In honor of this #TheWireMarathon, tell me a filming location you’d like to see present day, I’ll take a pic on my lunch break.” Here’s what Fenton has gotten to so far. Follow him on Twitter if you want to see where McNulty passed out after a long night of drinking (spoiler: it’s literally everywhere in Baltimore).


December 27, 2014 on

You can’t spell “The Wire” without “Sobotka” — An examination of Season 2 by Jack M Silverstein

Frank Sobotka, I.B.S. local 1514.
Frank Sobotka.

EXCERPT: For people who don’t like “the docks,” (like this, or this) the complaint tend to echo how Fruit felt about Hamsterdam: “Why you gotta go and fuck with the program?” Michael K. Williams has essentially said the same in multiple interviews, most recently at the PaleyFest reunion, and has always maintained that David Simon told him that branching out to the docks was the only way to tell what Simon viewed as the complete story, i.e. the story of an American city AKA the story of Baltimore AKA something greater than what was in Season 1 a melding and updating of previous Simon projects “Homicide” and “The Corner” with the casework of co-creator and former BPD detective Ed Burns. “He looked at me with this patience in his eyes,” Williams told the crowd at Paley Center in New York, “and he said, ‘Trust me. If we go back to the projects, right back to that story line, we’re going to make this city and this story that we’re trying to build here look very small.’”


December 27, 2014 on

Baltimore reflects on ‘The Wire’s’ legacy as #TheWireMarathon kicks offby Baynard WoodsMore Wire material from city

The Wire cast members - seen here at the 2014 PaleyFest Wire reunion - have grown tight off-screen.
The Wire cast members – seen here at the 2014 PaleyFest Wire reunion – have grown tight off-screen.

EXCERPT: Brett Martin’s excellent 2013 book about the showrunners of the current “goden age” of television, provides a fascinating portrait of Simon—the chapter on Simon is aptly called the ‘Arguer’—and the show’s creation. (City Paper contributor and former Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez says, of their early days at the Sun “We were young, devil-may-care, work-around-the-clock, party-till-you-drop, rock ‘n’ roll reporters”). And the book’s portrayal of the way its cast spent its time in Baltimore shows another interesting light on the city with Clark Peters (“Lester”) hosting “a kind of groovy bohemain salon for an older set of cast and crew members . . . Peters, a strict vegetarian, would cook elaborate group meals. There was a piano and impromptu jam sessions fueled by red wine and pot smoke. For those seized by the after-hours impulse to paint, there were canvasses on easels set up in the basement. Among its habitues, the house was called ‘the academy.'” On the other hand, the younger cast-members were “centered on The Block . . . with a core group including West, Gilliam, Lombardozzi, Wendell Pierce, Andre Royo, J.D. Williams, and Sonja Sohn.” Royo, who played Bubbles, recalled a number of fights Sohn saved the group from by keeping her eyes on the bouncers. “She’s a sexy little chick, so they’d make sure she was comfortable.”


April 27, 2015 from 

Baltimore, by David Simon (Simon photo found on Washington Post)

david simon the wire baltimore freddie gray
David Simon in Baltimore, circa 2015.

First things first. Yes, there is a lot to be argued, debated, addressed.  And this moment, as inevitable as it has sometimes seemed, can still, in the end, prove transformational, if not redemptive for our city.   Changes are necessary and voices need to be heard.  All of that is true and all of that is still possible, despite what is now loose in the streets. But now — in this moment — the anger and the selfishness and the brutality of those claiming the right to violence in Freddie Gray’s name needs to cease.  There was real power and potential in the peaceful protests that spoke in Mr. Gray’s name initially, and there was real unity at his homegoing today.  But this, now, in the streets, is an affront to that man’s memory and a dimunition of the absolute moral lesson that underlies his unnecessary death. If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore.  Turn around.  Go home.  Please.


April 28, 2015 in the Washington Post 

“The Wire,” the burning of Baltimore and the limits of art, by Alyssa Rosenburg (protester-with-bullhorn photo found on CNN)

As Baltimore burned in April 2015 in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray,
As Baltimore burned in April 2015 in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, “The Wire” returned to the fore of popular culture. (photo from CNN archive)

EXCERPT: As clashes between the police and Baltimore citizens escalated Mondayfollowing the funeral for Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 after a spinal cord injury he seems to have suffered while in police custody, I kept one eye on broadcasts from the city and another looking out for something that seemed inevitable: the first mention of “The Wire,” David Simon’s HBO drama about crime and corruption in Charm City, to scroll across my social media. By my count, it came at 4:49 on Monday afternoon, when a friend retweeted the sour sentiment “Season 6 of The Wire is awesome so far.” Soon after, other sites started circulating a call from Simon himself, asking readers to back down from throwing rocks, looting convenience stores and burning cars. “If you can’t seek redress and demand reform without a brick in your hand, you risk losing this moment for all of us in Baltimore,” he wrote. “Turn around. Go home. Please.” A number of actors from the show joined him. Pleas from Simon, Andre Royo and Wendell Pierce, among others, are an acknowledgement of the real-world authority we’ve granted to “The Wire,” one of the most venerated shows ever to air on American television. But while I believe passionately that culture alters the way we see the world and what we expect from it — that idea is literally the foundation of my writing — the conflagration in Baltimore is a reminder that art’s power can work both in service of change and against it. Watching a fictional story is not precisely the same thing as bearing witness. And when consuming that story becomes a substitute for action or an argument that action is futile, fiction can paralyze us just as surely as it can inspire us.


April 28, 2015 in the Los Angeles Times 

“The Wire” in real life — the Baltimore neighborhood Freddie Gray called home, by David Zuccino and James Queally

A look into Freddie Gray's Baltimore neighborhood, starting with the row houses that were a regular background element of
A look into Freddie Gray’s Baltimore neighborhood, starting with the row houses that were a regular background element of “The Wire” (photo by Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

EXCERPT: The images of burning cars and smashed shop windows during riots this week on the edgy streets of West Baltimore were probably familiar to anyone who ever watched the HBO TV series “The Wire,” which chronicled the hard life and tense times of many in this American city. The incendiary device this time was the death April 19 of a 25-year-old black man, Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed sometime after he was arrested following a police chase on foot. But the vociferous street protests come out of a long history of trouble and poverty faced by many Baltimore residents–especially those in the impoverished neighborhoods of Sandtown-Winchester/Harlem Park in West Baltimore which Gray called home. Here, a lifetime away from the museums, upscale restaurants and charter boat tours of Baltimore’s tourist-friendly Inner Harbor area, is both the history and the present-day reality of a sobering number of Baltimore residents.


July 14, 2015 in the Washington Post 

Cast members from ‘The Wire’ give back to Baltimoreby Rebecca Ritzel

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY, 17: Actress Sonja Sohn (in front w/ dress)with the ReWired for Change participants Sean Hawkins (grey T-shirt), John Wood (white shirt) and Nikita Brady (ReWired T-shirt) (Photo: Hector Emanuel/For the Washington Post)
BALTIMORE, MD – JULY, 17: Actress Sonja Sohn with three ReWired for Change participants.
(Photo: Hector Emanuel/For the Washington Post)

EXCERPT: Actress Sonja Sohn thought she was going to be on a plane to the Bahamas right about now. Instead, she has been spending the week hunched over the computer, writing a play about the unrest this spring in Baltimore while constantly checking her e-mail and occasionally being interrupted by reporters. The reason: This weekend, Sohn and many of her fellow cast members from HBO’s Baltimore-set show “The Wire” are reuniting. Plans have been in the works for months for a get-together — but in the islands, not onstage at the Lyric Opera House. “We needed to go somewhere where we wouldn’t have too many distractions,” Sohn said. “We thought we’d just be there to just have a break and a breather and just be together, to say to each other, ‘How’s your family? How’s your career?’ Then April 27 happened, and we were like, ‘Baltimore. We have to be in Baltimore.’ ” But they also knew, Sohn said, that they couldn’t just “come to Baltimore and have a party under the dark of night.” They had to give something back. From there, things snowballed, and Sohn found herself playing producer instead of packing sunscreen.


July 16, 2015 in the Baltimore Sun 

‘Wire’ actors to deliver lines from real-life Baltimoreans, by David Zurawik

Isiah Whitlock (Clay Davis), Sonja Sohn (Kima Greggs) and Andre Royo (Bubbles) in Baltimore for Sohn's latest ReWired for Change event.
Isiah Whitlock (Clay Davis), Sonja Sohn (Kima Greggs) and Andre Royo (Bubbles) in Baltimore for Sohn’s latest ReWired for Change event.

EXCERPT: According to Sohn, the actors who will be delivering monologues include Dominic West, Michael Kenneth Williams, Wendell Pierce, Seth Gilliam, Chad L. Coleman, Larry Gilliard Jr., Andre Royo, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Jaime Hector, Tristan “Mack” Wilds and Felicia “Snoop” Pearson. Some of the residents who wrote the monologues will also be onstage with the performers, said Baltimore actress Maria Broom, who played City Councilwoman Marla Daniels on the series. Sohn and Broom have been gathering the first-person accounts of life before, during and since the riots in workshops the past two months at the Penn North Community Resource Center on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is just down the street from the CVS drugstore that was seen around the world burning at the height of the rioting April 27.


July 25, 2015 in the Washington Post 

Representing Freddie Gray’s family: A venerable lawyer in cases involving race, police and death, by Keith L. Alexander

Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy, who played himself in Season 5 of The Wire representing Sen. Clay Davis, is in real life representing the family of Freddie Gray. (photo by Allison Shelley / Washington Post)
Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy, who played himself in Season 5 of The Wire representing Sen. Clay Davis, is in real life representing the family of Freddie Gray. (photo by Allison Shelley / Washington Post)

EXCERPT: Within seconds after William “Billy” Murphy Jr. climbs out of his driver’s SUV at the bustling Lexington Market, dozens of Baltimoreans walk up to him wanting to shake his hand, pat him on the back and even ask for a few dollars. Many people know him by name. With a toothy smile and chest-leading swagger, Murphy has emerged as one of his home town’s favorite sons, a hero of sorts among the African American population here. The charismatic Murphy even had a cameo as a fictional high-powered attorney named Billy Murphy on HBO’s “The Wire.” Horace Steward, 48, who was in a wheelchair, recognized Murphy and asked him for a business card. Steward said a Baltimore police officer stomped on his leg while he was being arrested on drug ­charges. “He’s for the black people. Man, black folks would be thrown in the water and forgotten about if it wasn’t for him,” Steward said.

15 Replies to “All the pieces matter: analysis, essays, and anything else on The Wire”

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