Binge Guide

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

by and | June 12, 2014 | Comments

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


The Wire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tag Cloud

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