HBO has released plenty of hit series over the years, but few can compete with The Wire when it comes to critical acclaim and fan enthusiasm.
The Baltimore-set crime drama, which aired from 2002 to 2008, has repeatedly been named one of the best TV shows of all time, and former President Barack Obama has said that it’s his favorite series ever. The Wire was only nominated for two Emmys during its run, winning neither, but some observers consider this one of the awards show’s biggest snubs in history.
Though the series has been off the air for quite a while, some cast members have said that they still frequently get recognized for their roles. “I thought, at the time, that nobody was paying much attention,” Isiah Whitlock Jr., who played corrupt state senator Clay Davis, told The Guardian in March 2018. “More people recognize me from the show than they ever did. I run into people who have just seen it and they want to talk to me about it. I have to tell them it was 10 years ago.”
Idris Elba, who played Russell “Stringer” Bell, has credited the show with catapulting his career to a different level. He had appeared in films and TV series before his turn in the first three seasons of The Wire, but he was not yet a leading man.
“Nothing’s gotten me more work than The Wire, nothing,” the Prometheus actor told The Scotsman in February 2010. “It’s had a very, very slow drip effect, only now opening doors for me with Luther.” (Elba landed the titular role on the BBC crime drama Luther two years after The Wire aired its final episode.)
When the show originally aired, it was praised for its realistic look at what goes on in the halls of power, with each season focusing on a different part of the city: the police department, the newspaper, the school system and so on. Cocreator Ed Burns points to that realism as one reason that the series still has such staying power.
“This show will live forever, because what it tries to portray will be around forever,” the former detective told The New York Times in May 2022. “It’s just getting worse and worse. That’s all. And it’s expanding; it’s not just an urban thing anymore. It’s everywhere.”
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