HBO News Blog

The game’s the same, it just got more fierce

By Luke Clum on Dec 22, 2014 to HBO Classics

Finally, The Wire will re-air in HD December 26th

I have never been to Baltimore, but I still find myself obsessed with the city. Two things recently rekindled this love.

One being the immersive podcast Serial, which detailed the murder of a Baltimore high school student and mysteriously disorganized trial that followed. The other was the announcement that The Wire was being remastered and reaired in HD.


Obsessive attention to detail and realism

Through annual The Wire viewings and the continual pressure I place on everyone I know to spend the time immersing themselves in the series themselves, I would consider myself at one with every flawed character in the series. From the backwards Baltimore cops to the drugged out street people, something about the realistic nature of the show lends itself to this deep connection. David Simon found a way to earn the viewer’s empathy for everyone’s unique situation. After the fact, hearing Simon in countless interviews, it becomes clear how much weight he puts behind believing that people’s situations cause specific life choices, and not the other way around.

Sure, it sounds cheesy, but for someone like myself, who was at one point disgusted by crime in lower income areas, The Wire was really my first exposure to anything resembling the systematic “why” behind inner city culture.

From the very opening scene, where we see Detective McNulty in discussion with a random denizen of the west side regarding the seemingly pointless murder of “Snot Boogie,” it becomes abundantly clear that this show will never attempt to gather cheap thrills through twist endings or mysterious cliffhangers. There will be no major unknowns that leave the viewer feeling like they just have to watch the next episode to see what happens. No, The Wire never needed to rely on such showmanship. Just the facts, ma’am.

Someone commented to me once, that it felt like you were always standing right there with the characters, sort of like that person sitting at a train station, overhearing countless conversations as they happen in real time. Except take that example, and extend it out over a narrative of the daily functioning elements of any American city and you have The Wire.

It seems apparent after completing the series, about how the show only has one true main protagonist, the city of Baltimore itself, leaving the moving parts as just simply pieces of the big picture.


The Deeper Context of The Wire

Imagine the pitch behind a cops versus drug dealers crime drama, and the underlying assumption always has to be that the cops are the good guys. But The Wire does something unique here, creating a bizarre empathy mixed with frustration and hatred for all characters. The lead detective with alcohol and family problems. The murderous drug dealer who is merely trying to take care of his people. The city attorney trying to make a career for herself. The political candidate who really wants to make a difference realizing he’s only being served countless bowls of shit.

And it’s this awkward relationship with the show’s characters that really leads to such an emotional reaction to each season’s focus. Everything is wrong with our police! Everything is wrong with capitalism! Everything is wrong with our elections! Everything is wrong with our schools! Everything is wrong with our press!

This sounds pompous to make such statements, but The Wire does this by painting such a realistic picture. Going back to the earlier point, that The Wire puts the viewers in a position of playing an extra in the series, standing there listening to each conversation.

Take for example things like the show having no soundtrack except for the music playing in scenes, such as out of a car, row house or bar. Other than that? Nothing. Simon’s vision for the series very rarely moved the viewer outside the context of the scene.

Having two precursers, being a police beat writer for The Baltimore Sun, as well as being the creative force behind Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Corner, Simon is no stranger to grit, and proudly keeps his writing as close to reality as possible.


So what is next?

David Simon had a few pseudo-hits with Generation Kill (great) and Treme (great, but no audience) following The Wire, but interestingly enough, during the original airing the series was struggling to garner much fanfare. Simon himself commented on this a few years ago as the show’s popularity was beginning to increase dramatically. He asked “where these new fans were” during the original airing, and in some ways calling them out for not being a part of the original journey.

We’re not really sure where that came from as you would assume he would celebrate the success of the show, no matter its timing. But The Wire has certainly found itself in conversation for the best television series of all time.

Simon keeps a pretty low profile, and hasn’t really said much about what might be next.


Giving the fans what they want

HBO is throwing a smaller bone to the dedicated fans by re-airing The Wire in HD. We’re also hoping that HBO releases the higher quality version on the HBO Go streaming service as well.

HBO will be releasing the HD series the day after Christmas, December 26th, which perhaps makes for perfect timing for all fans of the show who might be hoping to escape from the holidays to enjoy a few days on the Baltimore streets.

While there is no word as to whether or not The Wire will stream in HD on Amazon Prime, there is a rumor that this will be the case.

Now we just need it to release on Blu-ray

  • Ryo Shenmue

    An article with many incorrect statements. First of all, “everything is wrong with capitalism” it’s a sentence that shows how the writer of the article hasn’t understood The Wire nor David Simon very well, especially considering that David Simon himself spoke once again about capitalism a about a year ago, explaining that it is flawed and it has in some ways failed but without condemning it at all. Secondly, “everything is wrong with our press”, not quite considering characters like Gus, Fletcher and Alma and considering that David was just showing, by personal experience, how the newspaper world has changed since the late 80s.
    Another incorrect statement would be: “the show having no soundtrack except for the music playing in scenes”, not true since there’s always a beautiful and memorable montage at the end of every season.
    Also, David wasn’t the creative force behind Homicide, the people behind Homicide(which was an adaptation of David’s book) were Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana and Paul Attanasio. David became an actual writer of the series only in season 4 and he didn’t have much creative input since the series kind of changed a little bit from season 4, becoming more focused on the characters’ personal lives.
    Let’s also point out that there’s no “conversation” on whether The Wire is the best TV-Series ever made or not, it is because it’s the only TV art piece that should have won the nobel prize for literature. It is one of the best art pieces in filmmaking history, along with Stanley Kubrick’s and Andrei Tarkovskij’s films.
    Lastly, David Simon hasn’t kept a low profile, he has a website/blog on which he writes some posts based on what he thinks or on what’s happening in America or in his life. He gave a lecture at Harvard with a few The Wire cast members back in 2008, he went at the festival of the dangerous ideas, he was at the Paley Festival, he was at a couple of other festivals(once even in London where The Wire is particularly loved) and ultimately, he was absolutely right when he “called out” those new pretentious fans because if they had been there when The Wire was on the air, they wouldn’t have struggled so much, almost getting cancelled after every season(with a legendary hiatus of 21 months between Season 3 and 4) and David would have probably had more chances of creating pieces that he wanted(like his CIA series which was not greenlighted by HBO because he needed too much money and they weren’t willing to give him anything more than the budget he had to use on The Wire, because The Wire had low ratings).
    Hasn’t really said much about what’s next? He’s been developing SHOW ME A HERO for months in Yonkers, there have been news on the casting since august/september, he’s going to destroy everybody else’s TV once again. I’d say he has said MUCH about what’s next.

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