Rewatching ‘The Wire’: Classic Crime Drama Seems Written For Today

The Wire. The best show I’ve ever seen…


Like many devoted fans, I jumped on the release of newly reconfigured, high-definition versions of HBO’s classic cop series The Wire, binge-watching much of the show’s five seasons on the HBO GO streaming service over the holidays.

And what I discovered — along with the sharper visuals — was the immediacy of the show’s themes. Every episode felt as if it had been written last week, despite the fact that it debuted more than a dozen years ago and finished its run in 2008. Nowhere is that prescience on better display than the ways The Wire talks about race, culture and class.

Series creator David Simon’s potent stew of on-point television offered a knowing take on the decay eating at Baltimore, and by extension, many American cities. The show highlighted the overly aggressive policing of poor black communities, the way drug-dealing became the only viable business in too many neighborhoods, the stigmatization of the poverty-stricken and the ways that middle-class black people often fell short in attempts to help African-Americans stuck in the underclass.

In fact, I’d argue The Wire has a greater resonance today than when it was originally broadcast, because so many of its messages about urban failure, policing and race have become a depressing reality.

Here are some examples of scenes that speak to issues we’re


At a time when both incarceration rates and income inequality are reaching staggering levels, that seems to be yet another prediction Simon and The Wire nailed many years ago. Throughout the series, young people are taunted by career criminals, police and each other about the futility of pursuing education and legitimate work.

Simon has said often that The Wire is, in part, about the failure of institutions and the mediocrity of bureaucracy, even in the drug trade. But it’s also about how those failures work along fissures of race and class.

As books like The New Jim Crow and documentaries like The House I Live In argue that the war on drugs has become a war on the poor and the non-white, the case for The Wire’s view of an America hobbled by the desire for order at any cost — especially if that cost mostly falls on poor black and brown people — seems seriously prescient.

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