The Wire is arguably the greatest drama ever made on television. It represented the pinnacle of television’s artistic capability for original programming. Despite critical acclaim and a cult following, this nonpareil show has failed to reach its merited mass of viewers. Now, it hazards falling into obscurity with other such victims. So today, I write to all couch potatoes and binge-watchers. Whether you enjoy soaps, sitcoms, gratuitously violent shows or even Victorian theatre, I implore you to give the show a try and right this gross television injustice.
What makes the show so great?
The Wire critically examines the failure of American neoliberalism in the urban ecosystem of Baltimore. Its bird’s eye view portrayal of the city is not only realistic, but enlightening. The show’s authenticity comes from David Simon’s (the creator, writer and showrunner) first-hand experiences as a reporter working for the Baltimore Sun. His encounters and experiences add depth to the show’s narrative and socio-political themes such as crime, social institutions et al. This fearless portrayal of urban crime and unparalleled social critique makes for compelling drama.
What gives the show a “cult” status?
Obviously, It has a small but devoted viewing audience. And well, it satisfies every other criteria.
Memorable characters with complex yet magnetic personalities: ✓
Pithy dialogue: ✓
Coherent storytelling: ✓
Availability of memorabilia: ✓
Fan-based artwork: ✓
As a result of its cult status, it is referenced in various forms of popular culture, including music, television and art. Focusing primarily on art, here are six such artworks inspired by The Wire.
1. A mashup of The Wire and the Muppets, starring Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, Gonzo as enforcer Brother Mouzone and Kermit as the inimitable Omar Little.
2. A reimagining of The Wire as a Hannah-Barbera cartoon. Look, it’s even got the customary sidekick animal. Suggestions for a name?
3. The Wire Simpsonised
4. An extraordinary poster which pretty much embodies The Wire. The amount of detail boggles the mind especially, Lady Justice taking off her blindfold. Beautiful allegory.
5. A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It’s the shit that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.
6. A gorgeous set of prints from artist Tim Doyle entitled “All The Pieces Matter”, comprises pretty much all the characters from the show.
You can purchase the screen print here.
7. The Wire meets Dickens. Funnily, these illustrations are part of a satirical book describing an alternate universe where the events in The Wire are re-imagined as a Victorian novel. One would think they’re anything but similar. But, both do provide social commentary on the middle and lower classes. And both provide an honest critique of a city rotting from within. So, if you want to give this (quasi) The Wire book a read, you can buy it here.
Bonus: The way McNulty’s reflection on the car window is captured, makes this drawing all the more impressive.
Here’s the actual advert.