It is a savage portrait of a decaying American city – Baltimore to be precise – and focuses on drug wars; teamster corruption; police and education bureaucracies as they try to deal with the new management techniques; and on the politics of the local newspaper. So far I’ve viewed some 20 episodes of the first two series – each of the 5 series is briefly summarised in this article
I find the focus on a city – and its various layers – much more gripping than the conventional one of a murder. The 2 writers are David Simon (who had written a couple of sociological studies of the situation) and a journalist – so the series has attracted a lot of attention from academics and been the subject of glowing reviews here and here
I was briefly in Baltimore in 1987 – while a German Marshall Fellow based in Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago (I just missed meeting Obama then working the South Shore as a community activist!) but remember being appalled by the Baltimore slums which are at the heart of The Wire’s drama.
By way of comparison, I therefore turned to the first couple of episodes of the 1996 UK television series – Our Friends in the North - which gives a portrait not just of a city (UK's Newcastle; in the news today for the savage cuts the city faces) but one painted in nine studies over a 32 year period. with an emphasis on the various routes for those wanting to escape from or challenge these urban wastelands and their power systems.
So far – by virtue of the historical depth - I would rate it even higher than The Wire – and it also gives us an early sighting of Daniel Craig!
ps David Simon first came to my attention a year ago - when he wrote this withering diatribe