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HBO’s 'The Wire' Now Looks As Modern As It Feels

Fans binge-watching the newly-released, high definition episodes of HBO’s classic cop show “The Wire” might feel like the decade-old show’s storylines are ripped from today’s headlines.

TV critics Eric Deggans of NPR and David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun (“The Wire” is set and produced in Baltimore), join Here & Now’s Peter O’Dowd to discuss how relevant and even prescient the show has been in terms of concerns over aggressive policing, the drug war’s futility and the gaffs of some modern day governments.

Interview Highlights

Zurawik on David Simon’s inspiration for ‘The Wire’

“Where he was when this series was being made, was that the institutions were failing because they lost their sense of mission. And they lost their sense of mission because people within them didn’t behave with a sense of community, didn’t behave honorably. So rather than doing their job, like some of the police in the series, they would rather go out of their way not to solve the case because they knew they would catch heck from the guys up the line in city hall, in the mayor’s office, if they didn’t score a kind of crime-solving metric. But really, David Simon was angry about police, city officials in the school system, people who didn’t do the job they were being paid to do in the civic sense with taxpayer dollars.”

Deggans on how the show is still culturally relevant

“One of ‘The Wire’s’ biggest messages is that the drug war was futile, and that it’s turned into this war on poor people and a war on black and brown people. That was an idea that I think maybe people in mainstream American had a little trouble accepting in 2002 when the show debuted, but it’s much more accepted now, especially in the controversy over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, where police have been criticized for acting like an occupying force.”

“Back when the series was first on the air, we didn’t have nearly as many TV shows that really challenge the viewer like this. ‘The Wire’ doesn’t explain everything obviously. They’ll mention something in one episode and then they’ll resolve it two episodes later. I think now TV viewers are much more used to consuming this kind of television and consuming it in a way where they catch all those little tidbits of storytelling. Now it’s like returning to a great novel when you’re older and you’re wiser and you can understand it a bit more.”


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"The Wire" premiered on HBO in 2002. It was remastered and released on Monday, January 5, for digital HD purchase. (Jinx!/Flickr)
"The Wire" premiered on HBO in 2002. It was remastered and released on Monday, January 5, for digital HD purchase. (Jinx!/Flickr)