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The Wire - More Than a Great Cop Show

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A computer industry veteran, Graeme Queen serves as the senior director of IT solution delivery at the Standard Insurance Company of Portland, Oregon. In his spare time, Graeme Queen watches television series such as The Wire, a wide-praised look at inner city Baltimore that HBO began airing in 2002.

Although it began its five-year run following detectives as they tried to bring down a drug network, The Wire touched on several other urban problems, such as the decline of the dockworkers, political corruption, a failing educational system, and a disconnected news media. Rather than building an audience with easily resolved storylines and charismatic heroes, The Wire created characters who faced complex moral choices in an environment where the heroes were hard to distinguish from the villains.

Stringer Bell, played by future film star Idris Elba, is an example of this ambiguity. Although a drug dealer, he drew on lessons from modern business to keep his subordinates focused on profits. He explained that gang conflict violence was sometimes bad for the bottom line.

The show was the brainchild of former journalist David Price and veteran detective Ed Burns. Based on events from their careers, the two produced a “novel for television” that anticipated the streaming era’s season-long narrative arcs.

Faced with low ratings, the producers had to fight with studio executives for every season’s renewal. Bolstering their case was widespread acclaim. In all five seasons, the show won an NAACP Image Award for its pioneering use of Black actors. Although it garnered only two nominations from the Emmy Awards, The Wire won top honors from the American Film Institute, the Writers Guild of America, and the Peabody Awards. Some critics consider it to be American television’s finest drama. The program is now streamed on Max and Hulu.