CHRIS MOORE — Celebrating “The Wire” two decades later

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Over the weekend I was able to finish the final episode of the miniseries “We Own This City”, detailing the events surrounding the members of the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force, who were arrested on multiple charges back in 2017.

Eight members were convicted on charges ranging from racketeering, extortion, robbery and overtime fraud.

The show’s creator David Simon also created one of the most iconic shows of all time in “The Wire,” which was released 20 years ago at the beginning of June. “The Wire” was perfect in just about every way. It detailed major systemic issues in Baltimore, but also told the story of a failing war on drugs campaign that ransacked cities across the country.

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“The Wire” serves as an unofficial prelude to the corruption seen in the Baltimore Gun Trace Task Force. You do not get to a place where a department task force is ripping off drug dealers without the events highlighted in the early 2000s. The war on drugs forced departments to hold arrest stats above all and at any cost. As one character on the show put it, “You juke the stats, and majors become colonels.”

To be clear, the show is more of an indictment of systems than it is actual officers.

As “We Own This City,” which is only six episodes log, ended a story broke out of Detroit of similar findings with the city’s “elite” drug enforcement unit.

“The Wire” was perfect for many reasons. There is plenty in that show that is dated. The use of payphones, style, music, typewriters, etc. is prevalent in the show and standout. But when you watch and listen to the problems being discussed, “The Wire” is either dead on or way ahead of its time. Issues with public schools, police departments, the country’s drug problem, politics and even the decline of journalism and its role in effectively keeping oversight of those topics is all on display.

The show’s style is also unique. During five seasons, Simon opted to highlight five different areas of failure in the city. The choice to leave the inner city of the first season and go out to the county and docks in the second was brave and necessary to tell a full story. The show would keep tabs on characters from the first season but the focus was on a complete new cast of characters. When shows become popular, you tend its influence in others. That hasn’t happened with The Wire. Perhaps it is because the show didn’t reach the height of its popularity until nearly a decade after it stopped.

It is also difficult to replicate because the show was written by Simon and Ed Burns, who spent decades covering police for the Baltimore Sun. That is one reason it feels so authentic. I have probably asked a dozen members of law enforcement and journalists and they have said “The Wire” is as close to the real thing as it gets.

Twenty years after the show first aired, it is just as relevant as it ever was.

 

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.