True Confession: I'm Just Now Watching 'The Wire' For The First Time

HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

Last week while drowning in free time, I said to myself, “Self, you’re eating good, rubbing booties, and maxin’ and relaxin’ con la familia here in Virginia, where ain’t shit to do but cook (and gain weight). Why not finally give The Wire a go?” And so here we are.


I feel like I missed an important cultural moment that played out in The Wire’s five seasons. Everyone from President Obama and Eric Holder to Elijah Wood and James Van Der Beek adores this show. In conversations about the greatest shows ever, The Wire is regularly mentioned alongside masterpieces like Breaking Bad and The Cosby Show. (Editors note: Which is irresponsible. The Wire should never be mentioned with any other show. Just God. And bacon. That's it. God and bacon.) I know people who have incorporated quotes from their favorite characters into their daily speech. I even had an old manager who used to chastise employees with Bunk’s classic inquiry, “You happy now, bitch?” A friend told me recently that she judges the worthiness of potential suitors based on their knowledge of this show. (Editor's note: This is a good friend.) It is time to see what all of the fuss and adoration is about.

What do I know about this show? I know that it has been heralded for its stellar writing and that there is lots of cussing. These are both important. I know that some friends from Baltimore don’t like the show for its gritty depiction of the city’s drug war and institutional failures. I know that Tristan Wilds, Michael B. Jordan, Wendell Pierce, and J.D. Williams (who I first encountered as Kenny “Bricks” Wrangler, the Ma$e to Simon Adebisi’s Puff Daddy on HBO’s Oz) all inhabited The Wire’s television universe.


I also know that there are at least two gay characters, Sonja Sohn’s “Kima Greggs” and Michael K Williams’ “Omar Little.” After years of tripping over Wire-themed think pieces, I gather that there is some division on the mere inclusion of lesbian and gay characters while others have taken issue with Omar being the Robin Hood of stick-up men, robbing drug dealers to provide for the needy.

I, however, applaud both the flawed and the “respectable” traits that make these people feel real. Black gay characters onscreen typically exist as two-dimensional accessories for their straight counterparts, speaking in quotable insults without much development. So, I jump at the chance to watch these prominent players, Kima and Omar, be funny, lovable, immoral and evil because a fleshed-out personality is not a form of humanity often afforded to Black LGBTQ characters.

I am three episodes in. Until now, I had never seen more than three minutes of the series. I expect to love it. The dialogue is live as shit and it only took 20 minutes for me to “get it,” unlike with AMC’s ode to whiteness, Mad Men, which I cared even less about after fighting through the first three episodes.

I am excited about discussing this important show with friends who’ve spoken of its glory. I look forward to seeing young, great-faced Idris McDreampop continue to grow into this dreadful corner boy accent he’s attempting. (Editor's note: People who first learned of Elba from The Wire had the same reaction hearing his real voice for the first time. It was like drinking a bottle of Coke, but tasting a milkshake instead. Ok. I think I'm done with these notes now.)


And I look forward to continuing to pretend that I didn’t own two of these horrendous D’Angelo Barksdale turtleneck sweaters.

Alexander Hardy is a wordsmith, mental health advocate, dancer, lupus survivor, and co-host of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Alexander does not believe in snow or Delaware.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Damon Young

Couple things:

1. Although The Wire is the best TV series in the history of ever, Mad Men is also a great show. Forthwith, I will not allow Mad Men slander to live on VSB.

2. Season two of The Wire is just as great and essential as the other seasons. It's truly when The Wire went from a "cops and robbers" show to a "show about Baltimore." Plus, it gives you a look at how all of those drugs are actually getting into the city, and it establishes the groundwork for everything that happened in season three.