If it surprises you that the show started so long ago it’s probably because, like most people including professional TV critics, you didn’t start getting into the show until well into its five season, 2002 to 2008 run, or perhaps not even until after the fact through watching DVDs or HBO Go or some other method.
Screenwriter George Axelrod supposedly said of The Manchurian Candidate (the original, 1962 version) that it “went from being a flop to a classic without passing through success.” The Wire is the television drama equivalent, going from being ignored by critics and constantly skirting cancellation to GREATEST. SHOW. EVER.
This happened seemingly instantaneously, with few of its loudest acolytes having been there for the show from the beginning and fans (like me), who actually watched the show from the beginning, being forced into the position of becoming those annoying people who go on and on about how they were into such and such band since way before they were popular.
So it’s perhaps appropriate that the media buzz for this milestone has been muted. As EntertainmentTell editor Stephen Silver points out it was Maxim, not some more high-toned publication, that ran a (quite good) oral history of the show to commemorate the occasion. Their lead perfectly captures the irony of the way The Wire is talked about now versus the way it was received then:
Ten years ago this month, The Wire premiered on HBO and… almost nobody cared. The Baltimore saga of cops and dealers, junkies and politicians, poverty and hope, polarized critics, was ignored by the Emmys, constantly struggled for ratings and faced cancellation more than once. But it also inspired a future President, created a bona fide American folk hero, and helped launch the current “Golden Age” of television.
The occasion has also been marked by a somewhat halfhearted effort to get #TheWire10YearAnniversary trending on twitter which, tellingly, has seen a lot of organic participation from regular people and fan communities, but very little from big media types. Anthony Bourdain, A.O. Scott, and Mindy Kaling are the only twitter heavy hitters that have participated as far as I can tell.
The most entertaining commemoration of the anniversary so far is definitely “The Wire: The Musical with Michael Kenneth Williams,” a Funny or Die with Williams, Andre Royo, and Felicia “Snoop” Pearson reprising their roles from the series.
The Wire: The Musical with Michael Kenneth Williams [Funny or Die]