The Wire is an American crime drama television series set and produced in Baltimore, Maryland. Created and primarily written by author and former police reporter David Simon, the series was broadcast by the cable network HBO in the United States. The Wire premiered on June 2, 2002, and ended on March 9, 2008, comprising 60 episodes over five seasons.
Each season of The Wire introduces a different institution in the city of Baltimore and its relationship to law enforcement, while retaining characters and advancing storylines from previous seasons. The five subjects are, in chronological order: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, education and schools, and the print news media. The large cast consists mainly of actors who are little known for their other roles, as well as numerous real-life Baltimore and Maryland figures in guest and recurring roles. Simon has said that despite its framing as a crime drama, the show is "really about the American city, and about how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed."
The Wire is lauded for its literary themes, its singular acute exploration of society and politics, and its realistic portrayal of urban life. The show received average Nielsen ratings throughout its run and won no major television awards. However, it is regarded by many critics as one of the greatest television series of all time.