• Network: HBO
  • Series Premiere Date: Jun 2, 2002
Season #: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Metascore
79

Generally favorable reviews - based on 22 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 22
  2. Negative: 0 out of 22
  1. Reviewed by: Ken Tucker
    Jun 14, 2013
    100
    It's loose and rambling; its dramatic climaxes don't coincide neatly with the conclusion of any given episode. Its dialogue, overseen by creator David Simon ... is so good it often sounds improvised. One criticism of the show I've read is that it's repetitive (in showing the slow process of how the police bring down bad guys). But what those critics don't get is that those qualities are exactly what make 'The Wire' the funkiest cop show on TV.
  2. Reviewed by: Tim Goodman
    Apr 29, 2013
    100
    Stunningly great execution.
  3. Reviewed by: Steve Johnson
    Apr 29, 2013
    100
    Spellbinding...The Wire is compelling in its complexity, heart-rending in its humanity, and surprising in the ways it finds to spin the conventions of cop drama. [31 May 2002, p.4]
  4. Reviewed by: Howard Rosenberg
    Apr 29, 2013
    90
    A scorching look at the drug trade in a Baltimore housing project through the eyes of mid-level dealers and police. [31 May 2002, p.C1]
  5. Reviewed by: Tom Shales
    Apr 29, 2013
    90
    It's to the network's credit that it undertakes projects that aren't necessarily big crowd-pleasers but have a palpable artistic integrity and social significance. [1 June 2002, p.C01]
  6. Reviewed by: Mark Dawidziak
    Apr 29, 2013
    90
    Stark and disturbing, The Wire, like HBO's "Oz" and "The Sopranos," is not for those of tender sensibilities. It is often violent and vulgar. But, make no mistake, it is often brilliant. [1 June 2002, p.E6]
  7. Reviewed by: Mike McDaniel
    Apr 29, 2013
    90
    Their ear for dialogue is exceptional, and there's no doubt they know their characters. HBO is well aware, too, which is why the network left the authors to their work. [1 June 2002, p.9]
  8. Reviewed by: Glenn Garvin
    Apr 29, 2013
    90
    Telling its story from the perspectives of the police and the narcotraffickers, The Wire unfolds slowly, like an evil flower; more cerebral than slam-bang. At times it resembles a chess match as the adversaries plot moves and countermoves; at other times, a jigsaw puzzle, as the cops assemble a portrait of the gang from scraps of information. [1 June 2002, p.E1]
  9. Reviewed by: David Zurawik
    Apr 28, 2013
    90
    A well-crafted opening to a television drama is like an overture to a musical. To succeed, it must, however fleetingly, sound the major themes and melody of the piece, as well as suggesting its continuing sensibility. Tonight's opening is a great one. [2 June 2002, p.5E]
  10. Reviewed by: Robert Bianco
    Apr 29, 2013
    88
    While there are moments of overly arty chatter, the show's ability to create a believable sense of place is nothing short of astounding (as is its profanity). Much of the credit goes to an incredible cast, led by West, Sohn, Gilliard and Lance Reddick as McNulty's boss.
  11. Reviewed by: Terry Kelleher
    Jun 27, 2013
    83
    Early episodes can seem as static as a stakeout, and the viewer has a ton of information to absorb—much of it conveyed in obscenity-laced slang. But as we gradually get to know the players... The Wire grows electric.
  12. Reviewed by: Mike Duffy
    Apr 29, 2013
    80
    Though it's extremely well done, The Wire lacks the signature HBO kick of discovering something brand new, that giddy feeling of freshness that immediately attached itself to "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under." With The Wire, there's a less-exciting echo: Same old, same old. Been there, done that. [31 May 2002]
  13. Reviewed by: Steven Oxman
    Apr 29, 2013
    80
    This is a series that's all about the fine print, finding its most emotional moments not in violent confrontations between good guys and bad guys in the drug war, but in depicting the battles of bureaucrats. So while it's less original than genre-busting "The Sopranos," the ultrapensive "Six Feet Under" or the uninhibited "Sex and the City," "The Wire" is still sophisticated and significant television. [31 May 2002, p.12]
  14. Reviewed by: Matthew Gilbert
    Apr 29, 2013
    80
    The Wire is a cop drama from top to bottom. It does take a systemic view of the issue, like "Traffic," Steven Soderbergh's drug-trade saga. But it never sacrifices drama and character for lecture. [31 May 2002, p.E14]
  15. Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Apr 29, 2013
    75
    The Wire is by no means a worthless enterprise, and Episode 2 is an improvement over Sunday's comparatively off-putting premiere. It'll be tough to go the distance with this one, though, and far easier to look away. [1 June 2002, p.1C]
  16. Reviewed by: James Poniewozik
    Jun 28, 2013
    70
    It slowly develops into an engrossing look at the methodical nature of police work and the limits of individualism.
  17. Reviewed by: Amy Amatangelo
    Apr 29, 2013
    67
    This nebulous look at the blurry line between crime and the law is already being done better on FX's "The Shield." That series...is instantly more approachable and arresting. In The Wire, the characters' hazy morality is so ill-defined and sketchy that it's hard to care about them. West is a compelling lead, but his purpose and motivation aren't clear. He's a tough sell as the show's main protagonist. [1 June 2002, p.23]
  18. But the feeling here is that Simon may have dipped into his Baltimore crime well one too many times. Tonight's pilot episode, while intriguing in spots, is hampered by a convoluted tangle of multiple plot threads and numerous characters, most of whom seem to have no interesting wrinkles. Worse yet, the story moves at an annoyingly sluggish pace. [1 June 2002, p.4]
  19. Reviewed by: Neil Genzlinger
    Apr 28, 2013
    60
    The language is supposed to be realistic and maybe it is realistic, but it often feels self-conscious, like an overly thick Southern accent. That's too bad, because when Mr. Simon and Edward Burns, who are credited with the writing of the first five episodes, pull back a bit, they sometimes achieve a rough eloquence.
  20. Reviewed by: Adam Buckman
    Apr 29, 2013
    50
    The Wire looks and feels like an ordinary show from some other network that snuck on to the air while the HBO execs' backs were turned. [31 May 2002, p.122]
  21. Reviewed by: Rob Owen
    Apr 29, 2013
    50
    The Wire gives so little, it almost begs to be abandoned; then a scene or a smidgen of character development offers a hook that might keep viewers interested. But TV shows, no matter how complex or thought-provoking, shouldn't require that much work. [1 June 2002, p.B-6]
  22. Reviewed by: David Bianculli
    Apr 29, 2013
    40
    After watching five hours of preview tapes, I'm interested to see how The Wire turns out. But without characters to care for, much less root for, I'm not exactly burning with curiosity -- the way I am with most of HBO's other series...When it comes down to The Wire, this show falls short.
User Score
9.4

Universal acclaim- based on 456 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 55 out of 55
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 55
  3. Negative: 0 out of 55
  1. Dec 30, 2011
    10
    Why can't I say just say "best TV show ever" rather than having to type out 150 characters to just say "The Wire is the best TV show ever"?Why can't I say just say "best TV show ever" rather than having to type out 150 characters to just say "The Wire is the best TV show ever"? And, by the way, did I mention that The Wire is the best TV show ever. (Hope this is 150 characters!). :) Full Review »
  2. Jul 18, 2011
    10
    It's too bad this show didn't get more acclaim. Many of the actors were pulled from the streets of Baltimore which is just one aspect thatIt's too bad this show didn't get more acclaim. Many of the actors were pulled from the streets of Baltimore which is just one aspect that lends complete credibility to this show. The writing was impeccable and the actors unreal. I would recommend this show to anyone interested in a gritty-as-hell, true to life, intelligent, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always captivating drama. What up MARYLAND!!!? Full Review »
  3. Aug 21, 2010
    10
    I don't know how to state this better than the last reviewer. Quite simply, this is the best thing I've ever seen on television. I amI don't know how to state this better than the last reviewer. Quite simply, this is the best thing I've ever seen on television. I am currently watching all the episodes for the third time in about 3 years. I never tire of it. Something new is apparent each time I have seen it. The music, the acting (acting? It doesn't seem like acting!) You will laugh, you will cry, you will be outraged, .... just great stuff. I liked Homicide and NYPD Blue, but they are Hollywood drivel compared to The Wire. I wish there were more seasons to come. On the other hand.... it might dilute the sheer power of these 5 seasons. I am expecting the 5th season in 2 days. In the meantime I have to go cold turkey... no Wire. I will savor the last season one episode a day.... in the past I've done marathon sessions. . Full Review »