Best Police TV Shows -The Wire

This article is written as an answer to a question in the Answers section by JKenny.

The question was "Who is your favourite character in the drama show, The Wire?"

The first time I watched it, I only understood half of the dialogue, it was made up of a smattering of Anglo Saxon (yes, the F words, the S word and even, shock horror, the C word!!!), English, Hispanic and street speak.

It looked like something shady was going on and the police were trying to stop it and we all wanted to understand what all of this language we didn't understand meant.

We wanted to know about these places which looked like housing estates with lots of tower blocks that people lived in, having sofas to sit on outside in their yards.

So this introduction to the seedier side of Baltimore hooked us in immediately and some of these people looked absolutely ruthless. But then the programme introduced us to the good guys.

The Wire's co-writer David Simon
The Wire's co-writer David Simon
Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West
Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West

Introducing Jimmy McNulty

Jimmy McNulty (played by an Englishman, Dominic West) is an Irish American detective who is a good looking guy with a huge chip on his shoulder about authority.

He doesn't like authority and he doesn't pretend to like it.

McNulty tells it like it is. He is a plain speaking, anti-authority, heavy drinking, foul mouthed cop who is admired and loved by his colleagues and roundly despised by his superiors.

And yet for all his obvious flaws, McNulty is a clever cop. He figures out how the bad guys think. His gift is his ability to get onto the streets and talk to them in their own language but he is such a hot head. He only ever seems to get so far, he is a flawed hero.

You will like Jimmy McNulty because he is a real man - good and bad all rolled into one. He'll drive you mad but he'll also make you cheer for him as well.

Bunk | Source
Kima | Source
Cedric Daniels
Cedric Daniels | Source
Ellis Carver
Ellis Carver
'Herc' Hauk
'Herc' Hauk | Source

Bunk Moreland, Kima Greggs, Cedric Daniels, Ellis Carver and Herc Hauk - Good Cops/Bad Cops

Bunk Moreland will both intrigue and disgust you. He is Jimmy McNulty's partner in Homicide but is a serial adulterer and also possibly an alcoholic. There are many scenes of him and Jimmy finishing their working day on waste ground drinking beers one after another whilst resting on their car hoods. Moreland vomits a lot - he is a man who urinates all over himself in one episode and yet, in spite of his alcoholism, he works hard and understands how to work the system to get what the squad needs.

Oh yeah, don't watch The Wire if you're easily offended. It is nothing if not controversial.

The Wire is based on real life Baltimore police officers and on real crime in Baltimore at the time. It pulls no punches and may well have done Baltimore a disservice in tourist terms but all cities have their darker sides and The Wire is all about Baltimore's darkness.

Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn) is a lesbian police officer who fights as hard as the men but she has a settled home life and although she socialises with McNulty and Moreland, she is not in their league as a drinker. She is an exceptional officer who is respected by her colleagues and has worked hard to win their respect. The main female in the squad, she is often caught between the guys, splitting up arguments and occasionally saving McNulty's life in one way or another.

Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick) becomes the commanding officer of this motley crew and he is a good man who is overshadowed by a storm brewing in his financial life. At first he is seen as an interloper by Rawls but he proves to be a competent commander who places his trust in his squads' instincts and wins through in the end after a hard slog.

Ellis Carver (Seth Gilliam) is one half of the Carver and Herc double act. Both cops are gung ho, though Carver is the calmer side and Herc is the slightly crazier one. The great thing about Carver is that in spite of not getting off to a great start as a cop, he does mature during the series and is quite a different officer by the final series. he is not above being involved in some small time illegalities, using his status as a police officer to excuse his behaviour.

Herc Hauk (Domenick Lombardozzi) is the big, bruising cop who goes in with his fists first and then asks questions later. He wears a Boston Red Sox cap and is the rough half of the double act. He can get carried away at times and doesn't mind breaking the rules to get what the squad needs.

Lester Freamon, plated by Clarke Peters - the best guy in the squad.
Lester Freamon, plated by Clarke Peters - the best guy in the squad. | Source

And The Missing Piece of The Puzzle - Lester Freamon

My favourite character in The Wire is Lester Freamon. Lester Freamon is played by the wonderful Clarke Peters.

Why do I like him best?

Wow, Lester Freamon is so smart! In this whole squad, he is the most thoughtful officer of them all. He is the link between all of the squad. He is the one they all turn to when things get too difficult to understand.

All of the business about telephone tapping, mobile hacking and bugs is Lester Freamon's bread and butter. He understands the way humans interact.

He watches the movements and interactions of Avon Barksdale's crew around the tenement blocks and his mind understands how the communication works.

Lester Freamon is only part of this squad because he's been demoted from another squad for coercing a fence to lie under testimony and he pays the price with a desk job for over a decade.

This talented, clever, committed man has basically been forgotten by everyone who matters and he is sent to Cedric Daniels to make up the numbers when Daniels complains that he needs extra hands.

How wonderful for audiences that we get Lester Freamon as the only 'functional' part of Daniel's dysfunctional 'family'. Freamon can go for a beer with the guys and he goes home after his beer. He has no deep secrets or strange problems.

In spite of himself, he becomes like the wise mentor to the other members of the squad and best of all, he understands that the best way to get Avon Barksdale is prison is to infiltrate the criminals means of communication. Lester listens to and recognises all of the different voices and he starts making his grids on the walls. Soon he has a flow chart of who is connected to who and the squad get closer and closer to cracking the drugs gang wrecking the lives of the young people in the tenements.

So Lester Freamon (and Clarke Peters!) - is my favourite character in The Wire.

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Comments 18 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Jade, not sure why but I just got your comment! Many thanks for coming back and yes, I am also surprised at the lack of awards for writing, it was certainly on a par with The Sopranos.

Jade Evans profile image

Jade Evans 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I think it generally had low ratings and weak support from broadcasters everywhere, despite being critically acclaimed. Some suggest that it was just a bit too complicated to follow and the language was too difficult, as you mentioned. I guess even in my case, it did take a little effort to get into it and understand it, but then I was also totally addicted.

I still can't believe that the show never won any awards, especially for its writing....

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Jade, many thanks for your comment. I'm still astonished that none of the big British TV station have really done a hard sell on The Wire. It was buried away on satellite TV channel FX then I think BBC2 showed it but at something like 11:30 at night. You're right about its layering, tight storylines and complex characters - once I'd gotten my head around the Baltimore street speak, I was addicted!

Jade Evans profile image

Jade Evans 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I love this show, think it's one of the best TV series in history. It took me a couple of episodes to get into it, but once I did I was totally blown away. Impeccably written, powerful thematic layering and complex characters.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

tirelesstraveler, it is well worth a look but be prepared for the street speak - we watched the first episode and didn't understand much of it but we were intrigued enough to keep watching, so glad we did.

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

Interesting. Have never seen the wire, but it looks interesting.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

JKenny, thanks for your comment. Yes, Marlo is bad news but he was one of the Wire's best characters!

JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

Hi Jools, thanks for answering my question. I'm currently working my way through all 5 seasons, I've just started watching the fifth, and I tell you what, that Marlo Stansfield is one nasty piece of work, he makes Barksdale and Stringer look like pussy cats. Voted up.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

You are very kind, this will save me a lot of browsing :)

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Flora, thanks for the heads up, I'll have a look in Answers later on. after work. Many thanks for dropping by.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Here is a link to Simey's latest question that fits your series on Brit TV:

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 4 years ago

Hey-SimeyC has recently asked some questions -today- in the q&A section about British TV. I thought you might be able to answer them for the contest. I have not seen The Wire, sorry.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

pcmccray, you will enjoy it if you allow yourself to just be carried along for an episode or two, it is a very, very gritty, urban crime drama. I highly recommend it. Thanks for your comment.

pmccray profile image

pmccray 4 years ago from Utah

You know I pride myself on watching all there is about crime drama and never even glimpsed once at this show. Will watch the re-runs thanks for sharing.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Rob, Idris was definitely my favourite of the bad guys! And I'm looking forward to seeing him in Prometheus when it comes out. He has a certain intensity. I was heartbroken when he got killed in The Wire, but it was inevitable! Thanks, as always for your kind comments.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

This show is where I first saw Idris Elba,who played Stringer Bell. I think he's one of the finest actors on televsion. If you've ever seen him in "Luther" (which I think is the best cop drama on TV) you can see how talented he is. He won a Golden Globe for his performance.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Bob, The Wire is a U.S. production and you would never know that Dominic West was a Brit, he seems as American as Apple Pie in this show. I heartily recommend The Wire but be prepared, it takes a few episodes for you to be able to understand the criminals, they all seem to speak in street speak and it all sounded garbled to me but I'm glad I persevered, it was fantastic. First series and third series brilliant, second series not as good I thought.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Is this a British production? They are generally unwatchable, but I am prejudiced I admit.

I have loved many US cop shows, but the Brits are awful with their forelock-touching and sheer nastiness. We seem to be exporting nasty Brits at the momeny: Cowell, Brand, Gervasis, I don't know why the cousins put up with it.


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