The Wire

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Wire TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Realistic drama about urban crime is not for kids.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show's characters and their actions are complex -- ranging from criminal to selfish to noble. Overall, despite its heavy, dark content, the show provides serious social commentary on the complex problems faced by inner cities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

While criminal behavior is treated as negative, those who are fighting crime aren't always ethically motivated. The characters and the actors who play them are a diverse group.


Frequent scenes of people being murdered. Guns and other weapons are visibly used to cause bodily harm. There are also recurring discussions of violent acts as related to criminal investigations. Lots of gang-related fighting (including punching and kicking) resulting in bodily harm. Children engage in disruptive behavior in and outside of school.


Strong sexual content, including nudity. Explicit, gratuitous remarks about sex and sexual activity are frequent.


Very strong language, including the continual use of "f--k" and other swear words. The swearing is often gratuitous.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug trafficking is prominently discussed and sometimes visible, thought it's presented within context (drug dealing is a major theme of the show). Both adults and minors drink and use tobacco products.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this dark, mature series offers a very realistic representation of urban crime and the other problems that affect inner cities (but, unfortunately, offers few solutions). It constantly deals with gang violence, drug trafficking, and murder and frequently criticizes law enforcement and government agencies. It also contains extremely strong language and some nudity -- all of which makes it strictly for adults only.

Wondering if The Wire is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBalloutkid November 14, 2011


Growing up and going to High school in Baltimore City when this show premiered it was inescapable. I did not immediately realize it at the time but this show ta... Continue reading
Parent of a 1 and 4-year-old Written bykcgunesq December 16, 2011

6 out of 5 Stars - but not for children

I won't offer a long review, as there are many elsewhere praising the outstanding series. The Wire is quite possibly the best television series (albeit pay... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byMovieAddictionz March 12, 2017

The best show on HBO has violence, sex, swearing.

The best show tied with Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones is fantastic. It's about heroin and urban crime so it's obviously very violent, the language... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byInvalidReviews2017 March 31, 2017

The best but violent crime drama for adults only!

This is one of my favourite shows on my top 10 list, Breaking Bad is still number 1. I don't mean to be harsh, but this is not a teen show. Let's star... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE WIRE is an award-winning drama that powerfully addresses many of the complex issues plaguing America's inner cities, presents a gritty, realistic interpretation of urban life, and underscores the idea that urban crime is a product of both a socially and politically flawed society. The show centers on the Baltimore police department's ability to access criminal organizations through the use of electronics and wiretap surveillance. The series looks at government and law enforcement's inability to "win the war" against drugs, gangs, racism, poverty, and political corruption. Boasting a large ensemble cast -- including Lance Reddick as Lt. Cedric Daniels, Dominic West as Detective Jimmy McNulty, and Wood Harris as drug lord Avon Barksdale -- The Wire's cops and criminals aren't simply "good guys" and "bad guys," but multifaceted individuals struggling to survive and succeed in a world with its own set of values and rules of justice. Meanwhile, the members of Baltimore's political circle -- including Mayor Clarence V. Royce (Glynn Turman) and Councilman Thomas Carcetti (Aiden Gillen) -- negotiate both the law and the streets.

Is it any good?

While The Wire takes a much-needed critical look at the social problems and institutional ineffectiveness of urban America, it fails to offer gratifying solutions to those problems. But in many ways that's actually the strength of this unflinchingly violent, realistic show; its straightforward, uncomfortable portrayal of America's urban crisis makes the issues facing urban America difficult to forget.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the realities of living in an urban area. Are all inner-city communities affected by drug trafficking and violent crime? What causes these problems? Are there any effective solutions?

  • While the media typically highlights drug-related crimes in urban areas, do these problems also impact other types of communities?

  • Issues surrounding race and class can also be discussed.

TV details

For kids who love stories with an edge

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate