The Wire TV Poster Image

The Wire

Realistic drama about urban crime is not for kids.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Premiere date:June 2, 2002
Cast:Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Wood Harris
Networks:BET, HBO, Syndicated
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:DVD

This review of The Wire was written by

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byyuigy March 1, 2013

A masterpiece but definitely not for children.

I think this is possibly the best show ever created for TV or film. It is incredibly real depiction of the industrial decay that effects many manufacturing cities and serves as an excellent metaphor for the class inequities in our country. However, I would not recommend it for children under 16. If your 16 year old or teen has a high level of sophistication then it would provide a great learning opportunity and discussion material about drugs, crime, and poverty. My son is 10 and I am looking forward to having such a discussion when he is older.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 14 years old Written byRyan Peter May 26, 2014
I'm pretty sure basically every review I've ever written for CSM was a joke, but I'm angry about this. First off I watched this when I was 12, and it's still my favorite. What do you mean "No positive messages or role models"? Omar may be a robber, but he robs drug dealers and gives to those who need. D'Angel may have started out bad but he came to regret what his life had become, and tried to change. Wallace tried to leave the life he had been brought into, but was overcome by the desire to live a life he believed to be normal. The police are portrayed badly because sometimes they are! They're given too much power and they abuse it by accident. McNulty and that one dude with the hair (I don't learn their names if any of them could die,) both want nothing but justice and have become seemingly terrible people simply because they don't want to become immoral. The list goes on, and if you don't get it, don't watch it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
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 television) ever made. That said, it is definitely not for all but the oldest, suitably mature children. The primary problem for children between roughly 12 and 16 is the occasional graphic (R-rated) sex. The second major issue for young teens, is that this series presents really complex social problems while recognizing/implying that no good solutions exist.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking