HBO said it ordered a fifth season of gritty urban drama The Wire, even as the fourth season is on the air amid heaps of critical acclaim.
The hour-long drama -- with dark plot lines revolving around the drug trade, law enforcement, politics and, this year, public education in Baltimore -- has seemingly been in danger of cancellation for the past two seasons due to relatively low audience numbers.
David Simon, the show’s co-creator, had vowed to write a fifth season’s worth of episodes and make them into a novel if HBO didn’t renew the show, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The Sun said Tuesday that “the ratings Sunday for the season-four premiere -- 1.53 million -- were only slightly better than those of season three, when cancellation seemed imminent -- an average of 1.49 million. But looking at The Wire's critical acclaim and at technology that allows the series to be marketed in new ways, HBO sees a series worth renewing.”
HBO has been airing current episodes of The Wire early on HBO On Demand and doing things like selling downloads of songs that appear on the show or that are chosen by actors on it.
The network took note of some of the fourth-season critical praise in a press release announcing the renewal. “The New York Times said the show ‘is the closest that moving pictures have come so far to the depth and nuance of the novel.’ Daily Variety observed, ‘When television history is written, little else will rival The Wire,’ hailing the show for its ‘extraordinary depth and ambition.’ Entertainment Weekly called the series ‘a staggering achievement,’ while TheWashington Post described it as ‘electrifying and disturbing … a gripping saga’ and the New York Post termed it ‘the single finest piece of work ever produced for American TV.’”
HBO Entertainment president Carolyn Strauss said in the release, "We are delighted -- though not surprised -- at the initial critical response to the new season of The Wire. David Simon and his remarkable team have created a riveting and thought-provoking series that's unlike anything else on TV."
The release did not say when the fifth “and final” season would join HBO’s schedule. The subject matter next time will extend to “the role of mass media” in Baltimore. The current season started Sept. 10 and has 13 episodes.
Simon, a former Sun reporter, said in the release: "The last question we want to ask is this: For four seasons, we have depicted that part of urban America that has been left behind by the economy and by the greater society and chronicled entrenched problems that have gone without solution for generations now. Why? What is it that we see and sense about these problems? To what are we giving attention, and what is it that we consistently ignore? How do we actually see ourselves?"