Not many shows receive the kind of acclaim that HBO’s The Wire garnered during its five-season stint, with some critics touting it as the best show on television — ever.
During its run, which wrapped in March, the series became an allegorical tale of 21st-century societal decline, exploring everything from the failed war on drugs and the deterioration of public schools to the exploitation of the media. It won a Peabody Award and Entertainment Weekly called it “a masterpiece.”
Still, for all its acclaim, The Wire, which debuted on HBO in 2002, has been nominated for an Emmy Award only once — for writing in 2005 — and lost.
With the writer’s strike throwing a wrench in the season, especially for new shows, The Wire may now have its best shot at Emmy recognition.
And, as an Academy spokesperson pointed out, shows at the end of their runs do tend to get special notice from Emmy voters.
Variety TV critic Brian Lowry noted, Academy voters “clearly have, for whatever reason — and probably a combination of reasons — blind spots when it comes to The Wire.”
The show is incredibly dense and difficult to appreciate, based on the one season’s worth of episodes from which Emmy voters are to judge. Second, it was shot in Baltimore — 3,000 miles away from Hollywood’s inner circle. It also has an enormous cast, some 30-plus principals, who are mostly black.
“I certainly wouldn’t put it on the top of the list, but race is certainly an issue,” said Lowry.
Series creator David Simon has long asserted that the Academy’s color-blindness can be attributed to the snubs. Simon is now so fed up he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore, declining several interview requests for this story.
The year Simon and George Pelecanos were nominated for writing on the series, he argued that “innumerable white viewers, many of them in the Academy … see that many African-American faces and say: It’s not for me.”
Variety’s Lowry offered: “The Wire is the [Sen. Barack] Obama [presidential] candidacy as a television show: Educated people and a core African-American audience … that’s very much the breakdown for The Wire.” (According to TV Guide, it’s the Illinois Democrat’s favorite show.)
Still, NAACP Image Award voters — or, for that matter, the Golden Globe Awards — haven’t been any more giving than the Emmys.
“You would think we’d have a shot at the NAACP Image Awards and we’ve never won any of those,” said author and Wire staff writer Rafael Alvarez.
As Emmy ballot season approaches, HBO is sending out DVD box sets featuring selected episodes from its roster of series, including the The Wire.
“We are trying to be equally loving with all of our children, and hoping that The Wire gets attention — as with a number of our shows that we hope Emmy voters will recognize,” said a diplomatic Michael Lombardo, president of the HBO programming group and West Coast operations.
“But, look, it’s a bit of a heartbreaker with The Wire. It is such a good show,” Lombardo added. “I think the recognition for David Simon and the people that work on the show would be fantastic.”