The Wire and Baltimore

      David Simon’s masterpiece “The Wire” remains a fascinating cultural phenomenon.  Much to the chagrin of many city officials, the HBO show has become quite synonymous with the city.  Often it is people’s first impression of Baltimore itself.  Interestingly though, very few people have actually seen it.  David Simon in a recent interview with The New York Times stated that the number of viewers “continued to decline from Season 2 on.” (Simon)  Of course, through DVD sales and word of mouth the number of new Wire fans continues to grow.  “The Wire” seems to have another life as an idea of what Baltimore is in addition to the television program. Often, it is people’s first association with Baltimore and forms a first impression.  In that way, it has become a part of the narrative of the city, whether officials want this or not.  The characters and the stories are now apart of the story of Baltimore.  They are engrained within the city as much as real historical figures from our past.  Omar, for instance is a Baltimore icon.  His fictional status is irrelevant.  The Wire was able to accomplish this, although it may have been entirely unintentional by fusing reality and fiction in a way never done to that extent before.  A large aspect of this was due to the on location filming that made the neighborhoods featured in the show characters themselves.

            A popular phenomenon online has been “Wire Tours.”  The landmarks featured in the show have become destinations for visitors to explore.  This has created of course some controversy.  In some cases these kinds of ‘tours’ have been of areas specifically impacted by disasters such as Post Katrina New Orleans The Baltimore City Paper reported in 2006 “disaster tours in particular have drawn complaints of exploitation and disrespect from some residents.” (Dechter)  in addition, the problems of crime are rampant in these neighborhoods.  If people see firsthand the devastation that poverty has caused to these communities, however, they are more likely to try to do something about it and this may spur social activism.  Therefore if anyone attempts to explore these neighborhoods they must keep certain factors in mind.  They must be sure not to be exploitative or as the Production Designer of The Wire explained, they should not “attempt to photograph anyone…. That’s the height of rudeness.” (Peranio, Dechter)  In addition, they should heed David Simon’s point

“I’m not sure that a tour of Baltimore’s hardest-hit-streets- for the sake of tourism- is a particular healthy response to viewing The Wire.  Not to come off as smug or moralistic, but if folks have that much time and loose cash on their hands, they could volunteer some of it to addressing actual inner-city problems.” (Simon, Dechter)

Vince Peranio, the Production Designer of Homicide, The Corner, and The Wire, has found his career defined by his work on these shows.  Just as The Wire has defined the career of its location scout, so too has it defined the city which houses these spots.  Baltimore is the main character of “The Wire.”  Contrary to popular wisdom, however, it should not be viewed as insulting to the city.  In his interview with the New York Times, Simon stated that the character he loved writing the most in “The Wire” was “the city of Baltimore.” (Simon)  Although it portrays some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable in the United States, “The Wire” demonstrates a true love of Baltimore and its people.
Baltimore: The Wire locations, part one
Baltimore: The Wire locations, part two


Works Cited

Dechter, Gadi, David Simon, and Vince Peranio. “Baltimore City Paper.” Wish You Weren’t Here: A Guided Tour Of The Wire’s East Baltimore. 24 May 2006. Web. Apr. 2012. <;.

Egner, Jeremy, and David Simon. “The Game Never Ends: David Simon on Wearying Wire Love and the Surprising Usefulness of Twitter.” The New York Times. 5 Apr. 2012. Web. Apr. 2012. <;.


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