Hollywood Flashback: Now a Classic, 'The Wire' Was Overlooked by the Emmys

The Wire Still - Photofest - H 2019
Courtesy of Photofest

The acclaimed David Simon-created show ran for five seasons and didn't receive so much as one award: "The theory among HBO executives was it was an East Coast show and the Emmy voters were in L.A."

For a series many call the greatest ever, The Wire didn't get much love from the Emmys. The David Simon-created HBO production ran for five seasons, from 2002 to 2008, and didn't receive so much as one award. And it got only two Emmy nominations, both for writing.

In retrospect, it's hard to imagine a series with Idris Elba as a main character never receiving an acting nom.

The show also got nada from the Golden Globes. (Season four did win best dramatic series from the Writers Guild, and in 2009 the show won a Directors Guild award.)

"The theory among HBO executives was it was an East Coast show and the Emmy voters were in L.A.," says David Baldwin, HBO's executive vp program planning at the time. "It was a tough, no punches pulled, don't-talk-down-to-the-audience show: Have the viewers come up to understanding what it was about."

And though there were many critics who loved the show, The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer wasn't one of them. THR said The Wire "presents characters largely devoid of conscience or compassion who are guided mainly by ambition or expedience."

And that was just the cops. As for the criminals, they were "a group so brutal, they make Tony Soprano's clan look like the Waltons." (The Wire did show a gritty side of Baltimore, more in line with the picture President Trump has been painting in his recent tweet war with Rep. Elijah Cummings, and a long way from the happy town John Waters presented in Hairspray.)

The Wire's plots usually revolved around police and drug dealing, but the show was as much about corrupt, stagnant bureaucracy as it was about crime.

And politics is something that clearly gets under Simon's skin. In 2018, he was suspended from Twitter for wishing a Trump supporter would "die of a slow moving venereal rash that settles in your lying throat."

Simon's latest HBO series is The Deuce, which also has never received an Emmy nomination.


This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.