The Wire is a show that somehow managed to pass much of the world by, scoring mediocre ratings and earning little acclaim. Yet hindsight is a beautiful thing, and the crime saga is now something of a measuring stick to which all great television series are compared.
Since The Wire left the air in 2008, the blistering and brutal look at Baltimore and its drug trade has been raised into the levels of legendary. The Wire is, to many, the greatest television series to ever grace the screen, and its impact, and more importantly, its influence can be felt in a number of top-tier TV shows.
10True Detective Is A Truly Top-Notch Crime Series
Since Oz aired and showed the world just how good an HBO series could get, fans have held high expectations for anything attached to the iconic trio of letters. The Wire set a gold standard for crime dramas and yet the first season of True Detective came along and arguably surpassed it.
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson combined to make one of the most fascinating cop duos in screen history. Nic Pizzolatto created a monster with True Detective, and though it may not have maintained the same standards as its initial season, this is one series worthy of standing side by side with The Wire.
9Gomorrah Is Essentially The Italian Version Of The Wire
Roberto Saviano’s crime saga is one of the absolute best when it comes to shows influenced by The Wire. Gomorrah is Ciro’s story, and Marco D’Amore’s character must do everything he can to survive whilst jumping through the increasingly dangerous hoops of Italy’s criminal underworld.
Gomorrah is filled with the usual shockingly violent twists and emotional turns that are expected in a serial drama focused on mob life. For some, the subtitles may be a barrier, but behind them is one of the most highly acclaimed crime series on TV.
8Peaky Blinders Is The Peak Of British Television Series
A show with such a stronghold on pop culture that its influence can be easily be seen in modern fashion, Peaky Blinders, along with its flat-cap wearing stars, has managed to garner an astonishing amount of accolades throughout its 5 seasons so far.
This British period piece is overflowing with talent, including screen stars Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Adrien Brody, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Helen McCrory. Even though 1920s England is a world away from Maryland in the early 2000s, Peaky Blinders has more than enough gruesome glimpses at gang culture to match up to HBO’s classic.
7Breaking Bad Is The Ultimate Contender For Greatest Crime Series Ever
Vince Gilligan’s phenomenal series about a dying man who transforms himself into a drug kingpin in order to fund his family also transformed a sitcom stalwart into a heavyweight Hollywood talent. Bryan Cranston is now rightly seen as one of the greats of his generation, and Breaking Bad is the reason why.
The Wire may have broken ground for the crime series that followed it, but none have ever outgrown the genre to the extent of Breaking Bad. A pop culture powerhouse, every episode of this incredible series felt like an event.
6Narcos Is Devastation & Drug Warfare Dialed Up To Eleven
Offering the familiar perspectives of both the drug lords and those that seek to stop them, this Netflix series remarkably manages to feel like a South American version of The Wire at times. Narcos is both visually beautiful and impressively well-acted. The likes of Pedro Pascal and Wagner Moura are breathtaking to watch in the crime drama.
The latter’s performance as the incomparable Pablo Escobar earned him a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination. Small screen cartel clashes don’t come much more thrilling than those featured in Narcos.
5Justified Is A Highly Acclaimed Western Take On The Crime Drama Series
If you like your American crime stories with a little cowboy flair, Justified is sure to satisfy. Another rock-solid, hard-hitting drama series with a focus on law enforcement, Justified earned rightful comparisons to HBO hits like Deadwood and The Wire during its hugely successful run.
If you were to imagine The Wire but set in the Appalachian mountains of Eastern Kentucky with Timothy Olyphant, Margo Martindale, and Walton Goggins putting in awe-inspiring performances, you aren’t going to be too far off from this FX western.
4Mad Men Is A Fascinating Slice Of The ’60s
Rather than being a deep dive into the drug trade, AMC’s period drama is all about the outrageous world of advertising agencies. Set during the 1960s, Mad Men captured the essence of the time and earned heaps of praise for its historical accuracy.
The Wire kickstarted the 2000s’ golden age of television, yet Mad Men is arguably the peak of it. 16 Emmys and 5 Golden Globes are all the evidence needed to back up the claim. It may not look at all like the bad streets of Baltimore, but Don Draper’s story is just as fascinating as Stringer Bell’s.
3Line Of Duty Is The BBC’s Answer To The Wire
In general, British TV may still have some catching up to do to the US when it comes to serial dramas, but the BBC series Line of Duty has made incredible strides in closing the gap in recent years. Regarded as one of the greatest crime shows to ever emerge from the UK, Jed Mercurio’s police procedural has amassed an eye-watering amount of accolades since it first aired in 2012.
Even those largely unfamiliar with British media will undoubtedly recognize much of the acting talent on display in Line of Duty. Stephen Graham, The Walking Dead’s Lennie James, and Thandiwe Newton all star in the series.
2Boardwalk Empire Is Prohibition Era Perfection
With Boardwalk Empire being another home run from Home Box Office, the similarities between it and The Wire are to be expected. The two shows share a similar level of quality, which is of course an impressive achievement on its own for Boardwalk Empire, yet the Steve Buscemi series managed to attain a staggering 57 Emmy award nominations in its 4-year run.
The show is set in Atlantic City during the prohibition era. Boardwalk Empire is immersive, enthralling, and features what is perhaps the finest acting performance of the legendary Steve Buscemi’s career.
1The Shield & The Wire Went Head To Head & Understandably Influenced Each Other
With both The Shield and The Wire debuting in 2002 and running until 2008, the shows were essentially competing with each other for the best crime series on TV. The Shield arguably won the battle at the time, as The Wire never really set the world alight ratings-wise, but David Simon’s HBO series won the war.
The Wire is now regarded by many as the greatest crime show ever made, but The Shield is not far behind. An exceptionally well-made look at police corruption, this drama from Shawn Ryan was almost certainly influenced by The Wire during its run. Although given the quality of this series, it’s just as likely that The Wire took a few pages out of The Shield’s book in turn.