'The Wire' Never Won an Emmy Award

Dramatic TV shows have come a long way in the past few decades. Audiences have come to expect sophisticated storytelling and compelling narratives more than ever before. One show that set this bar high for fans over its five seasons was The Wire. Fans were hooked on its dramatic and tense exploration of the crime world and the deeper world of social politics. Despite being beloved by audiences and acclaimed by critics, however, The Wire never could quite clinch the award recognition that some thought it deserved.

Despite its popularity, The Wire struggled

The Wire has received widespread critical praise and is widely regarded as one of the great dramas in TV history. While fans and critics reviewed it highly during its run, it didn’t pay off the way HBO might have liked. The show struggled massively in Nielsen ratings compared to other shows of the genre. Show creator David Simon blamed the low ratings on a poor time slot and particularly complicated themes and storylines.

It got bad enough that the show was continually at risk. Simon told Entertainment Weekly in a 2012 interview, “The Wire was canceled after season 3, and The Wire was nearly canceled again.” HBO didn’t want to complete Simon’s vision for the series, but he eventually convinced them, “I had to grovel and beg and plead — after season 4.”

Snubbed at the Emmys

The Wire was a massive historical milestone in TV, yet the show’s crew were never awarded an Emmy for their work. The Wire was nominated twice, both for “Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series,” yet never won. In 2008, the Mad Men pilot episode took home the award, and in 2005 House won the honor. The fact that The Wire only received two nominations in its five-year run is a little confusing for a show that was groundbreaking and beloved on so many levels. The Wire pushed the envelope and explored new ways to create dramatic television, and the creators were frustrated that it couldn’t seem to translate that to award success.

Simon received pressure to produce tangible results for the show, and he had little other than high praise in reviews. “I can’t wave around Nielsen ratings and I can’t wave around Emmy Awards when I want to get these stories told.” He said in a speech while accepting the 2010 MacArthur Genius Award, according to the Baltimore Sun. He continued expressing appreciation of the honor, and how it would improve his arguments with networks for not compromising great TV for increased profits, “An award like this gives us more gravitas. It gives us a little more currency.”

The Wire’s legacy

The Wire ended its legendary run on HBO in 2008 with the conclusion of its fifth season. Even after over a decade, it remains a relevant force in pop culture and is still beloved by critics and fans alike. For a show that dealt with contemporary urban social issues, which can very easily feel dated after a short time, it’s a testament to the show’s quality craftsmanship that it still maintains a 94% rating from critics and a 97% rating from viewers on Rotten Tomatoes. The Wire will likely be regarded as foundational and groundbreaking TV for years to come.

New fans will continue to discover and enjoy its compelling drama and complex social themes despite how close the show was to cancellation. According to IMDb, the show has been lauded with a huge number of awards even if it could never win an Emmy. With their work standing up to the test of time so far, Simon and others who worked on The Wire shouldn’t be too worried about being snubbed by the Emmys. The Wire‘s legacy as one of the great TV shows in history seems pretty clear.

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