Real-Life Politics Could Have Shut Down The Wire After Season 1

The greatest key to the success of HBO's "The Wire" is the fact that... Well, there's no single key to its success. The acclaimed and wide-ranging series always rejected the temptation of easy labels, which would've diminished everything that creator David Simon meant for the provocative series to encompass. To say that "The Wire" is about systemic police corruption, political grandstanding, the so-called war on drugs, the burden of journalists to report the news responsibly, and the marginalization of the most vulnerable in the Black community still doesn't do justice to what all five seasons accomplished when taken as a whole — despite each season's specific and unique focus.

But perhaps more than any of its other concerns, "The Wire" always made sure to bring things back to the political quagmire of trying to enact meaningful change in a bureaucracy as resistant to change as Baltimore. In that light, perhaps it's distressingly fitting that the show almost found itself cut down at the knees before it ever really got going ... all because of agendas, cold feet, and political hemming and hawing. What else? Incredibly enough, this very real-world snafu eerily foreshadows a similar development in later seasons of "The Wire," as well.

'He wanted to be out of The Wire business'

As a former Baltimore-based journalist who incorporated much of his experience on the streets into his work on "The Wire," creator, executive producer, head writer, and showrunner David Simon was perhaps the most fitting choice to transform "The Wire" into one of the most renowned and influential shows of all time. Obviously, an inevitable consequence of this series meant that the city itself would have to be painted in an unfavorable light, which would be a self-inflicted political blunder for any politician attempting to run for office in Baltimore. One particular mayor, as it turns out, almost prevented "The Wire" from becoming what it was meant to be.

While celebrating the show's 20th anniversary earlier this year, Simon joined CinemaBlend for a video interview to discuss the overarching impact of the series. At around the five-minute mark, the creator is asked about the story of how the show almost came to an end after just one season thanks to a wishy-washy Baltimore mayor who originally encouraged the production to shoot in and around Baltimore ... until further political ambitions caused him to change his mind. According to Simon:

"After season one, the mayor said he wanted to be out of 'The Wire' business. And the problem was, before season one, before we even shot the pilot, I actually went to that mayor and said, 'Look. This can be any Rust Belt city. I could stage this in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Cleveland, you know? It just needs to be a post-industrial city that's struggling with the same problems.' And I actually went to lunch with him to talk about it, and he said, 'Oh, no, no, bring it here, we want the TV work.' I say, 'You sure?' 'Yeah, sure.'"

'He wanted us to stop, basically'

Politicians going back on their word? It's a tale as old as time and, ironically, it came this close to sinking production of "The Wire." In a twist that resembles the arc of weaselly politician Thomas Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) in the series, whose concern for the plight of Baltimore's residents begins and ends with how much he can use it to climb the rungs of the political ladder, Simon describes the frustrating experience of dealing with the petty logistics of it all:

"Cut to a year and a half later, he's running for governor, or wanted to run for governor at the time. And he looked upon this very blunt show that was critiquing the drug war, harshly, as an albatross. And I don't know what he wanted us to do. He wanted us to stop, basically. And I said, 'Well, okay, we'll go shoot this in Philly. But I have a season, I can't suddenly make them Philadelphia police. We started the story, remember, I had lunch with you?' And eventually, upon realizing that we were gonna make it anyway, because we had started and we were gonna try to finish it, and that the filming money would go to another city, he relented."

It's certainly possible that Simon and his writing team used this memory as direct inspiration for their portrayal of politicians throughout the series, namely Carcetti, but fortunately this close call remains firmly in the realm of what-ifs. Viewers can thank their lucky stars that common sense and reason eventually won out, allowing "The Wire" to take its place as one of the greatest shows to ever air.