4. Season One
Being the first season, the creative team were still finding their feet, so the first run of The Wire is a little less ambitious than the show would later become. It is, at this point, a crime show. Granted, even in the early episodes it’s still better than just about any cop drama you’ve seen, but The Wire only improves as the writers expand their focus outwards.
The Wire rewards patience, and it’s not too hard to understand why some people are put off in the early run. You’re met with a lot of characters all at once, and David Simon is not someone for hand holding.
Still, there’s loads to enjoy in the debut season. Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale are characters we’ve seen before on TV, but rarely have drug dealers been drawn in such detail, and with such believability.
In general, the gritty, uncompromising style, bolstered by the real life experiences of David Simon and Ed Burns (whose backgrounds are in crime reporting and the police respectively), puts it way above most TV shows of the time (and of the present).