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The Wire

The benefits of 'The Wire'

The benefits of 'The Wire'

The typical response to the question we've all heard — "Is Baltimore just like 'The Wire'?" — is a defensive lecture on the merits of our fine city and the damage "The Wire" has done to our reputation. But has it really? I would argue that the television series is actually more helpful than harmful, something I learned teaching a class based on it.

"The Wire" first aired on HBO almost 15 years ago, and it has enjoyed an afterlife and fan base far greater than its original viewership. It is often hailed as "the greatest TV show ever made," as indicated by a recent event at Columbia University in New York, where I joined a group of...