‘The Wire’: Season 3 Almost Inspired a Spinoff Series

It battled low ratings early in its run, but The Wire held on to become one of the most highly respected TV shows on American television.

Almost two decades since it ended, people still talk about the series and how well it was done. But it seems that there could have been even more of this world for fans to watch. Apparently, there was almost a spinoff of The Wire from the third season. What would the spinoff have been about, and why didn’t it happen? Here’s what we know. 

The unusual genius of ‘The Wire’

David Simon, creator of HBO series 'The Wire'
David Simon, creator of HBO series ‘The Wire’ | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival

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In 2002, HBO debuted a police drama. According to Cinema BlendThe Wire was set in Baltimore, and from the start it was obviously different from other cop shows. 

Creator David Simon approached the series from a different perspective than most Hollywood writers. As a journalist with a long career with The Baltimore Sun, he had a special insight into the city and its problems. Co-writer Ed Burns had been a homicide detective in Baltimore, and he brought a lot of unique expertise to the writing

“He did a lot of these protracted investigations, often of more than a year’s time, into violent drug traffickers,” Simon explained about Burns. “It was largely based on his experiences and his frustrations in the department.”

Between the two of them, they created a show like no other. 

Not a TV show

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According to The GuardianThe Wire is considered one of the greatest shows in the history of US television, but Simon didn’t think of it as a TV show at all. 

“I sold it as a cop show, but they don’t know it’s not really a cop show,” he said, explaining that he intended it to be “A novel for television.”

The series didn’t tell a story that was simple or easy to digest, focusing instead on the reality of corruption and systemic failures. It also didn’t have a central character or group, but it introduced new characters and reduced the roles of others as the story demanded.

For example, the first season was primarily about inner-city crime and had a predominantly black cast. Season two, however, did a deep dive into the struggles of white dockworkers. 

It was creative decisions like these that made the series hard to pin down with an easy definition. But however you explain The Wire, critics and viewers agree that it was ground-breaking television. 

And it nearly spawned another series that would have shown Baltimore from another angle. 

The spinoff that could have been

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Mental Floss reports that the third season of The Wire turned its gaze on politics. Simon was inspired by that storyline to make a spinoff that would delve into the background of one of its characters. This new series would have looked at the story of Tommy Carcetti and how he rose to power. 

Simon started working on a script and assembling a writing team because he was so sure that this new series would be a compelling look at corruption in Baltimore politics. However, HBO shot the idea down. According to Simon, they said, “We only want one show that nobody is watching in Baltimore, not two!”

Considering the enduring admiration for The Wire, HBO may have missed a golden opportunity to build on the series. Fans will just have to wonder what Simon would have done with the spinoff.