If you've ever talked television shows with me, then this week's suggestion won't come as any surprise to you. Shown on HBO for five seasons, where it had a small but aggressively loyal following and also the acclaim of many critics, The Wire is a police drama that takes West Baltimore's heroin trade and dissects its causes and outcomes, season by season. The series has some of the most interesting and well-played characters on television, and the stories stand in stark contrast to the one-dimensional cops and robbers from other shows that are neatly resolved in one hour.
In addition to the fantastic actors, the writing duo of David Simon and Ed Burns is what makes this show so great. David Simon is a journalist and author, having written two books about crime in Baltimore. The first book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, was written while Simon was embedded with the Baltimore homicide detective unit, and turned into a show by the same name on NBC. His second book, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, was co-authored with Ed Burns (a 20-year veteran of the homicide unit and later public school teacher) and followed a family of four in West Baltimore whose promising lives had been devastated by heroin addiction and trade. The Corner was also picked up by HBO and turned into a miniseries, directed by Charles S. Dutton and is every bit as heartbreaking as the book. It might be best to watch it after The Wire, because you'll get a kick out of watching the same actors who portrayed hardcore police detectives from The Wire playing junkies in The Corner.