Unlike some TV shows that burn through a good story and fizzle out, HBO’s The Wire could have lasted a dozen more seasons, with Ed Burns and David Simon’s all-encompassing storytelling malleable enough to adjust to almost any kind of plot direction. But it turns out HBO wasn’t all about hearing every single story the two show creators had to tell, and the network passed on a spinoff that would have focused on the politician Tommy Carcetti, as played by Aiden Gillen. Thanks a lot, guys.
David Simon said HBO wasn’t putting the producers in the ringer for the non-outstanding ratings early in the show’s run, but they apparently weren’t looking to pour an entirely new budget into this still-molding drama. Here’s how he put it to BuzzFeed News at a reunion event for PaleyFest.
We were actually trying to spin off the city hall show and do a political show. We wrote a bunch of scripts that would spin off after Season 3 of The Wire. But HBO said, ‘No, we only want one show that nobody is watching in Baltimore, not two!’”
Hell, now that HBO has seen just how rabid people get about The Wire, putting this idea out into the infosphere could start a domino effect where we’re looking at a new Wire chapter in 2016. (Does anyone think it would help the process if rumor-mongering got incited right here and now?) I’m wondering if Carcetti’s mayoral campaign and successive run during Seasons 4 and 5 were part of their original take or if it would have traveled in a completely different direction for a spinoff. A new Wire project wouldn’t need the character necessarily, though seeing Gillen on both this and as Littlefinger on Game of Thrones on a weekly basis would whet the appetite in a weird way.
Simon also teased another topic the show might have tackled if things had worked out differently: immigration. Giving HBO credit for keeping them on as long as they did, he told Variety things got testy near the end.
They were looking at it like, ‘Look, you’ve got all the critical notices on this, why are we trying to snatch something more? We don’t seem to be building an audience.’ That’s also what the show was about: bad short-term decisions affecting the long run. We were considering a season on the topic of immigration, it was debated in the writers’ room, but it’s like, by the time we do the research, learn the Spanish, the train’s already rolling along and you can’t stop it. We were just begging HBO to give us another season.”
Given how dense a show like The Bridge and its Danish source material are on the subject matter, I can’t imagine how intricate a story the immigration arc would have been on The Wire. But I want to imagine it. For the panel, Simon was joined by producer Nina Noble and eight cast members – including Wendell Pierce, Sonja Sohn, Michael K. Williams and more – and everyone told more funny stories about the series and it sounds like it was an enjoyable time all around.
But who can have fun after hearing about and then pondering over what might have been? If anyone out there is developing a pair of glasses that allows you to see into any desired parallel universe, I think I’d like to apply to use the prototype. It's for, uh, science.