The Wire: The Complete Series review

20-disc BD boxset reformats David Simon's acclaimed TV series. Should fans be concerned?

Hailed today as one of the greatest shows in the history of TV, David Simon's The Wire rewrote the rule book for serialised crime drama over the course of its five seasons. From its debut on HBO in 2002, the show eschewed the usual formula of individual episodic narratives in its favour of following a single Baltimore police investigation aimed at bringing down a major drug dealing organisation.

While the four subsequent seasons continued to explore the impact of the narcotics trade on the city, each also expanded the scope of the show to explore other city institutions such as the school system, local government and the media. The result is one of the most complex and satisfying pieces of TV drama ever mounted; a sensational, multi-layered indictment of the war on crime and the way it continues to impact society – and thanks to this it remains as relevant and 'real' today as it did a decade ago.

Picture: The main talking point with this Blu-ray release is the fact that HBO has made the decision to modify the show from its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio to 1.78:1 widescreen.

Ordinarily, this is the sort of thing that would drive us absolutely mad. However, in this instance show creator David Simon and producer Nina Noble ensured that they were involved in the process, providing copious notes on how best to present the material and any changes that would have to be made. Between this and the fact that the first couple of seasons were shot in a way to 'protect' future 1.78:1 presentations, first-time viewers would be hard-pushed to know that this wasn't how the series has always looked. For more information on the extensive work undertaken to re-frame the series, we recommend clicking here and reading David Simon's in-depth blog posting about it.

So, ignoring the framing issue, how does The Wire look on Blu-ray? In a word: wonderful. Shot on 35mm, the AVC 1080p encodes deliver strong detail, excellent flesh tones, authentic grain structure, stable black levels and no obvious digital tinkering.
Picture rating: 4.5/5

Audio: The original DD 5.1 DVD soundtracks have been given a DTS-HD MA 5.1 upgrade for this Blu-ray release. Naturally, most of the action is contained in the front of the soundstage, but atmospheric effects in the surround channels help to bring the busier locations to life. Dialogue is also clear and intelligible, despite the thick accents and frequent mumbling. 
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: The only new extra is the 85-minute The Wire Reunion (pictured, below), a Q&A recorded in 2014. Returning bonus features include cast and crew commentaries on selected episodes, three Making of… docs and a trio of prequel shorts.
Extras rating: 3.5/5

We say: Don't worry about the new aspect ratio – this boxset deserves a place in every Blu-ray collection

The Wire: The Complete Series, HBO Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £80 Approx