HBO Turned Down A Spin-Off Of ‘The Wire’

It’s been so long since it aired, and because EVERYONE who loves good television has seen The Wire in the interim, that it’s hard to remember that David Simon’s HBO show had huge ratings struggles. We all remember that it was shut-out in all the major categories at the Emmy Awards, but who remembers that the show was nearly canceled after the third season because of poor ratings? The Wire, described by many not unfairly as the greatest drama of all time, was getting its ass kicked by Desperate Housewives. If HBO had only know then that the show would eventually go on to become one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time, I’m sure that they would’ve greenlit David Simon’s spin-off of The Wire. It sounds like it could’ve been a doozy of a series.

From a David Simon interview with Salon:

It’s a very funny story, but at some point after Season 3 of “The Wire,” and we introduced the political in Season 3, we wrote a spinoff show for city hall. We actually went to Chris Albrecht and said, “Here’s a pilot of a show called ‘The Hall’ that follows the Carcetti character and his political career. And we want to run them in tandem.” So after Season 3 of “The Wire” you would get Season 1 of “The Hall,” then you’d get Season 4 of “The Wire,” then Season 2 of “The Hall.” This poor guy must have been listening to this and saying, “Yeah that’s what I need, I need two shows that nobody’s watching in Baltimore, Maryland. What the …” He had to be laughing his ass off inside.

But if you ask me that would have been an incredible political show, watching Carcetti even more intimately than we were able to portray him within the show, watching that guy maneuver toward the governorship and maybe beyond. That would have been an incredible journey through what politics actually is. Not “Father Knows Best” politics, but actual politics. I reached out to some of the better political writers, and they were like, “Yeah, if you can get that, I’m on.” I was already constructing a writing staff. I walked into this office in L.A., and Chris must have been looking at me like, “Dude, I’m trying to figure out how to cancel the one show!” I have great affection for how much tolerance HBO has shown me thus far. But what I do doesn’t work, it will never work, without that tolerance.

If any one character could’ve sustained a spin-off of The Wire, it would’ve been Carcetti. That would’ve been one hell of a brilliant political series, the show that Boss wants to be (and I love Boss). Hell, we could be in the seventh season of that show now instead of suffering through what is now the third season of Treme. You can’t really fault HBO — after all, they ran The Wire for five seasons despite terrible ratings — but it would’ve been great if they’d had the foresight to know how popular that show would one day be on Netflix and DVD.

Check out the rest of the brilliant Willa Paskin’s interview over on Salon, where David Simon also admits to being a huge fan of The Family Guy. Wait, what?