HBO's `Wire' to film here

TV: New crime drama from David Simon means a lift to city's economy.

January 15, 2002|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

It looks as if Baltimore is going to be back in prime time.

As early as next month, HBO is expected to begin filming a new weekly police drama here that will mean at least 100 new jobs and more than $20 million to the area economy.

While an official announcement is not expected until tomorrow in Los Angeles on the Winter Press Tour, The Sun has confirmed that HBO will order 13 episodes of The Wire, a crime drama from David Simon, Emmy Award-winning writer-producer of NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street and HBO's The Corner.

A pilot was filmed here in November, and plans include shooting the entire series in and around Baltimore.

Both Simon and HBO declined to offer official confirmation that a deal had been finalized.

"All I can say is that we haven't been told officially, but it sounds pretty good," Simon said yesterday.

"It looks like it's a go, but I think there are still some details to be worked out," an HBO official said on condition of anonymity.

Simon, a former Sun reporter, said the plan is for all 13 episodes to follow one investigation, shifting its point of view between that of the criminals and the police.

Thirteen episodes is a full year's order by HBO standards, the same as that given to The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. In fact, it is likely that The Wire will air on Sunday nights just as those series do, perhaps joining the schedule as soon as this summer, when Six Feet Under ends its run of new episodes.

While Clark Johnson of Homicide directed the pilot and is expected to be part of The Wire, Simon declined to discuss specifics yesterday. It is believed that HBO is still negotiating with some of the actors, and that no announcement will be made until those deals are finalized.

Behind the camera, the series will reunite three producers from The Corner, an HBO miniseries based on a Simon book that won a Peabody Award. Robert Colesberry will serve with Simon as executive producer of The Wire. Nina K. Noble will be producer.

With the average cost of $1.8 million for an hour of network television, Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office, yesterday estimated The Wire would probably mean more than the $20 million a year that Homicide brought to the local economy.

"A typical crew for a series like that is 125 people a week," he said. "Then you have all the people coming in to work who need hotel rooms. Add in all the local actors, cars for the production, lumber to build the sets ..."

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