On March 10, 2008—the morning after HBO’s The Wire closed its final case—the show’s creator, David Simon, wrote an open letter of thanks to the series’ small but dedicated fan base. “The Wire arrived six years ago to little fanfare and modest expectation,” he began. “It demanded from viewers a delicate, patient consideration and a ridiculous degree of attention to detail. It wasn't for everyone. We proved that rather quickly. But episode to episode, you began to understand that we were committed to creating something careful and ornate, something that might resonate. You took Lester Freamon at his word: That we were building something here and all the pieces matter.”
With the proliferation of streaming video and DVD binge-watching, more and more viewers have gotten the chance to witness Simon’s version of Baltimore—and all the political games and criminal activity that come with it, including the drugs. Oh, the many, many drugs.
Simon wasn’t kidding when he talked about the “ridiculous degree of attention to detail” that watching The Wire requires. With dozens of characters and a never-ending onslaught of storylines, each one germane to the overall idea of Baltimore as microcosm for what Simon calls “the America we pay for and tolerate,” The Wire isn’t an easy watch, though it is a rewarding one. And while Simon contends that, “We tried to be entertaining, but in no way did we want to be mistaken for entertainment,” the show certainly isn’t without its moments of levity. An example is the dozens of brand names given to the drugs being hawked by Bodie, Poot, Wallace, and the rest of Charm City’s memorable corner boys. Of course, you have to listen closely to hear them—it’s often part of the background noise—but the drug names change from scene to scene and episode to episode and often reflect a larger storyline or current events happening during the show’s 2002 to 2008 run (example: Bin Laden, WMD). Here are 41 of them:
1. PANDEMIC: One of the most famous of The Wire’s brand name products, this one is best shilled by emphasizing each of the word’s three syllables, then repeating: Pandemic! Pandemic!
4. BIG BIRD: What would Mr. Snuffleupagus think?
5. BIG YELLOW BIRD: Another name for Big Bird.
6. BIN LADEN
7. BIRD FLU
8. BLACK HORSE
9. BLACK TOP
10. BLUE TOP
11. BODY BAG
12. BOTTLE ROCKET
13. BROKEBACK: Sold during season four in the fall of 2006, the same year Brokeback Mountain won three Oscars.
14. DEATH ROW
15. DOUBLE CHEESE
16. ELECTION DAY: A special blend sold on the day of Baltimore’s mayoral election, a key plot point in the series’ storytelling arc.
17. FAMILY AFFAIR: The Wire’s first season focused heavily on the activities of the Barksdale clan, Baltimore’s fictional first family of drug dealing.
18. GOLD STARS: A seemingly appropriate measure of quality, considering that most of the individuals selling drugs on The Wire are of school age.
19. GREEN TOP
20. GREENHOUSE GAS
22. IN THE HOLE: Sold during the show’s first season, presumably as a nod to the series’ Tom Waits-penned theme song, "Way Down in the Hole" (which was performed by a different artist for each season).
23. KILLER BEE
25. MIKE TYSON: Sold with the promise that “It will knock you on your ass.”
26. MISTLETOE: Sold during the holiday season.
28. PLYMOUTH ROCK: Another holiday season creation.
30. RED DILLY
31. RED TOP
34. Q TIP
35. SHEED WALLACE: A more formal play on the previously mentioned “Rasheed,” in honor of the NBA’s all-time technical foul record-holder.
36. SPIDER BAGS
37. TECH NINE: Named for a 9mm semi-automatic handgun.
38. TRUMP TOWERS: Classy stuff, clearly.
39. WMD: Yet another favorite product, WMD—which promises to “mass destruct your ass”—is sold during seasons two and three. Even the police know it’s the bomb.
40. YELLOW JACKET
41. YELLOW TOP