Those who know all about The Wire (HBO Signature, unedited version on HBO Signature Plus, Monday to Thursday at 10pm) can let out that long-held breath. Those who don't - consider yourselves lucky because, for six years, you have been blissfully unaware of what you've been missing: one of the best crime dramas in American television history. And now it is coming to Hong Kong screens. For the uninitiated, The Wire, set in Baltimore, one of the most violent cities in the United States, is not for the casual observer. Beginning with a single under-funded investigation into a string of killings in West Baltimore, water-tight storytelling weaves itself around the complex webs of bureaucracy and brutality that define law enforcement and the drug trade in the city. Most of the characters are composites of members of the city's police department or the criminal world, and some minor roles are acted out by real-life detectives. Dominic West (300) plays James McNulty, an insubordinate but talented homicide detective who makes the mistake of telling a judge about a killing spree that prosecutors have so far failed to pin on a drug gang. The department assembles a ragtag detail to look into it. Struggling with a lack of the manpower, McNulty finds an ally in tough-as-nails narcotics detective Shakima Greggs (Sonja Sohn; Shaft). Meanwhile, on the street, D'Angelo Barksdale (Larry Gilliard Jnr; Gangs of New York) overturns a murder charge with the help of a crew of drug dealers. The show's creator and head writer, David Simon, during a 12-year stint as crime reporter for The Baltimore Sun, spent 1988 shadowing members of the police department's homicide unit on investigations. The resulting book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991), was adapted for TV as Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-99) by NBC. Simon left The Sun in 1995 to work full time on the show then went on to adapt another of his books, The Corner, co-written with former Baltimore detective and school teacher Ed Burns, into an HBO miniseries. Simon then approached HBO with a five-part story of his city, addressing the themes of organised crime, the working class, politics, the school system and the media. Spanning five seasons and 60 episodes, The Wire is an homage to the struggling communities he knows by heart. HBO Signature is showing the entire first series in four nights, three episodes back-to-back each night, starting tomorrow. Those who want to enjoy Life (Star World; Tuesdays at 9pm) will find a considerably quirkier look at law enforcement through the eyes of detective Charlie Crews (Damian Lewis; Band of Brothers). Crews was wrongfully convicted of the murder of his business partner and his family, and imprisoned for 12 years until lawyer Constance Griffiths (Brooke Langton; Friday Night Lights) proved his innocence. Awarded a multimillion-dollar settlement and reinstated with the Los Angeles Police Department, Crews nettles new partner Dani Reese (above left, Sarah Shahi; with Lewis, right, and Brent Sexton) while interpreting clues and interrogating suspects in a Zen-like state of calm. Happily, this one is entirely fictional.