What’s it called?

Black Market With Michael K Williams

What’s it about?

The illicit international trade in just about anything you can imagine, from weapons and drugs to stolen cars and even abalone, a shellfish which sells for up to £400 a kilo.

Who’s in it?

The host is Brooklyn-born actor Michael K Williams, better known as stick-up man Omar Little from The Wire. You couldn’t ask for a better guide through the flats and seedy hotel rooms where the dealers in black market goods congregate, usually heavily armed and wearing face masks, to talk frankly about their wares and the wiles. The series opener takes him to America’s car-jacking capital, Newark in New Jersey. Other episodes see him travel to Atlanta to confront men buying weapons illegally and shipping them to crime gangs in New York and Chicago, to Houts Bay near Cape Town in South Africa, where the local black community battles with the South Africa coastguard over the right to fish off their own beach. The series is made by Viceland and is available to view for free on All 4, the Channel 4 streaming platform.

What’s so good about it?

Williams, basically. What Uzi-toting gangster isn’t going to open his door to Omar Little from The Wire? In other words Williams gains access to places and people that would normally be shut off to a documentary film crew. But he doesn’t shy away from difficult questions, either, a tactic which elicits some surprisingly honest responses. Nor is he judgemental. “Our goal is to show the world a window as to why people do the things they do,” he says.

Sobering fact …

Visiting London for an episode in which he meets 20something addicts Ronni and Dennis, who shoplift to feed their heroin addiction, Williams remarks that the deprivation he sees in the city is worse than in America.

For fans of ...

The Wire, Down And Out In Paris And London.