100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time

From time-capsule sitcoms to cutting-edge Peak-TV dramas — the definitive ranking of the game-changing small-screen classics

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2. 'The Wire'

2002-08
You come at the king, you best not miss. Former reporter David Simon aimed high with his epic HBO tale of the drug game in Baltimore – building an entire city full of corrupt politicians, corner boys and cops who keep learning the biggest crime is "giving a fuck when it ain't your turn to give a fuck." Each season told a different story – the Barksdale gang in Season Three, the doomed school kids in Season Four. "After the first season, I thought, 'There's no way I'm being renewed,'" Simon told Rolling Stone. "But no one has told us to stop. I mean, any schmuck making over 50 hours of TV on what ails the American city and expecting people to watch it deserves what he gets." 

The Wire gave us characters no one had seen before, from Idris Elba's menacing Stringer Bell to Robert F. Chew's endlessly quotable Proposition Joe. But Michael K. Williams created the ultimate badass with Omar, the shotgun-toting trench-coat avenger. As Joe told Omar, "A businessman such as myself does not believe in bad blood with a man such as yourself. Disturbs the sleep." So many unforgettable moments all over The Wire – Bunk and McNulty canvassing a murder scene with one word of dialogue; Omar explaining his grief to bow-tied hit man Brother Mouzone ("See, that boy was beautiful"); Avon and Stringer on a balcony toasting a future they know will never come; Slim Charles holding the church hat of "a bona fide colored lady." Yet there's a sense of heartbreak all through The Wire. The game wins – they all lose.

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