NBC (ended 1999)
Homicide was a better a show than Law and Order is. I feel this way because there's no way you could franchise Homicide. It was unique and original. It wasn't your typical cop show, which I know was offputting to many people.
Not adhereing to a strict formula helped Homicide tell the stories it needed to tell.
And...the major thing...the fact that they didn't have the easy answer every week, they didn't always solve the case.
Their flawed characters were amazingly complex. It was a good show. So well written.
(and very nice to people who try to sneak on the sets too. *wink*)
Homicide was more ground breaking it paved the way for many shows we watch now. CSI and NCIS come to mind but Law & Order has also been a staple in Criminal Justice Television.
Personally I will take Homicide any day of the week but I also loved the Homicide - Law & Order crossovers.
I love "Homicide" and have since the first time I saw it, when Robin Williams did something Very Serious on Television, something I'd never seen before. Obviously this was early days. Was it even on NBC yet then? I don't remember.
"Law and Order" took something like 18 years to grow on me, however. Maybe because it was SOOOoo popular, such a "franchise," etc., that it turned me off. Two years ago I happened on one of the many "marathons," this one of SVU shows, and I was hooked -- precisely for the aspect many of you have claimed L&O *doesn't* have: unpredictable and/or ambiguous endings. More than once I've been surprised to see the ending titles on these shows long before any real resolution of the cases. Even dear Jack McCoy found himself flummoxed by ambiguity sometimes. Bobby Goren, now, there's a guy who gets a nice pat formula confession, and I love his show too!
Then again, I've been rewatching the first TV episodes of "Dragnet" and finding them fascinating, too. All our favorite cop shows have Dragnet to thank, formulaic sanitized preachy endings and all. So probably I don't have any actual taste.
The Easily Entertained,
"Homicide Life on the Street" is my favorite show all time, because there are no car chases, there are no bullets flying, it's all mind-play and it's real detective work.
However, "The Shield" is all grit and mayhem that exemplifies a different kind of detective. Maybe it's because they are all (well almost all) corrupt. But it's another show I look forward to (when it's on, Geez 10-12 episodes is not enough for a season). I guess in the street cop (not beat cop) genre it is probably the best.