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Okay, in a promo for the new season of Mad Men, AMC declared it the BEST show ever. 'Com'on AMC, let's not get too caught up in your own press. I love Mad Men, and it is one of the best, maybe top series in this new Golden Age of Television. But THE best TV show ever? Naw, naw, naw.

Why? Well, considering plot lines of multi-season-long, interwoven stories (so we are not talking about one-and-done episodes of great dramas like the Hawaii-Five-O, Hill Street Blues, ER, Mission Impossible, Star Trek, Boston Legal, St. Elsewhere, or even Law & Order, nor mini-series like Roots), there have been several series that have far exceeded Mad Men in depth of personal stories, realism, and even ground-breaking character studies.

Again, I love Mad Men. I used to be a Madison Ave. guy in NYC. Therefore, I know from experience that it stays true to the top tier of the advertising world. The truest of that being the industry is mostly an upper-class, white male world. A very familiar subject in television. But these shows are/have been as good or better because they ventured into the un-familiar (and sometimes uncomfortable). Shows so good, that you were angry at the end of the latest episode because you had to wait a week for the next one.

In no particular order --

The Wire

Yeah, duh! The best show not to get serious Emmy consideration. Not only did it surpass Homicide: Life On The Street in exploring drug dealing in Baltimore, it looked at that world from different perspectives: the crime side, law side, politics, media, the impact on the educational system. Along the way we saw real life (not TV life) details of characters affected by alcohol, drugs, neglect, political game-playing, family issues, betrayal – the list goes on. Plus, it was the first show that had not one, but TWO major characters who were openly gay.

The Sopranos


This goes without saying. The show that broke every pre-conceived notion people had of organized crime by exposing the biggest secret held by those in the Mafia: their personal lives. Tony can kill Big Pussy for snitching, but can’t relate to his daughter. Enough Said!

The Shield

Name one show, just one, where you were rooting for a seriously corrupt cop and his merry band of criminals-with-badges strike team. A show where the good guys, those trying to clean up a Rampart-style division of the LAPD, were the bad guys. Plus, the series re-defined how police and gangs interact with each other on televised dramas.

Justified

For all those who think backwood country folk are defined by Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, Green Acres, and Duck Dynasty, sorry to burst your bubble. Justified shows there is a good reason you drive on the main interstate highway and don’t go off exploring the back roads in places like Kentucky, Tennessee, and the likes. It’s a very different, very scary world that only those from there can begin to understand. And even with all the great dialogue, characters, and storylines (well, except Ava in prison), Justified depicts a culture which goes by its own rules and can be very hard to grasp.

Breaking Bad

Do I need to say anything to convince anyone about this choice? Didn’t think so. Let's just sum it up with: Heisenberg got the television world hooked on the pipe.

Oz

Anyone who has a phobia about butt-rape, getting shanked, Neo-Nazis, drug addiction, regular beat-downs, and a constant fear of everyday living, avoid this greatest ever depiction of life in a maximum security prison. It made Prison Break look like a ladies church luncheon. The best promo for the series was showing a guy deciding not to illegally jaywalk because he was scared he’d end up in Oswald Prison.

Rome

Okay, not everyone is into historical dramas. But this was one of the best because how it re-interprets the high school history books/Cecil B. DeMille version of life during the beginning of the Roman Empire. Add to that amazing intrigue, action, blood, gore, and a LOT of sex.

Deadwood

Speaking of re-interpretation of history, this show was on the level of Clint Eastwood’s great movie Unforgiven. The old west on TV suddenly became dirty, ugly, and full of F-bombs. All this especially embodied in the nuanced and tortured portrayal of Calamity Jane. Plus, it gave the world Timothy Olyphant which in no possible way was a bad thing.

Battlestar Galactica

How many cheesy shows from the ‘70s do you know that was brought back to life and immediately changed the way science fiction is shown on television forever? It set the bar so high the CW's The 100 can’t even see it. Though, to be honest, Babylon 5 did lay some of the ground work.

Game Of Thrones

Guess all you people who thought Dungeons & Dragons was totally lame are looking pretty stupid right now. You’ll never look at a wedding the same way again. So complex, so nuanced, so violent. So Awesome! If you don’t believe that, then explain why your skin starts to crawl every time King Joffrey steps into the room.

There are other shows that are mainly my personal greats (Firefly. Vikings, Twin Peaks, Max Headroom, and almost every British drama aired on PBS. Hell, I still think The Prisoner was the best because is was so amazingly original and daring for its time), but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. Nor is this a reason to make yet another list. To be honest, I don’t actually believe there is such a thing as The Best Show Ever

I’m just saying: Mad Men is great. But please, let’s keep it real.

Save me the "Hoss, you're an idiot" posts because I already know there are other shows that qualify but didn't include. Remember though: I stated this piece was about series which were great for exploring UN-familiar television territory. Still, add your own best ever choices.
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