48 The Shield
The creative revolution kicked off by The Sopranos and Sex and the City might have stayed limited to HBO if not for the quick success of The Shield on a barely noticed stop on the basic-cable channel guide. Michael Chiklis was so instantly magnetic as brazenly corrupt LAPD detective Vic Mackey that it kicked off a rush of other cable channels and, eventually, streaming services, finding their own signature series. But even beyond historical importance, the show (created by Shawn Ryan) is pretty great, blending network cop-drama tropes with Sopranos’ antihero framing and mature content. It also surrounds Vic with a worthy group of allies (Walton Goggins’ reckless Shane), wary colleagues (CCH Pounder’s tenacious detective Claudette; Glenn Close for a season as Vic’s new boss), and outright enemies (most notably Forest Whitaker’s erratic internal-affairs cop Jon Kavanaugh, but eventually even Shane himself). And for as much as The Shield seemed to be celebrating Vic’s swagger early on, the series always understood exactly who and what he was, culminating in the devastating “Family Meeting” chapter, which is the best drama finale ever.