5. Six Feet Under
Truth time, I haven’t seen more than the pilot episode of this show. I know, I know, it’s a travesty. I promise I’m trying to get around to it eventually. That said, I know there would be many of you who would be screaming if I didn’t include it on the list, and I have a lot of friends who have watched it who assures me it deserves its place here. The dark and oddly humorous drama is where Dexter’s Michael C. Hall got his start, and it had a memorable cast of characters acting out plotlines from (now True Blood’s) Alan Ball.
4. The Sopranos
Though this would be higher? It’s often viewed as the ultimate HBO drama, or at the very least, the penultimate (first time I’ve used that word correctly in about five attempts). Tony Soprano might be one of the great characters of television history, but I think HBO does have just a few more better offerings. This was also tough to watch all in a row, as it can sometimes be slow moving and things just got a bit weird at the end. That said, I stand by the consensus that the blackout finale was indeed brilliant, even if it had me screaming at my TV at the time.
Oh Deadwood, how I miss you so. The cowboy drama managed to run before three seasons before it ran out of ideas and support, but before it did so, it was one hell of a ride. It was based on the real life town of Deadwood where legends like Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickcok resided for a time. Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff Seth Bullock and Ian McShane as Al Swearengen were the reasons the show worked at all, and Swearengen especially turned out to be one of the best TV villains in history. Furthermore, it’s rather amazing how many of the characters and storylines were based on real world events in the town.
2. Game of Thrones
So what IS the penultimate HBO drama? Right now, it’s everyone’s favorite, Game of Thrones. Fanboyishness aside, it’s a truly great series from the scripts to the acting to the costumes to the (usually) subtle usage of CGI. It certainly helps that there is a fantastically written series of books to use as a roadmap, but HBO could have easily botched it. Instead, they’ve casted almost every role to perfection, given it all the money it needs and some would argue even improves upon the original books in parts. Though that last item will probably rile a few people up.
1. The Wire
It’s hard to say if there will ever be another show as phenomenal as The Wire. For all our sakes, I hope there is, but it’s definitely going to be hard to top. It’s one of the only dramas I’ve ever seen that simply feels like real life. It’s like you’re watching the most highly polished documentary ever about what life is like for dealers, cops and addicts on the streets of Baltimore. Each season showcase new issues from the inner city. Drugs are a huge, central focus, but later seasons tackle education, journalism and government spending, and the The Wire features perhaps the best line-up of memorable characters across any other show on television, past or present..