Everyone knows I'm a huge fan of "24". I've long said that it's my favorite show and probably the best show ever. But this season, another show that I've also been a fan of for a long time, has knocked it off its perch. That show is "The Shield", which is in its final season, and will be airing its series finale this coming Tuesday at 10.
When I first saw commercials for "The Shield", before its debut in March of 2002, I kind of dismissed it as "NYPD Blue on steroids". I had planned to watch it anyway, but was away at college, and they didn't have FX. So, after I'd came back home, before the premiere of the second season, FX aired the first season again. I caught it this time, and my attitude had changed towards the show by the end of the pilot. The twist that had happened towards the end of the pilot knocked me on my ass and made me instantly realize that my prior critique of the show was way off the mark. This was many times better than NYPD Blue, or any other police show I'd seen. Plus, I've always been a big fan of Michael Chikilis (Vic Mackey) from his time on another cop show, "The Commish", and was awed at the way he transformed himself for this role.
But that isn't my whole story. I have seen a lot of TV series over the years, and virtually all of them (the ones that lasted more than a season or two) tend to peak in quality pretty early on. 24, a show that I love, for me personally, had peaked by season 3. Same with The Sopranos, which is usually compared to The Shield and has received a lot more attention and acclaim. At least for me, that had peaked by the end of its second season as well. After the first 2 or 3 seasons, the best of shows usually begin a slow creative spiral.
"The Shield", to me, is the one exception. If anything, it has gotten better with age. In my opinion, the two best seasons have been in the final three years, the 5th season and the 7th season, its last. What makes this season so extraordinary is not only that it's coming to an end, but that you envision the beginning of the end in the prior seasons, and it's another thing entirely to actually see them play out.
This is the best cop show/crime drama ever made, and IMO, the best TV series. Seasons 1 to 6 are out on DVD, I highly recommend that you track them down and watch them. I would recommend that you watch them chronogically, as although there's like a crime of the week in each episode, there are a lot of serialized elements that might not make sense if you watch the show out of sequence. The series finale airs this Tuesday at 10 on FX.
And David Chase, if you're watching, you should take notes. This is the way you end a show.