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Best Show Of All Time: True Detective, House Of Cards, The Wire, Sopranos, Or Breaking Bad?

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Everyone’s been raving about two shows lately: True Detective and House of Cards. Awesomest shows on TV everyone’s been telling me (technically House of Cards is Netflix). Not wanting to be left out of the loop I decided to give both of them a shot. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Some nudniks have gone so far to say that these shows are actually in the same category as The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Sopranos. You people are completely out of your minds, and I just wanna settle this once and for all. I was inspired to write this after reading another hack job blog on Barstool. This time it was one from “Feitelberg”, one of the Boston writers. The blog was entitled Why do people love the intro to The Wire so much? But most of it was just shitting on the greatest show of all time:

“I’ve never seen The Wire. I started watching it last week and had sent out a few tweets about it at night. The first night I said something along the lines of “Don’t see the high praise. Fine show but not among the greats.” By and large, people agreed with me. Some said it didn’t stand the test of time, others said it’s always been overrated and a lot said to wait until season 3 even though season 2 is apparently awful. And I stand by not loving it, when I’m watching The Wire it’s not must-see TV. I don’t turn out the lights and throw my phone to the other side of the room to avoid distractions. It’s a good show, I have no problem watching it, but I certainly don’t treat it like Breaking Bad, True Detective, The Sopranos, etc.”

I’m honestly not surprised by this at all. Look, Barstool doesn’t hire writers because they’re smart people. And to understand the greatness of The Wire, you have to be able to be entertained by great acting, character development, authenticity, and realism. Most importantly, you can never, ever afford to zone out for a scene, and you have to be invested in the characters. That’s what great shows make you do. Barstool writers are talentless hacks who have nothing to offer so they just say fuck a bunch of times and leech off of El Presidente for sustenance.

If you’re into fantasy shit like The Walking Dead then that’s cool. Totally different category. It’s fantasy, not reality. The Wire and Sopranos were real as shit. They made the viewer feel like they were examining a subculture of Americana that they we’re not exposed to in Middle America. Breaking Bad I felt the same way. Here’s my ranking for these five shows…..


5. True Detective.


Originality of this show is pretty weak. Good cop, bad cop. Detectives whose personal lives are effected by their obsession with solving cases. Sound familiar? That’s because they stole it from Jimmy McNulty.

Acting is by far the best thing this show has going for it. And by acting I mainly mean Matthew McConnaughey. It’s the best roll I’ve ever seen him in. Woody Harrelson is good in it too, but he’s basically a type casted actor. He can only play the alcoholic with a heart of gold who always gives into temptation.

Setting of this show is pretty solid. I think. I’ve never been to Louisiana, but this is exactly how I pictured it. The scenery, the accents, the toothless masses who are entertained by evangelic revivalists. That’s exactly how I pictured Louisiana.

Realism of this show is what keeps it from being taken seriously in my opinion. Yea sorry, but a spaghetti faced monster going around doing human sacrifices just isn’t something I can take seriously.

Zoning out factor is weak on this show. The conversations are important, but they’re pretty boring. And let’s face it, that’s what 90% of this show is. I can only watch Matthew McConaughey say some really deep and weird monologue about ritualistic killings so many times.

Character development simply doesn’t exist in this show. They’re the exact same guys in 1995 that they are in 2010. Rust is still a weirdo, and Marty is still a womanizing man whore. One just now lives in a storage unit and the other lives is lonely single guy in an apartment.

Investment in the characters doesn’t really exist either. I don’t really give a shit what happens to Rust. I kind of am tied to Marty more because he seems more like a believable human being, but I assume they’re gonna kill him off to make him the tragic hero.



4. House of Cards. 


Originality of this show is pretty solid. No one’s really done a show like this on the inner workings of Capitol Hill. Definitely the strength of this show.

Acting is great. You can’t beat Kevin Spacey. I hate his wife too, which means she’s doing a good job. I hated her more when she was Jenny from Forrest Gump though.

Setting is fine I guess. I mean, it looks like Washington D.C.

Realism is good, but to a degree. Al the vote swapping, back room deals, and obsession with getting re-relected is pretty much exactly how I imagine politics. But yea, the Vice President of the United States being a double murderer and closet homosexual seems a bit much.

Zoning out factor does tend to happen in this show, although it happens a lot more in the first season. The conversations are all pretty important and get to the point. It just gets a little repetitive.

Character development of this show sucks. Frank and his idiot wife are grade A dooshnozzles from day one. Every time a character starts to develop (Peter Rousseu, Zoe Barnes) they kill them off.

Investment in the characters for this show is both good and bad. I want to see Frank get eaten by Vladimir Putin’s dogs. I want to see the head of the teacher’s union bash his brains in. I want to see the good guys win SOMETIMES. But the bad guys ALWAYS win in this show. Always. I know that’s what some people like about this and everything can be roses and cupcakes, but the fact that Frank and his idiot wife always win just bugs me.



3. Sopranos. 


Originality of this show is top notch. They’ve done mob movies before, but every time the character turns into a multimillionaire, drug addicted psychopath. In this show the mob balances business and family life like it’s never been done before.

Acting is top notch. Pauly Walnuts, Silvio, Ralphy, Tony – basically everyone on this show makes you believe the mob is real.

Setting is what sets it apart from all other mob movies and TV shows (no pun intended). It’s so Jersey I can taste it. The crowded neighborhoods, the random landfills, the industrial smog. It’s just so damn authentic. Almost every scene is shot somewhere in Jersey. From the mean streets of the Boonton projects, to the castles of Montclair.

Realism is pretty solid. I would imagine. I’ve never been in the mob, but this is pretty much how I pictured it.

Zoning out factor for this show is what keeps it from being number one. There were WAYYY too many pointless scenes in the Sopranos. Sorry, but I don’t need to watch Meadow meet with her guidance counselor about what college to go to. I don’t need to see an entire episode about Carmella’s trip to Paris. I can only watch Tony talk about his feelings with Dr. Melfi so many times. And I definitely don’t need to watch an entire episode about a weird dream Tony had that ended up foreshadowing absolutely nothing.

Character development is good and bad. You really get to understand the inner workings of Tony Soprano as the show goes along, but ultimately he’s the same fucked up person the entire show. The whole gay thing with Vito though, and the downfall of Jackie Jr., Adrianna, Pussy, Christopher, Jonny Sac, and countless others, is an awesome aspect of the show. The problem is whenever a character goes through a change, they have to die. That’s the rule.

Investment in the characters is kind of like House of Cards. The most dislikable characters all have the last name Soprano. His evil Mom, his insane sister, his fat loser son, his annoying liberal free thinking daughter, his demented uncle, his wife who they want you to like, and his selfish self. All of them are pieces of shit.



2. Breaking Bad. 


Originality for this show is OK. They stole the idea from Weeds, but they just did a much, much, much better job with it.

Acting is great. Brian Cranston does an awesome job making you believe he’s a nervous family man in way over his head. Uncle Hank is great as the “drugs are bad” detective. Skyler, and his idiotic sister in law make you dislike them, which of course means they’re doing a good job acting. Even Walt Jr., who most people hate, really sells his character well.


Setting is amazing, and also very original. They were originally going to make the setting in California, but New Mexico was a much better option. When I watch the show I begin to really understand why the federal government decided to test atomic bombs out there. It always looks hot, and there seems to be an endless supply of desert.

Realism is good at first, but then gets a little ridiculous. Most people like the later seasons of Breaking Bad. I like the earlier seasons when he was trying to balance being a meth cook, a high school teacher, and a Dad. I’ll always remember the Gus death scene, but let’s be honest – that was a little far fetched. And there were a lot of scenes like that.


Zoning out factor is another one of the strengths of this show. Not once was I ever tempted to pick up my cell phone and go on Facebook during this show. Every single scene is compelling as Walt tries to keep his life from spiraling out of control.

Character development is what most people recognize as why this is such a great show. No one develops except for Walt, who goes from loving father to psychopathic murderer. The producers did a great job with the scene where Walt admits to Skyler that he wasn’t doing this all for his family. That he did it because he loved it. He found it thrilling. We all kind of knew that the whole time, but he admits it to his wife, which Tony Soprano never does (he only admits those things to Dr. Melfi). True Detective simply doesn’t have scenes like this.


Investment in the characters is something I consider great for this show, but others seem to disagree. I loved Walt. I wanted him to win. I don’t care that he tried to kill that little Mexican boy. I just don’t. I knew where he was coming from when this whole thing started, and I just felt bad for him. Jesse Pinkman was one of the great characters of all time in this show as well. Anyone who wasn’t rooting for Jesse has no soul.



1. The Wire


Originality was off the charts. No one has ever put a show together that examines the causes and effects of drug culture on the police (season 1), international trade (season 2), politics (season 3), the schools (season 4), and the media (season 5). This show is simply untouchable in that regard.

Acting was flawless. I had no idea that McNulty and Stringer Bell were British guys in real life. Marlo Stanfeld gives you chills when he spoke in his whispering and confident voice. DeAngelo Barksdale asking Stringer “Where Wallace at?” is one of the most legendary performances of all time. Clay Davis’ performance on the stand at his own trial. Bodie protecting his corner before getting shot. Every scene that Bubble is in. Wallace whimpering and saying, “but you my niggas” before getting shot by his best friends. Omar taking the stand against Bird and telling Levy that they’re both gangsters, but “I carry a shotgun, and you carry a briefcase.” Snoop buying a drill for unknown reasons at home depot. All these scenes and countless others make this show legendary.


Setting was top notch. The griminess of the public schools, the blue collarness at the docks, and of course the greatest setting ever – Hamsterdam – is yet another reason that this is the greatest show of all time.

The Realism of this show was pretty damn good. I think. I’ve never been a drug dealer from Baltimore, but I would imagine that’s what it’s like. I did go to an urban public school and saw how kids from shitty homes act towards teachers in season four. I have seen countless politicians spout one liners like Carcetti. I have seen talentless hacks that kiss ass and cheat advance in their careers (Rawls, Burrell, Templeton the reporter who makes up stories), while people who are genuine and really good at what they do lose their jobs (McNulty, Bunny Colvin).


Zoning out factor might be the biggest weakness of the show. I wish they didn’t whisper so much. I liked Daniels character, but I just wish he spoke louder. Also, I had to pause it a lot to explain to my wife what they were talking about. Definitely learned an entirely new language from this show.

Character development is simply incomparable to any other show ever made. Three major characters evolve during this show: Bodie, Carver, and Bubbles. Bodie you hate at first because he’s a punk who kills Wallace. By the end you absolutely love him because he’s the only relic left from Avon Barksdale’s crew that isn’t kissing Marlo’s ass. Carver is a punk cop at first. By the end he’s transformed into the new Bunny Colvin – your classic “good police” who cares about protecting the good people in the neighborhoods, instead of beating the shit out of the bad people. Bubbles slowly evolves from a drug addict to a former drug addict that wants to help people out. Oh yea, and in the end, the message of the show is that good guys don’t usually win and the cycle of poverty repeated itself. Herc becomes the new Levy. Michael becomes Omar. Chris becomes Wee-Bay. Dukie becomes Bubbles. The show is amazing.


Investment in characters is the last reason this show is unbeatable. When DeAngelo gets killed and McNulty rubs it in his Mother’s face that it was her fault. When Wallace and Bodie get killed. When Brother Mazzone and Omar team up to blast Stringer. Chris scares the shit out of you every time you see him, then when he beats the shit out of the Michael’s stepdad when he finds out he was a molester, you can see why he’s such a cold and calculated killer – because he too was abused when he was younger. I got invested in charters from this show like none other. Absolutely brilliant.



So yea, nothing compares to The Wire, and True Detective is the most overrated show I’ve ever seen. The end.

Feel free to share your thoughts to keep the conversation going.

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24 Comment(s)
  • Hattie McBaggen
    June 7, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, and Mad Men should be on this list before House of Cards and True Detective. If we’re talking shows based on DC and involve plots with government, The Americans should probably be there over House of Cards. And if you want some back-country bayou show True Blood might be better than True Detective.

  • Hattie McBaggen
    June 7, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    I started watching The Wire when it first came out on HBO but put it down and haven’t picked it up again. I’m looking forward to binging this sometime this year.

    Breaking Bad is my favorite of all time and have seen it through three times so far. It never gets old. The cinematography adds to the mood of the show. Walter White is the monster that everybody is rooting for. Jesse Pinkman and Saul Goodman are all-time great television characters. The secondary characters are excellent. Skinny Pete, Badger, the Schwartzes, the Salamanca family, Jane and Donald Margolis, etc. are all brilliant in their roles.

    The foreshadowing, especially with the teddy bear in Season 2, gives the show a lot of mystery and anticipation. I love the smaller instances of this such as when Walter and Walter Jr. are watching Scarface and Walt says “Everyone dies in this movie”. What a brilliant and entertaining show.

  • WTF
    April 19, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    I’ve never seen a one episode of any of these shows.

  • Kenneth Foley
    November 22, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Wire’s the best show

    aa ite

  • Chester Courtland
    April 6, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    -Breaking Bad loses a top spot because of the fact it was on AMC and the language and nudity, along with the commercials hurt it. if it was on HBO or one of the other pay cable networks it would’ve been much better. -True Detective Season 1 was fantastic. Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConnaughey did a great job with their characters and the supporting characters were really good too. -I got board with House of Cards after Season 1. Spacey was great but the lunacy of allowing them to stay in their house when Frank weaseled his way into the VP slot ended my ability to take it seriously. -The Soprano’s and The Wire were both great show but completely different animals. The fact that they came on HBO one right after the other was fantastic. -My nod goes to the Soprano’s because of the writing and the comedy aspect of the series. Developing characters like that was pure genius and the story lines were always great.

    • Kenneth Foley
      November 22, 2020 at 11:29 am

      My girl fren hates violence
      Covers her eyes when a fist fight breaks out
      So I asked her
      Just tryyy a few episodes of Sopranos, see if you like it

      By the 4th episode she is making lists of people that Tony needs to kill

  • Ye
    September 30, 2014 at 2:12 am

    People always exclude genre television shows/non-realistic shows as Greatest of All Time for some reason, it makes me angry. While it may be a preference for some, it’s just the type of show it is, it has nothing inherently to do with quality.

    Don’t get me wrong, The Wire, and Sopranos are two of my favorite shows imo, but other shows are certainly comparable, IE: Buffy, Twin Peaks, Lost (although Lost isn’t as good as The Wire or Sopranos)

    Basically, I just wanted to say that The Wire doesn’t have the best character development of any tv show. Buffy does, and it’s not even close. It did that better than any show to date, I personally think The Wire is a better show overall, (though its debatable), because I am drawn to the realistic atmosphere, and the importance of the wire’s message. Also, the criteria you used for judging the shows was kind of…well…bad.

    Realism = Ok thats fine since all the shows in the list are realisitc, and in that league the more realistic the better, but in Greatest of all Time shit, it’s kind of irrelevant, its just the style of show.

    Setting = I mean…I guess it matters, but it shouldn’t really be a largely weighted portion of a grade of any show, otherwise Game of Thrones is the best show of all time.

    Originality = Eh, who cares, if it did it better than everything else, it’s pretty irrelevant, and if its in a discussion of greatest of all time, it almost always does whatever it did better than anything else, originality doesn’t really contribute to a shows quality.

    Zone out Factor = should be renamed to Entertainment Value, but other than that pretty good.

  • July 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Let me start off by saying that I also think The Wire is the greatest show all time, period, no debating. Still, it did have it share of “yea right” moments. I’m only pointing it out because I personally think Breaking Bad is the second greatest show I’ve ever watched and you pointed out its “yea right” moments. For the sake of being objective, I wanted to state that—even though it’s still the greatest show ever—there is no way on God’s green earth Omar can walk around in broad daylight with a shot gun and pretty much take money from stash houses with out ANYBODY shooting at him. This is probably the ONLY yea right over the top moment, non believable point I can think of in regards to the show. Everytime I saw this happen, I just couldn’t help but think “yea right.” I’m sure Avon, Stringer, or Marlo could have paid off some snot nose kid to pop him as soon as they saw him. Ironically **spoiler for anyone reading this*** that’s how he met his demise, at the hands of a kid, Kenard. I always thought it would take someone crazy to successfully kill Omar. When Omar is walking to his swan song, and I saw Kenard killing a cat as Omar walks by him to the store, I knew that was it for Omar. Anywho, I digress. Just wanted to point out that The Wire, in all its greatness, did have ONE chink in the armor.

    • Hattie McBaggen
      June 7, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      Lost was a good show but it went on forever and the later seasons got pretty stale quickly. Definitely up there as an all-time top show, though.

  • Malachi Coleman
    June 17, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Are you fucking stupid? Breaking Bad did NOT steal anything from weeds or anything else. Also, no one else develops in BB besides Walt? You have to be fucking kidding me. Jesse, Hank, Skyler, Gus, Mike, Saul, Todd, Lydia, and so much more have changed and developed throughout the show. You have to be fucking blind not to see that. And there’s a difference between weeds storyline and Breaking Bad’s, first off the main character in weeds starts selling WEED and Walt starts making and selling METH. And their reasons for doing it in the first place are completely different and their motivations. Did the lady in weeds murder men like Walt? Did she become “evil” like Walt? Did she become a drug kingpin like Walt? No, Breaking Bad is 100% original and stole nothing from any other work of fiction.

  • Paulie G
    March 11, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    FYI, BBC did a show called THE House of Cards. Netflix’s House of Cards is taken directly from that…so originality is pretty much absent, albeit a really well made remake

  • Joey G
    March 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I always liked Cheers… did Sam Malone ever get the major league comeback? Or sell the bar? Or fingerbang Kirstie Alley while Norm watched?

    • SUL
      March 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Seinfeld is far and away the #1 show of all time but it’s a different category of show then what is being blogged about here

  • Go UMass
    March 9, 2014 at 9:55 am

    “Originality of this show is pretty solid. No one’s really done a show like this on the inner workings of Capitol Hill. Definitely the strength of this show.”

    I’m pretty sure the West Wing covered this more realistically.

  • Brian
    March 8, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    #1 The twilight zone no debate. most interesting characters and plot twists of all time and FAR ahead of its time. it has been ripped off more than any show ever. #2 Seinfeld #3 breaking bad

    • Joey G
      March 9, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      What about Gilligan’s Island? That had lots of plot twists. Like the time that Gilligan and the Professor gangbanged Maryann? No one ever saw that coming. That never happened on the Twilight Zone. However, I remember one episode where a guy was the same and everyone else was different.

  • matt
    March 8, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    If your gonna open it up to the cosby show you would have to put Seinfeld on there too.

    • Joey G
      March 9, 2014 at 9:43 pm

      Ya see… the kiiidddssss… they listen to the rap music that gives them the brain damage. With the hippin and the hoppin and the bippin and the boppin so they don’t know what the jaaazzzzzzzz… is all about!

  • March 8, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    With all due respect, or at least some vague description resembling respect, it is not fair to ask a poll of best shows of all time when 2 of them haven’t ended yet, and the Cosby Show isn’t even on the list. That being said, the rest of the article is on point

    • March 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Good cal. How can I forget the Cosby show? I’m going to keep watching True Detective. It’s just not what I was hoping it would be so far. Too much fantasy shit.

  • SUL
    March 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Sopranos = 6 seasons of what Goodfellas did in 3 hours

    • March 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Well said. But Goodfellas didn’t have a whole subplot where one of the made guys tries to write his own movie script.

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