Unlike the notion that people are either Joss Whedon fans or JJ Abrams fans, I think that most people who like The Wire probably like The Sopranos as well. I loved the first few seasons of The Sopranos and I watched it regularly until I felt the show was going downhill – at that point, it unfurled what was to me its best episode, the one where Pauly and Christopher get stranded in the snow hunting the Russian. After that I knew that, for me, the show could not get better and watched haphazardly after that.
With The Wire, not so much. I’ve seen each episode a half-dozen times, some more, none less. I wasn’t a fan of the docks in Season 2 or the newspaper in Season 5, but the show was so much more than its central story arc. I’ve no doubt that Tony Soprano, as a character, is more beloved by the American viewing public than either Omar Little or Stringer Bell, but no character in American television was as complex as Stringer Bell, and few had the power to steal scene after scene in the manner of Omar Little (Al Swearengen comes to mind, of course).
Whatever – an interesting sub-argument in a larger essay – enjoy:
Today, most serious followers of blue-chip shows tend to agree that the best TV dramas ever are The Wire and The Sopranos, in that order. That includes Sepinwall, who helped to invent how contemporary TV shows are written about with his comprehensive recaps of Sopranos episodes for the Newark Star-Ledger.
Sepinwall’s reasons for preferring The Wire to The Sopranos (which he stresses is a strong no. 2 on his all-time list) are pretty typical: He thinks The Wire had a better grasp of storytelling and a brighter galaxy of characters. The later, weaker, and yet somehow better-remembered seasons of The Sopranos don’t help its case, nor did that last scene of “Made in America.” For Sepinwall, if the episode had ended “with the scene before they go to the diner, where Tony visits Junior in the old folks’ home, and that’s your glimpse of what the future is for Tony, I think people remember it very differently,” he told me.
Sepinwall’s other reason for ranking The Wire higher is interesting and, I’d bet, common for viewers of both shows. “It’s less cynical,” he said. “While I marvel and laugh at the cynicism of The Sopranos, it can wear on you after a while. The Wire is bleak in its own way, but it has a belief in humanity. Whereas The Sopranos just believes that people suck.”
via Revisiting the finale of ‘The Sopranos’ and the show’s place in the history of television – Grantland.