From the very first scene, this series simply leaps to the top of any list one might make of terrific TV shows. A lot of very good series today think that they have to obfuscate what's going on to be edgy. They dump characters into the scene, not bothering to ID them in any way. They expect you to be patient and somehow remember the few minutes of screen time a character was given episodes ago.
But in THE WIRE, the pilot managed to introduce dozens of characters, immediately showing you who they were and how they fit into plot. Themes were established from the outset; several characters were already given a bit of a back story. But all of this was done in an artful, realistic, edgy way.
Go watch the opening scene on you tube. Wow!
Has there ever been a better series than THE WIRE?