Not a slam dunk choice, deciding which was he better crime series, The Wire or The Sopranos. Some hasty reflection and equivocation, of a sort, are called for..Both are crime dramas, but both are entirely different creatures and sensibilities. The Wire was complex and multi-level on the society tiers it included, like a Dickens novel. And the show was contiguous in its complicated story line; it was more in league with the tradition of the police procedural , where the actual police work was always in the forefront. Characters all had their complexities and distinct personalities, of course, which made for compelling dramatic conflict, but no situation in any of the social levels--the street, the cops, the upper class, the press, the politicians--was unrelated to the criminal activity being committed and being investigated.The Wire was a true, crime drama.
The genius of The Sopranos was that they seemed an inspired parody of the kinds of families you find on the vintage family saga dramas on broadcast tv, but in this case it was crime families instead of oil barons. Toss in the notion that a crime boss has a therapist and we have a show whose creators take license to introduce sudden shifts in moods, style, point of view, ranging from surreal and comic, seen in their frequent use of dream sequences, to comedic, to tragic and genuinely moving, those moments when our sympathies are truly with Tony Soprano. Since the show dealt so amazingly well with the issue of loyalty to family, both real and crime, and adherence to an inverted kind of tradition and notions of the right thing to do, I would also make a tenuous connection to King Lear, with Tony as the addled , ego-driven monarch whose demands for full obedience to his skittishly arrived at decisions creates the seeds of his eventual demise,
As mentioned, the show creators also liked abrupt changes in tone, and were mindful to remind us, just when we begin to feel that Tony or any of his colleagues are redeemable and wholly sympathetic, we witness again that these people are monsters, cruel, venal, and emotionally distanced from the harm they cause others.For complexity of story line and epic scale of narrative accomplishment, I will take The Wire. The Sopranos, though, has its own kind of genius that no other show has