The best television series of the 90’s
Run: 2002-2008, 60 episodes
“Sheeeeeeeeeit.” Former crime reporter David Simon conceived his mighty drama as a modern-day Greek tragedy. A morality play set in a drug-ravaged urban hell, where everyone is compromised and the system is broken. Novelistic in scope and depth, it forensically unpeeled each layer of inner city Baltimore, weaving together crims and cops, judges and journalists in a bleakly realistic epic – while creating enduring, iconic characters like Stringer Bell, Omar Little, Avon Barksdale and Jimmy McNulty. Well worth a re-up.
Run: 2016, 10 episodes
Even though we knew the outcome, we still couldn’t take our eyes off the Emmy-winning debut season in Ryan Murphy’s new crime anthology, which dramatised the infamous 1994 murder trial. This was mainly thanks to the superlative performances – Sarah Paulson as DA Marcia Clark, Courtney B Vance as defence lawyer Johnnie Cochrane, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian – but also because of what it had to say about racism, sexism, tabloid trashiness and the justice system.
Run: 1997-2003, 56 episodes
The show that started a dramatic dynasty. HBO showed its ambition with its debut hour-long series: an unflinching depiction of life inside a fictional maximum security prison, New York’s Oswald State Correction Facility – complete with graphic sex, gang wars, drug use and visceral violence. Dense, disturbing and influential. Oz: it’s no place like home.
Run: 2004-2011, 96 episodes
As the tagline said: “Fame’s more fun with your friends.” Last year’s film flopped but back in the Noughties, this comedy-drama about a Hollywood A-lister’s hanger-on mates was unmissable. Based on the posse of exec-producer Mark Wahlberg, it was a grin-inducing portrayal of male bonding, studded with celeb cameos and boasted a breakout character in shouty agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven). Let’s hug it out, bitch.
Run: 1999-2007, 86 episodes
The daddy of them all and still unsurpassed. The Sopranos changed the way TV is watched and made. David Chase’s game-changing masterpiece portrayed a New Jersey mob boss struggling to juggle his two families – his flesh and blood one at home (Carmela, Meado, AJ) with his crime one at work (Paulie, Pussy, Silv, Christopher) – and going into therapy under the strain. The late, great James Gandolfini somehow made murderous, womanising Tony deeply sympathetic and the richly-drawn characters became like family to us too. Funny, tragic, thrilling perfection. Come on, let’s eat baked ziti, drink Chianti and watch it all over again.