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The 50 Best TV Dramas of All Time

21. The Shield

Network: FX
Air Dates: March 12, 2002 – November 25, 2008
Stars: Michael Chiklis, Glenn Close, Paula Garces, Walton Goggins, CCH Pounder, Michael Jace, Catherine Dent, Kenneth Johnson, Jay Karnes, David Marciano, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, David Rees Snell

King Kong ain’t got shit on… Detective Vic Mackey. As played by Michael Chiklis, who transformed from balding, soft-batch, suburban police commissioner in The Commish (1991-1996) to bald badass leader of the LAPD’s Strike Team (a take on the Rampart Division’s scandalous anti-gang unit) in The Shield, he is arguably the dirtiest cop—and one of the best anti-heroes—in the history of entertainment.

The shocking pilot episode of showrunner Shawn Ryan’s series reveals that Mackey is a terribly immoral man, but he's so charismatic and devoted to his team that it’s impossible not to follow and root for him as he cheats on his wife with prostitutes, steals drugs and money, tortures, and even commits murders. His myriad crimes and Machiavellian ass-coverings grow increasingly unbelievable over the course of seven seasons, and yet the drama of consequences catching up to a man is unrelenting, right up to the series’ stupendous finale, which sets the bar for anti-heroes incredibly high (or perhaps low, so you’d have to slither under it). —Justin Monroe

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