The Wire is the greatest television drama of all time ever. Everyone says that because it's true. FX are showing all four series from the first episode on Monday nights leading up to the final fifth series.
I prefer drama that is complex, truthful, emotional, treats me like an adult and says something about the world, so this is perfect for me. It is never preachy and always entertaining. If 'entertaining' is the right word. Sure it's often funny but it's also often scary. Not fake horror scares but the fear you get when characters you have got to know and care about are put in danger.
Co-creator David Simon wrote the source book for Homicide - Life on the Streets, which also held the "best TV drama of all time" title until The Sopranos and Six Feet Under came along to fight amongst themselves for it. He became an Emmy winning screenwriter on the show and interestingly, the other writers on The Wire come from books too. Which was more than a little annoying as it destroyed my "novelists make crap screenwriters theory" and I really, really liked that theory.
The series has relatively low ratings on HBO but it gets commissioned each year due to the sheer quality and universal media acclaim.
The show isn't for everyone, just as ordinary television is called chewing gum for the eyes, The Wire is a five course meal requiring the savouring of every last morsel and that takes a bit more effort. I never watch it live but tape it as there's so much going on, and I don't want to miss a word.
Watch Charlie Brooker's excellent introductory documentary on the series here in the 'video' section.
You've missed the first episode but you can watch it here at The Guardian.
The Wire, season 1 FX, Mondays, 10:00pm (repeated early Tuesday mornings plus on FX+2 time shift)