Hooked on The Wire
I have long been a fan of "police dramas" on television, from the psychological thrust and parry of Columbo to the tragicomic sensibility of Hill Street Blues. The Wire is both a worthy successor to those great shows and a beautifully played riff on the crime drama theme. It's an inherently dramatic form, since the detection or capture of criminals provides the kind of plot to which the ferreting out of character and motivations is integral. As critics have noted, there's a "sociological" depth and breadth to The Wire that is rare in television. The way that large institutions and cultural forces can shape individual choices and acts is made part of the drama, and it works quite well.
I might have looked askance at the series had it seemed to present an entirely deterministic worldview. Naturalism of any stripe is not my cup of tea. But the well-written and fleshed-out characters chip away at the "naturalist" structure. Among the police, there are McNulty, Daniels, and Greggs. Among the others, there is Omar, Robin Hood of the projects, outlaw among outlaws, avenging angel/demon, specter haunting the dysfunctional culture that conjured him.
Omar saves the show from being a fascinating naturalist project and makes it into a work of art.