What was the Sopranos before the Sopranos, ie paragon of tv?

In discussions of True Detective, a show I’ve yet to watch, I see people wheeling out that it is better or as good as the usual suspects: The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad.

I am curious as to what was THE show prior to The Sopranos airing. I am aware that television drama seems to have had a renaissance of sort in wake of The Sopranos airing but surely in the mid or early '90s or earlier there were go to show for complimentary comparisons. I am not asking if there were shows better than The Sopranos in years gone by just what shows where considered the pinnacle prior to it and the recent crop of critically and audience acclaimed shows.

The West Wing.

Sepinwal covers this pretty well in his book.

How far do you want to go back? I’d say that Hill Street Blues was a game changer and the top of the pile for the early to mid 80s.

The Sopranos premiered in January '99, the West Wing in September of that year :wink:

I’d go with Oz (premiered in '97), the* X-Files* (93 I think ?) and *Seinfeld *(seemingly forever).

I definitely remember NYPD Blue being talked about as a game-changer. It had more nudity, more violence, more gritty realism…and it’s the first show that I remember having that nauseating “fly-around” camera thing.

NYPD Blue is a good bet and before that Hill Street Blues and before that and this was a huge one was All in the Family. I think an argument can be made the **Sopranos **was the biggest leap game changer since All in the Family as far as quality, awards and impact. **Sopranos **was the first series to drastically change the number of people subscribing to a premium channel. It won award after award and was one of the ultimate and maybe the last water cooler show.

I never watched NYPD Blue, but I remember it being talked about a lot. Right around the same time as ER, which is probably in the same category (as the OP, not NYPD Blue).

Twin Peaks would be another.

Not Twin Peaks, it was basically a failure. Well noted and very interesting but it did not change anything. It really wasn’t as well written or acted as Northern Exposure; a somewhat similar show from exactly the same time period.

Color me shocked. It didn’t hit my radar until well into the 00’s.

The Simpsons was a major paradigm shift when it debuted in 1989, not only for prime-time animation, but for subversive family sitcoms in general.

And those two shows were also filmed only about an hour apart from each other in Washington State. Twin Peaks in North Bend/Snoqualmie and Northern Exposure in Roslyn.

Yes, All in the Family, Maude (for its unapologetic feminism), Soap (gay themes) and Hill Street Blues (gritty cop drama) were all very big for their day.

I emphatically disagree. Twin Peaks was much more interesting and engaging to me, with an underlying air of menace and secretiveness that Northern Exposure didn’t have at all (and didn’t try to, being basically a fish-out-of-water comedy).

Dallas pretty much opened the door for prime-time soap operas when it debuted in (holy crap!) 1978.

MASH*** was also quite groundbreaking (and talked about) when it came on in 1972, even though it got off to something of a shaky start. It’s one of the few shows I can remember people discussing away from their living rooms, and building their weekly schedules around.

Mission: Impossible, which debuted in 1966, was very innovative and became an almost instant hit. I can remember my eighth-grade science teacher saying “That’s one show I never miss!”

From what I gather, Sea Hunt got a similar reaction in 1958 because it was so different from anything else that was on at the time.

I also remember The Prisoner generated an almost immediate cult following when it was aired in the US in the summer of 1967.

Correction: It could not have been the summer of '67, since it didn’t debut in Great Britain until September of that year.

A friend of my brother was a big fan, and I know he wasn’t around in 1968. That would place it in the summer of '69, when all three of us were in Minneapolis at the same time.

Roseanne was a game changer too.

Not only did Hill Street Blues open up a whole new subgenre of cop show, its format was easily adapted to other milieus, St Elsewhere and LA Law being the most notable examples.

Even before HSB, basically the same format was experimented with on Lou Grant. All four shows were from Mary Tyler Moore’s production company.

All in the Family and Hill Street Blues were its antecedents in the show-runner-as-auteur concept.

Yeah I’m with Hill Street Blues, but a big up to Northern Exposure.

X-Files as well.

I think ER fits in there somewhere.