The TV drama era that started with Twin Peaks and culminated in The Sopranos really did bring a lot of viewers to TV, viewers who previously found TV too limited, corny, slapdash and beholden to advertisers. Even the greatest pre-Sopranos TV shows are obviously compromised, and you have to make allowances for that. (Homicide, for example, is obviously a more compromised show than The Wire – not to say that The Wire is necessarily better in an absolute sense, just that the bargains Homicide made with advertisers, network executives and ratings are right there on the screen for everyone to see.) Trying to argue for the classic status of an obviously compromised commercial product is not impossible, but it’s tricky.
On a completely unrelated note, I think I went to high school with Mr. Weinman.