August 12, 2014 11:22 AM EDT

Although this police drama was inspired by a cop-corruption scandal of the 1990s, when it debuted in 2002 it had a distinctly post-9/11 theme: what moral compromises are we willing to accept in the name of safety? It centers on Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), an extremely effective, extremely shady cop heading an LAPD unit that takes down murderers and pushers, usually trampling the Bill of Rights and pocketing dirty money for themselves in the process. The Shield depicts a dirty, red-in-tooth-and-claw L.A. where no one, from cop to politician, white, black or brown, is entirely selfless. No show does a better job of making you feel your TV screen needs a good Windexing when an episode is over.

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