Great. Busy. Great. Great. Great.

Tonight ends one of the best and most consistent shows ever to grace the small screen and I’m reminded every day about just how few people I come into contact with have given it a fair shake despite the longevity and critical success it has achieved. When talking about great crime shows, The Shield is worthy of inclusion with the best of the best. Names like Homicide: Life on the Streets, The Sopranos, The Wire, Hill Street Blues, The Rockford Files, and Law& Order. If I want to be a little nerdy I’ll add American Gothic and The Job to the list.

Typically I get this: “That’s the show with the guy from The Commish.” Or, what is it, Training Day but over and over again?

Actually, those questions both have accuracy but it’s way too easy to dismiss The Shield as a simple cops and crooks show or ever a corrupt cops show. After coming out of the gate swinging with that unforgettable pilot episode the show has managed to build a terrific ensemble and survive a series of different seasonal “guest stars” like Glenn Close, Forrest Whitaker, and Anthony Anderson without skipping a beat. It’s managed to maintain our love for characters who live on the wrong side of vile, slipping past snares in every direction to emerge free men, albeit men with heavy weights on their conscience.

The best shows allow us to change favorite characters over the course of seasons, usually to give us an emotional shiv as the mythology evolves. Surprisingly, Michael Chiklis has gotten most of the attention while his supporting cast totally wins me over. First it was Walton Goggins [who still is absolutely perfect as Shane Vendrell, the most memorable character in the series], then it was Kenny Johnson’s Curtis Lemansky before switching to Jay Karnes’ annoying but memnorable Dutch Wagonbach before settling on the dude who has been the quiet glue for the past two seasons, David Rees Snell as the only level-headed guy on the Strike Team, Ronnie Gardocki.

It also shares with the best crime stories [Heat and Casino come to mind offhand] the way in which our protagonists’ plans are foiled by the weakness of family or loved ones. If they’d have just stuck with the program things would have worked out. It’s excruciating to see the way Vic Mackey and Shane Vendrell’s families have made them into what they are in this final season. Feral, rabid animals with their backs to the wall. Then again, I tend to root for the bad guys so there is that.

The bottom line is that while I have no problems with the CSI shows and the Law & Order shows and their clones… The Shield trumps them on every level that matters creatively. And it’s still horribly underseen.

Don’t watch tonight’s episode if you’re a newbie, and don’t read spoilers about it. Go to the beginning and work through an absolutely sensational and brutal slice of American drama. It’s worth it. My secret: Have an IPOD dock at your nightstand and watch a few in bed every night. It’s amazing how it passes the time and fills your brain with the most vividly exposive criminal dreams. .

Do me a favor, either start blind buying the DVD’s from our Amazon link, download the first few episodes of at least Season One (though it gets better and more screwy with each year).

But if you’re a fan and plan on watching it at 10PM Eastern… post either here in this talkback, HERE in our Final Season Thread, or chat about it live HERE in our chat room.

A great show is ending. The great thing in this era of digital options, you have no fucking reason to be ignorant of this show any more.