I didn't watch The Sopranos during it's initial run. I saw the odd episode on tv, but it seemed like a series you need to watch in order to fully know what's going on (and you definitely do). So finally, years after it ended, my girlfriend and I caved and watched the first season on DVD. In about 2 days. Then we rushed out and bought the second season, and the third, and so on. I was completely hooked right from the first episode.
There's one scene from the pilot episode in particular, where Tony uses Christopher's car to chase down a guy that owes them money, and it's a phenomenal combination of comedy and drama that sets the tempo for the entire series, in my opinion. I love it.
*Definitely not something to watch with the kids. Violence, profanity, etc*
Admittedly, I've always found the world of organized crime fascinating, but The Sopranos took it to a whole different level. I love everything about this show. It can be serious and intense one minute, and then end that same scene with a joke that makes you laugh, before it pulls you right back into a serious situation. The way humour is sprinkled throughout the series without becoming the primary focus of the show is incredible. The writing is simply perfect.
And the characters??? Unreal. Tony Soprano is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. In my opinion, he's the perfect anti-hero. He can be a selfish, egotistical asshole one minute, and then a funny, smiling guy that you'd want for a neighbour the next. They do a great job of planting these seeds of decency in his character (for example, it's established very early on that he cares about animals), and things like this give him this redeemable quality and makes him a character you can get behind, despite the fact that he's constantly doing terrible things like cheating on his wife and, well, running people over with cars....
It's not just Tony, though. Carmella, Dr. Melfi, Christopher, Silvio, Paulie (my second favourite, and the funniest character on the show for sure), they're all great. This show is the perfect combination of immaculate storytelling and incredible characters that, as far as I'm concerned, has yet to be duplicated.
The only real criticism The Sopranos receives with any regularity is that the ending was a letdown. Personally, I didn't hate it, but I also knew what it was before I saw it. I can't imagine watching the series finale live and having it end the way it did. I might have thrown my tv through a window. It's aged well, though, in my opinion. I really like reading fan theories about it, even though we all know what it actually means.
I don't want to go into too many details in case you haven't watched the show, and I don't mean for this to sound like a review. I just wanted to show my love and admiration for this series. I just urge/beg you to give it a chance. The DVDs are stupid expensive, but it's on Crave TV now for like $10/month, and I cannot stress how great of a deal that is.
I put The Sopranos all by itself at the top of the television mountain. I'm in the middle of my 4th or 5th viewing of the series, and it never gets old. It's TV perfection.
And no, The Wire isn't better than The Sopranos. Stop it.