I was going to ask how you get through 4 seasons of a show you're not even enjoying all that much, but then I remember how I watched all of Lost in about a one-month period ....

I liked The Wire well enough, but prefer Breaking Bad by a mile. The Wire was interesting, well done. But I never felt particularly invested in the characters, and I found long stretches of the show to be unfocused and too boorishly topical. I also thought some of the show's tonal missteps were pretty egregious (whereas most of Breaking Bad's missteps seem minor to me, things that don't really drag down the overall quality).

As for the soap opera comparison, to me it's like this. One, I don't think "soap opera" is necessarily an entirely bad thing. At least soap opera style storytelling keeps things in a state of flux. Characters change, stories weave in and out of each other, the emotional landscape transforms a lot, while remaining grounded in a basic addictive tension. It is a style that can be used very cheaply, or can be used very well. Two, I don't see The Wire or Breaking Bad as soap operas, really. In The Wire, each season seemed to kind of have a basic theme and arc, and a lot of it was very political. It seemed very much an examination of corruption through different overlapping layers of a specific cultural and political environment. In the week-to-week flow of things, it certainly employed some soap opera-like mechanics, but I'm not sure why that's any worse than a show that has a specific formula that every single episode conforms to, like a sitcom or a Law & Order type drama. Breaking Bad, though, is way too focused for the comparison to apply, to me, outside of the fact that it's fond of cliffhangers. You can certainly see the writers lap themselves a few times narratively because early on, any season could be the last, but overall it is pretty tightly structured and well thought out. It is a story about two specific characters that has a beginning, middle, and end, and it's a thoughtful examination of personal moral decay. It also functions on various meta-narrative levels without being all in-your-face about it the way The Wire tended to be.

Game of Thrones, by contrast, does strike me as a soap opera. It's about a lot of things, but at the same time, nothing much at all. It's just sort of a free-form open-world environment of betrayal, romance, and drama. Little stories rise and are told and fall away, but there's no really specific main character or central narrative. That said, I enjoy Game of Thrones. It's a ballsy soap opera and very entertaining.

Any particular shows that you specifically admire?