I've never seen Breaking Bad before, I admit, but the Wire really is the best use of the television format till date.
Top-notch writing, acting, and believable characterizations all around - but what sets it apart was the epic scale that it told its story with. Five entire seasons dedicated to exploring nearly every aspect of the city of Baltimore. I mean, what other series can really lay claim to having done that? Sure, the Sopranos is more culturally relevant, but from a television perspective - the Wire is superb.