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'The Shield' is about to depart, but it's left its mark on TV history

Shawn Ryan wasn't sure which surprised him more: that somebody wanted to make his insane cop-show Shield script -- full of four-letter words, racist rants, unspeakable violence and profoundly anti-social behavior -- into a TV show or that the interest was coming from an obscure little cable channel devoted almost exclusively to reruns of desiccated old 1970s programs.

"I had done the script mainly as a writing sample, to use when I applied for jobs," he recalls. "And when I heard FX was looking at it, my first thought was, ‘That's not even really a network. That's where I watch M*A*S*H reruns.' ''

Not for long. The Shield, Ryan's over-the-top story about renegade cops so violent and crooked that they could barely be distinguished from the criminals they pursued, would redefine the police genre, turn FX into one of the most influential networks in television and even remake the face of basic-cable television. Read my full story on how the departure of The Shield, which launches its final season Tuesday, marks the end of an era at FX.

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