@Styl3s: I wasn't trying to imply that HBO and Showtime shows are better because of cursing or nudity. I actually agree with you, it's usually unnecessary. But in pure volume terms, HBO and Showtime crank out shows that have much better writing, characters and acting. I haven't seen The Shield so I can't comment on that, but Breaking Bad is definitely one of my favorite all-time shows.
But just look at the all of the internal politics that shows on FX and AMC even get subjected to. We're missing an entire season of Mad Men because AMC and the writers couldn't agree on more ad-time and cutting characters to cut cost. I'm extremely glad that Breaking Bad was able to negotiate an ending to the show that fits with the creator's visions, but I do still feel like there's a freedom that shows on completely premium channels get. Sure, they still have shows cancelled (I'm still ticked about Deadwood) but overall their situation seems better on premium channels.