"Stiff and sterile," indeed. TNG is the most satisfying of the STAR TREK series!
It reset the standard without a doubt.
I think the attitude of both shows should be different. The work ethic on board the Federation flagship isn't going to be the same as on board a busted up space station that's for trade and commerce. Comparing TNG to DS9 is like comparing the House of Windsor to the Bunny Ranch in Las Vegas.