I’ve probably uttered the line “Oh I don’t really watch TV” at some point in attempts to convey an air of highbrowery. And while most television is complete garbage, I’m occasionally surprised when a really good series comes along surpassing the usual vapid sitcoms and nonsensical premises. (Like the ridiculous show Numbers. Many TV series rival the quality of movies, and while most are on HBO or Showtime, the rise of on demand availability doesn’t make them dependent on subscribing to the premium channels anymore.
In the past year my home entertainment content has shifted from TV and DVDs to mostly downloaded content, making access to the few superior shows easier, and without needing to buy an entire season for upwards of $20. Our household hasn’t canceled cable yet, but with Netflix via mail, Netflix and Amazon on demand, (via the Roku box,) and our Apple TV box we’re about ready to dump Comcast. My one guilty pleasure is the Magic Bullet infomercial (speaking of nonsense,) however I can forgo that for $75 a month in my pocket.
Last month I discovered the show “Breaking Bad,” from Amazon’s new on demand service. I downloaded the first few episodes and was captivated at the story. Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, (who played the dad on Malcolm in the Middle,) is a high school science teacher whose better career days are behind him. Recently diagnosed with lung cancer he worries how he’ll support his wife, son, and new baby on the way. His bombastic and good natured brother in law is a DEA agent, and while on a ride along he meets a former student during a meth house bust. Jesse Pinkman, the student, gives Walt a primer on the street value of methamphetamine, and with Walt’s superb chemistry skills the two start cooking the highest quality product in Albuquerque – creating demand, enormous profit, and enormous problems for the two.
Walt transitions between his family life and his dealing with his illness – (doctors and health plans,) and the world of drugs, their users, and their consequences. The drug world is far from glamorized. Many wouldn’t care to watch a show about the dark world of meth, however the real story is about Walt’s decisions and his family, and his awakening due to cancer.
Filmed on location in New Mexico the outside imagery is harsh and blinding like the desert sun. Conversely, the interior shots are extreme too: Walt’s 70s style house is dark and shabby – a reflection of his internal feelings. Police offices and doctors facilities are cold and sterile. In the entire first season there’s only one scenario which I found too over the top, however the rest of the show is nailbiting, and Walt is a fascinating anti-hero in his quest to provide for his family.
The title “Breaking Bad” comes from a southern saying meaning to deviate from course, or to break from the straight and narrow path. The emmy winning show is currently in season two, broadcast on AMC Sunday nights. If you haven’t seen it it’s worth dowloading the first season if you’re looking for a qualilty TV series to watch.