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Breaking Bad

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Breaking Bad

Man, my nerves were shot.  After a long Sunday of watching a sick, screaming kid on my own, nineteen hours of a Yankees / Red Sox double-header marathon, trying to squeeze in my work-work in between the whiplash graphics of NFL Network's Red Zone, which is essentially football for the ADHD generation, as my fantasy football team continued to fuck me (thank you, Mike Vick, for apparently being made of balsa wood), and a visit from my dearly beloved great grandmother (in law), who though I love dearly, feels the need to tell you everything you touch, eat, drink, or even think about is going to give you cancer and kill you, I was a shaking ball of angry nerve.  I felt like this.

So it was with great joy that the time came to relax with a little Breaking Bad.

OK.  Maybe watching Breaking Bad on Sunday night isn't the best thing for frazzled nerves (especially when you go in to check on your sleeping son first, smell the unmistakable stench of giant dump, and wrench over whether a good parent wakes him up or let's him sleep in his own poo).  But like any good drug habit, it's tough to skip a fix.

We watched the movie Limitless Saturday night.  There's this funny interview a couple months ago with Zach Galifinakis in Rolling Stone, which is a good excuse to include some Between Two Ferns.

They're talking about how Zach loves to say inappropriate things at inappropriate times.  So when his Hangover co-star Bradley Cooper called to tell him his girlfriend broke up with him, Zach says, "Oh, you let her see Limitless?"  Limitless is a pretty shitty movie.  Inoffensive, but shitty.  I wouldn't even mention it, except for its ridiculous treatment of drugs and addiction, which is pretty standard for Hollywood's ridiculous treatment of drugs and addiction.  They never get it right.  I shouldn't say "never."  There's been Drugstore Cowboy and Trainspotting.  But they are the exception that proves the rule.  And on TV?  Forget it.

Except for Breaking Bad.  Which is, for my money, the best written show on TV.

I know a lot of people won't watch because of the subject matter.  In case you don't know what that subject matter is, the show's about a high school chemistry teacher who finds out he's got cancer and so starts cooking methamphetamine to leave some money behind for his family.  It's a fucking brilliant premise and there is no reason I shouldn't have thought of it first.  It's set in the Southwest, and features two of the best acting jobs you'll ever see, Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcom in the Middle, believe it or not) as the chemistry teacher, Walter White, and Aaron Paul as his surrogate son/cooking partner, Jessie Pinkman.  Their performances are, week in, week out, consistently nuanced and elaborate, layered, pained, complex and believable.

The show excels on so many different levels.  I fucking hate Walter's wife, Skylar (played by Anna Gunn).  In the first few episodes, she's more than just a shrewish bitch, henpecking her cancer-addled husband (she doesn't know he has cancer). But as the show goes on, you don't necessarily like her any more, but you see how necessary she is.  She's a strong female presence, who serves both as foil and accomplice.  I don't think a lot of writers would have made her so strong.  But she needs to be exactly the way she is, and you see why the further we get (we're in Season Four); she'd have been steamrolled by now, made irrelevant.  Instead, you have another dynamic, pushing and pulling, with her own motivations, as selfish as the rest.  And you have Water's son, Walt. Jr. (RJ Mitte), who has cerebral palsy, another perfect touch, which allows Walter Sr. the need to have a fully able-bodied son in Jesse (even if that "able body" is a complete fucking mess and drug addict). Then you have Hank, Walter's brother-in-law DEA agent. But instead of this being a convenient detail after the fact, it serves as the catalyst for Walter's getting involved with the meth production in the first place, when Hank takes him along on a raid in Season One.  Last season introduced criminal, cutthroat mastermind and forever chill Gus and his creepy old dude henchman, Mike.  A tightly coiled spin out of control.  The center cannot hold.

Vince Gilligan, who brought us The X Files, another one of the best shows TV has ever seen, is the mastermind, creator and writer.  Every facet of Breaking Bad is virtually flawless, from cinematography, to dialogue, to best of all, its depiction of meth addiction.

OK.  There is one detail Gilligan and Co. got wrong.  Walt and Jesse supposedly cook the purest meth around (99% for Walt, 96% for Jesse).  Yet, there was a scene where Jesse was smoking from a glass pipe and it was burning black.  Every (recovering) meth addict knows, the purer the meth, the less residue left behind. What gets burned black are the impurities.  96% pure would burn clean.

Which is why I would like to offer my services to Breaking Bad and Vince Gilligan. Vince, if you're reading this, drop me a line.  I've done my share of meth.  I can fucking write.  Let me help you.  Salary is negotiable.

Seriously, if you're not, watch this fucking show.  If you're the type to be offended by the subject matter you wouldn't be reading this blog (except maybe you, Laura, but that's OK.  I still love you.  But everyone besides Laura, you need to watch). Shows like this don't come along often.  And they don't last forever.  Next year is the last.  Catch up on it.  You'll be glad you did.

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At September 26, 2011 at 1:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What?!! If you're talking about me, I LOVE Breaking Bad! It's brilliant! It's my favorite show! I watch Breaking Bad marathons! Hey, lookit! We have something in common. :)

At September 26, 2011 at 3:37 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Breaking Bad AND Jane Austen? Laura, you are indeed a study in contradiction and complexity! ;)


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