The Best Show You’re Not Watching

Used to be “The Wire.” But now it’s “Breaking Bad.”

Earlier this week I saw an advance preview of the episode of “Breaking Bad” that airs this Sunday 10pm/9pm on AMC. Do yourselves a favor and record it, or watch it live. It’s a great hour of television, and it’s a great entry point into the series if you’ve heard “Breaking Bad” is good, have been curious, but have been reluctant to jump in. Even if you don’t get hooked, the episode stands on its own as pure entertainment.

For those who may not know, “Breaking Bad” is the story of a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico who begins using his chemistry skills to cook meth in order to provide for his family after he learns he has terminal lung cancer. He teams up with a former student and begins an evolution described by the executive producer, Vince Gilligan, as Mr. Chips becomes Scarface.

The first season was cut short by the writers strike, but with only 7 episodes produced the show won two Emmys, both much deserved, one for Bryan Cranston (formerly of “Malcom in the Middle”), and one for editing. The show looks amazing and is one of the few shows left on TV still shot on film. AMC, who has become a front-runner of late in cable original programming, insists their shows have a cinematic quality, and “Breaking Bad” delivers. It is reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ best work and is invested with both a sense of humanity and a wicked sense of humor.

Not only does it look great, but the writing and acting are top notch. The creator Vince Gilligan is a long time TV vet who formerly worked on the X-files. Cranston and the supporting cast are fantastic. Not only that, but the show is consistently innovative and groundbreaking. For example, a recent episode began with a narcocorrido music video, which told the story of Walt White in the controversial musical form that glorifies the lives of Mexican drug-runners.

The particular episode I want to recommend is called “Better Call Saul” and introduces Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, a criminal lawyer who helps out the two main characters when they find themselves in a tight legal bind. Odenkirk is hilarious in the part, and fits right in with the cast.

So all I’m saying is now’s your chance. “Lost” is wrapping up, and “Breaking Bad” is great TV. Do yourself a favor? When have I ever steered you wrong?

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39 thoughts on “The Best Show You’re Not Watching

  1. Any show set in Albuquerque has to be good. And really, is there any better way to provide for a family than cooking meth? Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. How about In Plain Sight, also set in Albuquerque? πŸ˜‰

    Alright, I’ll take your challenge and watch it. =)

    I’m not that familiar with AMC – what level of family unfriendly content can I expect? (I mean, I can handle Dexter, but I doubt my wife would.)

  3. FHL,

    It’s definitely not a kids show. I would liken it to a lot of what’s on HBO or Showtime, just without the sex and language.

  4. I’m just starting The Wire and have stared watching Flight of the Conchords (which is even funnier than people told me) I’ll put this one on the “to watch” list though.

  5. I should say that there is certainly harsh language on Breaking Bad, but you don’t get the “variety” so-to-speak that you would find on HBO, etc.

  6. I am a cancer survivor and I love this show. I put so much pressure on myself to handle my illness with dignity that I find it very cathartic to watch Walt put his desparation on full display (not that I condone his behavior).

  7. I’ve always felt the treatment of facing terminal cancer rings very authentic to me.

    “Breaking Bad” isn’t something you would want to watch with the kids, but I find it a lot less gratuitous than what you find on HBO and Showtime.

  8. I didn’t discover just how great The Wire was until it was off the air. We devoured al 5 seasons in a matter of weeks. I tried Breaking Bad but just couldn’t stick with it. I enjoy AMC’s Mad Men a lot more. Both shows are critical darlings but need veiwers badly.

  9. Brian I love Eastbound and Down, but I almost hate to admit it. I found the final episode heartbreaking. I can’t help but root for Kenny.

  10. This is probably the best show on TV. If I had to choose between Lost and Breaking Bad, I think BB would win by a sliver.

    And somehow Bryan Cranston always finds a way to end up on screen in his underware (or less) no matter what show he’s in. Priceless!

  11. I watched most of the first episode of Eastbound and Down on YouTube and liked it. Danny McBride is great, even though he’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. The Foot Fist Way is worth watching only if you are a Danny McBride fan and have had some contact with amateur martial arts.

  12. I liked The Foot Fist Way a lot, but it helps to approach it not expecting comedy. It has funny moments but it’s much more of a character study.

  13. I think Breaking Bad is better than Mad Men. Mad Men is fascinating, but after the novelty of the time period wears off, and after you’re done realizing how different things were just a four decades ago, you have a show where no one ever changes much, and no one is really sympathetic, and not a lot ever happens.

    I gave Eastbound and Down a fair shot, but I guess I didn’t really find it that funny. I didn’t even finish the first episode, so I missed the topless jetskiing, which is ironic, because that may very well have changed my opinion.

  14. Brian G, give Eastbound and Down another chance. Just don’t watch it with any of the kids around.

  15. Brian I love Eastbound and Down, but I almost hate to admit it. I found the final episode heartbreaking. I canÒ€ℒt help but root for Kenny.

    I’m not sure I’d go so far as “heartbreaking,” but it is rather amazing how much sympathy you’re able to garner for someone who is shown throughout the run to be a reprehensible person in almost every way.

  16. Agree that Eastbound and Down is classic. Really surprised me. Thought I’d hate it.

    I think I’ll watch Seasons 1 and 2 of Breaking Bad on DVD after Season 2 comes out.

    I’m starting The Tudors this week. Anyone else ever watched it? Am I wasting my time?

  17. I love The Tudors. It’s very entertaining and really well acted. Season 2 was especially suburb. However it’s no history lesson. They use the facts and add their own storytelling touches. For instance they combine both of King Henry’s sisters into one character. Lots of little things like that. Also in case no one told you, there is nudity and violence a plenty. If none of that turns you off then go for it, it’s a great show.

    I think that people that say Mad Men isn’t much more then it’s cool time periodness are maybe distracted by it more then anything. It has some of the best writing on TV for it’s female characters. Betty, Peggy and Joan, especially in the second season, had amazing story arcs. Some of it was subtle but I think that’s something this show is very good at. Subtle with a whollop.

  18. I think the storylines for the female characters are much more compelling on Mad Men because they have real obstacles in their path–sexism, abusive men, lack of opportunity. The real obstacles lead to real drama.

    In contrast, the men have no such obstacles. They have it all and are still fundamentally unhappy. Their biggest obstacles are themselves. Sure, on an intellectual level their stories are interesting, but on a gut level I find the stories boring and the characters unsympathetic.

    Let me put it this way, if I was Don Draper, I’d spend all my time counting my money and making Betty happy.

  19. I tend to agree with what I think I see you saying Brian. I’m the sort who needs at least one sympathetic “hero” I can relate to. That’s why BSG started to fall apart for me I think. Especially with the Starbuck/Apollo triangle. They’d ceased to be sympathetic to me. The only sympathetic character was Adama himself.

    I’m wondering if this would mean I wouldn’t like Caprica.

    BTW – to answer my own question about Dexter. New episodes this fall with baby Dexter on the way. I’m not sure what that means, but I hope it means early September.

  20. I definitely agree with Clark about the lack of a sympathetic character on BSG as it progressed. I remember finding it funny that at one point the most sympathetic character on the show was the convicted terrorist. This was before the writers apparently decided they’d tired of him and made him do a violently fast, not-very-believable 180.

    On the other hand, it was pretty interesting that, by the end of the series, I was much more on the side of the Cylons than the humans, which was definitely not the case at the beginning.

  21. I think the story of how Don Draper became Don Draper is pretty compelling. Can he really change?

  22. Can he really change?

    Probably not. That’s why I’m not that interested in Draper, ultimately. His shenanigans hold only a vicarious interest for the reptile side of my brain. Who wouldn’t want to disappear from work for three weeks , come back, learn you’re rich, get rid of your biggest rival at work, and then convince your beautiful wife (who you just cheated on) to stay with you?

    The show shamelessly caters to a male fantasy of a life without consequence, in my opinion.

  23. “nudity and violence aplenty…” in the Tudors?

    Yes, I was aware of that. All the more reason to tune in. πŸ™‚ But no amount of nudity or violence can make up for a weak script. So hopefully the Tudors delivers on that front.

    I’m a huge Mad Men fan and early adopter. I think the show’s writing is fantastic. Even the minor characters are three dimentional with compelling character arcs.

    Anyone else watching The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency? Very charming, although, having read some of the books I’m finding the various cases not too compelling. I wonder if I’d think different if I didn’t already know the outcome?

  24. I love Mad Men too. Sometime we should discuss the last part of last season, though. The trip to LA really freaked me out.

  25. The show shamelessly caters to a male fantasy of a life without consequence, in my opinion.

    Except for the fact that he’s miserable. The fact that none of this is making his any happier kind of invalidates your argument IMO.

  26. I don’t think Don’s life looks like a dream come true. None of the men’s lives do. Heck Rodger had what 2 heart attacks trying to maintain his “fantasy” life? My mom was exactly the same age as Betty and Don’s little girl at that time. Her dad was a lawyer. She says the show is sadly very close to the life she remembers. I know her dad regrets it deeply. Don will too. I also think it’s interesting to see the younger men in the office already trying to be different, well some of them. Plus the times they were a changin’, I’m very interested to see how this will effect them.

  27. Rodger is wealthy, can be drunk all day, slept with Joan Hollaway with no commitment in return, broke her heart, moved on to a younger, prettier model, and is now free of the responsibility of his wife, apparently without regret. He’s living the dream of many middle-aged men. The heart attack and his realization of his own mortality only fueled his desire to eat, drink, and be merry, so he’s hardly an example of regret and contrition, at least not yet.

    Don is missing something deep inside, I agree, but that doesn’t invalidate my argument. Many viewers, myself included, love to see Don get away with it, come up with the last minute pitch, get Duck tossed, etc. I don’t think a lot of people watch Mad Men and lament about poor, poor Don always frustrated in his quest for happiness. My argument is only invalid if it pains the audience to see Don do this to himself. It doesn’t. Quite the opposite.

    Don is really just another in a long line of TV anti-heroes whose appeal lies in watching them get away with it. Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, charismatic people who do despicable things and manage to slip out of trouble up until the very end, and sometimes even then they escape justice.

  28. I don’t feel that way about Don at all. He’s really good at what he does and he knows how to sell but at home it’s not that way. Not anymore. That’s the storyline that’s compelling. He’s screwed up and Betty’s not letting him get away with it. She’s not turning a blind eye to his affairs. She has not forgiven him and I’m not sure she ever will. It’s interesting that the women aren’t letting the men get away with things anymore. Peggy made a decision never consulting Pete. Joan cut off Rodger and I just bet that his new “pretty young thing” it’s going to be an easy push over. The point is that there is a lot going on on this show more then just the cool 60’s facade.

  29. Keep in mind, I’m a fan of Mad Men. I’ve seen every episode and am enjoying discussing it. I just like Breaking Bad slightly better.

    It’s interesting…I bet men and women view Don, and Mad Men, quite differently. This Saturday Night Live sketch pretty much sums up how men view Don, to comic effect.

    Although some progress has been made, I just can’t agree that the women aren’t letting the men get away with things anymore. For instance, Joan was raped by her husband, a devastating event to her emotionally. Definitely, up to this point, she has let her husband get away with it.

    Betty has learned women can have sex with strangers too, but is that progress? Or does it make their marriage more of a sham? At the end of season 2 she’s holding hands with Don over the kitchen table, willing to let him back into her life for the sake of her unborn child. Somehow I don’t think his womanizing days are over.

    Similarly, Peggy’s made progress in her career, but giving up a man’s child for adoption without telling him isn’t exactly standing up to his behavior. In many ways, and to many men, that’s doing him a huge favor.

  30. I agree that men and women probably view Don and maybe the whole show differently. I saw that sketch, it was funny. I do think that Peggy’s actions hurt Pete. Remember his wife can’t have kids and his mother view adopting as mean for being cut-off from the family. Joan, who isn’t married yet, is gaining power at work and let’s hope the strength to ditch the man. Betty won’t go back to smiling housewife anytime soon. And listen no hard feelings, I just couldn’t get in to Breaking bad.

  31. I just watched Season 1 of Breaking Bad on DVD and I’m officially on board. It’s my new favorite show in awhile. I don’t have cable so I’ll have to either figure out a way to watch Season 2 online or wait for a DVD release.

  32. OMG. All I can say is the season finale of season 2 of “Breaking Bad” aired Sunday. This is now officially the best show on television.

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