a few thoughts on Breaking Bad

a few thoughts on Breaking Bad

The episode where Bob Odenkirk enters the show (s2e08) – suddenly became the most watchable episode so far (and thank god for that). This is all speaking relatively, of course. It’s nice to realize how far things have spiraled out of control – and I begin to see why the show becomes better the longer you watch it – but still, that’s asking a lot, so AMC loses points. I also see enormous potential for the show to get absolutely ridiculous as Heisenberg becomes the biggest dealer in New Mexico – and I now realize that the show will now chronicle Heisenberg’s rise to Escobarian proportions; yet another self-made millionaire American story. I only pray they keep it together – but since scoring is their rarity, I’m not holding my breath.

Also, I would hope that in the end, White leaves his family. His wife is a nagging, provincial chump and his son can clearly take care of himself. Incidentally I’ve seen the actress who plays his wife, Anna Gunn, on Six Feet Under and Deadwood and have grown weary of waiting for her to do something vaguely interesting (blame casting). And the reputation of Bryan Cranston’s Emmy-winning acting I now see to be blown out of proportion (2014-07-31: Philip Seymour Hoffman tended to think that yelling amounted to acting, and Cranston thinks acting is gritting and growling and bowing your head and training your beady eyes on the person you’re castigating).

Here’s how I view AMC’s two award-winning shows:
Breaking Bad is a step up from Nip/Tuck (and that’s not good enough)
Mad Men is a step down from The Sopranos.

Here’s what HBO taught me, and what no other network understands well: it’s all about who you cast. HBO’s most successful shows, The Sopranos, Six feet Under, and Sex in the City, have strong leads that keep you watching and elevate the material. The failure of HBO’s Carnivale I found to be largely attributable to the lack of strong actors – Nick Stahl works very hard, which is good, and Clancy Brown was intriguingly cast as an epic madman villain – but beyond that the casting was as bleak as the road the carnivale traveled (!). Six Feet Under I would cite as the strongest example of casting making the show; the show’s melodramatic hokum would never, ever have played without its inspired casting choices. And no other network seems to understand this. Or maybe it’s just luck. I digress.

The character of Tuco (a name whose “homage” should’ve been aborted on sight) was insufferable and almost ruined the entire show for me. It was only the foresight that his death was imminent that kept me watching, but sometimes I think the only reason I keep watching shows like these is out of masochism, self-destruction, thanatos, etc. Basically, he represents the worst imaginable situation in television: you cast a chromagnon who believes he is an actor, then you tell him to play a methhead kingpin, then you give him carte blanche with his performance. Then you put him on national television – and only after having paid him substantially. The concept is too painful for any sensitive viewer to bear, so really, stay away from Breaking Bad. Bob Odenkirk, too ridiculous to be believed (on the show and in life), makes me smile, and I now know that the rest of season 2 will glide swiftly into perdition without a hitch, and Bob will keep me watching.

Addition:
Oh yes – the brother-in-law, played by Dean Norris, is extremely difficult to give a rat’s ass about and is given waaaaaay too much screen time and latitude. He isn’t working nearly hard enough – he’s casual, he’s riffing, and he isn’t clever enough to be given that privilege. Go away.

Update:
The last episodes of the second season are very improved. Things, at last, are happening.

And:
Finished season 2. One step forward, two steps back. Oh, brother.

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