Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review: Breaking Bad

Let me get right down to it, ever since this writer's strike, I have not spent a lot of time watching TV. That could be because a roommate moved out and took all the furniture with him, so there is nothing to watch the TV on in the living room, but I'm going to blame it on the strike. But, I heard about a new show called "Breaking Bad" (AMC, Sundays 10/9c) starring Bryan Cranston. I like him a lot, so I thought I'd give the show a try.

You may not know Cranston by name, but you'll know him when I tell you he was the dad on "Malcolm in the Middle", and also Dr. Tim Whatley on a few episodes of "Seinfeld". He breaks his mold by starring as Walter White, a disheveled high school chemistry teacher / car wash attendent who has just turned 50 years old. It doesn't take long, however, to realize that this role is perfect for him.

We meet him the same way we met him in Malcolm in the Middle, and that is in nothing but his underwear. He crashes an RV that appears to be full of dead people, and he points a gun down the road at the sirens in the distance. We then get hit with one of the more overused TV styles of today, and that is by taking us back in time to find out how this character got here. In Breaking Bad, we go back three weeks earlier.

It doesn't take long to figure out that Walter White is unhappy when we see him at the breakfast table on his 50th birthday. He is joined by his son, who has some sort of walking disability, and his wife, who we learn is pregnant. His 50th birthday never gets any better, and it ends with a suprise party at his house. His brother-in-law, Hank, has everyone watch the news while they are there, because he was interviewed for his role in bringing down a meth lab for the DEA. Walter White is instantly in awe of all the money that goes along with the making and selling and crystal meth, and realizes it might be his ticket out of his mundane life, as he sees it.

A ride along with Hank brings them to another bust of a meth lab. While left to sit in the car while the drug teams investigate, White sees Jesse Pinkman, a former student of his who is trying to escape the meth lab he helps run. That is how the two reconnect, and Pinkman (in need of someone to cook meth) and White (has the knowledge as a chemistry teacher, just doesn't know the business), eventually become partners. And three weeks later, they are at the side of the road with a crashed RV and sirens coming at them.

I hope it's not because I'm just looking for a show to like, but I'm on board with Breaking Bad. There are a lot of different angles they can play with here (meth lab, relationship between old student and teacher, White being on the edge of insanity, the DEA officer of a brother-in-law, and the family issues). I haven't even mentioned yet that White found out he had lung cancer, and has a few years to live at best, and nobody but him and his doctor know.

What I liked about this show I think is that it didn't feel like any old television show. AMC let a lot of swearing, sex, and violence go through, and it helps make the show believeable and real. It's also shot, and edited, like a movie would be.

It's a breakthough role for Cranston, who will be in the Emmy race for best lead actor for sure. He does a fantastic job letting you see his character's pain, and you instantly buy him in that role. In a world where new TV is at a minimum, I'd check out Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on AMC. Nine episodes have been ordered, seven have been completed before the strike.


Unknown said...

You might enjoy this audio interview (and transcription) with Anna Gunn, co-star of “Breaking Bad” and “Deadwood.”

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