Friday, December 5, 2008

Breaking Bad - Season 1

I'm not sure what drove AMC to get into the original programming market. They used to show older movies in widescreen, commercial free, and without edits, but they've shifted to a format much more typical of normal television. It's not too bad if it means they can create quality programs like this and Mad Men. Breaking Bad's definitely a different sort of show. It hinges on Bryan Cranston's performance, which is fortunately great, notable enough to get him an Emmy despite only having seven episodes so far. Cranston's been a likable actor for years, known for roles like the dentist that Jerry thinks converted to Judaism for the jokes on Seinfeld and the dad on Malcolm on the Middle. With Bad, he shows that not only can he be funny, he can legitimately carry a significant role. The show's premise is that a high school chemistry teacher decides to cook Crystal Meth to make money for his family after he finds out he has lung cancer. He's a normally timid man who starts changing as he sees the end in sight, and it's really interesting to watch how everything affects him.

He's the star of the show, but it's also about his family and the connections he makes with people in the business, such as an old student who's become a dealer. Things go really bad from time to time, and as much as the show is a subtle character study, it also has some shocking and even really cool moments. A fifty year old science teacher's not your typical criminal, and seeing how he uses his impressive base of knowledge to fight back intelligently against obstacles is really interesting. They still haven't done too much to put him in danger of being caught or hurt, but there's some really good places they could go with that. A second season is coming soon, and the show has plenty of ways it can expand and get better, although you have to wonder how long they can keep it going when the crux of everything is a character who could be dying. How he faces the cancer is a really important part of it, and there are a lot of ways that could go wrong as a story element. It hasn't yet though, and I'd really like to see more.

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