It hasn’t been easy finding a new must-watch show. The Walking Dead didn’t do it for me, Lost reached its finale (I posted several times about this show), and the excellent Game of Thrones aside, HBO’s awesome television shows, well, haven’t been as awesome of late as they’ve been historically. Even two series I hotly anticipated, The Pacific and Boardwalk Empire, were very good but did not make me feel compelled to watch every night in a marathon of viewing. (I tend to watch one show at a time, an episode a night, in a long marathon. I love TV that way.)
That’s why I’m glad I discovered Breaking Bad.
Because hot damn is this show good.
If you’re not familiar with Breaking Bad, it goes like this: Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. In order to make money to pay his medical bills and support his family, he starts to cook meth. That’s it. That’s the hook. From there you watch the slow erosion of his morals, see as he gets involved with an insane and dark cast of characters, and shake your head in dismay as his increasingly selfish decisions fracture and corrupt his family.
It sounds a bit offbeat, and it is. The show veers back and forth between black comedy and straight drama, and does so with ease. It’s brilliantly written (even the most absurd turns feel totally natural), stunningly acted (Bryan Cranston, also known for playing the dad on Malcolm in the Middle, has won three straight Emmy’s for his performance as Walter White), and impossibly gripping (that cut to black at the end of each episode leaves you begging for more). For Cranston alone this show is worth watching. The man is a chameleon. In addition to his role as Hal on Malcom, he was the recurring dentist on Seinfeld (watch the video, you’ll remember him), Buzz Aldrin in From the Earth to the Moon, and others. And you’d never know it. He is completely immersed in the role of Walter White.
Like so many great shows — The Wire, Rome, and others — it takes a few episodes for it to find its footing and click with viewers. But trust me, once it does, you can’t stop watching. And it never stops improving. Every season is better than the last. By the halfway point of the second season you realize you’re watching some truly legendary TV. Season 2 is a comic tragedy. Season 3 is an epic ride of corruption, decay, and personal crisis. Season 4 is Walt losing control and ruining those around him.
I love this show. I’m hooked. It finds humor in darkness the way few shows outside Deadwood or The Sopranos manage. You both love and hate the characters with the passion you do the characters on The Wire or Lost. It’s beautifully filmed. Impeccably directed. Tightly written. Watch this show. Start at season 1 and watch this show.
I’ll post more about it later, spoiler talk and such, but for the moment I just wanted to plug this show and the brilliant writing it showcases. It’s must-watch TV.