Sunday, September 29, 2013

In 2008, I sort of predicted Breaking Bad would blow up like Gus Fring

Damn, Buggin' Out looks like shit these days.
Tonight, AMC's Breaking Bad ends its run as one of TV's most genuinely nail-biting and nerve-wracking hour-long shows/trending topics, so I've unearthed from January 23, 2008 the review of the Breaking Bad pilot I wrote for another blog, which quickly folded. I'm not surprised that particular blog folded. It had the shittiest blog name in the history of shitty blog names.

As my pilot review points out, Breaking Bad wasn't the first cable drama to revolve around a morally ambiguous protagonist--or three, if you count Jesse and Skyler. But since its premiere, Breaking Bad has emerged as one of the better-made dramas with that kind of protag (while some of the other shows that you'll see me refer to at the end of the 2008 review, like Weeds and Dexter, won't stand the test of time like many individual Breaking Bad episodes will--especially the right-wing fantasy that was Dexter).

And Matt Damon.
It's interesting that the series finale of Breaking Bad--a signature example of "the age of the anti-hero" on cable--airs the same night that Showtime debuts Masters of Sex, a promising period drama that many critics are praising for veering away from the violence and nihilism of both the age of the anti-hero and the shitty newer dramas that are rehashing much of the morally ambiguous material that Breaking Bad has explored so well, but these newer shows are doing so to diminishing returns (one of these poorly received shows is AMC's own remake of the British cop show Low Winter Sun; like a Phish hater once said in Esquire about why he hates Phish's cover of Jay Z's "Big Pimpin'," these Breaking Bad wannabes know all the right notes, but they don't know what they mean). If Masters of Sex becomes a hit, will it usher in a new era for cable dramas and kill off the age of the anti-hero--just like how I presume Breaking Bad will kill off most of its entire cast tonight?

Return with me now to those thrilling days of AMC yesteryear, when the network's original series department was synonymous not with Heisenberg, zombies and Don Draper but with just Don and some PBS-y single-camera comedy called Remember WENN--and when Bryan Cranston used to look like a constipated Ned Flanders.


In 2008, who knew Dexter would degenerate into the total clusterfuck that it was last week? Oh, we were so young and naive back then.
This is a snapshot of the original 2008 post. I'm not going to bother linking to that inactive blog. That blog was so ugly, every time they updated it, God killed a kitten.
The original series department over at AMC (Alleged Movie Classics) had a major breakthrough last year with Mad Men, and it looks like it has another winner on its hands with Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston, who frequently stole scenes on Malcolm in the Middle (remember Hal's roller disco act?), is at his tragicomic best as Walt White, a meek, terminally ill Albuquerque chem teacher who turns to cooking crystal meth to support his pregnant wife and disabled teenage son. I caught Breaking Bad's premiere episode on Sunday night, and this seven-week series looks promising, although like Malcolm, there are way too many shots of Cranston in his tighty-whiteys.

(Mad Men may be AMC's first original series to attain Sopranos-level success, but it actually isn't the channel's first series. Back during AMC's much-missed, commercial-free Bob Dorian/Nick Clooney days--when female nudity and curse words weren't wussily censored from AMC's broadcasts of late '60s and early '70s movies like they were during the airing of Breaking Bad's risqué pilot--the channel produced and aired Remember WENN, a cult favorite about the staff of a '30s radio station.)

Breaking Bad reunites creator Vince Gilligan with Cranston, who guest-starred in the Gilligan-penned "Drive," one of the few good eps from The X-Files' later, lesser seasons (TNT reairs that particular ep all the time, yet I never get tired of seeing it). The desperate, cancer-stricken Walt recalls Cranston's "Drive" character, a redneck carjacker who suffers from a condition that will cause his head to explode if he stops moving. Don't you hate when that happens?

The series' unconventional Albuquerque desert backdrop is an inspired choice. It makes Cranston's lower-middle-class doormat look even more minuscule and beaten-down than he already is. Plus it's nice to see an hour-long drama that wasn't shot in L.A., New York, Vancouver or some other overused coastal city. (Albuquerque seems to be turning into the it location for cable dramas. USA's upcoming show about a female Federal marshal, Karen Sisco In Plain Sight, has been filmed in the 'Bu as well.)

Jimmy McNulty, Omar Little, Vic Mackey, Tommy Gavin, Nancy Botwin and Dexter Morgan, your morally ambiguous corner of the cable dial just got a little more crowded. Make room for Mr. White.


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