Tuesday, July 19, 2011

TV: Breaking Bad

In "Breaking Bad," mild-mannered Walter White is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and so he does what any self-respecting high school chemistry teacher would do - he starts cooking crystal meth with a former student in order to secure his family's financial future...

Vince Gilligan, the creator of the show, pitched the series as "Mr. Chips becomes Scarface." Like a chemical reactant, Walt is transformed through the course of the series, making a series of choices that lead off the straight and narrow path and down into a violent criminal underworld.

Everything about the series bespeaks craft: the way the show uses Albuquerque, New Mexico as a character, littering the production with local landmarks and radio stations; the use of color to highlight certain characters and objects, changing their palettes from season to season; and, most importantly, the pitch-black humor that'll make you laugh at exploding severed heads and bodies dissolved in acid.

Sure, the show is manipulative and slow-paced (Gilligan was a writer for "The X-Files," which explains a lot), but at least it's trying to manipulate you, to tell a story that draws you in. In an age of reality TV, "Breaking Bad" is a reminder that well-written, well-performed fiction is still the most addictive drug out there.


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