Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TV Watch: Breaking Bad

The AMC network, home to the best drama show on television in the award-winning 'Mad Men', has another major hit on their hands, one that I was personally just introduced to this year.

'Breaking Bad' just began the run of it's 3rd season, and the quirky human-interest drug-dealing drama is well worth anyone's time.

The show is based around the life of high school science teacher Walter White, a man whose intellect is well above his current position and pay grade. As played wonderfully by Bryan Cranston, White suffers a serious setback when he learns that he has cancer and does not have long to live. His wife, Skyler, played smartly by the beautiful Anna Gunn, turns up pregnant with what will be their 2nd child. Timing is everything.

Walt then makes a dramatic decision that will change thier lives forever, and will setup the story line. He decides that he is going to become a drug manufacturer, and cooks up a new brand of meth that is extremely high-quality. He hopes to make enough money from the distribution of the drug before he dies to setup his family financially after he is gone.

To that end, Walt solicits the help of one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. Pinkman has a talent for both the science end, where he helps out Walt as his assistant 'cook', and as a dealer as well.


As if the idea of having a cast led by a man who is dying of cancer, about to have a baby, and turns to illegal drug manufacturing to support them after his death isn't enough fodder for controversy, the cast and the plot are made even more tense by the fact that Skylar's sister, Marie Schrader, played by Betsy Brandt, is married to a highly motivated DEA agent named Hank Schrader, played with intensity by Dean Norris.

There are some tremendous supporting acting turns over the course of the first three seasons as well. RJ Mitte plays Walter White Jr, the featured couple's high school aged son with special needs. Raymond Cruz plays Tuco Salamanca, a crazed Mexican drug lord who initially does business with Walt and Jesse. Bob Odenkirk is introduced as a colorful TV-style shady lawyer named Saul Goodman. And Jane Margolis makes a pivotal turn as Jesse's season 2 landlord-turned-girlfriend.

Walt's efforts as a drug manufacturer, in battling his cancer, and in struggling through the situations of his family and home life make for an intriguing, well-written, well-acted story line. It is all kept moving along with featured looks into the other characters lives as well, particularly those of Skylar, Jesse, and Hank. The 3rd season is just a few episodes old now, airing new shows every Sunday night on AMC, and it is proving the most dramatic and interesting season yet.

As I have posted here a number of times, HBO and Showtime have led the way over the past decade with quality drama and comedy programs such as The Sopranos, Sex in the City, Rome, The Tudors, The Wire and many others. Now networks such as AMC and FX are joining the parade of great shows being churned out on cable television. 'Breaking Bad' is the latest that I can highly recommend. You can catch up on previous seasons and episodes in a variety of places including OnDemand, online, or through Netflix.

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