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Breaking Bad returns
July 13, 2011 6:59 AM   Subscribe


 
I am SO psyched about the return of Breaking Bad, and I'd encourage anyone who isn't into it to give it a shot, ideally by starting at the beginning.
posted by rodmandirect at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Breaking Bad should be good - but it is not.

The show is ruined by all these overly dramatic film shots. He sits for 45 seconds in his car while he dramatic catches his breath. He walks around his house for over a minute trying to figure out his marriage.

Breaking Bad is not a David Lean film. I can put up with Lawerence of Arabia dramatically riding his camel in the desert for 2 minutes. But I can not stand Pinkman sitting on his couch contemplating his life.
posted by Flood at 7:04 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope Breaking Bad becomes widely influential in showing how cinematic TV can truly be. Between Breaking Bad and BBC's Sherlock, something very exciting is going on: a synthesis between the atmosphere and visual storytelling of a film, but with the pacing and serial delivery of a TV show.

It's hard to explain why Breaking Bad is so cinematic. It's not about budget: Lost had many times more budget than Breaking Bad, and Carnivale probably had much more as well, but Breaking Bad feels more like a movie in all the right ways.

The Sopranos certainly broke the ground for this evolution, but shows like Breaking Bad are taking it much further.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:09 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


This article lost me when it failed to mention Deadwood in the first paragraph.
posted by Alison at 7:12 AM on July 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


The show is ruined by all these overly dramatic film shots. He sits for 45 seconds in his car while he dramatic catches his breath. He walks around his house for over a minute trying to figure out his marriage.

That's one of the best things about the show.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:15 AM on July 13, 2011 [66 favorites]


The Sopranos certainly broke the ground for this evolution, but shows like Breaking Bad are taking it much further.

Hopefully the next leap will be plots, characters, and themes that don't appear to be focus-group developed for man-children.

After hearing Breaking Bad talked up endlessly, I checked it out - it's basically a Vin Diesel movie with better production design and lots of (as Flood points out) long takes.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sigh.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:19 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I really like the way this website handles footnotes.
posted by dvdgee at 7:19 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Early on, Klosterman says that Breaking Bad is the best of the four, "or at least the one I like the most." In a footnote he clarifies that he realizes those are not always the same thing.

I don't believe him. I think he has been told that they are different, and feels he must give lip service to the notion, but that he hasnt really accepted it. And I think his inability to distinguish between "best" and "what I like most", and to really have a hard look at the consequences that has for the idea of "best" in general, is a big part of why I don't lik his writing.
posted by penduluum at 7:20 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I must check out some Vin Diesel movies so.
posted by Elmore at 7:20 AM on July 13, 2011


Breaking Bad is better than Mad Men, and better than The Sopranos (without which it wouldn't exist, granted), but it's not better than The Wire. It's a lot more fun than The Wire, though. I can't wait for it to return, and though I am sad to think there are less than 30 episodes left at all, one of the best parts of this serial tv style is that creators are thinking about how to end the show instead of keeping on until it gets so bad no one watches it anymore.

I think it took Breaking Bad a few episodes to get into its groove, but really, it's fantastic. The character evolution -- watching Walter and Jesse change places, sort of -- is captivating. Seeing Skyler fight this change, then give in for herself as well. Watching Hank try to bluster his way through PTSD, through Marie's (now dropped) shoplifting, and then finally accept that bluster doesn't work, even as Walter finds that bluster does work for him, it's really compelling characterisation.

Dexter tries to do the "figure out our moral absolutes" thing, but it doesn't work as well. Simialrly with Nurse Jackie.

Hopefully the next big move on these kinds of tv shows will be "shows that have female main characters who pass the Bechdel test". Or "shows that don't have only white people plus a few bad guys who are non-white".
posted by jeather at 7:21 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Indeed Alison, if I see The Wire and The Sopranos mentioned together, I instantly search around for Deadwood.

I like Breaking Bad, but I stopped watching it for the same reasons I stopped watching Six Feet Under, it was emotionally exhausting. But I'll give it a second chance. and not only because it's malcolm in the middle's dad.
posted by valdesm at 7:21 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Klosterman prefers Breaking Bad because it handles moral and philosophical questions in a way that he prefers and presents a worldview that he agrees with, namely that free will exists and we choose to be "good" or "bad". At no point does he satisfyingly connect that with why the show is objectively better. He mentions that the more realistic and sophisticated way The Wire presents the world somehow detracts from the narrative "message", but otherwise makes no argument about why the show he likes more is actually better.
posted by AceRock at 7:23 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


No kidding, I guess Vin Diesel movies have complex character arcs and compelling story lines.
posted by Bonzai at 7:23 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yet there's one profound difference between this series and the other three, and it has to do with its handling of morality: Breaking Bad is the only one built on the uncomfortable premise that there's an irrefutable difference between what's right and what's wrong, and it's the only one where the characters have real control over how they choose to live.

Yeah, this article did a very good job of explaining what I find so compelling about the show. The linear quality of the narrative so far makes it feel more like a novel. It will end very differently from where it began.

One of the frustrating things about Mad Men is the way the characters have been somewhat locked into their personas and lives. Things happen around them, but they mostly remain cartoonishly unscathed. The only character I still find interesting in Mad Men is Betty Draper, because she is the only character whose personality has changed in response to the events of the story. The other characters are so crystallized that they never got a chance to transcend being archetypes and become more nuanced "literary" characters. And Klosterman is right, their function is partly for social commentary.

I'm always on the lookout for movies and TV in which the characters are developed as free and deliberate people, whose choices appear to direct the story; as opposed to characters who merely function as pawns for the predetermined story points.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:23 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't be the only one who thinks Mad Man is being overrated, right?

I like the show, but it's certainly not one of the best 4 shows in the last 10 years, considering there's at least 3 HBO shows, not including the Sopranos and Wire, that are better.
posted by Cloud King at 7:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The show is ruined by all these overly dramatic film shots.

Aside from exaggerating the length of these shots, you don't make a strong case for what these moments ruin the show. They're meant to build tension and create foreshadowing - the opening and closing of season 2 is an excellent example of this.

This article lost me when it failed to mention Deadwood in the first paragraph.

As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season; The Sopranos and The Wire did not.

it's basically a Vin Diesel movie with better production design

Can you elaborate on this, please?
posted by alzi at 7:26 AM on July 13, 2011


Ahhh. To me, it beats *everything* I've ever seen on tv, and holds up well with some of the best things I've seen that were made for cinema. And yeah, the film shots are exactly one of the best things about it for me too. And the acting and characters and just everything...

Saying that from a totally subjective pov, no intention to 'convert' anyone. I mean, I have recommended it to everyone I know, but wouldn't try and convince anyone about its greatness, I'm no critic so have no interest in doing that. Don't see the point of comparing shows either beyond personal level kind of "I loved this a lot more".

(And I did find out about Breaking Bad while browsing for more shows from AMC, after getting into Mad Men, and while with MM it took me a while to enjoy it, this one blew me away instantly. I've enjoyed it so so much more, constantly, enjoyment is not even enough as a word for it. Don't think I've ever been looking forward to a new season of a show so much.)
posted by bitteschoen at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I guess Vin Diesel movies have complex character arcs and compelling story lines."

The Fast and Furious oeuvre is indeed quite excellent.

(not hamburger)
posted by oddman at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


After hearing Breaking Bad talked up endlessly, I checked it out - it's basically a Vin Diesel movie with better production design and lots of (as Flood points out) long takes.

Here's a fun game you can play at home--try to think of a less apt comparison for Breaking Bad. I'll start:

I checked it out--it's basically Tuvan throat singing with chemistry lessons.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2011 [42 favorites]


Those long moments tend to breathe a lot more life into it and bring things down to a more realistic pace... and often are moments that allow a fair bit of insight into the characters.

Vin Diesel movies? Really? Clearly you haven't watched the show at length. I honestly can't understand how you might make that observation about Breaking Bad.

I think the *real* reason that some people don't like the show, is that they are deeply uncomfortable with the main character. This article does try to make this point, sort of.

Walt is fundamentally different than Tony Soprano, or Don Draper, or even Dexter, in that he is actively choosing to be "bad". I think there's a decent portion of tv viewers who do not want to feel empathy or connected to this character. To me, it's what makes the show stand out and what draws me in.
posted by utsutsu at 7:32 AM on July 13, 2011


Totally not getting the Vin Diesel comment.

Anyway, I found The Wire to be far more compelling; mainly because it is more realistic. I was behind Breaking Bad at the beginning, because I could believe that this stuff could actually happen. Where they've gotten to now, it just seems unlikely that Walt could still be doing any of this.

I did find the John de Lancie arc to be pretty cool, though.
posted by King Bee at 7:32 AM on July 13, 2011


After hearing Breaking Bad talked up endlessly, I checked it out - it's basically a Vin Diesel movie with better production design and lots of (as Flood points out) long takes.

What (if any) drama do you regularly watch on TV so I know how seriously I can take your opinion?
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a fun game you can play at home--try to think of a less apt comparison for Breaking Bad.

It's basically an egg salad sandwich with meth-laced mayonnaise.
posted by King Bee at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


nthing the surprise that Deadwood was unmentioned in the shortlist, and even more surprised when he mentions Swearengen further down.

The difference between White in the middle of Season 1 and White in the debut of Season 4 is not the product of his era or his upbringing or his social environment. It's a product of his own consciousness. He changed himself. At some point, he decided to become bad, and that's what matters.

The almost-operatically-over-the-top focus on moral choice as the core of the show, I think, turns off a bunch of people. But my god, that shit is like mothers' milk to me.

it's basically Tuvan throat singing with chemistry lessons.

It's basically the keebler elves wrestling with the intersection of pride and self-disgust
posted by Greg Nog at 7:35 AM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I did find the John de Lancie arc to be pretty cool, though.

He was great, but I bristled at how over the top the coincidences were at the end of the last episode.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:35 AM on July 13, 2011


it's basically a Vin Diesel movie with better production design

Considering their relative budgets, this is actually a pretty keen compliment.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2011


But I'll give it a second chance. and not only because it's malcolm in the middle's dad.

This is actually why I avoided Breaking Bad for several seasons.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This article lost me when it failed to mention Deadwood in the first paragraph.

There's going to be a lot of "What, no Deadwood/Game of Thrones/My Little Pony", in this thread, right? So let me just say this: the guy thinks Lost was the best show "in the history of network television". He has no credibility whatsoever. Hell, he's apparently never seen Arrested Development.
posted by The Bellman at 7:36 AM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season

Unlike both the Sopranos and the Wire, Deadwood didn't get to have its final season. (No, I'm still not over it.)
posted by mstokes650 at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


From the article:

… it's just that it turns the plot of The Wire into a delivery mechanism for David Simon's polemic worldview (which makes its value dependent on how much the audience is predisposed to agree with him).

That's just about the best summary of why The Wire is simultaneously the greatest thing ever and at times insanely frustrating.
posted by graphnerd at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2011


Breaking Bad is a beautiful show. Just stunningly good-looking. I am horribly biased towards things that look good, and that kept me from getting into the Wire for quite a while.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm reaching here, but perhaps the Vin Diesel comment has something to do with how Cranston shaved his head. That's really the best I can come up with, though...otherwise, I'm totally mystified.
posted by Edgewise at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can you elaborate on this, please?

The same trite, predictable, tediously macho drug / money / cars / gun fight story elements - like The Wire, it has just enough feints at more interesting + serious themes that viewers can flatter themselves into thinking they're watching something smart, w/out actually being taken out of their comfort zone or challenged (if they're actually inclined to that - it plays well as standard fare if not.)

What (if any) drama do you regularly watch on TV so I know how seriously I can take your opinion?

None - I've given up on network/cable as an outlet for anything worthwhile. Not happily, either.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:38 AM on July 13, 2011


You can tell by the reactions in this thread already, the author was correct about at least one thing..

Discussions about tv shows provoke VERY personal, defensive, and sometimes vicious statements.

I think that the fact that a piece of media CAN provoke this degree of feeling and thought, is a good thing, no matter which side of it you fall on.
posted by utsutsu at 7:39 AM on July 13, 2011


They do have a great eye for locations in Alburquerque, though.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:40 AM on July 13, 2011


Totally not getting the Vin Diesel comment.

Maybe the thinking is that Vin Diesel voiced The Iron Giant, and the central conflict of Breaking Bad -- do I choose to indulge in my ability to destroy? What, if anything, is my innate nature? -- is also the central conflict of The Iron Giant, in re "Superman" versus "He's a weapon! A big gun that walks!"
posted by Greg Nog at 7:40 AM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, I love BB, but The Wire is still superior. Sopranos lost its way towards the end, as the show gave us no characters to identify with. Mad Men....might be a little overrated. It's a terrific show, but last season of Breaking Bad was completely nuts.
posted by Edgewise at 7:41 AM on July 13, 2011


I've given up on network/cable as an outlet for anything worthwhile.

i dont even own an outlet for anything worthwhile
posted by Greg Nog at 7:41 AM on July 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


Maybe I'm reaching here, but perhaps the Vin Diesel comment has something to do with how Cranston shaved his head.>/i>

Or maybe because sometimes the good guy is really a bad guy who uses his talents to get out of a bad situation, but by trying to help the people around him, even though they all seem to hate him, he ends up in a worse situation. Like in Pitch Black, which much of also takes place in a desert, sort of...

When I first read the Vin Diesel comment I was thinking of Van Damme...

posted by Elmore at 7:42 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


grrr... tags...
posted by Elmore at 7:43 AM on July 13, 2011


ryanshepard, you are entitled to your opinions...for now. However, when I am king, such foolishness will not be tolerated.
posted by Edgewise at 7:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a fun game you can play at home--try to think of a less apt comparison for Breaking Bad.

It's like Malcolm in the Middle, except the role of Dewey is played by Danny Trejo.
posted by box at 7:45 AM on July 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


jeather: Hopefully the next big move on these kinds of tv shows will be "shows that have female main characters who pass the Bechdel test".

Check out Damages. Not as good as Breaking Bad, but still well-written and highly entertaining, and manages to have two female main characters without being all condescending and LOOK AT HOW PROGRESSIVE WE ARE WE PUT WOMEN AT THE FRONT OF THIS SHOW AS THOUGH THEY'RE AS INTERESTING TO WATCH AS MEN about it.

ryanshepard: The same trite, predictable, tediously macho drug / money / cars / gun fight story elements - like The Wire, it has just enough feints at more interesting + serious themes that viewers can flatter themselves into thinking they're watching something smart, w/out actually being taken out of their comfort zone or challenged (if they're actually inclined to that - it plays well as standard fare if not.)

Man, you have a much bigger comfort zone than I do, I guess.
posted by superfluousm at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2011


Breaking Bad is certainly a show with a lot of action, and it has one of the best action sequences I've ever seen in my life, movie or TV.

Fuck, it's had about 5 of the best action sequences I've ever seen.

I don't know about being taken out of my "comfort" zone. Sort of a vague thing. Is it supposed to make me smarter? Meh. I think that's asking a lot.

I think Breaking Bad is, at various times and sometimes all at once, emotionally affecting AND beautiful AND thought-provoking AND a bad-ass action flick.

The pacing can be really all wrong, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:47 AM on July 13, 2011


Unlike both the Sopranos and the Wire, Deadwood didn't get to have its final season. (No, I'm still not over it.)

I'm also frustrated by HBO's decision to can Deadwood (same goes for Carnivale), but I don't think it's fair to cherry-pick what seasons we like most.

The same trite, predictable, tediously macho drug / money / cars / gun fight story elements - like The Wire, it has just enough feints at more interesting + serious themes that viewers can flatter themselves into thinking they're watching something smart, w/out actually being taken out of their comfort zone or challenged (if they're actually inclined to that - it plays well as standard fare if not.)

Ah, I think I understand. Here's where I disagree with you: an action movie is entertainment through macho elements, whereas a show like BB uses macho elements to explore broader themes (such as what CK discusses).
posted by alzi at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2011


If you have digital cable, and you haven't seen season 3 of Breaking Bad--which is excellent--check your On Demand channel under AMC. It's all there. The whole season. It's there for me, anyhow.

That's how On Demand should always work.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2011


This article doesn't do much to elevate my opinion of Klosterman's talent as a writer or as a thinker.
posted by codacorolla at 7:49 AM on July 13, 2011


The same trite, predictable, tediously macho drug / money / cars / gun fight story elements

Yeah I hated The Godfather Part II as well.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:49 AM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think that the fact that a piece of media CAN provoke this degree of feeling and thought, is a good thing, no matter which side of it you fall on.

I like strong feelings, but I have no idea what the point of ranking these things is. They're not competing against one another for viewers. If you watch your Wire DVDs, you're not stealing eyeballs from Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Why not just appreciate that this is a good time for television, how nice for us. Compare to analyze, sure. Compare to rank? You're the record store clerks from High Fidelity. (Which Klosterman treads very close to as it is.)
posted by gladly at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


(MANY SPOILERS HERE)

And in terms of typical "macho"...Breaking Bad consistently takes things that are supposed to be macho and blows the stupid mythos of it all apart.

Like Hank's "heroism". Everyone celebrates him for being this bad-ass cop. That's not how it really goes for him, that's not what happens, and he got to be a "hero" basically because he's a pukey n00b.

Jesse has the reputation of a badass for the whole ATM thing and it lasts for a few shows before everyone figures it out...and he really isn't a badass about it. He is horrified and terrified by the entire situation and he spends a lot of time trying to figure things out with the kid involved.

The "macho" characters feel a lot of fear.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:52 AM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


My TV show is better than your TV show.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've given up on network/cable as an outlet for anything worthwhile. Not happily, either.

But... this means you're not watching Justified!?
posted by wondermouse at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I continue to be amazed at how much detail they go into with the chemistry. It's mostly accurate, most of the time. They don't fudge a lot of details. Walt's a synthetic wizard, but it's pretty accurate, for the most part.

It's another way they treat their audience with respect:, we're all adults, it's not like we're going to figure out how to make meth from TV. No bubbling beakers and Jacob's ladders. Awesome.
posted by bonehead at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you know what's fucking awesome about " Breaking Bad"? The acting. Even down to the smallest characters, like those junkies with the ATM machine. I believed every moment of their scenes.

Or Dean Norris, who is not praised enough as Hank. I think he deserves an Emmy nod more than Aaron Paul. His performance is more believable, and not showy. The man says a lot with his eyes and a forced smile.

Or David Costabile as Jesse's "replacement" in the lab. In his last scene of the last season, when he's just singing along to the music, watering his plants and making his tea, they tell you so much about his character in those few short minutes.

Or Giancarlo Esposito as Gus, who can be at once a normal-looking guy and a scary motherfucker. In the scene when he asks Walt "Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?" and Walt says, "I would never ask you that," the looks they exchange and their silence for those few seconds just floor me.

I love this show so much, and it's more the subtle moments than the really obvious ones.
posted by zerbinetta at 7:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


gladly: "You're the record store clerks from High Fidelity."

I am those guys. It's kind of sad how my brain always wants to rank things and create little sub-categories for types of shows, or characters or even types of scenes.
posted by Bonzai at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2011


My TV show is better than your TV show.

I thought we liked the same TV show, I just like it better than you.
posted by Elmore at 7:57 AM on July 13, 2011


My TV show is so good, only people who don't own televisions watch it.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


My TV show is better than your TV show.

You've shown me the light! It is pointless. I won't ever discuss the relative merits of a painting or a novel again, either. Thank you for freeing up my time to continue banging these two rocks together.
posted by superfluousm at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, when I am king, such foolishness will not be tolerated.

That's cool - I'd probably come around eventually, anyhow ... I mean, I liked The Streets of San Francisco, which is, by any objective assessment, terrible ;)

I'm not that tough of a crowd - there are just aspects of the writing of BB that really rub me the wrong way, and seem symptomatic of a lot of what grates on me about AMC / HBO programming in general - that they're reaching for something smarter, but aren't (because of network constraints or their own imaginative limitations) there yet.

It's nice to see something like realistic depictions of actual human emotions creeping in, but apparently these still have to be swaddled in a lot of tired action movie / cop show cliches in order to make it onto the screen.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:01 AM on July 13, 2011


I like breaking bad. A lot. But it doesn't have that feel of quality that Mad Men or the Wire or the Sopranos or Deadwood have. It is well done, it is well acted and it is incredibly propulsive you want to watch the next episode but it is a little too much of Job. The trials and struggles seem a little bit too big. Too much. It is not an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation it is a man in an impossibly cruel universe. It is a lot like the Coen brothers film a Serious Man only the comic notes aren't as strong and the action is too implausible. It all plays a little too schizophrenic. Mad Men has plenty of sitcom notes that are well executed but more importantly they feel like they belong there. Nothing is really well integrated in Breaking Bad. It is a lot of parts that individually work assembled into a show that is very good but doesn't exactly hold together.
posted by I Foody at 8:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like Breaking Bad, but I stopped watching it for the same reasons I stopped watching Six Feet Under, it was emotionally exhausting.

I agree, but with the addition that its weekly dive into of bleak and dark stuck me as white, male suburban first world problems, with plots twists thrown on to pad out the story.

Was never a big fan of Sopranos, thought it was played out. Same with Six Feet Under.

The Wire was excellent as in it chronicled the decay of a specific city and humanity and society in general. Deadwood was great for the writing and characters set against the backdrop of early America.

Breaking Bad? Oh no, I have cancer and can't provide, what will I do?!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:07 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Check out Damages. Not as good as Breaking Bad, but still well-written and highly entertaining, and manages to have two female main characters without being all condescending and LOOK AT HOW PROGRESSIVE WE ARE WE PUT WOMEN AT THE FRONT OF THIS SHOW AS THOUGH THEY'RE AS INTERESTING TO WATCH AS MEN about it.

And season 1 of Damages was great fun. But season 2 was pretty unwatchable, and so we're at 1 season of fun, not serious, drama (I can't figure out a better way to separate out the two), not a long-form story that is successful over a few seasons. (The Good Wife is more successful at this than Damages was. Is? I have no idea if there are more seasons of Damages.)
posted by jeather at 8:11 AM on July 13, 2011


I refuse to watch any of these shows. I started watching the Sopranos. About five episodes in my basic reaction was "why again am I supposed to give a shit about the inner conflicts of this horrible person? And I realized I didn't, and I asked my wife, do you give a shit about this show? And she didn't and I stopped watching it. And I started watching The Wire, because it is the best thing that ever was (I'm not disputing this show is good, my brother absolutely loves it and I respect his opinion more than anyone's I'm likely to encounter here). After about five episodes I thought "I can look at the news for five minutes if I want to be reminded that everything is horrible and there's basically no hope for real redemption." So I asked my wife if she was finding the experience pleasant and she said no and I took it off the Netflix queue.

Watched about 15 minutes of Mad Men at some point. It was so damn stylish I almost didn't notice it was a soap opera.

Breaking Bad: "a guy becomes evil" is apparently my selling point. Yes I know it's fucking brilliant brilliant brilliant. I don't care. I'm sick of people bending all their exquisite skill so that they can make me smell the stink of a rotting fishhead with a 19 inch image and a couple of cheap 4 inch speakers (yes in the technological dark ages in here). I want my protagonist to be GOOD and I want them to WIN and I don't give a shit what that says about me anymore. It's fucking television I watch it to relax. I want to feel awful I come read a politics thread on Metafilter.
posted by nanojath at 8:15 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


jeather: Eh, I didn't mind the second season, but that may be due to previously existing biases for Timothy Olyphant and Martin Short. The third season starts this week and unless it's awful I'll feel comfortable considering the series as a whole as a mark in the win column.

I like The Good Wife, too, but I think it's clunkier in general than Damages, maybe because it has to adhere to CBS standards rather than cable ones. Still, I'm hairsplitting, and on your overall point we don't disagree.
posted by superfluousm at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


nanojath, I kinda agree. I watched the first season of Breaking Bad. Yes, it is very good. I just suspect I won't be able to take watching the situation get Worse And Worse if I go back to watching it. Ditto Sopranos, and obviously The Wire from what I hear.

Yeah, I have the news for "life is shitty." I want at least slightly less miserable fictional television. Like Joss Whedon :P

Btw, anyone else totally unable to favorite any posts?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:22 AM on July 13, 2011


I haven't seen a lot of breaking bad, but one note Klosterman mentions sticks out to me. Out of all of these, only Mad Men never has violence to fall back on as a storytelling crutch. Hence I must conclude it is the best of these. Even though I love violence as much as the next dude, any show that manages to high-dramatize real life rather than some fantasy gangster shit deserves the bulk of the laurels.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:23 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Now I want to watch Pitch Black again.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:24 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


My objection to S2 of Damages was -- as I recall -- the weird changing of the character of Patty, making her less morally grey. The writing didn't do it for me, or the plot didn't -- the acting was very good. I agree that The Good Wife is in ways clunkier, but the arc of (some of)the characters is more effective. But yeah, nitpicky here -- the excellent long-form tv dramas are about white guys, mostly -- there are secondary female characters, and The Wire was not so all-white (though it was weirdly unsympathetic to the wives/girlfriends of all the drug dealers, and suggested they were the only non-morally-grey characters), and I hope that will change soon.
posted by jeather at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2011


Even though I love violence as much as the next dude, any show that manages to high-dramatize real life rather than some fantasy gangster shit deserves the bulk of the laurels.

For a lot of people, violence (and specifically drug-related violence) is real life.
posted by superfluousm at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season; The Sopranos and The Wire did not

Woah woah woah. I don't remember the final season of Deadwood being anywhere near as weak as season 5 of the Wire. Great shows though, all of them.
posted by Hoopo at 8:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree, but with the addition that its weekly dive into of bleak and dark stuck me as white, male suburban first world problems, with plots twists thrown on to pad out the story.

Breaking Bad? Oh no, I have cancer and can't provide, what will I do?!!


Huh? Are you saying that kind of problem is exclusive to white, male suburban first world people?

'Cause it's not, is all.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:26 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even though I love violence as much as the next dude, any show that manages to high-dramatize real life rather than some fantasy gangster shit deserves the bulk of the laurels.

How are the imagined problems of a tiny, rarefied, hyper-wealthy stratum of the executive class more "real life" than the lives of drug dealers and addicts? There are many more of the latter than there are account executives at precious "boutique" Madison Avenue agencies.
posted by enn at 8:32 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I also think it's preposterous Deadwood wasn't mentioned. I do think BB is better than all the shows cited, though. It's not better than Deadwood, however.

Further, I think there's one other show that's better than Breaking Bad--one that's better than all the cited shows as well. The best network tv show I've ever seen: Friday Night Lights. I'll admit it's second season was weak but the other 4 were brilliant. FNL has some of the greatest male characters ever portrayed on television--they are absolutely truer and deeper than any of the men in the cited shows, most of who, though I like many of them, were slave to plot rather than the other way around.

As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season; The Sopranos and The Wire did not.

This is absurd and you need to watch the third season of Deadwood again. It is fantastic. Even if you don't like it, it's nonsense to say that the fifth season of The Wire didn't go astray. You could constantly see the writers/Simon in it. It was embarrassing how off the entire season was. AND season two was boring as hell. For the Sopranos, I didn't mind the end, but there were hours and hours and hours that were flat out boring. Seasons 4 and 5 were filled with gibberish time-wasting episodes, most notably that gay character hiding out in the small town. Holy Christ on a Crutch was that uninteresting.

As I've said before on MeFi, the major difference between Deadwood and every other show ever made for TV was that, to me, I was curious about what characters did when they weren't on screen. The people were real enough to me that I thought about their time not spent in front of the camera. As much as I enjoyed Sopranos, or The Wire, I never thought about their characters when I wasn't watching them perform.
posted by dobbs at 8:36 AM on July 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Out of all of these, only Mad Men never has violence to fall back on as a storytelling crutch. Hence I must conclude it is the best of these. Even though I love violence as much as the next dude, any show that manages to high-dramatize real life rather than some fantasy gangster shit deserves the bulk of the laurels.

First of all, assuming your "real life" is the "real life" of all people is incredibly conceited. Second, where is it exactly that you live that violence isn't a part of real life? Because I live in a relatively nice suburb and I still have two personal friends and a couple of acquaintances who have actually in real life been shot. One of those personal friends was shot by a drug dealer and gang member, by the way. Is my life somehow more fake than yours? What about all the people who are actually involved in the drug trade, either as consumers or suppliers? Are their lives fake too?


I agree, but with the addition that its weekly dive into of bleak and dark stuck me as white, male suburban first world problems....

I've been seeing this a lot on Metafilter lately, and I just wanted to let all of these people know that your arguments are disregarded by all intelligent people the moment they see you say something like this. In case you didn't know, ignorance and bigotry are bad regardless of their target, and only other bigots take a statement like the above to have any meaning at all.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to add a voice in defense of The Wire. Breaking Bad is great, but the Wire is one of the very best pieces of fiction of the past decade and unfortunately it got horrible ratings and won no major awards. I want it to get the recognition it deserves dag nabbit.
posted by WhitenoisE at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a lot of people, violence (and specifically drug-related violence) is real life.

I misspoke. Let's call it everyday life then. And even in the Wire, which was dedicated mostly to violent places and realism, they often turned to either some glamorized cowboy showdown involving Omar or some dark serial killer cold blooded murder with Snoop and them. Both are riveting, but kind of cheating.

In Mad Men (and a few other great shows that mostly avoid death and crime: Friday Night Lights, Larry Sanders, the West Wing) the action is still driven by people's moral choices, but for much less smaller stakes (did I say the West Wing? I meant Sports Night). And when an episode slows down, the writers have to throw something else at the viewers to wake them up other than BANG BANG BANG.

Again, I love all these shows, as well as the Shield, Deadwood, Battlestar, Rome and Boardwalk Empire. But Mad Mens satisfaction and OH SHIT moments are way way more complex and mature--it's more Checkov or Ibsen than Marlowe or Shakespeare, and to be honest I appreciate that and think it's just more ballsy than anything else on Tv.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:41 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mad Men never has violence to fall back on as a storytelling crutch.

So you haven't seen "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" yet.
posted by Zozo at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Violence against toes not included.

Again I meant everyday life more than real life. Violence certainly exists for some people in America as a common occurrence. My point was more that it does not at all for most people and so the fantasized version that appears on the Sopranos, BB, and for that matter every cheap cop or SciFi show, is easy entertainment value. Take that away and the writer have a much tougher job, but ultimately more rewarding job in my opinion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2011


After thinking about this a long time, I have come to the conclusion that if you refer to any problem you are personally experiencing as a "first-world problem," you probably have a healthy sense of proportion, and if you use the phrase to refer to anything else, there is a good chance you're being a dismissive dickweed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:47 AM on July 13, 2011 [18 favorites]



But Mad Mens satisfaction and OH SHIT moments are way way more complex and mature--it's more Checkov or Ibsen than Marlowe or Shakespeare, and to be honest I appreciate that and think it's just more ballsy than anything else on Tv.


I strongly disagreed with the way you spoke your previous comment, but I think there is a lot of truth in this. Dismissing Mad Men as "the imagined problems of a tiny, rarefied, hyper-wealthy stratum of the executive class" is over-simplifying and selling the show short.
posted by WhitenoisE at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2011


Klosterman is still sitting around ranking things or trying to explain why things he likes are better?

It's Klostertown, just go home, man
posted by mikeh at 8:48 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I stopped reading after footnote #1:

I know I once wrote in Esquire that Lost was the best show in the history of network television...

No.

I like Breaking Bad, but I stopped watching it for the same reasons I stopped watching Six Feet Under, it was emotionally exhausting.

Breaking Bad is more relentlessly depressing. Too much so for even me.

I would not include The Sopranos or Mad Men in the Top 10 TV shows of the decade.

The best TV show of the past 10 years is obviously Deadwood.

As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season; The Sopranos and The Wire did not.

Nope. Take a look again at Wire S05 and Sopranos S06 again. I'll take Deadwood S03 anyday. (I'd also take Rome over The Sopranos or Mad Men, but I already basically said that.)

Woah woah woah. I don't remember the final season of Deadwood being anywhere near as weak as season 5 of the Wire.

Yeah that. The Wire is good, but overrated. Sure, top 10 of the decade, but that last season had some major missteps.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"First world problems" is one of those phrases I thought was pretty clever the first time I saw it, but has since devolved into noise.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mad Mens satisfaction and OH SHIT moments are way way more complex and mature--it's more Checkov or Ibsen than Marlowe or Shakespeare

I would agree with the latter sentiment (though not necessarily the idea that one is more mature than the other, or that it's easier to write good melodrama than good subtlety), which is probably a large part of why I love Breaking Bad so much; give me Tamburlaine The Great Part 1 over A Doll's House any day.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


they often turned to either some glamorized cowboy showdown involving Omar

Uhh.... SPOILER ALERT the way Omar meets his end is the least glamorous thing there is.
posted by King Bee at 8:50 AM on July 13, 2011


I'd also argue that S5 of the Wire is brilliant and just as good as other seasons but I'm running out of ammo and my forcesheilds are weakening so I'll just slip out the back door now.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lost was a pretty fucking AMAZING show. The first three or so seasons were incredibly good. Moving, tense, surprising, scary, damn that was a great show.

I kinda quit watching at a point, but you can't tell me it wasn't good because it really, really was.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:52 AM on July 13, 2011


Mad Men never has violence to fall back on as a storytelling crutch.

So you haven't seen "Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency" yet.


Heh. I was gonna say "Hands and Knees," when Lane gets beat down by his dad.

Or, you know, the rape(s).
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2011


Huh? Are you saying that kind of problem is exclusive to white, male suburban first world people?

No, just that a lot of people have to deal with living a grey world, making various compromises in their life, doing things they don't like for what they believe is a greater good.

White's introduction to all of that reeks of being in a privileged position all his life and never having to struggle. That may have been the point with the character, but it doesn't strike me a compelling.

The show isn't bad, from what the scattered episodes I've seen in the first season, but it feels like a contrived character in a contrived situation that depends on more contrived situations to keep going. That and it's too dark for my tastes. The episode where he was really aggressive with his wife in the kitchen (which came across almost as close to rape) was just too much for me to continue.

In case you didn't know, ignorance and bigotry are bad regardless of their target, and only other bigots take a statement like the above to have any meaning at all.

It isn't bigotry, it's boredom. Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character, would prefer more diversity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 AM on July 13, 2011


Fine, fine, fine. I'll say it.

Rubicon was truckloads better than Breaking Bad. And Mad Men.

Shot composition was innovative, and really complimented the show's themes, rather than being a supplement and distraction; the plot and character development far more realistic within its limited setting; and the pacing of the show - very slow - actually reflected its characters, rather than the "cue dramatic introspection" scene that shows up so often.

A real shame that the show only had one season, but at least that season had its own sort of (depressing) closure.
posted by hank_14 at 8:55 AM on July 13, 2011


You know what was a good show?

Barney Miller.
posted by Bonzai at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


valdesm: “I like Breaking Bad, but I stopped watching it for the same reasons I stopped watching Six Feet Under, it was emotionally exhausting.”

Brandon Blatcher: “I agree, but with the addition that its weekly dive into of bleak and dark stuck me as white, male suburban first world problems, with plots twists thrown on to pad out the story... Oh no, I have cancer and can't provide, what will I do?!!”

I agree with these.

An additional dimension of my dislike, however, stems from the fact that I actually live in Albuquerque, and the show's constant (and frankly a bit offensive) misrepresentation of the city is enormously grating. Sure, New Mexico has a massive drug problem – frankly, heroin is more of a serious problem than meth, but whatever – my problems with the show are more demographic. It's a show about white people for white people, set in one of the few places in the US where white people aren't actually in the majority. Walter? White. The cop chasing him? White. The kid he enlists to help him? White. Sure, there are brown people in the show – scary brown people who do or sell drugs. Yeah, it's not overt racism necessarily, but it's a really weird focus, and it makes the whole thing seem eerily unreal to me. Someone's probably going to chime in listing worthwhile Hispanic characters in the show – god, I hope so – but having watched the whole first season, I didn't see it.

And I get a general "torture porn" vibe from the whole show, really. People talk about "moral dimensions" – that's what Klosterman's whole deal is here – but really there are very few real moral choices that are stirring to me in the show. Nobody becomes a drug dealer like this. It's clearly wrong, and Walter knows it. It's an obvious bad, so people watching can feel smugly satisfied that they would never do such stuff, so they are obviously above this kind of moral questioning. It's comfortable in that way. It is, of course, depressing, but people seem to be drawn to that kind of thing nowadays. I don't really see anything in the show that can justify that depression. Meth is bad. This is clear. I need three words to say that, not fifty hour-long episodes of a TV show.

Add to that the fact that the setting is "exotic" to most people and simulated to a degree that people have the feeling this is an accurate representation (when really it's a gross misrepresentation) and the whole thing really bugs me.
posted by koeselitz at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I kinda quit watching at a point, but you can't tell me it wasn't good because it really, really was.

C'mon. You really want me to point out the cognitive dissonance there?

I stopped watching Lost after 3 episodes of Season 2. I found Season 1 and Season 2 pretty boring in general compared with a similar sort of TV story like Game of Thrones. Lost seemed pretty half-assed over all, i.e. made up as they went. I also hate back stories, especially when they are Sun and Jin and super boring.

I mean, non-Kate Beckinsale is super cute and Sawyer is hot, but how many times do I need to see Kate/non-Kate staring wistfully out at the ocean? B0-RING.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what was a good show?

Barney Miller.


Dead wrong.

Barney Miller was a great show.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


As much as I like Breaking Bad, I like some other shows more. What brings Breaking Bad down for me is the long set-up for character dramas that advance the characters without advancing the plot. another way of saying this would be: I get impatient with the soap opera because it delays things going horribly wrong. That's what I like, things going horribly wrong. And Saul being the world's sleaziest shyster. But plot over character development for me, thanks.
posted by warbaby at 8:57 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]



Uhh.... SPOILER ALERT the way Omar meets his end is the least glamorous thing there is.


God damn it dude, some people have peripheral vision.
posted by WhitenoisE at 8:58 AM on July 13, 2011


You know what was a good show?

Barney Miller.


I would watch BM and Sanford & Son (and Rockford Files, and ...), solely for the theme songs. And Grady.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I kinda quit watching at a point, but you can't tell me it wasn't good because it really, really was.

Sure I can. Allow me to demonstrate: it wasn't good.
posted by superfluousm at 8:59 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Klosterman is still sitting around ranking things or trying to explain why things he likes are better?

It's Klostertown, just go home, man


Yeah, it's just not a very good article. A guy who's name I recognize but whom I've never consciously read basically telling me why he thinks the Rolling Stones are better than Led Zeppelin and The Who but the Beatles are better than all three ... or whatever.

They're all fucking good, and different, which means that comparing and contrasting them opens up all kinds of fascinating possibilities, none of which seem to show up in the article (the first part of it anyway -- I gave up at the second footnote where he basically says, there's a difference between what one likes more and what is "objectively" best -- like he went to University or something).

Anyway, the discussion here is mostly better. Is Chuck Klosterman actually worth reading?
posted by philip-random at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2011


Oh, come on. That's not any fun. You have to say why it sucked or insult someone's hair.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:00 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Barney Miller was awesome. And I wish something like Sanford & Son would be on the air right now, but I don't think that's going to happen.

And I have to say, I love watching Rockford Files, if only because watching that show up against the contemporary editing of CSI or Bones or whatever other procedural shows us how much we've lost in terms of visual narrative with the rise of certain scene transition tropes. Rockford Files is like a blast of coherence, a reminder for a generation that remembers life before Michael Bay.
posted by hank_14 at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have to say why it sucked or insult someone's hair.

Klosterman has a ridiculous beard.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2011


If there were ever a mashup of Breaking Bad and The Wire, McNulty and Freamon would own Walter White in very short order.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's just not a very good article. A guy who's name I recognize but whom I've never consciously read basically telling me why he thinks the Rolling Stones are better than Led Zeppelin and The Who but the Beatles are better than all three ... or whatever.

Forget it, Philip. It's Grantland.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on July 13, 2011


Related link: The Sad Bastards Club.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:03 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, come on. That's not any fun. You have to say why it sucked or insult someone's hair.

Chief among my hair-related Lost complaints: when Kate and another character (who I won't name in case someone reading just got out of a time machine from 2002 and wants to avoid spoilers) are boning in that cage thing in the Others' village, she has no armpit hair. Where the hell did she get a razor on the island? Don't insult my fucking follicular intelligence, Lindelof.

At least in Deadwood, Alma Garrett had armpit hair.
posted by superfluousm at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It isn't bigotry, it's boredom. Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character, would prefer more diversity.

If you can't see how "I would like this show better if the protagonist wasn't [color]" is bigotry, I think we probably aren't going to end up at a useful conclusion here.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Threads like these really make me wonder what would happen if everyone wrote their comments in E-prime.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Walter is one of the worst criminals ever. He is spectacularly bad at it but so arrogant because he's smart and smart people are good at everything and everyone else is almost too dumb to breathe because they don't have their PhD.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:05 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd like to remind Mr. Klosterman that The Prisoner was on network television, and therefore he is WRONG!

WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG! NO! BAD DOG! BAD BAAAD DOG!
posted by whuppy at 9:06 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If there were ever a mashup of Breaking Bad and The Wire, McNulty and Freamon would own Walter White in very short order.

It would be like when Freamon just leaves, heads to the gym, and gets the picture of Barksdale for everyone. The cops are all like "who is this Heisenberg?", Freamon leaves for an hour and comes back with Walt's school photo. Walt is arrested 10 minutes later.
posted by King Bee at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Okay I'm going back to G+ to talk about Breaking Bad because in short order this has become the Your Favorite Show Sucks thread.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


IAmUnaware: “If you can't see how 'I would like this show better if the protagonist wasn't [color]' is bigotry, I think we probably aren't going to end up at a useful conclusion here.”

Look, if anybody's going to be accused of bigotry, it ought to be the people who managed to write a show set in New freaking Mexico that included zero characters who aren't white. Seriously, it's ridiculous. Completely ridiculous.
posted by koeselitz at 9:08 AM on July 13, 2011


Well, come on, you want to talk about a show that completely went off the rails in the last episode, it was The Prisoner.

Although, depending on your perspective, it went off the rail to a massive, multicar train wreck of TOTAL AWESOME.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:09 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


As much as I like Deadwood, the show went astray in its final season; The Sopranos and The Wire did not.

You mean the last season of The Wire where McNulty pretends he is a serial killer? Come on, that was awful, and that's coming from someone who loved the first 4 seasons.

Breaking Bad is interesting because it slowly explores how doing the wrong things for the right reasons eventually affects who you are.
posted by milarepa at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2011


Also....

Violence certainly exists for some people in America as a common occurrence. My point was more that it does not at all for most people....

Once again, extremely presumptive. The people for whom violence exists as a common occurrence tend to be people in densely populated urban areas, and they very well may be "most people in America". Maybe your remarkably violence-free life is the minority. It certainly seems unusual to me and does not mesh at all with what I know of the world, and I tend to think that I live a pretty nice and comfortable life, relatively.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:12 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a show about white people for white people, set in one of the few places in the US where white people aren't actually in the majority.

Having grown up in Baltimore, this is one of the reasons I liked The Wire: It wasn't from a strictly white male point of view. It very accurately captured the nuance of not only the black and white populations, but also the Irish and Polish. There was more than one point of view in the story, which fit the city the story was set in.

If you can't see how "I would like this show better if the protagonist wasn't [color]" is bigotry, I think we probably aren't going to end up at a useful conclusion here.

I ask that if you're going to use quotes, that you actually put what I wrote in the quotes, instead of what you think I wrote. Otherwise, there's no point to us writing back and forth.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you can't see how "I would like this show better if the protagonist wasn't [color]" is bigotry, I think we probably aren't going to end up at a useful conclusion here.

It's not that any one specific show has a white dude as a main character, it's that they all do.
posted by jeather at 9:13 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not bigoted to say "I wish there were more shows that are more diverse."
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:15 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


White's introduction to all of that reeks of being in a privileged position all his life and never having to struggle.

The man was a high school chemistry teacher. Is that a privileged position, Governor Walker? He didn't make enough money as a teacher to provide for his family, and his insurance was insufficient for him to get treatment. So he was going to let the cancer get worse, but at least make enough money to leave for his pregnant wife and special-needs son.

As for the claim that the show picks character development over plot, I can't really agree. They "went there" with Walter's main concern for the first season--that his wife would find out and lose all love and respect for him. The fact that people can agree that the situation just gets worse and worse tells me that the plot is moving forward. He loses his family, pisses off drug cartels, and almost gets himself killed last season. I'm pretty sure didn't all happen just for the sake of character development.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:15 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


As usual, Astro Zombie sums it up perfectly.
posted by whuppy at 9:21 AM on July 13, 2011


Calling somebody Governor Walker is basically the Wisconsin version of Godwin's law.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ha! Sorry. I'm just saying that chemistry teacher does not equal "privileged position."
posted by zerbinetta at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2011


Where the hell did she get a razor on the island?

There was much wrong with Lost, but this was covered pretty clearly: there were the regular supply drops on the island for the people who were supposed to be manning the stations. Early on after they discovered the first drop, they made a point of showing one of the characters shaving to deal with the whole "why doesn't everyone have a Moses beard by now" question.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:26 AM on July 13, 2011


Some opinions should follow you. It's okay to hate Breaking Bad, but I want to know you do when I see you posting about TV shows. If someone posted to a FPP about pediatrics and they punched babies, I would want to know that also.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just saying that chemistry teacher does not equal "privileged position."

To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:28 AM on July 13, 2011


Quick, minor, correction regarding the discussion of Damages upthread: They are currently on Season 4 of the show (now reduced to only being shown on Direct TV), not Season 3. Season 2 was the William Hurt/Marcia Gay Harden/Timothy Olyphant season, Season 3 was the Martin Short season. I liked Damages well enough in its first season, wasn't nearly as interested in Season 2, and the Season 3 finale sat on my DVR for about a year before I got around to watching it if that gives you any indication of my level of interest. The problem with Damages is that the only real purpose of the show was to shock and surprise the audience with an endless string of plot twists, which was fun for a bit until you realized that the emperor had no clothes and the show really didn't have anything interesting to say or larger point to make beyond that.

As far as the shows discussed in the Klosterman article, I've seen all but The Wire, and my reaction isn't to rank them but to simply be thankful to live in what on many levels truly appears to be a Golden Age for great television, both comedy and drama. My only complaint about Breaking Bad is the occasional tendency of the show to sacrifice believability for increased dramatic tension resulting in too many deus a machina moments. (SPOILERS for those who haven't seen BB) For example, Walt just happening drive up at the exact right moment to prevent Jesse from being killed in "Half Measures" or one of the Cousins deciding to go back to his car to get an ax so as to more dramatically kill Hank in "One Minute", allowing the already shot Hank time to discover the extra bullet on the ground and reload his gun.
posted by The Gooch at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2011


The fact that people can agree that the situation just gets worse and worse tells me that the plot is moving forward. He loses his family, pisses off drug cartels, and almost gets himself killed last season. I'm pretty sure didn't all happen just for the sake of character development.

I'm pretty sure all the plot in Breaking Bad is there as a way to have the characters change. Is that a bad thing? It seems like a major point of the show is to see how awful they can make Walt before we stop rooting for him (if they had had him betray Jesse, that would have done it for me, and I was worried about that happening) and the way to make Walt a worse person is to make him do bad things. I mean, I guess he could just meditate and think about being evil, but that wouldn't work.

Also, Lost, after about 2 episodes into season 2, was terrible. Obsessively watchable, so much like a Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyer book.
posted by jeather at 9:29 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


a show set in New freaking Mexico that included zero characters who aren't white

I am not entirely convinced you've seen this show.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


It's not bigoted to say "I wish there were more shows that are more diverse."
It is bigoted to say "Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character" or imply as Brandon Blatcher did in his first comment (and as people around here seem increasingly fond of doing) that the problems of whites or males or white males just matter less than the problems of others.

By the way, that quotation was not intended to be a direct quote from you, it was a message that expressed the same meaning as your words more clearly so that you could see the point I was making. I assumed that you would be familiar with that rhetorical device, so that's my bad. I was not saying that you said those words, merely that you said a thing that had the same meaning as those words.
posted by IAmUnaware at 9:31 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot believe people are complaining that Breaking Bad is unrealistic. This is the same show where a series of Walt's random decisions resulted in a plane crash over his house. Where two identical twins went on a suburban axe rampage and later one of the crawls across a hospital floor after his legs have been amputated to kill another character. Where the lawyer's office is emblazoned with an enormous reproduction of the Constitution and the criminal mastermind runs a fast food chicken restaurant.

The show exists in a Taratino cartoon universe. If you're complaining about how the proportion of minorities doesn't make sense or how it's too much about "first world problems," you're taking it far too seriously. Breaking Bad on a completely different scale of "realism" than The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood or any other HBO/AMC series. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I love seeing how absurd the show gets. The way they keep raising the ante and having Walt make worse and worse decisions is the appeal, not the "deep moral insights" they raise.
posted by bittermensch at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.

Or a student loan that takes you a decade to pay off, which you have to do with your non-privileged salary.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:32 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.

To the best of my knowledge (not having a Masters and having researched teaching in NM about ten years ago) this is not true in NM.
posted by Seamus at 9:33 AM on July 13, 2011


milarepa: “Breaking Bad is interesting because it slowly explores how doing the wrong things for the right reasons eventually affects who you are.”

zerbinetta: “He didn't make enough money as a teacher to provide for his family, and his insurance was insufficient for him to get treatment. So he was going to let the cancer get worse, but at least make enough money to leave for his pregnant wife and special-needs son.”

I want to say that these are remarkably distorted overviews of the show; and it's interesting to me how often this show seems to get misrepresented even by people that really seem to dig it and follow it closely. What I mean is this: it's obvious that Walter is not "doing the wrong things for the right reasons." He's not a noble lower middle class dude just trying valiantly to find a way to provide for his family and deal with his oncoming cancer. All of his choices are wrong. He chooses to do the wrong thing in almost every circumstance. As I recall, in the first season he's almost immediately offered a way to pay for his treatment and provide for his family via an old (admittedly annoying) friend who made it big. All he'd have to do is swallow his pride.

You kind of have to face it; Walter consistently does bad things for the wrong reasons. The facts have a silly, kindergartenish quality to them: it's wrong to sell meth to kids, even if you think you're helping your family by doing so. It's wrong to deceive your family and put yourself in danger without telling them what you're doing, even if you've convinced yourself that you're doing it for your own good. These things are so simple that I'm constantly amazed that fans of the show seem to ignore them. People would love to believe that Walter has an adequate moral reason for doing the things he does; then, there would be some meaning behind the show's apparent moral dimension, because we could see the show about this difficult contradiction that Walter is facing. But there is no adequate moral reason for anyone doing what he's doing, and he knows it. He's a freaking school teacher, for heaven's sake; he knows more than anybody why the shit he's doing is unconscionable.

Which is why I find the show "relentlessly depressing," as mrgrimm put it above. It's distinctly not a show about a man driven by a crazy and difficult situation to do bad things to help his family. That could be a feel-good show, because at least it'd have a martyr at its center. No, Breaking Bad is a show about a hurting man who should know better doing terrible things for reasons which seem to include excessive pride, vanity, bravado, and machismo. And I'm almost certain the writers are aware of that; they seem to write it that way.

shakespeherian: “I am not entirely convinced you've seen this show.”

I've seen every episode of the first season, but that's all. Like I said, start naming characters. I'm happy to be proven wrong. I really hope I am.
posted by koeselitz at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is bigoted to say "Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character"

I don't think so. I'm also tired of seeing white males as the main character. It's often a lazy example of writing by writers who are white and male and unable to think, much less write, outside their own perspective. Asking shows to be less lazy and reliant on cliches of lead performances isn't bigoted, any more than asking them not have the black guy die in the first 10 minutes is bigoted.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:34 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure didn't all happen just for the sake of character development.

I am not a BB expert, but didn't Walter have a rich friend (they shared some invention or something) at the beginning of the series who offered to pay for his medical treatment?

To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.

Hardly.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2011


I want to say that these are remarkably distorted overviews of the show; and it's interesting to me how often this show seems to get misrepresented even by people that really seem to dig it and follow it closely.

I understand that, I don't think he "did the wrong things for the right reasons." I'm just attempting to sum up the premise of the show in just a few sentences. But, yeah, he makes stupid decisions and gets an odd thrill from them. I thought that was clear from the article and from the many posts here. I didn't think I needed to reiterate. Sorry for not being exact.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2011


You kind of have to face it; Walter consistently does bad things for the wrong reasons.

Is Walter White the machismo version of Nancy Botwin? Cuz lord knows I love Nancy Botwin.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2011


Brandon Blatcher: “To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.”

Yeah, sorry, this is not true. Also, for what it's worth, salary for a substitute high school teacher in Albuquerque starts at nine dollars an hour. So, er – no. Not exactly a well-paid position. I still think the show is not as diverse as reality ought to suggest, but I don't think high school teachers in Albuquerque are exactly rolling in dough.
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen any Breaking Bad yet, so I'm purposely not reading the article.

However, I would like to say that I was just thinking a few days ago how lazy "better than The Wire" reads to me. Like, any time that becomes the way someone expresses their like for a TV show, I stop listening to them. It's not that I don't believe there could be better shows, or that there maybe even are better shows, but it's just such a lazy way of expressing fondness that it virtually guarantees the comparison is wrong.

Anyway, the article sounds like there may be some meat to the comparison, and hence it's somewhat justified, but it's funny how I was just thinking how lame "better than The Wire" is.

Now: Deadwood season 3 is great and I don't know how people can like the show but feel otherwise. Swearengen, who may be my favorite character in all of space-time, felt just now like he was reaching his potential. And the growing tension of the Heart story was mesmerizing.

As to The Wire: season 5 wasn't all bad. The serial killer story was bad. The story about Marlowe and everything about the newspaper was great (Gus is one of my favorite characters in the entire series). And season 2 was one of the peaks of the series and to say that it was boring is flat-out crazy talk.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:40 AM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


A bit OT, but to those impressed by the footnotes this is a very "Tufte-ian" approach to laying out referenced yet dense material. You can read more about it in the"Book Design" thread, where Edware Tufte goes over his canonical examples of excellent handouts and papers. And if you want to replicate it using LaTeX, tufte-latex is your friend.

THBAPSA.
posted by asymptotic at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be a high school teacher, you need a Master's degree and the ability to pay for it.

No, you don't need either of those things.

Regarding the non-diverse cast: Doesn't the show get any props for casting the RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy? Sure, he plays a kid with cerebral palsy, but still.

I do agree that since the Hispanic population is actually the majority in Albuquerque, there should be more Hispanic characters.
posted by King Bee at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2011


White's introduction to all of that reeks of being in a privileged position all his life and never having to struggle. That may have been the point with the character, but it doesn't strike me a compelling.

It's a combination of some privilege (not a ton—he's a high school teacher moonlighting at a car wash and in the third season it is mentioned that, before he started cooking meth, he made $43,000/year) and a lot of obliviousless. The point of Walt's character is that he is someone who has always fervently believed in following rules, and has believed that his own position of relative privilege is a direct result of his having followed all the rules in his life. The show begins at the point where his life is starting to come apart despite his "doing everything right" and it is becoming increasingly untenable for him to continue to hold these beliefs. To me, it's watching what happens to him when he loses that faith in the justness of the system that is characteristic of privileged people which makes the show interesting.
posted by enn at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


why doesn't everyone have a Moses beard by now

I can't help but feel it would have been a better show if everyone looked like Michael Palin as the "It's" guy by season 3.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:42 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was much wrong with Lost, but this was covered pretty clearly: there were the regular supply drops on the island for the people who were supposed to be manning the stations.

So chastising! My comment was meant to be cartoonish, as I'm not actually interested in starting a fight about how much I hate Lost and I wanted to respond in kind to the young rope rider's's good natured comment. I stand by my comment, HOWEVER, for the following reasons: a) I thought at the time of the scene that they'd been traveling and/or in captivity for 48-72 hours b) they were frisked when they were captured, and one presumes a razor would have been confiscated and c) in the scene in question the dude had stubble, which stands to reason Kate should have at least had equal stubble.

Henceforth, I will assume Kate had laser hair removal before the events of the pilot transpired and that is what accounts for both her continually well-shaped eyebrows and lack of armpit hair. Those will be my final words on this extremely critical matter.

The Gooch, thanks for the correction - I did indeed conflate two separate seasons of Damages.
posted by superfluousm at 9:43 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


> [Breaking Bad covers its superficiality with] serious themes that viewers can flatter themselves into thinking they're watching something smart, w/out actually being taken out of their comfort zone or challenged...
It's hard to demonstrate how strange I find this claim without spoilers, so I rot-13'd them.

Yeah, when <rot13>Cvaxzna qebcf uvzfrys vagb n cbeg-n-cbggl va uvf qrfcrengr frnepu sbe furygre</rot13>, I just laughed, man. When they <rot13>genccrq gurzfryirf va gur qrfreg naq frrzrq fher gb qvr bs guvefg, nyy orpnhfr bs Jnyg'f bofrffvba jvgu cebivqvat sbe uvf snzvyl nsgre ur qvrf bs yhat pnapre</rot13>, I just puffed my chest out with vicarious macho pride at their toughness.

(Mind you, I spent the whole <rot13>qrfreg rcvfbqr guvaxvat, "Ohvyq n onggrel! Lbh'ir tbg na ragver purzvfgel yno jvgu lbh!"</rot13> so I was a little disappointed in the writing, that time)
posted by Estragon at 9:43 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


White's introduction to all of that reeks of being in a privileged position all his life and never having to struggle. That may have been the point with the character, but it doesn't strike me a compelling.

White is a genius stuck teaching high school to undergrown children who disrespect him and refuse to do their work. He was screwed out of a colossal business opportunity. His wife treats him as an afterthought. His brother-in-law treats him like a cartoon dog. White feels completely castrated, and that feeling burbles into a stew of depression and hideous anger. In order to fight this castration, he winds up devolving into a macho liar capable of great and terrible things. He does not begin in an especially privileged place, outside of the very general sense in which middle-class white males are generally privileged, and from what I've seen of the show, he's sure as balls not all that privileged coming out of this nonsense.

I mean, I get it. I had held off from watching Breaking Bad for a long time, because I thought it was just going to be a show about a middle-class guy who winds up becoming a Total Badass when he starts becoming a Fish Out Of Water Criminal, but the show redeems the fairly basic premise.

Something I love about shows like Breaking Bad is in how it remembers how crime stories and adventure stories (and fantasy stories and romances and so on) are much older and generally better-loved than so-called "realistic" or "serious" stories. Too many realistic stories age poorly, lack legendary characters, and deal with issues in unimaginative and on-the-nose ways. Too many serious stories handle big ideas in a thin and reverential fashion - somber, steady quadrilles about how the Holocaust was all sad and stuff. Worst of all, too many realistic and serious stories lack action - not action in the car-chasey sense, but action in the sense that the characters behave in ways that change their worlds.

Not *all* realistic stories have these problems, but too many of them do, and especially too many of them, in the short term, are unfairly lauded over their more pulpy contemporaries. The realistic film The Reader taking the Oscar over The Dark Knight and Wall-E over and over again, or even the serious film The Tin Drum beating Apocalypse Now at Cannes over and over again.

For my money, Breaking Bad deals with a middle-aged family man's aberrant attempts to assert himself in a much more interesting way than any John Updike book I've read. I mean, The Centaur's a decent book and all, but it's a very small story, and maybe worse, it lacks a Saul.

Getting back to the article: Breaking Bad is so good because it doesn't treat the exciting crime stuff as a mere afterthought or as something we're deigning to do just to hold the character bits together, or even as something opposed to or different from those character bits. It's a story told through action. We sympathize with the bad guy because he does interesting things and he gets into interesting problems, and on a certain level, we can also see how his extraordinary problems compare with our own. The show doesn't really rub your face into this - you can figure it out for yourself.

Sopranos was clunkier at uniting these halves - having Tony be in therapy was a *little* bit of a cheat insofar as it was a device to let Tony be introspective. Then again, it came first-ish, and that wasn't even really much of a cheat.

The Wire exists in a different space, since it takes more after Greek drama and documentary technique, without too many "big" emotional moments - it's more of a gestalt, and it's more About Things than the shows in its peer group. Klosterman is not wrong to point out how polemical that show really was.

As for Mad Men, it's great, but there's something interesting about that structurally: its whole universe comes from a place of irony. We're seeing these characters literally stuck in the past, so almost every moment plays off of how we judge these characters by today's norms or by our general sense that they're almost all doomed to be good-looking and secretly pained. Reminds me of Thackeray, or of Connell's Mr. Bridge. (Also, having Don be a sexy, debonair ad man is no more or less of a narrative crutch than having White be a meth cook.)

So. Yeah. Breaking Bad. Great show. I'd love to see more shows learn the right lessons from it.

And you know what was another great action-based show? Six Feet Under. People made interesting, irrevocable choices on that show all the time.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [28 favorites]


I love Breaking Bad. It's one of my favorite shows ever. However, it is not without its faults.

My main issue is that it's just not a terribly realistic account of the drug war. For that, you have to go to the Wire. And although I'll agree that the emphasis on morality is one of the things that makes BB special, sometimes it gets burdensome. I'm really, really tired of seeing people moralize drug use. That's what society does. That's why people are okay sending people to prison for drugs : because deep down, they feel that making, selling, and using drugs is immoral. So it would seem that Vince Gilligan supports the drug war -- or, at very least, doesn't oppose it as vehemently as David Simon, who (to my mind) has a much more nuanced view of the drug world.

However, none of those things bother me too much, because BB is not a show about meth. It's a show about basic human ethics. It's really the only show I've seen that asks the (very difficult) question, "What does one human being owe to another, simply by virtue of being human?" It's a very basic question, but it underlies ever major interaction and plot point in the show.

My only other complaint about BB is that a lot of the family scenes tend to be really slow and draggy. How many awkward dinner table scenes do we really need? With Walter and Skyler ignoring each other, and Walter Jr. being a disaffected teenager, being all like "SOMETHING'S REALLY WRONG HERE, DAD!" Totally okay with having some family drama in there, but sometimes on BB it gets kinda tedious.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


because we were introduced to this man in a way that made him impossible to dislike, and because we experience TV through whichever character we understand the most — the audience is placed in the curious position of continuing to root for an individual who's no longer good.

Very Hitchcockian. Didn't we all root for Anthony Perkins when he sends the car with Janet Leigh's body in the trunk into the swamp and it almost didn't sink?
posted by Gungho at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2011


Yeah, sorry, this is not true. Also, for what it's worth, salary for a substitute high school teacher in Albuquerque starts at nine dollars an hour. So, er – no. Not exactly a well-paid position.

I stand corrected on the Master's degree then.

I'd still agrue that position that requires a bachelor's degree at least and some extra classes, comes with sick leave and vacation is indeed a privileged position.

or imply as Brandon Blatcher did in his first comment (and as people around here seem increasingly fond of doing) that the problems of whites or males or white males just matter less than the problems of others.

No, you misunderstood me. I'm tired of seeing only the problems of those sorts of characters. The Wire's main protagonist was white, but that was not only point of view on the show, which is one of the reasons I loved The Wire.

By the way, that quotation was not intended to be a direct quote from you, it was a message that expressed the same meaning as your words more clearly so that you could see the point I was making.

Yeah, got that. You did not understand my point, hence my asking you to stick to actual things I wrote for quotations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2011


zerbinetta: “Sorry for not being exact.”

No need to be sorry. Not calling you out, just pointing at something I find interesting. I don't think the whole "this is a show about moral dilemmas" angle that Klosterman's pushing holds much water. Walter never spent much time wrestling with moral dilemmas that I could see. The show seems more to be about a man who does a bunch of unthinkable things for reasons that are not entirely clear, but that seem somewhat dark.
posted by koeselitz at 9:44 AM on July 13, 2011


(also, is it really true that The Wire got no awards and terrible ratings? I have a hard time believing that. Nearly everyone I know agrees that it's one of the best things that ever happened on TV)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:45 AM on July 13, 2011


I've seen every episode of the first season, but that's all. Like I said, start naming characters. I'm happy to be proven wrong. I really hope I am.

Well, first of all, you sort of poisoned the well by saying earlier that the only non-white characters are scary bad guys, which is maybe true in the first two episodes (assuming you ignore Hank's partner Steve Gomez) before you know anyone very well. But by this point it's become pretty clear that no one in Breaking Bad is a good guy or a bad guy, but they all do good and bad things (although some more disproportionately towards one side than the other, but even then, the protagonist would definitely be in the Bad Guy side of that estimation). One of the most interesting characters on the show right now is Gus Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito; several of Jesse's friends and contacts are Latino, as are many people involved in the drug trade that Walt meets as he progresses.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


All of his choices are wrong. He chooses to do the wrong thing in almost every circumstance. As I recall, in the first season he's almost immediately offered a way to pay for his treatment and provide for his family via an old (admittedly annoying) friend who made it big. All he'd have to do is swallow his pride.

Like George Bailey in Its a Wonderful Life. This leads to George's very bad decision to wish he'd never been born since he was worth more dead ( via his insurance) than alive.
posted by Gungho at 9:48 AM on July 13, 2011


"It is bigoted to say "Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character" or imply as Brandon Blatcher did in his first comment (and as people around here seem increasingly fond of doing) that the problems of whites or males or white males just matter less than the problems of others.

By the way, that quotation was not intended to be a direct quote from you, it was a message that expressed the same meaning as your words more clearly so that you could see the point I was making. I assumed that you would be familiar with that rhetorical device, so that's my bad. I was not saying that you said those words, merely that you said a thing that had the same meaning as those words.
"

Dude, your privilege is showing. Check your fly.

It isn't bigoted to say that you're sick of seeing the same thing again and again, the same characters with the same basic problems.

This is especially true if you have an outside position, and don't just assume the normative privilege.

Again, the contrast with the Wire is instructive — it gives a well-developed, multi-racial, male and female, straight and gay cast a great setting and shows how complicated life gets. That makes for much better drama than just having the same cliches.

And yeah, white guy with first-world problems isn't a deal because there's something wrong with white people or even necessarily their problems, just that it's incredibly cliche at this point.
posted by klangklangston at 9:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


All of his choices are wrong. He chooses to do the wrong thing in almost every circumstance. As I recall, in the first season he's almost immediately offered a way to pay for his treatment and provide for his family via an old (admittedly annoying) friend who made it big. All he'd have to do is swallow his pride.

It was eventually revealed that there was more to it than simply swallowing his pride over being taken care of by a friend. It also made perfect sense for that character, who was already going insane from feeling emasculated, would regard that "favor" as being completely toxic. It's also a nice harbinger of how his choices to become more independent, manly, assertive, etc. are similarly illogical and self-defeating, even if they still make perfect emotional sense to him.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]




Something I love about shows like Breaking Bad is in how it remembers how crime stories and adventure stories (and fantasy stories and romances and so on) are much older and generally better-loved than so-called "realistic" or "serious" stories.

Congratulations Stitcherbeast, you just wrote an article 100 times better than Klosterman that explains the appeal behind the binary morality of Breaking Bad versus the more realistic morality of something like the Sopranos. Great comment.
posted by codacorolla at 9:57 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, with regard to the PC derail in this thread : can't we ALL be right? I mean, yes, it sucks that there aren't more shows with female protagonists or majority-Hispanic casts. But no, it is not okay to hold this against The Wire or Breaking Bad, because it isn't their fault, and they're still good shows.

See? Now can we please skip the tedious liberal navelgazing and misery olympics and go back to discussing interesting TV shows?
posted by Afroblanco at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Umm, no, we can't all be right.

Position 1: I'm tired of seeing shows solely about white leads, especially when these sorts of shows are about the drug war in New Mexico.

Position 2: That's bigotry.

Independently of the validity of either position, one can sketch out a sort of compromise, but not without acknowledging the two positions are fundamentally at odds with each other, if not mutually exclusive.
posted by hank_14 at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, with regard to the PC derail in this thread : can't we ALL be right? I mean, yes, it sucks that there aren't more shows with female protagonists or majority-Hispanic casts...

Yeah, I have to wonder if Breaking Bad is a good place to address a lack of hispanic lead characters on TV-- isn't the main character a meth dealer?
posted by Hoopo at 10:05 AM on July 13, 2011


One of the most interesting characters on the show right now is Gus Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito;

I was just about to add that Giancarlo is probably the only reason I'm gonna get back into the show. Kudos.

Prepare for unforeseen consequences.

Heh. I noticed that promo looked eerily similar to something, but didn't place the reference in my brain.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:06 AM on July 13, 2011


The fact that people are trashing BB on Metafilter is sadly not surprising; at this point, I literally cannot conceive of anything that wouldn't get trashed if it were posted about here (except maybe Neil Gaiman).

What does shock me is that people here are defending Season 3 of Deadwood. Make no mistake, the first two seasons were above and beyond - but that made what followed just that much worse, and that much harder to forgive. Let's leave the carnival troupe aside. George Hearst comes into this town, basically starts shafting this whole town full of badasses and murderers and... no one does anything about it.

Swearengen plays his cards so close to the chest, they may as well be in his back pocket. This guy is supposed to be the ultimate tough guy, but, uh... well, he'll give some nasty looks from his veranda or something. And, after a whole season of me tromping through the house while the show is on yelling "why doesn't someone just shoot him?" (that's how worked up I'd get), George Hearst just... says goodbye and rides away. And that's it.

And that was a great season?
posted by stinkycheese at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


also, is it really true that The Wire got no awards and terrible ratings?

According to Wikipedia: "Despite never enjoying large commercial success or winning major television awards...The Wire received poor Nielsen ratings, which Simon attributed to the complexity of the plot; a poor time slot; heavy use of esoteric slang, particularly among the gangster characters; and a predominantly black cast..."

It's true that the plot is a bit difficult to follow when you're watching one episode per week. I think that's probably the biggest reason for the poor ratings. Why it never won any major awards is beyond me though.
posted by WhitenoisE at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2011


And that was a great season?

Yes, but you see, in Deadwood Season 3, someone rode a bicycle.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:10 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Wire is very, very good but it doesn't seem like it is going to get good. Compare that with ratings success Lost, it is very good at seeming like it is going to get good but then never really does.
posted by I Foody at 10:13 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I literally cannot conceive of anything that wouldn't get trashed if it were posted about here (except maybe Neil Gaiman).

I'm pretty sure Gaiman has been trashed on Metafilter.
posted by aldurtregi at 10:14 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: “Well, first of all, you sort of poisoned the well by saying earlier that the only non-white characters are scary bad guys...”

I'm sorry if that was unnecessarily bombastic; but you sort of confirm that there are a lot of them with this:

“... several of Jesse's friends and contacts are Latino, as are many people involved in the drug trade that Walt meets as he progresses.”

I mean, that was my problem. The only non-whites that stood out with any regularity were major players in the drug trade. Yeah, it's fair, a lot of people in the drug trade are non-white in New Mexico. But... well, it's hard to deny that the three or four characters at the center of the show are white.

That said, it's nice to hear that some non-white characters have gotten some play in the show. That makes me a little happier about it. I still feel like it's not very accurately representative of New Mexico, but I'm glad they're making some moves in the right direction.

Hoopo: “Yeah, I have to wonder if Breaking Bad is a good place to address a lack of hispanic lead characters on TV-- isn't the main character a meth dealer?”

Yeah. He's a white meth dealer. Which is interesting and shocking and strange. There are plenty of brown meth dealers on the show, but they're not really the focus, because their moral dilemmas are apparently too commonplace to be striking. But when a white guy starts doing it – look out!
posted by koeselitz at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2011


Yeah, I have to wonder if Breaking Bad is a good place to address a lack of hispanic lead characters on TV-- isn't the main character a meth dealer?

But see, that's my point. If Walter White were hispanic, it would be a completely different show. With different characters. And different plot points. And maybe that show would be a good show, but it wouldn't be Breaking Bad.

Similarly, there could be an alternate-universe The Wire where Kima Greggs is the main protagonist instead of Jimmy McNulty. But once again, it would be a different show.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see a majority-Hispanic version of Breaking Bad, or a Kima-centric version of The Wire. But that doesn't mean that the versions of The Wire or Breaking Bad that we do have are bigoted.

I don't think any of these shows are guilty of bigotry. In most places, the casting seems appropriate, if not particularly daring. Only exception I'd say is Mad Men, which really should have more black characters, even in incidental roles. It's like every once in a while they show us that poor black elevator operator just to remind us that black people exist.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco: “If Walter White were hispanic, it would be a completely different show.”

Why?
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on July 13, 2011


It is bigoted to say "Just a bit tired of seeing white males be the main character"

It isn't, really. What is bigoted is having almost all long-form dramas be about (straight, able-bodied, usually Christian) white males. Does it mean that any given show is bad? No. I've made it clear I am a fan of Breaking Bad, and The Wire (which was about men, but not solely black men), and The Sopranos, and Mad Men. I don't think they're bad shows. But there is a limitation, because that leaves off a lot of other ways to view the world, and a lot of experiences and stories are just not getting told. I -- and others -- would like to see those stories, not *in place of* shows like the above, but *alongside* them.

It's distinctly not a show about a man driven by a crazy and difficult situation to do bad things to help his family. That could be a feel-good show, because at least it'd have a martyr at its center. No, Breaking Bad is a show about a hurting man who should know better doing terrible things for reasons which seem to include excessive pride, vanity, bravado, and machismo. And I'm almost certain the writers are aware of that; they seem to write it that way.

I think it starts out like Walt is doing the wrong thing for not exactly the right reasons, but understandable reasons, and he tries to do the wrong things as least-wrong as he can. We can be sympathetic, because most of us have done the wrong thing and for less than perfect reasons. But as we go along, his rationalisations get thinner and thinner, he is less and less worried about either the things he is doing or the reasons he is doing them -- or maybe his actual moral centre is just shifting away from what it used to be.
posted by jeather at 10:21 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why?

Well, I would hope it would be. It would have a different cast, for one. The characters would be different. It's not like characters are like interchangeable parts or something.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2011


stinkycheese: " I literally cannot conceive of anything that wouldn't get trashed if it were posted about here (except maybe Neil Gaiman). "

Neil Gaiman!? That fucker single-handedly kept the goth scene alive for years. God damned bastard.


kidding, love the guy

posted by Bonzai at 10:22 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only plot point in Season 3 that really bugged me was Racist Steve. Racist Steve was boring and stupid.

Why didn't Swearengen act against Hearst? Well, he had his two right-hand men killed, one by his own hand. He also would have been waiting to see which way the wind blows. There could have been better ways to gain something than just marching over and shooting him. Hearst's shenanigans were, in fact, an opportunity for Swearengen, but one that required care to suss out. On top of that, they were at that point a city trying very hard to not draw the attention of the federal government - and killing someone of Hearst's stature could have been disastrous in that respect. Further, he does state, "I like mine served cold," with regards to the missing finger.

But above and beyond Swearengen's motivations for not killing Hearst, I thought the resolution was wonderful. The whole season was a slow boil in which he commits offence after offence, and the fact that it never boiled over and we never got satisfaction was awesome: sometimes that happens. And I thought Tolliver and Swearengen and Bullock watching him roll out of town, realizing that letting him go was better than killing him, bearing the insults to their honor, dignity, and bodies, was just sublime. Yes, I wanted to see Hearst get his. Badly. That's why being denied that was so good.

the bike riding was season 2
posted by neuromodulator at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched Breaking Bad, but I wonder how anything could possibly be better than the Sopranos. That show had it all.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't aware that Swearengen was also a character on Breaking Bad. Maybe that show is better than I'm giving it credit for.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it starts out like Walt is doing the wrong thing for not exactly the right reasons, but understandable reasons, and he tries to do the wrong things as least-wrong as he can. We can be sympathetic, because most of us have done the wrong thing and for less than perfect reasons. But as we go along, his rationalisations get thinner and thinner, he is less and less worried about either the things he is doing or the reasons he is doing them -- or maybe his actual moral centre is just shifting away from what it used to be.

Like Walter White, The Shield's Vic Mackey was exciting to watch. As bad as he became, he always had excuses that the audience would, on some level, buy. If we didn't buy those excuses, we'd have probably stopped watching. Same with Walter.

We subconsciously root for the "bad guy" in these shows, on some level. There's something fascinating about that.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, you can't go and kill Hearst if he didn't actually get killed in the real world. You can only take so much license in a period drama.
posted by Green With You at 10:30 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, that was my problem. The only non-whites that stood out with any regularity were major players in the drug trade. Yeah, it's fair, a lot of people in the drug trade are non-white in New Mexico. But... well, it's hard to deny that the three or four characters at the center of the show are white.

To be even more fair, the majority of characters, period, are involved in the drug trade in one form or another. It's not like there are these huge numbers of white characters on the show who are uninvolved with the drug business (off the top of my head, only Walt's family members). In addition, there have been quite a few Hispanic police officers on the show, including, as mentioned above, Hank's partner.
posted by The Gooch at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2011


Green With You: I would reply then that introducing him as a character, and having him act as he did, was a mistake. It felt like having my hands tied behind my back while somebody keeps flicking the end of my nose. And I'm supposed to say, "yeah, do it! Keep flicking my nose!"

/not so good with analogies
posted by stinkycheese at 10:33 AM on July 13, 2011


Swearengen plays his cards so close to the chest, they may as well be in his back pocket. This guy is supposed to be the ultimate tough guy, but, uh... well, he'll give some nasty looks from his veranda or something. And, after a whole season of me tromping through the house while the show is on yelling "why doesn't someone just shoot him?"

You mean like Trixie?

Deadwood is, in part, the tradgedy of Al Swearengen. It's about his inability to live inside the confines of civilization. Season one sees the camp in it's native state, with the coming of the law in the form of Bullock. In season two, the cocksuckers from Yankton creep in. In three, civilization and the law comes in the form of an even bigger, badder ashole, one backed by the power of the state---Hurst. Al's been fleeing from these people all his life.

IMO, the payoff for season three would have come in season four. Extrapolating from the history of the place, I susupect that, Al, pushed beyond endurance, burns the camp to the ground, then dies, as he began, a stagecoach robber living rough. Bullock and Star, by contrast, are the Horatios, rebuilding the burned-out mess, doing the deal that Al can't do with the Yankton folks to turn the outlaw settlement on Indian lands into a proper town in a legal state. Folks divide themselves according to who can live in the new town and those who can't.

You don't get there without Hurst coming to town though.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So apparently this is just going to become a Deadwood thread.
posted by koeselitz at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is absurd and you need to watch the third season of Deadwood again. It is fantastic...

As I've said before on MeFi, the major difference between Deadwood and every other show ever made for TV was that, to me, I was curious about what characters did when they weren't on screen.

These two sentences stand in opposition to each other: the problem with the third season of Deadwood is that we lose our way, and every moment we have Jack Langrishe And His Merry Band of Troubadours onscreen is a moment we are not with Swearengen or Hearst or Bullock or Jane or Joanie or Farnum or any of the many many other characters who are more interesting than that plotline that went nowhere and took huge times doing it. Count Doc Cochran's line in the final episode. There are zero. To take Brad Dourif, have him play a complex and interesting character for 2.9 seasons, and then make him an extra means you have gone astray somewhere.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:38 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


off the top of my head, only Walt's family members

SPOILERS

No, Skylar does become involved directly with the money laundering business. Walt Jr is inadvertantly involved with the website. Walt hides the cash/gun in the baby's diaper box... THEY ARE ALL GUILTY.
posted by Elmore at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So apparently this is just going to become a Deadwood thread.

Sorry for my part in that derail. Back to slagging off Breaking Bad, everybody!
posted by stinkycheese at 10:42 AM on July 13, 2011


I'd much rather discuss Deadwood than white male hetero privilege AGAIN.
posted by FeralHat at 10:43 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]




I mean, that was my problem. The only non-whites that stood out with any regularity were major players in the drug trade. Yeah, it's fair, a lot of people in the drug trade are non-white in New Mexico.

But the only characters in the show who aren't in the drug trade are Walt's family.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2011


The fact that people are trashing BB on Metafilter is sadly not surprising

...

Sorry for my part in that derail. Back to slagging off Breaking Bad, everybody!

95% of the people posting here are saying that they like BB. The few who aren't mostly agree it's a pretty good show, but "not for them."

I'd much rather discuss Deadwood than white male hetero privilege AGAIN.

I'd rather discuss John from Cincinnati. There's one nonsensical show I'd like to see completed. Ed O'Neill was fantastic.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather discuss John from Cincinnati.

Try and keep on topic, mate.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:49 AM on July 13, 2011


Time to turn this thread into a Fish Police thread
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I watch/watched all four of the shows he compares, and I loved each of them for different reasons. I do believe there is a difference between "best" and "the one I like the most," and that's fine-but at the insane level of quality each of these shows reached/is reaching, "best" is simply an impossible judgment to make. Go ahead and have a favorite, for whatever your (general "your") preferences may be (cinematography, acting, writing, stylistic choices, etc.), but I don't think you can do "best," here.

Deadwood and Carnivale were canceled way too early. At least Knaupf loved his fans enough to get online and tell us what he had planned for Carnivale Season Three, so we weren't left with absolutely no resolution for what we'd seen happen in Season Two.

(Lost, however, was crap. And yes, I watched it for far more than "a few episodes," which is the first knee-jerk defense Lost fans go to when someone says the show was crap. Crap, crap, crap. Yeah, I said it.)
posted by tzikeh at 10:51 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody ever notice how Brock Samson refers to Dr Venture and his sons as "my family"?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:58 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


stinkycheese: “Back to slagging off Breaking Bad, everybody!”

Well, I wasn't trying to silence you. And I'm not trying to slag off the show. At least, I'm not trying to do it in a blunt or stupid way. I'd rather actually talk about it.
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 AM on July 13, 2011


Sorry koeselitz, that's not what I meant to suggest. I love Breaking Bad FWIW.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2011


stinkycheese: “Sorry koeselitz, that's not what I meant to suggest. I love Breaking Bad FWIW.”

No, I'm the one who should be sorry. It's not really my right at all to regulate what anybody's allowed to say in threads, even if I do manage to do it in a passive-aggressive way. I've never watched Deadwood, so I have no idea what anyone is talking about when they talk about that show, but that's okay; people are allowed to talk about what they want.

So, stinkycheese, neuromodulator, et al – talk about it if you want. I'm sorry that I sniffed at you. It was frankly silly of me.

posted by koeselitz at 11:13 AM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like Breaking Bad but Jesse is one of those characters whose decision-making ability is supernaturally poor. It reminds me of watching Friends and yelling at the screen because Ross was making the obvious opposite of the correct choice.

Also: Veronica Mars was clearly superior to all these shows.
posted by mullacc at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]




I do enjoy Breaking Bad, though not to the extremes some people apparently do. I think it's for reasons mentioned above, that overall it's just too dark, and overall the things Walt does are too bad, to the point where I find many of the characters unredeemable. Some of it really feels like a Coen Brothers movie, just surreal in how horribly things go wrong (not that that's a bad thing). It is still generally good to watch, but something about it just doesn't grab me, and I think maybe I just find the characters too repugnant.

Some people have mentioned Damages, which I actually do like a lot due to an amazing cast and interesting female characters, but the overall writing or directing (not sure which would cause this sort of thing) leaves much to be desired. The method of repeatedly showing us the same shocking scene that happens sometime in the future, while leaving us waiting to find out how it gets to that awful point, is tiring. Love Rose Byrne, Glenn Close is amazing, Timothy Olyphant is Olyphantastic, everyone else is great too... it's really just the manner of storytelling and some absurd twists that made me roll my eyes as well as feeling kind of insulted as a viewer. Season 3 is worse in that regard than season 2, but the show still has such a page-turner quality to it that I found myself drawn in every week.

I am serious about Justified, though. It is a fantastic show. For anyone who hasn't seen it and also laments about how depressing and relentlessly bad the characters of Breaking Bad are, you might enjoy Justified. It's smart writing, excellent acting by the entire cast, and the main character, while very conflicted, still does try to do the right thing. I think some people wrote it off because the first few episodes seemed like like fairly run-of-the-mill catch the bad guy crime show stuff, but it gets better.

As for Breaking Bad, this recent New York Times interview with Vince Gilligan is interesting: The Dark Art of Breaking Bad
Particularly this section:

The total audience for “Breaking Bad” is only slightly smaller than that of “Mad Men” — 19.5 million versus 22.4 million cumulative viewers in their respective third seasons — but the top three markets for “Breaking Bad” are Albuquerque/Santa Fe, Kansas City and Memphis; neither New York nor Los Angeles are in its top 10. The show, in other words, doesn’t play on the coasts. It gets chatter, just not among what has long been considered the chattering class.
posted by wondermouse at 11:35 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah. He's a white meth dealer. Which is interesting and shocking and strange

Really? I was under the impression that white meth dealers were pretty common.
posted by Hoopo at 11:40 AM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Was Barney Miller the one with the talking fish?
posted by Eideteker at 11:49 AM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


None - I've given up on network/cable as an outlet for anything worthwhile. [...] I'm not that tough of a crowd

You might wish to consider these two sentences with regard to one another.
posted by Justinian at 11:56 AM on July 13, 2011


The way they keep raising the ante and having Walt make worse and worse decisions is the appeal

This is my only problem with Breaking Bad, the writers keep upping the ante and that can only lead to disappointment in future storylines.

A couple of other things. Like Sticherbeast mentioned above, The Wire had a basis in Greek Tragedies, which Simon mentioned in interviews, and was story driven not character driven. People's problems with that show seem to revolve around the misunderstanding of that idea.
Second, Vin Diesel actually makes good movies. Seriously. Sure, he did XXX and A Man Apart but with the exception of maybe one other film, all the others are pretty great. If you still doubt his acting ability you should check out Find Me Guilty.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:01 PM on July 13, 2011


I’m with nanojath.

I didn’t read the whole article. I realized it was Chuck Klosterman, who wrote endlessly in one of his books about how obsessed he was with "The Real World". He was a grown man when he wrote it. I stopped reading anything by him.

I seen to have lost the ability to care about TV shows as I’ve gotten older. It’s actually kind of weird. My wife watches Justified, and I’ve seen a little and think it’s a quality show, but that doesn’t keep me from getting up and walking out in the middle of an episode.

I haven’t seen ANY of the shows people mention here as being some of the best, and not because I think they’re bad, but;
1. I’m lazy. It’s way too much work to stay caught up with shows the way they’re structured now. A lot of these shows feel like they’ve taken the position that I’m supposed to do the work, not them.
2. I’m tired of cops, serial killers, people shooting people, people threatening to shoot people, people yelling at people for an hour, etc. I just want them to all shut up.

I just can’t care what happens to obnoxious characters. I will admit that I’ve never had the gene that causes people to be fascinated with mafia, serial killer, and other criminal stories.
posted by bongo_x at 12:04 PM on July 13, 2011


The show exists in a Tarantino cartoon universe

EXACTLY.

I mean, season three contains a fucking Bat Cave, complete with an Alfred.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:05 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chuck Klosterman, who wrote endlessly in one of his books about how obsessed he was with "The Real World"

That's exactly the sort of thing that makes me enjoy reading Klosterman. I'd be pretty bored if he only told me the things I like about the things I like. Instead he gets passionate and introspective about KISS reunion tours. That's fascinating. He's fearless when it comes to saying what things he likes, even when they are incredibly uncool things to like, and then he explains why he likes them, which are all things I had clearly never thought about before.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:07 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is my only problem with Breaking Bad, the writers keep upping the ante

This is the critical problem I have with most television series that go on for longer than a season (the "Jack Bauer Syndrome" is our household term for it). One of the things I loved about The Wire was how by switching the area/element of the city under inspection they could avoid this to some extent - there were new and interesting conflicts to look at without just taking what we'd already seen and racheting it up another heartbreaking notch.

Until Season Five, where I felt the McNulty/Freemon serial killer plotline was just that. "Hey, we can't think of a way to just do another straight investigation without repeating, so let's do this instead."
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:09 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to Wikipedia: "Despite never enjoying large commercial success or winning major television awards...The Wire received poor Nielsen ratings, which Simon attributed to the complexity of the plot; a poor time slot; heavy use of esoteric slang, particularly among the gangster characters; and a predominantly black cast..."

Perhaps David Simon put a little bit of himself into Bunny Colvin.

"Feel like I'm always tellin' people something they don't wanna know..."
posted by Afroblanco at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2011


Re; upping the ante; (what’s the proper colon usage there?)

My wife and were commenting on how many British shows just have the number of episodes, and even length of episodes, necessary to tell the story, without seeming to care about the market forces. It can be frustrating if you love a series, but it eliminates many of the criticisms seen here about pacing, upping the ante, bad last season, etc.
posted by bongo_x at 12:17 PM on July 13, 2011


I'm totally on board with Breaking Bad, but I think the show has one critical flaw that keeps it from being "the greatest show ever." Breaking Bad, like Dexter, is one of those shows that kind of depends on its main character not being caught. So, like with Dexter, Breaking Bad has to continually do all kinds of fancy footwork and improbable plot developments to prevent Walt from being found out by his DEA brother-in-law, the DEA in general, the police, etc.

For instance, the episode where Hank finds Walt's RV (with Walt and Jesse inside!) but, through some clever trickery and a ton of luck, they manage to get away clean. A suspenseful sequence, but one that left me feeling cheated. In any real-world scenario, Walt and Jesse would have been goners.

So, when Vince Gilligan talks about other TV shows "keeping their characters in stasis" and not allowing the show to change in any significant way, I think he's kidding himself just a little bit. Granted, if there's any show on TV right now that could have the main character go to jail and just keep on rolling with it, it's Breaking Bad, but whatever crazy turns the story undergoes, it's most likely going to be within the established parameters of the show.
posted by Pants McCracky at 12:27 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"You kind of have to face it; Walter consistently does bad things for the wrong reasons."

Yes, but the art is in how he convinces himself that they're the right reasons. Because that's how any of us does evil. We all have justifications.

"People would love to believe that Walter has an adequate moral reason for doing the things he does; then, there would be some meaning behind the show's apparent moral dimension, because we could see the show about this difficult contradiction that Walter is facing."

All that matters is that Walter thinks he has an adequate moral reason, and that we can see it.

"But there is no adequate moral reason for anyone doing what he's doing, and he knows it. He's a freaking school teacher, for heaven's sake; he knows more than anybody why the shit he's doing is unconscionable."

Did you read Klosterman's article? He addresses this:
"What he was arguing was that someone can't "decide" to morph from a good person into a bad person, because there's a firewall within our personalities that makes this impossible. He was arguing that Walter's nature would stop him from being bad, and that Walter would fail if tried to complete this conversation. But Jesse was wrong. He was wrong, because goodness and badness are simply complicated choices, no different than anything else."
You've actually played exactly into the trap the show sets; you can't believe that someone smart, upstanding, (and yes, white) would fall into these kinds of decisions. Why, he must know better! But we all know better. And yet we all make evil decisions every day, whether by purchasing goods made by 3rd-world wage slaves (most electronics?), shopping at big box stores, or driving cars (certainly by driving bigger cars than most of us need). We all rationalize things in different ways. And that's exactly what Klosterman is arguing is the beauty of Breaking Bad. Yes, it may be contrived, but it shows us those moments when we can act and for whatever reason choose not to or choose the evil course, and that there can be unintended consequences (plane crash as metaphor?).

I don't truck with "best," but it definitely goes a long way toward explaining why I like Breaking Bad. And, for that matter, Mitchell & Webb's "Peep Show" (which, last I checked, was entirely available on regular, non-plus Hulu).
posted by Eideteker at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Peep Show" (which, last I checked, was entirely available on regular, non-plus Hulu).

And YouTube. (Shh.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2011


I'm totally on board with Breaking Bad, but I think the show has one critical flaw that keeps it from being "the greatest show ever." Breaking Bad, like Dexter, is one of those shows that kind of depends on its main character not being caught. So, like with Dexter, Breaking Bad has to continually do all kinds of fancy footwork and improbable plot developments to prevent Walt from being found out by his DEA brother-in-law, the DEA in general, the police, etc.

I don't want to spoil things too much, but you should check out David Mamet's Edmond for something more in the vein of what you're talking about. That one...took me by surprise.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2011


but you should check out David Mamet's Edmond

Then watch it with Mamet's commentary.

"Hi, I'm David Mamet"

*five minutes of silence*

"There's William H. Macy getting on elevator."

*another five minutes of silence*

I quit shortly after that, so let me know if he really had anything to say.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:43 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Breaking Bad, like Dexter, is one of those shows that kind of depends on its main character not being caught.

Weeds does this also, but has the benefit of being a comedy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:49 PM on July 13, 2011


A season with Walt behind bars could be really interesting actually.
posted by bonehead at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Somewhere in the commentary on Season One, Gilligan says that a key to Walter White's character is the fact that he always believes he is in complete control of events and the fun starts because he is always wrong about that.
posted by warbaby at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I actually wouldn't be especially surprised if the show decides to have Walt get caught. I just don't think he's been too close to getting caught except for that one time with Hank outside, which he handled by using his super power of being an incredibly shitty person.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:56 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, you can't go and kill Hearst if he didn't actually get killed in the real world. You can only take so much license in a period drama.

Inglourious Deadwood
posted by adamdschneider at 1:13 PM on July 13, 2011


I would reply then that introducing him as a character, and having him act as he did, was a mistake.

In a way I agree, but the show is about the town of Deadwood at a specific time, and Hearst showed up and started making trouble in that place at that time. Ignoring him would be kind of irresponsible.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2011


Also, you can't go and kill Hearst if he didn't actually get killed in the real world. You can only take so much license in a period drama.

Inglourious Deadwood


Inglourious Coksukkers, more like.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


MINOR SPOILER

Any show that can devote an entire episode to a man in a room swatting a fly, and keep me on the edge of my seat, is a great show.
posted by robcorr at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Inglourious Deadwood

License in Genre films have a bit of leeway. Period dramas, not as much.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2011


I liked Breaking Bad from the start. But it was when they had the second season start off with a Most Amazing Song. Well, then it was love.
posted by storybored at 1:45 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Breaking Bad and the diversity crisis! Whenever people mention this 'diversity' crisis thing, and why maybe the main characters aren't such and such minority, it's nice to pull up some demographics:

Albuquerque: 70% white, median income for the family was ~$45,000

The White family is the exact, census-assured representation of a typical Albuquerque, New Mexico family. I mean, hell, the story of the diversity crisis often overlooks that the US is predominantly white. Why isn't Walter White of Hispanic or Latino origin? Because that would be racist; because it would be Vince Gilligan, white guy, taking a minority' and saying 'look, guys, it's racially endemic. No matter how highly-educated or middle-class these Hispanics are, they're still going to go right back to the drug trade. Let's a make exactly about that!"

But because it takes a typical, everyday male of the Americas and it makes him progressively more and more unlikeable, because it takes that typical everyman and sticks him into that world some would otherwise reserve for the destitute and ethnic, it says 'look, it can happen to anyone, even you and you and you'.

It's a show about the increments that takes people to their extremes and it's a show that makes these increments at times extreme but always believable. And I love that about it because it features a kind of patient, progressive writing that is often lacking in the CSI/Law and Order/etc world of television drama where dialogue like 'yes, lower-income [ethnic group] male withe multiple accounts of assault and battery' is common enough to be cliche and is often treated by its white leads with a little 'oh, it's so sad that this is typical' smile.
posted by dubusadus at 1:45 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I <3 Breaking Bad and Gus is my favorite character.

I would watch a whole series of shows just about Gus.
posted by contessa at 2:05 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The show is ruined by all these overly dramatic film shots. He sits for 45 seconds in his car while he dramatic catches his breath. He walks around his house for over a minute trying to figure out his marriage.

they should liquify a corpse in every episode
posted by EmGeeJay at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why isn't Walter White of Hispanic or Latino origin? Because that would be racist; because it would be Vince Gilligan, white guy, taking a minority' and saying 'look, guys, it's racially endemic. No matter how highly-educated or middle-class these Hispanics are, they're still going to go right back to the drug trade. Let's a make exactly about that!"

No, there's lots of interesting directions it could take. It could be a Hispanic who had very caring parents that taught them to study hard, play by rules, to not take certain paths. Then suddenly this character finds themselves in a position where going down those wrong paths is way to at least save their family. How does a straight and narrow Hispanic character deal with going into that stereotype for their personal greater good? What would it do to their identity to compromise themselves so?

Note, I didn't say it had to be a male character.

That's just one idea, thought up in 30 seconds. I imagine there's lots of other angles that could be done. Hell, make the character decorated cop, well respected and loved in the Hispanic community as symbol of how Hispanics don't have to be drug dealers. Or keep the character a chemistry teacher and it's their spouse that has the cancer. Or a disabled kid that needs treatments. There's lots of ways it could go. That the white perspective is constantly examined gets a bit boring.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Brandon, you're not wrong, but that's an objection which could be made to virtually every single show on television.
posted by Justinian at 2:23 PM on July 13, 2011


That scenario might make the show mean the same to you as it does now, but to the majority (aka white people), it's a totally different story. Sorry, but that's racism for ya.
posted by Eideteker at 2:24 PM on July 13, 2011


dubusadus: “So Breaking Bad and the diversity crisis! Whenever people mention this 'diversity' crisis thing, and why maybe the main characters aren't such and such minority, it's nice to pull up some demographics: Albuquerque: 70% white, median income for the family was ~$45,000 The White family is the exact, census-assured representation of a typical Albuquerque, New Mexico family.”

No, it's not. Yes, 70% of people in ABQ are white. But a vast plurality of people in ABQ – 47% – are Hispanic.
posted by koeselitz at 2:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Brandon, you're not wrong, but that's an objection which could be made to virtually every single show on television.

Brandon will correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming that's kind of his point, no?
posted by tzikeh at 2:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The White family is the exact, census-assured representation of a typical Albuquerque, New Mexico family. I mean, hell, the story of the diversity crisis often overlooks that the US is predominantly white.

Predominantly? I take that to mean 80-90% or more. Non-Hispanic "whites" make up about 63% of the U.S. population. In Albuquerque, I expect it's less than 50% ... (oops, koeselitz beat me to it ...)

The percentage of leading roles in U.S. television that go to non-hispanic whites is what? 98%? That is the "diversity crisis" in media, i.e. that television and movies offer a false (and dangerous) sense of white dominance that isn't demographically true.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:29 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a huge fan of BB, there's too many different discussions going on in this thread for me to wrap my head around and formulate a response. But somewhere waaaayyy up thread someone complained about the pacing of the show, which bothers me. Maybe they were referring to the individual scenes, but as a whole that last season had the best pacing I've ever experienced. Started out so slowly and gathered speed as it went, like a boulder rolling down a hill.

As a side-note, if there's anyone who is hesitant to try the show, or perhaps stopped watching after the first season and is curious whether they should try to get back into it, I'd recommend using episode 10 from season 3 ('Fly') as a sampler. It is relatively watchable outside of the larger story arc, and one of my favorite episodes to date.

And I'm holding off on comparing BB to The Wire until it has finished it's run.
posted by mannequito at 2:30 PM on July 13, 2011


Brandon will correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming that's kind of his point, no?

If his point is that television in general has a ton of white people, what does that have to do with Breaking Bad? Maybe I'm not getting my point across effectively. Is Breaking Bad somehow a lesser show because it is telling this particular story as opposed to some other story which much of the audience would not find as compelling?

Now I'm curious. Have there been many successful hour-long dramas in which the main cast is not primarily white? One or two seasons of The Wire are about as close as I can come up with and even there the ratings were not good and you generally had a central white character a la McNulty in seasons 1, Sobotka in season 2, then Carcetti, and so on.

There was an attempt this year but it failed rather spectacularly. I'm blanking on the title. The one with the spies.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on July 13, 2011


Brandon, you're not wrong, but that's an objection which could be made to virtually every single show on television.

That's the point I was making.

That scenario might make the show mean the same to you as it does now, but to the majority (aka white people), it's a totally different story. Sorry, but that's racism for ya.

No, it would not be same show. That doesn't inherently mean it's better or worse, but I would welcome that diversity.

I totally get that the assumption is the largely white audience would see it as a negative and not watch show. After all, If Weeds was centered around the tough, but lovable negroes that helped the pretty, white suburban mom learn how to sell drugs, how people would be totally lost? There's would be no one to relate to, amirite?! They're selling drugs to make a living, unlike Nancy..oh wait.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:46 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is Breaking Bad somehow a lesser show because it is telling this particular story as opposed to some other story which much of the audience would not find as compelling?

*I* found it to be a minus on this particular show, but I'm not sure I'd call it a lesser show. Perhaps a good one that still uses some, IMO, boring cliches.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:48 PM on July 13, 2011


I do recognize the inherent tension between any given show deciding that the protagonist should be white because they wish to maximize the audience and the end stage of that argument in which every show ends up with a white protagonist, I'm just not sure how to deal with it. It's easy to say somebody should take the leap of faith. It's much harder when you're ponying up millions of dollars and betting the jobs of hundreds of cast and crew.
posted by Justinian at 2:51 PM on July 13, 2011


If Weeds was centered around the tough, but lovable negroes that helped the pretty, white suburban mom learn how to sell drugs, how people would be totally lost?

I'd never seen Weeds before this weekend when a friend showed me the first handful of episodes but I kept thinking that if they had an entire show about the black family that sells whatshername weed, I would enjoy that show a lot more.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have there been many successful hour-long dramas in which the main cast is not primarily white?

Treme.
posted by kid ichorous at 2:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was an attempt this year but it failed rather spectacularly.

Yeah, I was gonna say Treme got picked up for a third season (somehow). ;)

I'd never seen Weeds before this weekend when a friend showed me the first handful of episodes but I kept thinking that if they had an entire show about the black family that sells whatshername weed, I would enjoy that show a lot more.

Well, they are very involved in the first two seasons, and Conrad is a big character, but yeah, I'm with you. I was pissed off for the first two seasons b/c they never show the origin of the Nancy/Heylia relationship.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:12 PM on July 13, 2011


It's easy to say somebody should take the leap of faith. It's much harder when you're ponying up millions of dollars and betting the jobs of hundreds of cast and crew.

Totally. Regardless what one may feel is right, every business person what's to make a profit and doesn't want to do anything that would screw with that. Battlestar Galatica did fine with a diverse cast, but The Wire didn't. The police drama K-Ville had a black male in the lead role, but it didn't last beyond a single season (perhaps due to Writer's strike). Not a ringing endorsement for diversity in American tv, no.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on July 13, 2011


Treme

That depends on how you define "successful", I guess. It was picked up for another season but if it didn't have Simon's name attached to it I doubt highly it would still be around. Treme only gets a fraction of the ratings of HBO's successful shows. On the order of 10% of Sopranos or True Blood numbers. Even Game of Thrones, only a season old, is pulling at least 5x the numbers that Treme is.
posted by Justinian at 3:23 PM on July 13, 2011


This is just all the more reason for us to actually make the Shadow Mods into a show.
posted by Eideteker at 3:38 PM on July 13, 2011


the black family that sells whatshername weed...

"whatshername"? oh, you.

posted by mrgrimm at 3:47 PM on July 13, 2011


Like I said I've only seen a handful of episodes and I was, let us say, taking the spirit of the show to heart at the time.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:01 PM on July 13, 2011


I would like to point out that all the American tv shows I end up watching feature Americans. What a cliché. I mean, really.

What is with you guys that you have to make such compelling tv shows that I don't even care that the protagonist is a white American middle aged chemistry professor married with kids, none of which I can identify with in the least, much less the cooking meth part, and yet, you sneaky bastards manage to make me relate to his character more than any non-white, non-male, non-American character I've ever seen in any of your shows? What is it? Perhaps because your best writers are all predictably white American middle aged men and do inevitably end up paying more attention to the fictional/psychological finetuning of said characters? Whichever way, I don't really care, it works, I still get to enjoy the escapism and the realism and the hyperbole and the darkness and the cartoonishness and the desperation all in one package. I still resent that you made me almost hate the poor wife for almost getting in the way of the plot. For a while I almost hated her when it seemed she could bring the whole story to a premature halt. Grrr. I hate/love when you do that. Awesome manipulators. I'm glad you're making fiction and not propaganda.
posted by bitteschoen at 4:01 PM on July 13, 2011


I still resent that you made me almost hate the poor wife for almost getting in the way of the plot.

It's not your fault. She's a Grisham Wife. She's not supposed to be sympathetic.

(Googling did not reveal the origin of the term, but it's basically the wife character in every Grisham novel or movie. Her whole purpose in life is to hold back the male protagonist, without adding any sort of emotional weight on her own. May or may not say the line, "You're tearing us apart!!!!" It's an annoying trope, don't know why it sticks around.)
posted by Afroblanco at 4:08 PM on July 13, 2011


Are you kidding? Skylar is awesome and I can't wait for her to start cooking Walt's books.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:19 PM on July 13, 2011


bitteschoen: “I would like to point out that all the American tv shows I end up watching feature Americans. What a cliché. I mean, really.”

I live in Albuquerque. It's set in my hometown. So, y'know. I have some local feeling that's somewhat slighted by the show. That's not the same as having some liberal guilt spilling out all over the place.

And, yeah, I get annoyed that Breaking Bad portrays Albuquerque as some kind of drug wasteland.
posted by koeselitz at 4:21 PM on July 13, 2011


Koeselitz, no offense, but the time you've spent posting to this FPP would have been much better spent watching the second season of Breaking Bad. I liked the first season much more than you seem to have, and I can't promise that your concerns about the way Albuquerque is portrayed will be addressed to your satisfaction, but I can say that the leap in quality between those two seasons is so exponential that you really only sort of know what you're talking about in this thread.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:33 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is just all the more reason for us to actually make the Shadow Mods into a show.

Two black major characters?! It'll never fly.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:45 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


“Sorry koeselitz, that's not what I meant to suggest. I love Breaking Bad FWIW.”

No, I'm the one who should be sorry.


Sorry, but this is starting to sound awfully Canadian. Speaking of which, why aren't there any Canadians in Breaking Bad? Saskatoon's only 1023 nautical miles from Albuquerque.
posted by philip-random at 4:51 PM on July 13, 2011


Why aren't there any Canadians in Breaking Bad?

When we were in western/northern Alberta a couple of years ago, we were warned by provincial enforcement not to use the coffee makers in the rooms. Apparently, they're frequently used to cook meth.
posted by bonehead at 5:09 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unlike both the Sopranos and the Wire, Deadwood didn't get to have its final season. (No, I'm still not over it.)

Whenever I'm in a good mood and don't want to be, I think about that just to angry up my blood.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:16 PM on July 13, 2011


May or may not say the line, "You're tearing us apart!!!!" It's an annoying trope, don't know why it sticks around.

James Dean.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:08 PM on July 13, 2011


When we were in western/northern Alberta a couple of years ago, we were warned by provincial enforcement not to use the coffee makers in the rooms. Apparently, they're frequently used to cook meth.

Well how else is one supposed to enjoy what they call coffee up there?
posted by mannequito at 6:17 PM on July 13, 2011


Some people like shows like this. Other people like shows like that.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:46 PM on July 13, 2011


and not only because it's malcolm in the middle's dad.

Wait, WHAT?!
posted by Scoo at 7:23 PM on July 13, 2011


"Two black major characters?! It'll never fly."

All it needs to do is saunter.
posted by Eideteker at 7:44 PM on July 13, 2011


"it lacks a Saul"

I saw what you did there. And I'm stealing it.

I haven’t seen ANY of the shows people mention here

Seriously, why do people like this post in threads like this?

This is the BB scene I show people I'm trying to convince. It's five minutes long. I defy you to breathe.


Sunday: three days away! Can this be the thread we come to when it's over?
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:44 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Breaking bad is awesome because "Nobody fucks with a blowfish!"
posted by bwg at 12:22 AM on July 14, 2011


Sunday: three days away! Can this be the thread we come to when it's over?
Yes please but not Sunday night! can you all pretty please pause this thread and wait for me til Monday? Bitte? Por favor? I need to wait for the torrent first. Thankyouuuu!
posted by bitteschoen at 12:27 AM on July 14, 2011


with some very bad pacing

The Fly episode being a great example.
posted by Fupped Duck at 12:29 AM on July 14, 2011


mullacc: "I like Breaking Bad but Jesse is one of those characters whose decision-making ability is supernaturally poor."

Hello, meth-head.
posted by bwg at 1:56 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Smoking marijuana, eating Cheese Doodles, and masturbating do not constitute 'plans' in my book!"
posted by bwg at 2:07 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live in Albuquerque. It's set in my hometown. So, y'know. I have some local feeling that's somewhat slighted by the show.

Ah, koeselitz, if it's any consolation, think of the Italian Americans from New Jersey...

And then, consider that Breaking Bad is ten times more hyperbolic and tangential-to-the-setting as the Sopranos.

How far have you watched? I've never been to Albuquerque, and yet I started suspecting from episode 1, and it became more and more obvious with each episode, that no, I was not to expect some kind of documentary-like accurate portrayal of life in Albuquerque, or of the socioeconomics of the intersection of middle class life and drug crime in that area, or of the intersection of local drug use and Mexican drug cartels.

There may be a lot of bits of realism here and there, and you can draw some interesting considerations on the socioeconomics of crime in general, or of business, even, or if you like, of how legal and illegal business can operate at basic level in pretty much the same way.

But I can assure you, even long before Tuco's incredible cousins make their appearance, with their Tarantino to the power of Marvel comics villains presence, it's all becoming a convoluted experiment in "how much more fucked up can this get starting from this simple absurd premise", that it doesn't even leave you the time or mental space as a viewer to even begin to wonder "hmm, Albuquerque, what a mad scary place to live that must be".

(Episode x, another long productive day in New Mexico, 8am breakfast, 9am leave for meth lab, 10am escape ambush from gangsters you pissed off, 11am collect 3 millions from drug lord and plead for the life of partner in crime who did something really stupid yet again. 12 noon, nap, 1pm lunch with double peanut butter sandwich and coffee, 1.30pm, resume meth production, 3pm, go help partner in crime destroy a corpse and cleanup house, 4pm, narrowly escape getting caught by your brother-in-law cop, 5pm, back home to wife and kids, tell bunch of lies about where money is coming from, prepare for next day's plot development on just how much trouble that's all going to get you into.)

The parts where it makes you think about real life and real issues are mostly psychological, universal. Life, death, family, love, illness, betrayal, risk, stability, loyalty, friendship, addiction, human behaviour and yes moral choices too, philosophical questions if you like, too, relativism and free will and determinism, you can get whatever you want out of it. I'm watching it for that kind of stuff (and the suspense and action sequences and cartoonish villains, too, yes). If I want to seriously know more about real life in the area, including real life socioeconomic and ethnic relations and drug crime and so on, I'll definitely turn to other sources than hyperbolic tv drama. Journalistic sources, to start with. Or actual documentaries, maybe. Or even, hold off on presuming to get any impressions of actual real life there until I visit the place in person.

And I promise, if I ever get to visit Albuquerque, I won't start suspecting the guy serving fried chicken is secretly a mega drug baron lording over the Mexican drug cartels. I will accept that reality may be a little more mundane than that.

Funny how last year shortly after finishing the third series, I met a young guy from Albuquerque who was travelling Europe and the first thing I said when he answered where he was from was "ah! that's where one of my favourite tv series is set!" and the silly funny thing is he was so thrilled I'd heard of it and made the connection "yes! I love Breaking Bad too! my brother even met some of the cast, they're awesome people" and so after chatting a bit about the show I asked about real-life Albuquerque and what it's like and the cool things to do and places to see etc., basically your regular chit chat when you meet someone from another part of the world you've never been to and you're curious about it. With the added bonus that having watched what, 60 odd hours of television filmed in those locations, I could visualise some of the places - and you have to admit there are some pretty stunning visuals, the photography in Breaking Bad is as good as the acting. No matter what nasty thing is going on, those cinematic shots of the places are striking. So, you're luckier than New Jersey even in that!

(And really, I was not even making fun of you or wanting to get into any serious discussion on liberal guilt or the like, just making fun of my own reaction to the story - that's the effect it has on me, it makes me relate even if the whole premise and setting is so far removed from my experience, but then, isn't that what all good stories do? Or, good stories you personally enjoy, we all relate differently.)
posted by bitteschoen at 2:41 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's exactly the sort of thing that makes me enjoy reading Klosterman. I'd be pretty bored if he only told me the things I like about the things I like.

Exactly how I feel. I couldn't care less about sports, but I'm fascinated when Klosterman writes 100 pages on a single basketball game. He has this obsessiveness about the things he really likes, and that gives his writing a lot of pull.
posted by mean cheez at 6:00 AM on July 14, 2011


As a huge fan of Breaking Bad, I strongly encourage you to listen to their podcast. Hosted by Kelley Dixon (one of the editors), with Vince Gilligan (creator) and typically the director and writer of each episode and occasionally one or more of the actors.

The genius of the show is how they try to write themselves into a corner each week and find their way out. They talk a lot about how real life has changed the direction of the show and it's a great behind the scenes look at the show.

Free on iTunes and they've done an episode for each episode of the show and would guess they'll be starting back up with S04.
posted by Twicketface at 10:13 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you can't see how "I would like this show better if the protagonist wasn't [color]" is bigotry, I think we probably aren't going to end up at a useful conclusion here.
posted by IAmUnaware


It's always great when somebody's username provides all the rebuttal that's needed. (Eponysrebuttal? Anything more elegant?)
posted by kmz at 11:14 AM on July 14, 2011


mullacc: "I like Breaking Bad but Jesse is one of those characters whose decision-making ability is supernaturally poor."

Hello, meth-head.


Jesse dabbles, but he isn't a meth head.
posted by mullacc at 11:21 AM on July 14, 2011


He's definitely a stoner, though.

Now that I think about it, it's interesting how BB treats marijuana versus meth on one hand and alcohol on the other.
posted by box at 12:09 PM on July 14, 2011


mullacc: "Jesse dabbles, but he isn't a meth head."

I wouldn't call it dabbling, but between snorting meth and cooking it (prior to his partnership with Walter White) you'd have to think his brain is pretty fried.

Come to think of it, he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed before becoming Cap'n Cook.
posted by bwg at 11:14 PM on July 14, 2011


Come to think of it, he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed before becoming Cap'n Cook.

I've only seen the first season thus far, but there's an episode where Jesse goes back home for a while and we meet his little brother, an eleven or twelve year old who's a math whiz, music prodigy, a very sharp tool ... and a dope smoker. The impression I got was that Jesse was much the same at that age.
posted by philip-random at 12:31 AM on July 15, 2011


Slight spoiler but at one point Jesse shows he's capable of cooking meth by himself at the same level of quality as Walter can do it. And I could swear there was a scene where Walter insists that Jesse had potential when he was a student who didn't apply himself or something like that.
posted by Green With You at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2011


Jesse's real problem is that no one has given him a chance, ever, after his initial young days as a fuckup reacting against his parents' shallow consumerism.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sunday: three days away! Can this be the thread we come to when it's over?
Yes please but not Sunday night! can you all pretty please pause this thread and wait for me til Monday? Bitte? Por favor? I need to wait for the torrent first. Thankyouuuu!


See: "(remove from activity)"

Don't expect 50,000 people to wait for you. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:28 AM on July 15, 2011


Tsk, and I thought it was such a reasonable request! :p

Nah I'm (usually) good at avoiding any spoilers until I catch up the day after, the time difference makes it easier too. (Thanks to the wonderful people who take the trouble to make episodes available immediately after).

I just watched the sneak peeks though, ahhh....
posted by bitteschoen at 10:29 AM on July 15, 2011


I just watched the sneak peeks though, ahhh....

Spoiler, heal thyself.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2011


bitterschoen, I'm heading to a concert Sunday night so will probably be doing the torrent thing either late that night or on Monday. I'll join being fashionably late to the post-episode discussion!
posted by mannequito at 2:50 PM on July 15, 2011


Don't forget MetaCooler.
posted by Eideteker at 3:15 PM on July 15, 2011


Yo, only 11 hours to go, bitch.

The refreshments are just about ready: I've ordered a bucket of Los Pollos Hermanos, put a case of Schraderbrau (home brewed to silky perfection) on ice, and will go scrape the pizza off the roof as soon as I'm done painting the turtle.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:13 AM on July 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since Los Pollos Hermanos doesn't actually exist, would El Pollo Loco be an acceptable substitute? Because I've always assumed it was El Pollo Loco with the name tweaked to avoid lawsuit.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on July 17, 2011




Also, I don't see a BB forum on MetaCooler....am I missing something?
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:58 PM on July 17, 2011


I'm stunned that:

A) there's not a MetaCooler thread for BB, but I guess the idea is that one would start one.

B) I did not know about MetaCooler until now, but oh sweet Jesus do I wish I'd never heard of the place because, aaargh, the allure of MeFi + blathering on about TV shows is definitely more addictive than even Blue Sky can possibly be.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:17 PM on July 17, 2011


Yo, thanks for the MetaCooler link. I see the BB forum on there but it's empty. Where's all the discussion?

Well?

Get back to work, Metafilter!

(I just finished watching the new episode and don't even know what to say about it yet, except, ahhhh. And that I don't see a lot more yo's coming out of Jesse's mouth in the future. I think the power of yo has been buried in him once and for all. I almost gagged at the scene in the lab at the same time Walt almost gagged. But the bedpan scene was another kind of painful that's possibly even worse. Oh Hank. Thank god for the Saul moments of semi-levity. He's not going to get on a plane and disappear forever is he?)
posted by bitteschoen at 2:35 AM on July 18, 2011


I started an episode thread over yonder just so I could practice the spoiler tags.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:03 AM on July 18, 2011


Way late for the party and I love this show - my girlfriend and I have breezed through the first season and half the second over the past week - but oh god it's not at "ATM machine". The M already stands for "machine"!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2011


I'm embarrassed that I wrote that tumid dahlia! I should have known better. Gah!
posted by zerbinetta at 6:49 AM on July 22, 2011


I also know how to use commas, damn it.
posted by zerbinetta at 9:52 AM on July 22, 2011


Guys? OMG guys?

Gale's entire karaoke video.

And you can flip through the whole notebook here!! (Click notebook.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:42 PM on August 8, 2011


Oh, man. I have a feeling that's a treasure trove of foreshadowing. The song alone has a bunch of potentially very interesting stuff in it.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:15 PM on August 8, 2011


The "laundry facility" note in the notebook should be a big clue, if Hank notices it. That leads straight to Gus.

(The song is an old 80s hit. Dunno if there are any clues there. It's just terribly poignant.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:25 PM on August 8, 2011


The song is an old 80s hit.

I know.

Still, I'll bet there's some evidence on a computer later in the series.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:38 PM on August 8, 2011


The "laundry facility" note in the notebook should be a big clue, if Hank notices it. That leads straight to Gus.

I believe it refers to the lab's laundry, but since there is no laundry facility shown in the drawings you may have something there...
posted by Gungho at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2011


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