Friday, January 18, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: An experiment that's part comedy, part tragedy

Today's column previews the new AMC drama, "Breaking Bad":
Walter White, the anti-hero of the new AMC series "Breaking Bad," is a chemist, and always defines himself as such. Twenty years earlier, he was part of a Nobel Prize-winning research team, and though he's down on his luck now and teaches science to bored high-schoolers, his voice still breaks a little as he describes the wonders of chemistry, how it features "growth, then decay, then transformation." And when he discovers he has inoperable lung cancer, he decides the only way to care for his wife and disabled son after he's gone is to put his lab skills to use cooking crystal meth.

"Breaking Bad" is itself a chemistry experiment, an attempt to combine several unstable compounds - one part "Weeds," one part "The Bucket List," one part "Falling Down" and 12 parts Coen Brothers - to see whether they lead to synthesis or combustion. I've seen three episodes, and while the show hasn't blown up yet, I still have no idea what it's going to look like when all the elements fully mix together.
To read the full thing, click here.

8 comments:

bill said...

Alan, concerning this line from your review: This is a man half-dead already, and if the cancer diagnosis has doomed him and led him down a reckless path, at least it's woken him up.

You might be interested in Peter Carey's novel Bliss (amazon.com): "Peter Carey's hero is a happy innocent; he remembers his childhood as a Vision Splendid, indulges his wife and children, and is universally regarded as a Good Bloke. Then he dies - only for nine minutes, it's a heart attack - and wakes up in Hell. His wife is unfaithful, his partner's a rat, his son pushes drugs, his daughter sells herself, his advertising company promotes products that cause cancer."

Also an excellent movie, though I haven't seen it in 20 years and have no idea if it's available in North America.

jim treacher said...

Flashback to Malcolm's mom going away for a week and his dad losing his mind and dancing around in his underwear. Bryan Cranston can definitely play crazy. He was also great in that one X-Files where the guy thought he had to keep driving or his head would explode or something.

R.A. Porter said...

I've been looking forward to this since the first time AMC pimped it near the end of Mad Men's first season. My love for Bryan Cranston knows no bounds.

Alan, are you planning on blogging on the episodes, at least the first few?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, are you planning on blogging on the episodes, at least the first few?

Definitely. I've seen three, and probably need to see a few more beyond that before I decide if I like it, so might as well blog it a bit.

LA said...

Scripted television in the middle of a drought by the network that brought me Mad Men? I'm in.

Dan Coyle said...

Gilligan was the guy who wrote that episode Cranston was in. Cranston obviously made an impression. Anyway, after "Sunshine Days" I was certain we'd never hear from Gilligan again...

Anthony Foglia said...

Alan, any idea what they'll do if the series is a hit? How long do they think he can live with a terminal cancer diagnosis before it starts becoming implausible? Seems like a great idea for a short series, but not something easily sustainable for 4 seasons.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, it's not like we're dealing with 22 episodes a season. I think there are only 7 in this first season (in part because of the writers strike), and the first three cover a span of only a few days. Terminal cancer doesn't mean you're gonna die tomorrow. I could see them doing four or five seasons that cover a year total.