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The Social Media Guide to Watching Breaking Bad

Last Sunday night I watched a great episode of Breaking Bad, the best show on television by a mile and a show that is only looking up at Six Feet Under in my all-time drama rankings.  But thanks to Twitter, Facebook, E-mail and Adult Friend Finder my television viewing has become a high wire act to avoid both spoilers and requests for immediate analysis at 11:05 pm every Sunday.  This Sunday’s episode was particularly bad because a fairly major event occurred, but because I was 11 minutes behind on my DVR I was treated to an alert on Twitter that spoiled the ending (Yes, I know the solution is to avoid Twitter, but I was not checking it.  It was when I went to look at something else on my computer that the message was up on my screen. The person deleted the tweet which was a good idea because I went looking for the tweet so I could publicly shame them).   So, in keeping with this blog’s love of Breaking Bad, as well as its beloved condescending and angry tone, here are my tips/requests of people who ruin Breaking Bad:

1) You must wait at least 48 hours before revealing significant plot points.  Sunday night has become television’s most packed night. Perhaps you are still cleaning off your vibrator of bad taste and loneliness from an episode of True Blood or enjoying Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom, the only thing liberals refuse to abort, despite the fact that it endangers the health of the viewer, but Breaking Bad belongs on the level with The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and The Wire (no, Mad Men you may not join this party you pretentious B+ of a show posing as an A+) as Sunday’s greatest achievements (Church and NFL are already in the Sunday Hall of Fame).  But folks, the DVR has been invented!  So people are not watching all their shows from 10:01-11:04, but may start it at 10:15, 10:30 or even the next day!  Granted, if you are a true Breaking Bad fan only military service or the birth of a male child should prevent you from watching it the night it airs, but unless you start at 10:11 pm with flawless fast forwarding skills you will be seconds or even minutes behind the real time viewing.  If you feel compelled to comment on the show (instead of staring blankly at the screen for hours, the way I did after the final two episodes of Season 3 of Breaking Bad) here are examples of acceptable and unacceptable social media posts:

  • ACCEPTABLE – “Tough/Sad/Great Breaking Bad tonight””
  • UNACCEPTABLE – “RIP ——–(enter name of character)”

Now I believe RIP messages on Twitter and Facebook are usually inappropriate, but reasonable people can differ on that (you are still wrong if you disagree with me). However, RIP messages for fictional characters that ruin plot points for others can not be acceptable in a civilized society.  And this says nothing for people in later time zones who are also victims of these Breaking Bad social media terrorists.  Admittedly I have done this on shows like American Idol, but I have no respect for fellow viewers of American Idol.  Breaking Bad viewers deserve more respect.

And as a follow up to this – if someone is good enough to post an acceptable message, you should not then retweet or comment with information that spoils what the original poster was not revealing.  You are a bad person if you do this because you are both spoiling the show and hijacking someone else’s status update for your own evil agenda.

So I think 48 hours is a good amount of time before openly revealing plot points. Please abide by this out of respect for people who watch television’s best show.  Or you shall be dealt with like Gus Fring dealt with the cartel in season 4:

2) Please Do Not Ask Me For Instant Analysis.  As part of the social media culture we are in a race to declare, opine or explore everything instantaneously.  I am usually bombarded with emails within 30 minutes of the conclusion of a good episode.  I am still wiping the lotion off of my nether regions thirty minutes after a good episode of Breaking Bad, so what makes you think I want to immediately get on my computer, AKA porn machine, if I am already spent?  Besides, Breaking Bad episodes, the truly powerful ones (which is all of them, including The Fly episode – shut up haters!), are meant to linger in your mind and soul and make you question all that is good and bad in the world (or am I taking it too seriously?), so let those thoughts and feelings marinate.  That is why it is called water cooler conversation – because you should wait until mid-morning on Monday to discuss it. In other words, if enticed to ask questions either go to sleep or follow Walter White’s advice:

3) Do Not Live Tweet Episodes of Breaking Bad.  I know AMC has all sorts of “two screen experience,” promotions but dammit,  just watch the show.  This is simply a respect issue.  Like people who play fantasy football and then ruin your experience because they are rooting in your face for a back up running back against your team, simply because their Dungeons and Dragons league is at stake, live tweeters are ruining the show for themselves and you.  Like taking your hat off indoors or holding a door for a woman who is not starting at her iPhone, this should be a time-honored part of proper, mannerly behavior.  I think computers should be rigged to react like Tio Salamanca’s wheelchair here for anyone who live tweets Breaking Bad:

That is it people – really easy steps to making the final 9 episodes of Breaking Bad more enjoyable for everyone.  And sorry if this post spoiled season 3 or 4 for you, but what the fu*k have you been waiting for?  If you read this blog and have not watched Breaking Bad until now and are not at least caught up through Season 4 then it is your own fault. Bitch.

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Movie of the Week: Drive

This week’s movie of the week is another sneak preview provided by the New York Times’ Film Club.  So me and my old, liberal, hardcopy-of-newspaper reading Jewish friends sat down for the Ryan Gosling action vehicle Drive.  The movie co-starred Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Sons of Anarchy’s Ron Perlman and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks so not one, not two, but three television transitions to film depend on Gosling (granted Perlman has already found some success as Hellboy).  To sum up this movie, those three should not quit their day jobs (both because they are great on their television shows and because this movie is not going to make them movie stars).  Like a girl’s first period this movie is bloody, confusing and messy.

First off Ryan Gosling is having a tremendous year.  He has been an indie film darling, but between nailing Eva Mendes, and starring in Crazy Stupid Love this Summer and The Ides of March with George Clooney next month he is officially making the move from indie star to possible A-list Hollywood leading man in 2011.  Drive was meant to be an action vehicle for him to show some versatility I am guessing, though it looks more like it was a relaxing paycheck where he could take a break from actually acting.

This is his expression for 70% of the movie. The other 30% he is smirking awkwardly.

Gosling plays a Hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway car driver.  Seems like an intriguing character.  Unfortunately none of the character is developed.  He is a mystery man in terms of his origins and what drives him (pun intended), but we simultaneously know so many other facts about him that it feels peculiar to not know why he is the man that he is.  I think they were aiming for man of mystery cool with Gosling’s character, but he ends up just seeming like someone with poor social and verbal skills.  The opening scene of the film is the highlight and raised the bar for what I expected from the movie.  However, it falls short for the next 90 minutes.

Gosling lives next door to a mom whose criminal husband (not a bad guy criminal, but more of a looking-for-a-second-chance criminal) has just been released from prison.  Of course Gosling has a whole week before the husband returns to become a surrogate father figure and a platonic husband figure to the woman, played by Carrie Mulligan.

Well, once the husband returns our hero must help him do a job in order to keep his wife and son safe.  That is when the movie, both for the characters and the audience, goes off the rails.  It becomes an incredibly violent bloodfest.  Gosling is a stone-cold killer, which is never explained how or why he became like this (not even a suggested hint), and every gun shot or stomping if offered in incredibly grotesque visuals.

If I was going to describe the music of the film, as well as the motif, I would say imagine the techno-synth atrocities that made up the songs of Scarface with Al Pacino.  Now imagine Adele were singing those songs.  Pretty interesting.  It is like poetic, terrible sounding music, which is exactly how I would describe the movie in general.  There is definite effort by the director (partly through excessive slow motion) to make an artistic action movie, but it just isn’t as good as it could have been.  Fortunately everyone in the project has other, bigger things to fall back on.

Final Grade – C+

 

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Breaking Bad – The Best Thing On TV. By…

When it comes to television I hold something that some may call an opinion, but is, in actuality, a stone cold fact: Breaking Bad is the best show on television.  By far.  After only three seasons it has already jumped into elite company.  Here are my favorite shows of all time in order (minimum 3 seasons, so although I love Game of Thrones and Eastbound & Down, to name a couple, it would be unfair to put them up yet – it is called the True Blood rule – do not judge a show on one great season because it may become a campy, soft-core porn for women and gay men in the next two to three seasons):

1) Six Feet Under – The best finale of any show I have ever seen and the best show ever at making you feel like you knew the characters as people and not characters.  Also a show whose greatness, with the exception of certain episodes, can only really be appreciated cumulatively, similar to life in general.  When I see Peter Krause on Parenthood, or even Michael C. Hall on Dexter, I sometimes feel like I am watching Michael Jordan play for the Washington Wizards.

2) The Wire – possibly the most important show of all time.  Other than a so-so final season (by Wire Standards that means an A-/B+) it was an incredibly real and entertaining portrayal of the desperate plight of urban America.  Of course its ratings sucked and it never got nominated for a Best Drama Emmy.  I am sure creator David Simon wears that as a badge of honor.  As he should.

3) Breaking Bad*

4) Arrested Development – the funniest show I have ever seen.  So good that it’s diet coke knock off (but admittedly very good) Modern Family is in line for its second Best Comedy Emmy

5) The West Wing – Was always mad that The Sopranos would lose best drama to the West Wing.  Then I actually watched the West Wing.  Given Aaron Sorkin’s hand, it is the dramatic screenwriting equivalent of Arrested Development.  As Rick James might have said regarding Sorkin’s writing, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.”

6) The Sopranos – Some might have this higher and the fact that it is arguably the first of the new cinematic-style dramas (but check out #9 on this list) means that it should be higher simply out of respect.  But there was too much of a downward trajectory to the show (and the 2 year wait for the season that revolved around a closeted gay mobster remains one of the most disappointing seasons in TV history) for it to maintain a loftier place.

7) All In The Family – Archie Bunker – maybe the greatest single television character of all time.  I still wonder how this show from the 1970s seemed more willing to tackle, mock and explore racism than most shows do in 2011.  A show that I would call ahead of its time if I knew when we would actually catch up to it.

8) Seinfeld – Brilliant and the most quoted show of all time.  This is another show that it would be tough to say “changed the sitcom,” mainly because no one had either the skill and/or balls to make a show about nothing.  And having just watched the entire series this Summer, I forgive Kramer.  Him and Jason Alexander are brilliant.

9) Homicide: Life On The Streets – I must give credit to my older brother, who I still think sometimes wishes he followed his boyhood dream of becoming a police officer, for his obsession with good police dramas (I am not talking to you any shows on CBS).  Homicide, which was partly the work of the creators of The Wire (and arguably was doing the Sopranos shtick several years before The Sopranos).  The show, like #10 on this list, represented a rare network television departure – meaning even though ratings suck, we will keep this going because it is a high quality show.  Homicide featured several things that other later shows, higher on this list, have received credit for.  One character spent several seasons exploring his bisexuality, it depicted crime and police work in a much more realistic manner than had really been done and it featured a rich array of black characters that weren’t Huxtables.  And this was all on Network television.

10) Friday Night Lights – This show’s lack of general success says so much about American culture.  The pitch was probably easy – “how about a show featuring attractive people playing America’s favorite sport, football?”  Sounds great, right?  Except it is going to be a sometimes heroic, but other times sad look at small town American life and all of its good and bad parts.   The result?  Well, with The Wire,  America showed that they generally did not want to watch a show critical of urban blight (isn’t there a CSI on right now?), but surprisingly, America did not tune in in huge numbers to see their small town American fantasy depicted in a realistic light either.  Season 4 of FNL was not very good, but seasons 1, 3 and the 5th (and final season) were top notch television.

Of these shows, there is obviously a recency bias, but I think that makes sense.  As far as television is concerned we live in simultaneously the best and worst time.  The proliferation of reality television has made us dumber.  And made stars out of some of our dumbest citizens.  I feel like there was a brief time where if you were on reality television you were a loser and then, when our culture realized any fame was good fame, we started to turn these people into bona fide celebrities.  I still think if Al Qaeda simply adjusted their mission statement to be, “We will only wage jihad on those who call themselves ‘Real Housewives of anything'” we might be able to find some common ground.  But the growth of reality shows also forced new avenues for actual writers of good television.  It feels almost like if a major sports league contracted one-third of its teams.  if you eliminate the worst 10 NBA teams, the remaining 20 will just get stronger because there will be greater competition for fewer spots.  Similarly, good writers have either been forced to consolidate on other shows or to be more creative in pitching things to places like HBO and AMC.  And the top of this New Television Order is Breaking Bad.

Some people may be saying what about Mad Men?  Mad Men is good.  That is all I have to say about it.  I have repeatedly called it The Emperor’s New Television Show.  It has won three straight best drama Emmys (the same body that never once nominated The Wire, but saw fit to hook Boston Legal up with multiple DRAMA nominations) and has young people feeling a hip nostalgia for an era that they never experienced.  Other than the confusing feelings I get admiring the handsomeness of Jon Hamm and the incredible Jessica Rabbit come to life that is Christina Hendricks, I don’t think the show is any better than good, which stands in contrast to Breaking Bad.

That is how I look everytime someone tells me "I haven't watched Breaking Bad, but Mad Men is pretty great."

I owe a debt of gratitude to Nick Cobb and Ross Stephenson, two friends who told me after the first season of Breaking Bad had aired that I needed to watch it.  No show on this list has had the trajectory of Breaking Bad.  The first season was excellent.  Then season two was beyond excellent.  And then last year season three aired and was even better.  More specifically, episodes 7-13 of season 3 is the greatest six episode stretch of any show I have ever seen.  There are a few reasons why I think Breaking Bad has been so good:

  1. The cast.  Bryan Cranston has won three straight best actor Emmys for a reason.  What he has done with Walter White has been superb – taking him gradually and believably from mild mannered cancer-stricken high school teacher, to alpha male quasi-villain.  But the rest of the cast is also perfect.  That is what is so great – there is not a weak spot in the cast.  Everyone is bringing their A game.  It reminds me of watching a Christopher Nolan movie, where even the guy with two lines seems to know what is at stake and knows that those two lines must be delivered perfectly.
  2. It reminds me of The Fugitive (the movie).  Let me explain.  I have a friend from college, Mike, who often waxed on how it seemed in the early 1990s there were movies that were both wildly entertaining, but also had real substantive cinematic quality (unlike today where it sometimes feels more bifurcated – you are either seeing The King’s Speech or Transformers).  Movies like In The Line of Fire and The Fugitive came to mind – where you could actually have a legitimate Summer movie, which also had serious Oscar quality.  That is what Breaking Bad is for television.  It packs great dramatic moments, with action packed scenes and incredible tension.  It is so good that you get both the feeling of watching a guilty pleasure and fine art at the same time.
  3. As several newspaper and magazine articles have indicated – Breaking Bad follows a different route than other dramas in its class.  It is following the moral destruction of its main character.  And yet we still root for him.  Other shows like The Sopranos or The Shield (which was hit and miss, but the second to last episode of The Shield is one of my five favorite episodes in TV history) had characters who had paths that were downward, but they were already villains to start.  Walter White, on the other hand is the good guy who you root for who forces you to rationalize still rooting for him as the episodes go on.

So tonight is the season 4 premiere and the question I have is how much better can the show actually get.  But I put an asterisk next to Breaking Bad on my list because it has the potential to be the best of them all.  It doesn’t have the emotional depth of Six Feet Under or the societal importance of The Wire.  That is what makes it so special – it is simply great for being the most entertaining thing on television.