Monday, January 28, 2008

advanced molecular chemistry

The last thing I needed to do was add another series to my television viewing repertoire. But that's what happened after watching the first two episodes of "Breaking Bad." I almost let this one slip by. Fortunately, Terry Morrow's review persuaded me to give it a try. Now I'm giving it a TiVo Season Pass so I don't miss an episode. The first two episodes will be repeated on Super Bowl Sunday.

Part of my initial reluctance came from feeling that I had missed the boat on another of AMC's original series. "Breaking Bad" got many favorable reviews that also mentioned "Mad Men." I had sampled the first episode of "Mad Men," fully expecting to be enthralled. Something about it just didn't click. It seemed a little put on or forced to me. Also, instead of enjoying the story, all I could think about was whether the IBM Selectric II Typewriters in one scene were an anachronism or not. (They were.) I know I didn't give it a fair chance but I felt that they were more interested in making a social commentary about today than telling a story about a time, place and topic that interested me.

"Breaking Bad," however, has hooked me on several levels. Bryan Cranston gives an outstanding, Emmy-worthy performance as Walter White, a desperate man who made a very bad choice. He's a chemistry teacher working a terrible second job at a car wash. He has a teenage son with cerebral palsy and a wife who is at least ten years younger and pregnant. The combination of going on a police ride-along to a drug bust and learning that he has terminal lung cancer give Walt the motive and opportunity to team up with a reluctant partner, a flunked student who cooks crystal meth.

Another level is the pairing of teacher and failed student. I loved the way Walt insists on applying proper lab technique to his meth making, over the objections of his drug-abusing accomplice, Jesse Pinkman. Lastly, there is the level that appeals to my interest in forensics as the two must dispose of a body. Jesse fails to follow Walt's instructions with disastrous results. The episode dovetailed nicely with the chapter I'm currently reading in "Dead Men Do Tell Tales."

The AMC webpage for the show pointed me to an Amazon Unbox free download of "The Making of Breaking Bad." In the short documentary, creator Vince Gilligan said, "The audience doesn't have to agree with anything Walt is doing but they have to understand why he's doing what he's doing. If you have sympathy for him as a human being you can hate his choice but maybe you can kind of understand how he would come to make that choice." He summed up the show by asking, "What if we take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface over the course of 40 or 50 episodes?" I can't wait to find out.

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Anonymous Cathy said...

I am hooked on "breaking Bad" too.


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