On Monday I walked by a Blockbuster Video (it was actually still open) and saw that they had all 3 discs of the first season of Breaking Bad. I had 7 hours to kill, so I figured - why not?
My first impressions: I get it. I get the hype. It's impeccably produced, it's exciting, it's bad-ass quality TV. AMC knows how to create a wonderful show with a creative premise and foster it, kudos.
What's it similar to: Part of my trepidation going into Breaking Bad is that it's a very similar premise to Weeds. Both main characters are parents in need of a way to take care of money and decide that drugs are the best way to make quick cash. The difference is that the main character, Walt, is nothing like Weeds 'heroine' Nancy Botwin. While they're both danger junkies, Walt's got brains and a bone to pick with the world. His anger, and it's escalation to erratic rage, reminds me of a favorite movie of mine, Falling Down.
Characterization: A good series is simple to spot because they've gotten it right from the very start. While pilots are often clumsy and somewhat offbeat, Breaking Bad season 1, episode 1 beautifully illustrates the pathetic character that is Walter White. A selfish wife, a low paying jobs, he's the pee-on for all around him - hell even his son with Cerebral Palsy thinks of him as a joke. But when Walt finds out about his cancer, he breaks down and finds within himself a bad-ass that was bubbling deep down. While he eventually becomes bat-shit crazy and obsessive - it's all fairly believable.
Walt's assistant, Jesse the lovable junkie, is pretty much a stalled, stubborn teenager. He's a great partner for Walt. Their relationship is a perpetual teacher/student back and forth. While Jesse seems to never learn, Walt finds it hard to give up his effort in trying to teach him. This makes for endearing moments, but more imbalance and madness that often make the show somewhat unbelievable, but hey, it's TV right?
What makes it great: Writing. The writing is excellent. I love the way they intertwine stories lines -even though at times it seems all too coincidental. In the world of Breaking Bad drugs are just as bad as cancer - once you've gotten into drugs it spreads into every part of your life until it literally and metaphorically kills you.
The casting is also amazing. I never feel like I'm watching someone act, which is helpful because the story pulls you into a world that's hard to pull yourself out of. The best casting call was putting comedic actor Bob Odenkirk into the dramatic world. While the character of Saul Goodmen is probably the best comic relief the show provides - his portrayal is noteworthy due to his ability to fast talk with the slime that he's written to be. (It would be obvious to say Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are amazing. They won Emmys, we all know they're stellar.)
Best Episode: 'The Fly' - probably one of the best episodes of television.
Addiction: So, like I said this all started by me just having 7 hours to kill on a day off. I somehow ended up watching the entire series in less than a week. I couldn't take just one. I found myself tapping a friends computer desk nervously excited for the next hit... ahem, I mean episode. It's intense to watch so much of the show so quickly, and I started to feel like I was on meth towards the end of it all.
Verdict: I'm preaching with a giant choir, but watch Breaking Bad... Just don't do it all at once. I'm still feeling a little woozy.