“Breaking Bad” Returns Tonight

Who would have thought that a show about a nebbish becoming a drug dealer would last for 3 seasons?  AMC, that’s who.

Breaking Bad is good If you haven’t seen Breaking Badthe edgiest, grittiest, most blackly humorous television series over the last couple of years — you have the chance to begin tonight, as season 3 caroms onto the screen in all its meth-cooking glory. 

Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who maybe had the talent to win a Nobel Prize, didn’t.  Instead, he turned out to be a sad-sack, hen-pecked, self-doubting milquetoast teaching at an obscure school in Albuquerque.  That is, until a diagnosis of terminal cancer turns everything inside out.  Turning inside out is exactly what happens on Breaking Bad, as we see White’s inner drug dealer gradually emerge in a bid for some kind of survival — if not now, then at least to secure the posterity of his family.  Played with nuanced resoluteness by Bryan Cranston and penned by Vince Gilligan, former executive producer of The X-Files, Breaking Bad is one of those television series that is so good you can’t believe it made it to the small screen.  One of those series that provides any number of moments that stick with you — scenes where you simultaneously cringe and grin while thinking, “I can’t believe they did that.”

Thank goodness for independent cable, where some of the best new shows are seeing the light of, well, TV (including Justified, which premiered this last week FX). 

Cranston has won two Emmy Awards for Best Actor for his portrayal of White, but the entire cast does a sterling job.  White has transformed physically, mentally, emotionally,  and attitudinally before our eyes as the series has progressed.  Cranston says, “We’re attempting to do something that has never been done before on TV, and that is to completely change a person — physically, morally, everything — over the course of the story.”  I don’t know if he’s entirely right about that (see, for example, Chuck), but it’s certainly never been done to this extent, or this way, before — with poignance, violence, surrealism, and some of the blackest comedy this side of Beckett.  Don’t get scared off, though — it’s not too artistic and there’s plenty of action to liven things up.  (Dissolving rival drug kingpins in acid, anyone?)

You can get Breaking Bad’s third season on DVD and blu-ray now.  I also reviewed the show in a previous post on the All-time Best Television Shows for Men, where you can find a comprehensive list of other shows you might enjoy.  Be sure to check it out tonight.  Give it some time.  Wait for your jaw to drop.  You’ll be hooked.

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