Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Serious Series Addiction Part 3: Breaking Bad, Treme, And The End Of Lost,

It's time to talk about TV shows again. As I've said before, though this is a film blog I do from time to time babble about television programs that I've been keeping up with. So let's get to them:

Breaking Bad

I had watched this show off and on before, but became hooked on it recently in its extremely strong 3rd season. 

AMC's intense yet darkly humored drama involves Bryan Cranston, best known previously as the dad on Malcolm In The Middle, as a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

To provide for his pregnant wife (Anna Gunn) and his son (RJ Mitte) who suffers from cerebral palsy, he turns to a life of crime: producing and selling methamphetamine.

As a former student of Cranston's living a sordid existence as a drug dealer, Aaron Paul is enlisted as a partner in the dangerous yet highly profitable endeavor. 

Dean Norris as Cranston's crusty brother-in-law just happens to be a DEA agent close on their trail though he is unaware of their identity. There's also trouble with a Mexican drug cartel, along with strife at home and much in-fighting between Cranston and Paul.

Set in the orange hued world of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad has the urgency and scope of many movies. Cranston's performance is a study in edgy power; one minute he's a measured man of reason - the next an exasperated kook, a time bomb waiting to go off. His clashes with Paul, his strained talks with his wife, and his stoical business manner give the show a forceful fluidity as it goes from searing scene to scene.

Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) was added in the second season as a sleazy lawyer and he shows up quite a bit in the third season which is a nice funny touch to the proceedings. 

Although one can probably pick it up at any point, I'd recommend renting it and watching from the beginning. The first and second seasons are available on DVD and Blu ray; the third should be soon after it finishes its run on June 13th. 


David Simon and Eric Overmyer's follow-up to The Wire has many similarities to that seminal series.

It's a web of story threads concerning a complicated culture, it examines sociopolitical themes, and it features a few of the same players: Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters among them.

But don't get me wrong - it's a very different animal in one major way: music. Treme is bursting at the seams with the rich sounds of New Orleans jazz.
Three months after hurricane Katrina, we are thrown into the aftermath from nearly every angle. The hurting viewpoints of struggling musicians, frustrated restaurant owners, civil rights workers, and outspoken citizens blanket the battered city, but the bands play on.

Along with The Wire's Pierce as trombonist Antoine Batiste and Clarke as a Mardi Gras Indian tribe leader trying to bring his people home, we've got Steve Zahn as a slacker singer songwriter, Kim Dickens as a cook based on famed chef Susan Spicer, Khandi Alexander as a bar owner who is also Pierce's ex-wife, Melissa Leo as cynical lawyer, and John Goodman as Leo's husband - an opinionated college professor and author who has just discovered YouTube in its 2005 infancy as a forum for his anger fueled rants.

Oh yeah, there's also a young couple - Michiel Huisman on keyboards and Lucia Micalelli on violin - who try to make their living from street performances. Treme is absorbing viewing that swiftly juggles all those characters and their scenarios in an intoxicating fashion. 

One feels like they are really getting the flavor of New Orleans through these people and the well chosen locations. It oversteps contrivances and keeps your feet tapping throughout each episode. I'm not sure that it alone is worth subscribing to HBO for, but it definitely deserves a place in your Netflix queue. Happily it's been renewed for a second season. 

Lost: "The End"

As I've documented here before, I began watching the vastly popular island castaway drama Lost in January of this year on Netflix Instant while pedaling on my exercise bike. 

I pedaled though all 5 seasons until I was caught up with the sixth and enjoying it all immensely from my sweaty bikeseat - though there were some dull or tedious patches here and there.

The bike made me feel like I could pedal fast through the stupidity then race on to the next one.

Up until the last handful of episodes I hadn't had the experience of waiting week to week to see what happens like the folks who were there from the beginning in 2004. 

Those seem to be the people who are complaining about the just aired finale on blogs, message boards, or status updates all over the internets. Their complaints being that the mythology wasn't satisfied with a lot of questions unanswered.

I can't imagine how I could spoil it for anybody who hasn't watched the show so I'll just say that it was simply about the characters' fate - principally Jack's (Matthew Fox) - rather than the particulars of their journey.

I would have liked to have some questions answered too - the 4 toed statue for one - but, like the end of The Sopranos did, it's growing on me.

If you have Netflix Instant - it's a great way to watch the show because you don't have to deal with waiting on individual discs. I can completely understand folks being discouraged at the prospect of 121 episodes and the bitching from the online minions about its conclusion, but I didn't find it to be a waste of time at all. 

Maybe though, that's the Dharma Initiative beer talking. That's all for TV for now - back to the movies, that is until the 4th season of Mad Men premieres. Then be sure to expect another post about serious series addiction. 

More later...

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