It was a Sunday during last year's writer's strike when I flipped over to the AMC channel looking for this show, "Mad Men
", that'd been getting so much buzz. What popped on my screen was scene with the dad from 'Malcolm in the Middle
' stripped down to his tighty-whiteys, hauling ass through the desert in a busted RV while being shot at by drug dealers. From just that ten seconds my heart was racing but sank when the words "Breaking Bad
" faded in because I realized it was just a promo, most likely for some amazing indie flick or new TV series I'd never heard of that was probably going to air in two weeks or more that I will have forgotten to record.
…But then the greatest thing in the world happened. Under the title came the words:
On his 50th birthday Walter White (Bryan Cranston
), a mild-mannered chemistry teacher with a pregnant wife and a teenage son with cerebral palsy, finds out he has stage three terminal lung cancer--even though he'd never smoked a cigarette in his life. Unable to pay for his medical treatment or provide for the future financial security of his family, Walter tries moonlighting at a car wash but this proves to be too strenuous and inadequate to make ends meet.
On a 'ride-along" with his DEA officer brother-in-law, Walter recognizes the escaping crystal meth dealer as his former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul
). Later Walter strikes a partnership with Jesse to enter the world of drugs by using his chemistry knowledge to cook perfect crystal meth in order to support his family when he's gone. They use an RV to cook the meth out in the desert but their arrangement runs into trouble when two Mexican drug dealers appear and threaten to kill Walter when one of them falsely associates Walter with the DEA. Walter offers to teach them his meth recipe, but he gasses them with phosphine before they can shoot him. Walter drives away in the RV with the two apparently dead men and the injured Jesse.
That's all just in the first episode!
I'd love tell you what bigger challenges Walter and Jesse will have to face (like just how do you completely dispose of two fresh corpses…and who has to take care of things if one of them isn't exactly dead?) but this is one of those series with so many surprises that I don't want to spoil any of it for you.
A show like this could never work if it was carried by one or two actors and every member of this team brings their A-game to this production. Rounding out the rest of the cast are:
· Anna Gunn
as 'Skyler White'
, Walter's stay-at-home, pregnant wife who loves for Walter very much, but pushes hi to make decisions he doesn't necessarily agree with.
RJ Mittes as 'Walter White
', Jr. , as Walter's teenage son, born with Cerebral Palsy. Mitte actually does have CP, though not as severely as his character.
· Dean Norris
as 'Hank Schrader
', Walter's lewd brother-in-law, and DEA agent. He is currently investigating a possible new meth "kingpin" in the area, unaware that it is Walter.
Betsy Brandt as 'Marie Schrader
' is Skyler's sister, Hank's wife, and Walter's sister-in-law. She doesn't hesitate to offer advice to others, but she often fails to practice what she preaches. She shoplifts and may be a kleptomaniac.
· Raymond Cruz
', is a sociopathic drug kingpin who becomes Walter and Jesse's meth distributor. He is unpredictable and prone to violent outbursts, but surprisingly respects Walter because of his superior product, business style, and guts...but there is the hanging question of what happens when he doesn't?
As a critic you develop 'mental calluses' from viewing so many trailers and promos that don't just overhype or embellish but flat out lie. If there's anything that keeps us going it's the hope of finding something under the radar like Breaking Bad
that surpasses all of the potential you could imagine for it. Over the course of it's seven episode first season (cut down from the originally ordered nine due to the writer's strike) Breaking Bad
was the kind of geniusly-written, superbly acted (Bryan Cranston
won the Emmy for Best Actor), unpredictable, dark dramedy I haven't seen since HBO's Six Feet Under. It touched on so many of the similar themes of mortality, family and the costs of bad decisions while blending seamlessly from scenes that had me on the edge of my seat to doing spit-takes to crying like a baby.
Of all the TV shows and DVDs I might recommend to you this would be my number one choice. Unlike, say LOST, there's only seven episodes you'd have to catch up on. Even better, AMC still has the pilot episode posted on their website just to get you hooked.
I guarantee, if you watch this all the way through I won't be able to stop you from wanting to own the entire first season.
The Complete First Season of Breaking Bad
is a two-disk set and the second disk contains extended scenes, deleted scenes and collection of mini-featurettes that were originally posted on the AMC website. They consist mainly of the creator, Vince Gilligan
(from The X-Files) discussing just how well they know they characters. Individually there's not enough meat to each one but thankfully the DVD gives you a "Play All" option that makes the breaks every two minutes not so bad.
I'd gush some more about this series but I think you get the idea. You can purchase The Complete First Season of Breaking Bad here
. And I'd suggest you get on it ASAP. Season two starts up on March 8th!