Friday, March 15, 2013

After Breaking Bad

Read the published version of Charlotte Canelli's column in the March 15, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

I’ve written before that I don’t watch much television. I’m afraid it has something to do with my attention span. If something doesn’t grab me within the first ten minutes, I lose interest and have trouble trying it again.

I have what I might define as a distinctive taste in movies with a penchant for the quirky romance or a dark comedic drama. One of my favorite movies is Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling (2007) and another is Very Bad Things with Cameron Diaz and Christian Slater (1998.) If you know those films, you’ll get my strange viewing habits.

The exceptions, of course, are musical and sweet romances. I’m a sucker for both of them.

A few years ago, and feeling out of the loop, I desperately wanted to get hooked on a series like the rest of the friends. All of them were raving about Mad Men, Weeds and 24; I had tried them all and one episode was quite enough. I implored my friends to recommend a series that might be me hooked. They suggested Dexter and sure enough, they were right. I was addicted and caught up on the first four seasons within a few months.

Dexter (2006-2013) stars Dexter Morgan (played by award-winning actor Michael C. Hall) who is a Miami Metro police department blood spatter analyst with a troubled past and a creepy present. The series is loosely based on a book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. 3 million viewers watched the first episode of season 7, so I don’t feel so alone in my quirkiness. Season 8 will begin this summer on June 30, 2013.

Of course, while the rest of the country, and the world for that matter are hooked on Downton Abbey, I didn’t make it through one episode. Perhaps I quit too soon, but it just did nothing for me. I never was enthralled by Brideshead, Revisited either. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Downton Abbey made its appearance in the United Kingdom in the fall of 2010. Two years ago this past January PBS first aired it in the United States. It became an instant hit. The British social scene and the tales of the fictional Crawley family apparently make for some addictive television. Historical events pepper the episodes and critical acclaim has followed the series in its third season. It has become the most-watched television show in the world.

In any event, I’ve been whining around the library that there is nothing to watch. One of my coworkers knows me remarkably well. Unfortunately, she has tried many of my recommendations. Fortunately, she has forgiven me for many of them. She recommended the hit series Breaking Bad and promised me I would get hooked. When the series showed up in the library with my name on it I skeptically checked it out and headed home.

She was right. Within one day, I had the following season on request and worried that I might have to wait weeks for it. (I was wrong; it arrived within days from another library.)

Breaking Bad is presented by AMC which used to be American Movie Classics but now the letters truly stand for something like “More Than Just American Movies Channel”. Besides Breaking Bad, they have produced the hits Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels.

Breaking Bad premiered in January 2008. Five seasons had aired by the time I discovered it. It took me barely a month to view them all. I will have to wait until summer for the final eight episodes.

Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) is a chemistry teacher and a good man who makes some poor choices. There is just something addictive about watching his fall from a family man diagnosed with lung cancer to the seedy underworld of the drug culture. Vince Gilligan, director of the hit series said this about the audiences’ riveting acceptance of Walter’s depravity: “All right, I’ll go for this ride. I don’t like what he’s doing, but I understand, and I’ll go with it for as far as it goes.”

Apparently, we’re going only so far. The fifth season (18 episodes) was broken into two parts with the first half ending last fall and the next half part beginning late summer. At the end of that eight weeks, we’ll have to say goodbye to Walter, his maladapted sidekick Jesse Pinkman, his lovely wife Skylar and more lovable son, Walter, Junior.

One of the many amazing characteristics of Breaking Bad that I found brave is that Walter’s son is played by now twenty-one year old RJ Mitte who has mild cerebral palsy. Mitte’s impressive acting educates viewers about his disability and it is just one of the redeeming features of Breaking Bad. The acting is simply superb. Both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul who plays Jesse Pinkman have won several well- Emmy awards.

There is a rumor that a movie will be made depicting more of the characters and story line of Breaking Bad. I’ll await the end of the series to be aired this summer but in the meantime I on a search for another hit series.

Among the suggestions I’ve received is Justified, an FX channel series in its fourth season and based on Elmore Leonard’s quirky novels Pronto and Riding the Rap. Raylan Givens is an officer with the U.S. Marshals. Timothy Olyphant takes a few liberties with justice in the city of Lexington, Kentucky. If Dexter and Breaking Bad are examples of extralegal justice, then Justified just might be the series for me.

This all, of course, leads me to the advantages of using your local library’s DVD collection. The best part about borrowing DVDs from the Minuteman Library Network is that you’ll get the whole season for three weeks. The discs include extra features like interviews with the actors, director’s commentary and more.

Visit the library’s website and the link to the Minuteman Library Network to put one of these books on hold. You may also call 781-769-0200 and speak to a librarian who will place the request for you.