Between watching re-runs of Friends on Comedy Central and getting through a stack of reading, this summer I have been (un)patiently anticipating the fifth season of possibly one of the greatest TV dramas ever. Heralded by U.S. publications such as The New York Times and showing on the network AMC in the States, ludicrously, this show has yet to garner interest from UK channels despite the acclaim it receives.
The show I am talking about is Breaking Bad. Created by Vince Gilligan and starring Bryan Cranston (yes, the dad from Malcolm in the Middle), Breaking Bad sees financially struggling chemistry teacher, Walter White (Cranston) suddenly diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sounding too cliché? What if this man decides he will do anything to provide for his family when he‘s gone and to do so would be breaking the law? By using his knowledge of chemistry and enlisting the help of Aaron Paul’s character, Jesse (A former student of his), he begins to ‘cook’ crystal amphetamine in order to produce the cash flow he needs.
It is rare thing for a TV show to grab you by the shoulders and have its way with you, leaving you breathless and tense. Personally, this feeling has only happened a few times and to be honest, all you want is more. Each episode slowly twists the knife, delicately plotting a story which is shocking, disturbing but overall, hits you square in the stomach with incredible crescendos. Breaking Bad is a show with a serious tone, however I would say that it is not just a straight forward drama. It also encases humour. Humour so dark that light would not escape the surface.
This mix of family drama and black humour is indebted to the shows cast. Bryan Cranston takes this dramatic role seriously but using his comic experience he creates a character who is straight laced but also unhinged at the same time, which heightens the unpredictable nature of the show. This is also true of his supporting cast. In Dean Norris’ character Hank for example, we get comic relief through his dealings in the DEA but he is also closely fixed amongst the drama, unaware that brother-in-law, Walt, is now the catalyst to his problems. However these comic characteristics are kept very much grounded, so the risk of caricature is very low.
The show is also incredibly researched. Gilligan ensures that the references needed in the writing of the show relating to drug paraphernalia and the science of making an artificial drug is just so. So much in fact, he has kept the same writers around him throughout his career to ensure not only a good story is achieved, but an overall consistent quality is clear.
If you have yet to have the pleasure of watching this fantastic series, I implore you to do so. Don’t let the lazy and unadventurous UK TV executives stop you. Buy the box sets of Seasons 1-4 and prepare yourself to hail the king in Season 5 of Breaking Bad.