Breaking Bad

Late to the Breaking Bad Party

So, what does one do when you’re cooped up in the apartment all day and can’t get outside because of the toxic air quality?

Breaking BadWell, a dear friend of mine had recently mentioned his surprise at my having never watched Breaking Bad, which he described as “frequently called the best television series ever made.” He also highly recommended Better Call Saul. Both of these series are currently on Netflix.

So, I’ve been a couch potato, clinging to my air purifier and AppleTV remote control for the past week or so. I’ve devoured both series.

My god!

Story! Acting! Cinematography! Characters!

I must say, Mark is right. I think these programs are both certainly in the top 3 television series ever made. I put them up there with Babylon Berlin, but even better.

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul, while being created after Breaking Bad, is very much like a prequel to the Breaking Bad series. Netflix has 3 seasons of Better Call Saul. AMC is currently airing the 4th season (which is available on iTunes), and the 5th season is in production.

I think I was late to the Breaking Bad party because the story concept didn’t sit well with me as an educator: a terminally ill high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook. But the creator, Vince Gilligan, takes the viewers on the ride of their lives. The director of photography and the A-camera operator present a cinematic feast that is both visually and emotionally desolate and delicious.

After finishing both series, I hit YouTube for some behind-the-camera insight and context into both series. You can find numerous interviews and cast panel discussions. But I highly recommend two specific videos. First: the documentary that accompanies the boxed set (which can also be found on iTunes). Second: this German conversation (in English on YouTube) between Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad creator/writer), Sir Peter Jonas (opera manager emeritus) and Prof. Steffen Huck (economist and WZB director) in which they discuss Breaking Bad within the context of economics and morality–rather fascinating stuff! Unlike the typically entertaining but rather superficial videos found in the American marketplace of ideas, the German video is a bit deeper and more thoughtful. I’m certain other jewels are out there, but I found these and wanted to suggest them.

I don’t think I’m overstating when I say that these two programs have redefined what a television series needs to be. They represent collaborative genius on a whole new scale in this medium.