The original series department over at AMC (Alleged Movie Classics) had a major breakthrough last year with Mad Men, and it looks like it has another winner on its hands with Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston, who frequently stole scenes on Malcolm in the Middle (remember Hal’s roller disco act?), is at his tragicomic best as Walt White, a meek, terminally ill Albuquerque chem teacher who turns to cooking crystal meth to support his pregnant wife and disabled teenage son. I caught Breaking Bad‘s premiere episode on Sunday night, and this seven-week series looks promising, although like Malcolm, there are way too many shots of Cranston in his tighty-whiteys.
(Mad Men may be AMC’s first original series to attain Sopranos-level success, but it actually isn’t the channel’s first series. Back during AMC’s much-missed, commercial-free Bob Dorian/Nick Clooney days—when female nudity and curse words weren’t wussily censored from AMC’s broadcasts of late ’60s and early ’70s movies like they were during the airing of Breaking Bad‘s risqué pilot—the channel produced and aired Remember WENN, a cult favorite about the staff of a ’30s radio station.)
Breaking Bad reunites creator Vince Gilligan with Cranston, who guest-starred in the Gilligan-penned “Drive,” one of the few good eps from The X-Files‘ later, lesser seasons (TNT reairs that particular ep all the time, yet I never get tired of seeing it). The desperate, cancer-stricken Walt recalls Cranston’s “Drive” character, a redneck carjacker who suffers from a condition that will cause his head to explode if he stops moving. Don’t you hate when that happens?
The series’ unconventional Albuquerque desert backdrop is an inspired choice. It makes Cranston’s lower-middle-class doormat look even more minuscule and beaten-down than he already is. Plus it’s nice to see an hour-long drama that wasn’t shot in L.A., New York, Vancouver or some other overused coastal city. (Albuquerque seems to be turning into the it location for cable dramas. USA’s upcoming show about a female Federal marshal,
Karen Sisco In Plain Sight, has been filmed in the ‘Bu as well.)
Jimmy McNulty, Omar Little, Vic Mackey, Tommy Gavin, Nancy Botwin and Dexter Morgan, your morally ambiguous corner of the cable dial just got a little more crowded. Make room for Mr. White.