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October 24, 2014

Breaking Bad: Pilot (series premiere)

by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 21st 2008 10:51PM
Breaking bad
(S01E01) "Tell me why you're doing this. Seriously."
"Why do you do it?"
"Money. Mainly."
"There you go."
"Nah, come on. Man, some straight like you, giant stick up his ass, all of a sudden at age, what, 60; he's just gonna break bad."
"I'm 50."

If your idea of a dashing leading man doesn't include a guy in his fifties wearing his Fruit of the Loom briefs and a lab smock, then you're not watching the right shows. Bryan Cranston is one of television's most under-appreciated actors. While Jane Kaczmerek was Emmy-nominated seven years in a row for her work on Malcolm in the Middle, and was constantly talked about, Cranston only picked up three nods. It looks like he might have another chance at Emmy gold as his performance in Breaking Bad is amazing.

Breaking Bad explores the ultimate mid-life crisis. Not only is high school chemistry teacher Walter White reaching his fiftieth birthday, he also finds out he has terminal lung cancer. Now the show doesn't come right out and tell us the motivations for his subsequent actions, but I can speculate. His son has cerebral palsy, or some other muscular dystrophic disease and I can only imagine his ongoing health care costs will be substantial. His brother-in-law works for the DEA and through this connection, White learns that a crystal meth bust can net hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's all the motivation he needs and when he sees that a former student of his is in the meth business while on a ride-along with his brother-in-law, he has his way in.

Having White be a chemistry teacher makes him ideally suited for creating meth, which is a complicated recipe of chemicals. Cranston's performance in this role as a buttoned-down middle aged man who literally loses all his inhibitions and fears in light of his impending death is inspired. Much like Mad Men, Bad doesn't follow the typical dramatic formula, and the pacing is impacted by setting up characters, motivations and situations as well here in the pilot.

I mentioned before that the show doesn't tell us exactly why White is willing to take such tremendous risks for money, but I'm glad that it doesn't. He doesn't tell his family that he's dying, and again we're not given any reason for this choice. There's a lot left for us to learn as it goes. I don't imagine that White's new drug venture is going to go smoothly for him and his new partner Jesse Pinkman, so I look forward to seeing how his regular life is impacted, and likely nearly destroyed, by his new vocation.

In the first episode alone, they set up their roving meth lab in an RV, and almost immediately get in trouble with Pinkman's former associates. I don't want to ruin how things turn out there, though you get a pretty damned good idea as the episode starts in the middle of this chaos before flashing back three weeks to show us how we got here.

At first, when the episode started with a dramatic moment of crisis before flashing back, I thought we might be in for another season long "How did we get here?' like FX's Damages, but we caught up to that moment here in the first episode and now the possibilities are endless. It means I have no idea where the show is going to go from here, but I find myself really liking Walter White, and feeling for the struggles that his son faces in every day life. I will go on the record right now as saying the clothing shop scene was one of my favorites. Such a short moment, it told us volumes about the family, the son's struggles with his disease, and the newly liberated attitude that White has taken on, to his family's surprise. This, also, I'm sure we'll get more into as the series progresses.

It's interesting that it plays almost like a pay-channel series that's been edited for television. There's plenty of S- and F-bombs sprinkled throughout the show, beeped via silence. Most shows would just use different words as the "beeps" can take you out of the fiction, but it's not too jarring here, and adds to the realism. It will make for an R-Rated DVD release later, though. Breaking Bad was picked up for a nine episode first season, though only seven episodes were finished before the writers strike halted production. I have no idea if the creators managed to get a satisfying "season finale" at the end of the seventh episode, but I'll be along for the ride regardless.

What did you think of the pilot?
It's one of the best new show of the season!436 (74.5%)
It's good, but I don't know that I'll watch every episode.69 (11.8%)
I could take it or leave it.30 (5.1%)
What a disappointment this turned out to be.2 (0.3%)
This is one of the worst shows ever put on television!4 (0.7%)
Dear god, why is Bryan Cranston always in his underwear?!44 (7.5%)

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Randy

Breaking Bad's 1st season was amazing! Ended up being just as geat as I expected with Bryan Cranston playing the lead role as Walter. Can't wait to see how seaon one wraps up this Sunday night at 10PM.
You can find a preview of it here:
http://view.break.com/463734

March 06 2008 at 6:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jamie

great can't wait for the nexted episode excellent acting better than a TV show hope it comes out on DVD as a movie

February 04 2008 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
D-Bo

Bryan Cranston is a wonderful actor and this show is another example. You definitely missed mentioning the baby in your review Jason, but Bill did a great job of summing it up. I'm hard pressed to pick a favorite scene (the clothing store scene was awesome) but the ebay in bed scene was by far the funniest!

January 27 2008 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ms E

Just from the trailers on TV before "Breaking Bad" was shown, I really hope Bryan Cranston wins an acting award. He makes the character so interesting. What a great acting job!
Ms E in Oregon

January 27 2008 at 2:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BillS

I kinda think his motivations were sprinkled throughout the show. He's a high school chemistry teacher who has to work a second, crappy job to get by. He only has $7,000 to his name. When he's in the ambulance after passing out, he asks them to just drop him off on a corner because he says his insurance isn't so great. His son's got whatever medical problem he has, and his wife's pregnant. His wife freaks out over a $14 charge on their mastercard. The third person to take a shower in the morning gets nothing but cold water in their home (which looks like it might be a trailer). This guy's broke, and he's the family's breadwinner. I'm guessing he doesn't have much for life insurance. So he's looking at a widow with no money, a disabled teenager, and a baby. Sounds like a damn good reason to go all out to make some cash before you go.

January 23 2008 at 8:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sam

thanks for the heads up on this new show,
I caught a repeat of it and it looks good.
I will be watching this series and reading your reviews.

January 23 2008 at 6:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jordan

The show is really good. I love the dark humor. Today, I was just searching the net and came across www.waltswisdom.com, a viral marketing site for Breaking Bad. It's really cool (and creepy) to see Bryan Cranston deliver a customize message to you in his underwear. Check it out!

January 22 2008 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
erroneous_nick

It would be great if AMC began streaming episodes of their original shows online rather than just clips.

Just my "Captain Obvious" moment du jour.

January 22 2008 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

I hope this show can keep it up. After watching Mad Men last year I'm thankful that some Networks actually produce quality programs.

January 22 2008 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chip Douglas

This show rocks. I am always looking forward to new shows from FX and AMC. Mad Men is brilliant, and so goes Breaking Bad. The pace of the show, I feel, reveals his motivations. He is doing this for his family. The bitter irony that his profession and all of his accolades puts him in a humiliating position. And then to get sideswiped with Cancer is the last straw. This is a man with nothing to loose. The most menacing to society. He is now capable of anything, and he probably will.

January 22 2008 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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