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October 25, 2014

'Breaking Bad' Is the Best Show on TV

by Joel Keller, posted Jun 14th 2010 3:02PM
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston in 'Breaking Bad' - 'Fly'
In my review of the 'Breaking Bad' season finale, I said that this past season of the show was one of the best seasons of drama I've seen in at least a decade. So it isn't much of a stretch to think that I might also have a strong opinion on how the show stacks up against everything out there on the tube right now.

Well, let me get that strong opinion out of the way so I can get to the business of explaining why.

'Breaking Bad'
is the best show on television.

There. Ripped that Band-Aid right off.

It's better than 'Lost,' better than 'Dexter,' better than 'Rescue Me.' It's even better than its highly-praised AMC schedule-mate 'Mad Men,' despite the fact that Matt Weiner and company put together a stellar third season last year. And it's not even close.

(Warning: Spoilers from the third season ahead.)


It's funny; for the last three years, all the critics, including myself, have been getting the vapors over 'Mad Men.' And for good reason: the show is stylish, it has a layered story infused with subtle touches that are always part of the big story, it can be funny as hell at times, and it can draw you in even during its slowest, most contemplative moments.

But, in approximately that same time period, 'Breaking Bad' has quietly been surpassing 'Men' by sheer force of will. And it's not just Bryan Cranston's performance that's making the quality needle move in the direction of this little show set in Albuquerque.

A few reasons why 'Bad' has assumed the mantle of Best on TV:

The "holy crap" moments. There were at least five this season. Right away, in the season premiere, creator Vince Gilligan and his writing staff dispensed with the tension regarding what Skyler knew about Walt's double life, and they just had Walt lay it all out on the line for her. Then we had Skyler drop her own bombshell to Walt: "I f---ed Ted."

Then we had the back-to-back Hank-related drama of 'Sunset' and 'One Minute': Hank closes in on the RV to the point where he's staking it out with Jesse and Walt inside, and then he had that epic confrontation with The Cousins that led him to spend the last half of the season confined to a hospital bed.

Finally, we had the biggest "holy crap" moment of them all, in last week's 'Half Measures.' Walt hits the corner guys with his Aztek to keep Jesse from killing them, then coldly shoots one of them in the head when he saw that the guy was still alive.

I can't remember the last time I've been through a season where I've yelled out in reaction to a scene so many times. If a show is eliciting that kind of gut reaction from me not once, but five times, it's doing something extraordinary.

Even the quiet moments aren't so quiet. There are episodes this season that could have been considered "breathers," especially after all the craziness of those peak-action episodes I mentioned above. But they're only relative breathers; a look back and you'll realize how much has happened or how deeply you've just gone into exploring the psyches of the characters.

We see Jesse torturing himself over the death of Jane, and only reluctantly turning back to the meth pipe when the pain got too great. We see Walt, obsessed over a fly in his new lab, start to reflect on the fact that he "lived too long," and everything would have been perfect if the cancer took him months before this mess got messier. We see Hank trying to fight the PTSD from his time in El Paso and still figure out where the blue meth was coming from, then we see him try to deal with being what he thinks is half the man he used to be. And, finally, we see Sky contemplating moving with Walt to the dark side and all that implies.

Even in the finale, even though it was filled with action, it struck me that it was more of an introspective episode, with Jesse finally realizing that he's about to commit cold-blooded murder and all that it implies. And, as far as Gilligan's concerned, Jesse did actually shoot Gale at the end of the finale. So seeing how Jesse, the purer soul of the Walt/Jesse pair, deals with this in season four will be interesting.

It makes viewers examine their own moral relativity scales. Viewers are rooting for Walt, even though he's slowly but surely becoming more calculated, more dangerous, and, let's face it, more evil. But yet, we still want him to get away with this enterprise, even if that enterprise is making tons of meth.

And, even though Jesse seems like a junkie and a punk, we walk away from this season rooting for him even more than Walt, because he's actually feeling the moral weight of what he's doing, while all Walt is doing is figuring out his next move.

In the meantime, we look at the cops and the DEA agents -- especially Hank -- doing yoeman's work in trying to keep the drug flow down to a minimum, and we're all rooting against them. Did anyone want Hank to open the RV and see Walt in there? Of course not. Were we happy when Walt decided to lure his brother-in-law away by faking an accident for Marie? Of course. In the real world, those emotions are just twisted. But as a 'Breaking Bad' viewer, they seem normal.

The Cousins. Admit it. They were the creepiest, darkest TV villains you've ever seen. I still get chills thinking about those two.

So, do you agree that 'Breaking Bad' is the best on TV? If not, what's your choice?

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Ahmad Shreidi

it is the best show on tv, undisputed.

June 20 2011 at 12:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tina

i LOVE BREAKING BAD!!!!!ITS SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO REALISTIC, SOMETIMES...I THINK ABOUT IT DURING THE WEEK..RANDOMLY..THATS GOOD TV

August 01 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Micah

I think that the best way to say that "x" is the best "y" is to put it into an emotional connotation. What other show makes you feel anything? I have yet to start with season one of Mad Men, and I was deployed when The Wire started, but I was there for every second of Breaking Bad. I've been nervous, agitated, amused, depressed, angry, and almost every other emotion possible. I have never felt that way ever for a television show. Breaking Bad grips my emotions in a way that I have never experienced. There is more tension than a horror movie and more humor than good stand-up. It's the best show I have ever seen. The only thing that comes close is the season of Rescue Me that Connor was killed in. And that's a distant second. AND that was one season. Breaking Bad just keeps getting better!

July 17 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Beth D\'Aoust

The only show that keeps me awake past midnight. I'll watch it once and watch it all over again, then buy the series DVD. The best show ever on TV.

July 10 2010 at 7:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob the Builder

I absolutely agree wholeheartedly.

I had given up on television all together, except for the news, until Breaking Bad came along.

There are shows, such as The Sopranos, that are also great, but that is HBO. Plus, Breaking Bad is better than anything on HBO as well.

Is Breaking Bad the best thing on TV?
You bet your ass it is. In fact, better than most of what is coming out in theaters as well.

Vince and Co. are geniuses as far as I'm concerned.

Keep it coming boys, we can't get enough !!!

July 09 2010 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
justin

Were there a bunch of whiny, self righteous nerds spamming articles about the Sopranos back in the day?

June 16 2010 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
zlow21

I'm convinced that this show works because it makes morons feel smart. (spoiler alerts)
This show is crap. It is all tension and no release. It's paced like the waiting room outside of shock therapy clinic. I mean can that guy's day get any worse? He loses his job -and he gets the cancer -and his wife is knocked up -and he rapes her that one time in the kitchen -and he sells meth -and his brother in law is THE law -and all the violent murders. This one time, and this is no joke, I was listing all that stuff to a good friend and he said, totally joking "and lemme guess, he has a mentally challenged kid". Ok?! He was kidding - but he was right. That's how ridiculous it is. This show is what happens when talented writers over write.

June 16 2010 at 12:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to zlow21's comment
planitjanit

He does have a mentally challenged kid he has a kid with cerebral palsy. He intelligence is fine, he just have trouble walking and speaking (muscle coordination).

June 16 2010 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rlangg

This is the best show on television. I envy the imagination of the storytellers.

June 15 2010 at 8:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michael

i love, love, love, breaking bad......
i never was a fan of being home at a certain time, and day, for a television show, EVER. BUT THAT ALL CHANGED WITH BREAKING BAD. I LOVE THIS F@#*ING SHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

June 15 2010 at 8:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave Simms

I agree with you, it is probably one of the best shows on TV, I just watched the last show last night, OMG, I wondered how the writers would go with the story. I will be waiting for the next season. Great show!

June 15 2010 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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