Serious Series Addiction Part 3: Breaking Bad, Treme, And The End Of Lost,

It’s time to talk about TV shows again. As I’ve said before, though this is a film blog I do from time to time babble about television programs that I’ve been keeping up with. So let’s get to them:

Breaking Bad

I had watched this show off and on before, but became hooked on it recently in its extremely strong 3rd season. AMC’s intense yet darkly humored drama involves Bryan Cranston, best known previously as the dad on Malcolm In The Middle, as a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

To provide for his pregnant wife (Anna Gunn) and his son (RJ Mitte) who suffers from cerebral palsy, he turns to a life of crime: producing and selling methamphetamine. As a former student of Cranston’s living a sordid existence as a drug dealer, Aaron Paul is enlisted as a partner in the dangerous yet highly profitable endeavor.

Dean Norris as Cranston’s crusty brother-in-law just happens to be a DEA agent close on their trail though he is unaware of their identity. There’s also trouble with a Mexican drug cartel, along with strife at home and much in-fighting between Cranston and Paul. Set in the orange hued world of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad has the urgency and scope of many movies. Cranston’s performance is a study in edgy power; one minute he’s a measured man of reason – the next an exasperated kook, a time bomb waiting to go off. His clashes with Paul, his strained talks with his wife, and his stoical business manner give the show a forceful fluidity as it goes from searing scene to scene. Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) was added in the second season as a sleazy lawyer and he shows up quite a bit in the third season which is a nice funny touch to the proceedings.

Though one can probably pick it up at any point, I’d recommend renting it and watching from the beginning. The first and second seasons are available on DVD and Blu ray; the third should be soon after it finishes its run on June 13th.


David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s follow-up to The Wire has many similarities to that seminal series. It’s a web of story threads concerning a complicated culture, it examines sociopolitical themes, and it features a few of the same players: Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters. But don’t get me wrong – it’s a very different animal in one major way: music. Treme is bursting at the seams with the rich sounds of New Orleans jazz. 3 months after hurricane Katrina, we are thrown into the aftermath from nearly every angle. The hurting viewpoints of struggling musicians, frustrated restaurant owners, civil rights workers, and outspoken citizens blanket the battered city, but the bands play on.

Along with The Wire‘s Pierce as trombonist Antoine Batiste and Clarke as a Mardi Gras Indian tribe leader trying to bring his people home, we’ve got Steve Zahn as a slacker singer songwriter, Kim Dickens as a cook based on famed chef Susan Spicer, Khandi Alexander as a bar owner who is also Pierce’s ex-wife, Melissa Leo as cynical lawyer, and John Goodman as Leo’s husband – an opinionated college professor and author who has just discovered YouTube in its 2005 infancy as a forum for his anger fueled rants. Oh yeah, there’s also a young couple – Michiel Huisman on keyboards and Lucia Micalelli on violin – who try to make their living from street performances.

Treme is absorbing viewing that swiftly juggles all those characters and their scenarios in an intoxicating fashion. One feels like they are really getting the flavor of New Orleans through these people and the well chosen locations. It oversteps contrivances and keeps your feet tapping throughout each episode. I’m not sure that it alone is worth subscribing to HBO for, but it definitely deserves a place in your Netflix queue. Happily it’s been renewed for a second season.

Lost: “The End”

As I’ve documented here, I began watching the vastly popular island castaway drama Lost in January of this year on Netflix Instant while pedaling on my exercise bike. I pedaled though all 5 seasons until I was caught up with the sixth and enjoyed it immensely – though there were some dull or tedious patches here and there.
The bike made me feel like I could pedal fast through the stupidity then race on to the next one. Up until the last handful of episodes I hadn’t had the experience of waiting week to week to see what happens like the folks who were there from the beginning in 2004.

Those seem to be the people who are complaining about the just aired finale on blogs, message boards, or status updates all over the internets. Their complaints being that the mythology wasn’t satisfied with a lot of questions unanswered. I can’t imagine how I could spoil it for anybody who hasn’t watched the show so I’ll just say that it was simply about the characters’ fate – principally Jack’s (Matthew Fox) – rather than the particulars of their journey. I would have liked to have some questions answered too – the 4 toed statue for one – but, like the end of The Sopranos did, it’s growing on me.

If you have Netflix Instant – it’s a great way to watch the show because you don’t have to deal with waiting on individual discs. I can completely understand folks being discouraged at the prospect of 121 episodes and the bitching from the online minions about its conclusion, but I didn’t find it to be a waste of time at all. Maybe though, that’s the Dharma Initiative beer talking.

That’s all for TV for now – back to the movies, that is until the 4th season of Mad Men premieres. Then be sure to expect another post about serious series addiction.

More later…

Serious Series Addiction Part 2: Pedaling Through Lost

Last month I wrote about my New Year’s resolutions of getting more exercise and watching all 5 seasons of The Wire. In addition to finishing that excellent show that absolutely earns its status as one of the best television series ever, I pedaled on my exercise bike to The Prisoner (the 60’s one) and continued the long haul that is Lost.

We got a Roku – a digital streaming device that hooks up to our TV to broadcast Netflix Instant titles – for a wedding present last year and I’ve found that it’s ideal for viewing full seasons of shows like Lost. Otherwise dealing with getting the many discs in the mail would be a hassle and I might’ve given up on the show during some of its lame story threads.

The exercise bike helped to get through the convolutions and highly implausible patches by my pedaling harder as if I could speed up the show when it got too stupid.

Seasons 3, 4, and 5 I quite enjoyed after the ups and downs of the first 2 seasons. A time loop episode involving the character Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) was a lot of fun and the Dharma Initiative in the 70’s storyline had many merits as well.

I got through all 5 seasons a few episodes into the current season 6. I had the shows recorded on our DVR but somehow the premiere episode was recorded over. Luckily it’s available on Hulu (doncha love how many resources we have these days?) so I was able to watch it on my computer in my office. I really missed being able to pedal through it though. I thankfully watched the remaining ones back on the bike.

Now that I’m caught up and can watch the final season in real time I can get back to seeing and writing about movies, but since this has been a down period for film (as it always is this time of year) I’m already looking for a new show to pedal through. Any suggestions?

More later…

Serious Series Addiction: The Wire, Lost, & The Prisoner (1967)

Despite this being “Film Babble Blog” I do babble about TV shows every now and then. This is one of those times.

I had only 2 New Year’s resolutions this year – to exercise more and to finish all 5 seasons of The Wire. I dug my wife’s old exercise bike out of the garage and set it in front of the TV so I could do both. I had begun The Wire sometime last year but put it on the back burner, not because I didn’t like it but because of the many movies that were ahead of it on my list of priorities.

After hearing so many folks refer to it as “the greatest TV series ever” I decided it was time to fully see what all the fuss is about. Over the last few weeks I’ve been pedaling away on the bike devouring one episode of David Simon’s exemplary Baltimore crime drama.

I am now on season 5 episode 4 and have lost over 10 pounds in the process.

I learned that a friend of mine was also making his way through The Wire after he got the full series as a Christmas gift. Talking to him on IM he spoke of other friends that were catching the bug as well.

Then, just this week, Onion AV head writer Nathan Rabin posted a piece for their ongoing “Better Late Than Never” feature about finally watching the show’s first season so it seems the show is slowly but surely searing its way into our collective pop culture psyche.

If you’ve never seen The Wire – it can be a daunting undertaking because it’s very complex with a lot of characters and can be hard to follow at first. It seemingly gives equal time to the good, the bad, and the ugly from sleazy politicians to the cops on the beat right down to the lowest level druggie scum with a level of authenticity that’s astounding. It stands with The Sopranos as a novelistic epic and as one of the most engrossingly addictive shows ever.

The Wire isn’t the only show I’ve been pedaling to recently. Since I’ve had to wait for discs of it to come in the mail from Netflix I’ve been checking out what’s available now on Instant.

I noticed that J.J. Abrams’ popular FOX television show Lost was just added so since I’d never seen it I decided to give it a whirl.

Well, I’ve watched most of season 1 and while I certainly think it’s entertaining in a Gilligan’s Island as if written by Stephen King way, I’m not sure if I’m going to keep on plowing through. With their 6th season starting next week, there’s no way I can catch up anytime soon and the idea of trying just tires me out thinking about it. But once I finish The Wire, who knows?

Another series that has been on my “to do” list for a long time is The Prisoner – the original 1967 BBC one not the new AMC re-imagining (though that’s recorded and waiting on my DVR).

I’ve only watched a few episodes of the new Blu ray edition (very nice looking transfer) of the series and so far it’s been a real treat.

Former spy Patrick McGoohan trapped in an idyllic seaside village in which large creepy white balls descend and suffocate those who try to escape, the show earns its cool cult status right from its snazzy swinging start. Check out its awesome opening sequence:

So those are some shows that have been keeping me from the movies lately. Don’t worry though – I’ve got some fine babble concerning actual films coming soon so please stay tuned.

More later…